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Given this polarized context, it’s no surprise that leading Democrats have signaled a reticence to confront Barrett on the issue of her faith. Yet the precise nature of her beliefs, how those beliefs shape her judicial philosophy and how they align with democratic norms remain legitimate questions, particularly at a moment when American democracy appears less than resilient.

Any exploration of these questions, however, must be done with precision, guided by an understanding of the religious movement that has shaped Barrett’s beliefs, and also with an awareness of how that tradition intersects with American Christianity more broadly.

Kristin Kobes Du Mez,

Barrett’s People of Praise community traces its roots back to the interdenominational charismatic renewal that swept through American Christianity in the 1960s. Within this revival there emerged a “shepherding” discipleship movement; seeking to provide order and discipline, this movement established hierarchical structures of authority and submission that critics have compared to “a pyramid scheme for discipleship.” . . .

Herein lies the challenge in deciphering the social and political implications of religious teachings: the same words can mean vastly different things to different people.

Screenshot of opinion piece with Judge Amy Coney Barrett in front of blue flag.
Screencapture from, October 10, 2020

As I argue in my book “Jesus and John Wayne,” this variation in meaning is often lost on those outside religious circles, but even among those on the inside, the distance between extreme and more innocuous expressions is not always apparent. As a result, more moderate adherents end up providing cover to more extreme applications; many, too, interpret criticism of extreme expressions as an attack on faith itself.

This is the conundrum that Democrats now face. Precisely because of the varied applications of conservative religious commitments, it is appropriate to ask Amy Coney Barrett to address, in specific terms, her own convictions and how her faith shapes her judicial philosophy. Doing so, however, will certainly elicit heated resistance from fellow conservative Christians. Democrats may well deem it politically expedient to skirt the issue entirely, but American citizens are right to want to weigh her answers.

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Kristin Kobes Du Mez. “Trump pick Amy Coney Barrett’s Christian ‘Handmaid’ History Matters.” NBC. October 10, 2020.

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