The rancorous nature of Tuesday night’s presidential debate continues to be a reflection of our political climate.
As Judge Amy Coney Barrett began meeting with senators this week ahead of her confirmation hearings, multiple Democrats refused to see her. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer calls the process that led to her nomination “illegitimate.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal also condemned what he called an “illegitimate sham process.”
In the midst of such vitriol, Judge Barrett’s demeanor is an example for us all.
My wife’s blog yesterday commends Judge Barrett for her quiet confidence and strong faith in these rancorous days: “Surrounded by words of slander, she allows her life to be her defense. She doesn’t just believe her opinions, she lives them.”
Janet then asks the question: “Will we have earned the right to share our faith next year with the people we have shared our political opinions with this October?”
In light of my new book on civility, I have been discussing the divisiveness of our culture in numerous media interviews across recent weeks. Each time, I have asked the same question Janet raises, urging Christians to act during the election in ways that will strengthen our witness when the election is over.
Why is this so urgent? How can we do this today?
A battle George Washington lost
Partisan battles over the Supreme Court are as old as the United States. In 1795, President George Washington nominated South Carolina judge John Rutledge to be the chief justice. However, after he was nominated but before the Senate voted, Rutledge spoke out against a treaty with Great Britain that Washington supported and the Senate had just ratified.
In response, the Senate rejected the president’s nomination.
Considering Supreme Court nominees during election years also has a long history. President John Adams nominated John Marshall for chief justice after Adams was defeated in the 1800 election but before Thomas Jefferson took office. The Senate, led by Adams’ party, confirmed Marshall a week later.
While rancor over our nation’s highest court has always been with us, such divisiveness is especially heightened in these days. As we’ve seen in previous Daily Articles, the Supreme Court has taken on a legislative function in recent years, discovering “rights” to abortion and same-sex marriage, among other rulings. This power makes membership on the court especially crucial.
And our two political parties are more divided and acrimonious now than in many years. Charges of hypocrisy and illegitimacy fly across the aisle with greater vitriol and more personal animosity as the gap between the parties widens.
$40 million will be spent in this fight
In any other season, the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett would be met with celebration, not condemnation. Her brilliance, character, and collaborative spirit have been lauded even by leading liberal figures.
Those who agreed with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in advancing rights and opportunities for women would be applauding President Trump’s choice. The New York Times describes Judge Barrett as “unabashedly ambitious and deeply religious, who has excelled at the heights of a demanding profession even as she speaks openly about prioritizing her conservative Catholic faith and family.”
She and her husband adopted two children from Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Their youngest child has Down syndrome; two-thirds of children in the US with this condition are aborted.
Nonetheless, she is facing a brutal battle in the weeks ahead. By the time Judge Barrett had finished her speech last Saturday accepting the president’s nomination, more than a dozen groups opposing and supporting her nomination had begun advocacy campaigns. The New York Times estimates that at least $40 million will be spent in the fight over her confirmation.
“That’s not what the other side would do”
If Judge Barrett responds to such rancor with the grace and dignity she has demonstrated thus far, she will do much to advance the cause of Christ through the civility of her public witness. Her godliness in coming weeks will be an investment that will pay dividends long after the hearings are over. In the same way, you and I need to conduct ourselves during the election in ways that will advance the gospel when the election is over. We must not say about people what we would not say to them (Matthew 18:15), whether on social media or in other ways. Even when we are called to “make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you,” we must do so “with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15).
We might say, “But that’s not what the other side would do.” Here’s my question: Should we take our cue from those with whom we disagree? Oswald Chambers noted: “The stamp of the saint is that he can waive his own rights and obey the Lord Jesus.”
Would you pray today for God to help Judge Barrett “obey the Lord Jesus” in this season of hostility and bitterness? Would you ask God to help you waive your “rights” in order to do the same?
Amelia Earhart offered this advice: “Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying.”
Is civility in an uncivil time worth the risk?