Culture Friday – Amy Coney Barrett’s glass ceiling

MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 16th of October, 2020.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

GRAHAM: This won’t be celebrated in most places.

Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Lindsey Graham.

GRAHAM: Be hard to find much commentary about this moment in American history. But in many of our worlds, this’ll be celebrated. It’s been a long time coming.

He speaks, of course, about what Republicans in Washington feel pretty confident about: the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court.

BROWN: But they’re confident not merely about a sixth Republican-appointed justice, the third of President Trump’s first, and maybe only, term. 

Graham is more specific.

GRAHAM: This is history being made, folks. This is first time in American history we’ve nominated a woman who is unashamedly pro-life and embraces her faith without apology and she’s going to the court. Seat at the table that’s waiting on you. And it will be a great signal to all young women who share your view of the world, that there’s a seat at the table for them.

Others on the committee made the same point: some as a point of pride, others as a point of anguish.

EICHER: It’s Culture Friday and so let’s welcome John Stonestreet. John is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

BROWN: Good morning, John!


EICHER: It was really something, John. The Republicans seemed ready for a battle that didn’t come. The Democrats are all going to vote no, but the Kavanaugh-style attacks didn’t materialize (and I realize it’s not over yet). 

But last time Amy Coney Barrett came before this committee, she was under consideration for an appellate judge position and we heard attacks on her faith. That largely didn’t happen this time.

You heard Senator Graham a moment ago talking about how this is a barrier-shattering moment that an openly pro-life woman—a woman unashamed of her faith—making it onto the high court.

Of course, we have to quote the words of a great St. Louisan Yogi Berra: it ain’t over till it’s over.

But how big a cultural moment is this, in your estimation?

STONESTREET: I think it’s a significant moment in that obviously this could dramatically change the court or secure the court in a pro-life direction for a long time. Is it a historic nomination process? I mean, Barrett’s very impressive. I really appreciated the Babylon Bee headline talking about how deftly answered the Democrats’ questions while cooking a dinner for nine as she’s chopping onions there on the table. That was a pretty good photoshopped image. And my middle daughter, who, by the way, watched a little bit of it, I read that headline to her and she was like, “Wait, did she really?” I mean, it kind of is believable. That’s what’s funny. It’s kind of believable that she actually did.

Look, the Kavanaugh-style stuff didn’t come because it would have been really, really bad politics. That wasn’t popular with the American people. It certainly is not going to be popular against somebody like Amy Coney Barrett who’s popularity and at least polling went up as people watched her and saw her and probably saw over her shoulders her kids sit very well-behaved and wondering how can that happen for most of America who can’t get their kids to sign on and stay locked into a Zoom classroom. 

By the way, I’m in no way claiming to have had this figured out with my own kids. I hope she writes a book about this sort of stuff that I can read. 

But, look, there’s something helpful and something unhelpful. The helpful thing was that because the Democrats couldn’t go into that kind of personal style attack, we actually were able to see two very different visions about how the government’s supposed to work from both sides. You had Ben Sasse, you had Josh Hawley, you had Senator Kennedy who was the most entertaining character of the whole event from Louisiana, basically offer a civics lesson, and give Judge Barrett an opportunity to articulate how she understood the way things are supposed to work. 

The unhelpful thing was Judge Barrett had to do what every justice has had to do since Robert Bork, which is say, “I can’t really tell you what I think” about a particular issue. Now, listen, that is good prudence. That is something that no justice has actually been forthcoming with on any controversial issue in recent memory. And the reason is Robert Bork, what happened to him.

So, that’s the upside and that’s the downside.

EICHER: I do want to call your attention to a remarkable comment during this hearing. It was Tuesday. Senator Mazie Hirono from Hawaii. She found some writing by Judge Barrett she found objectionable. Let’s hear this.

HIRONO: You used the term ‘sexual preference’ to describe those in the LGBTQ community, and let me make clear, ‘sexual preference’ is an offensive and outdated term. It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not! Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity. Sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.

Offensive, outdated term. Because you have to go all the way back to September 28th of this year to find the last time Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary used “sexual preference” without the disclaimer that the term is offensive. Credit to National Review Online for spotting this. But it certainly appears Senator Hirono just edited the dictionary. It’s hard to keep up!

STONESTREET: Oh, wow. That was a scene, wasn’t it? I mean, first of all, Senator Hirono’s questioning — and it wasn’t just that question, by the way. That’s the one that got the attention. Because, by the way, Justice Ginsburg just in recent memory also used the term “sexual preference.”

Now, we also saw this week with the intentional burying of the lede about Hunter Biden by social media, we know how these things can actually—how these new ideas can be enforced. This is actually a center of the theme of Rod Dreher’s new book Live Not By Lies is that if there is a totalitarianism to come, it’s going to be delivered at the hands of “woke capitalism.” And we saw that. We saw the outrage. 

I’ll just put it this way: Without Twitter, Senator Hirono would not have been offended by that use of the term “sexual preference,” because she would not have known it was offensive. Because no one can keep up with this. And because it’s not offensive. It’s not a thing. That is making a mountain out of not even a molehill. It’s something that doesn’t even exist and it came across as desperate and just uncharitable and—what’s the other word?

EICHER: Gratuitous?

STONESTREET: [Laughs] Gratuitous, bad form. We could just go on and on and on. But it did, I think that was one of the moments that showed that we don’t have a unified Republican party. We don’t have a unified Democratic party. There’s factions within each. And I thought that was on display during the hearings, that moment with Senator Hirono being one of them.

BROWN: John, the other big event happening this week is the 27th annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics. This will be my first time attending and I’m emphasizing attending because it’s all virtual this year. So I’m looking forward to seeing you online!

But I wanted to say, you know, I think Christians are often intimidated by apologetics. Even though I Peter 3:15  tells us to always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.  I think that’s what Judge Barrett did this week. We all need to be able to do that. 

Why do you think we aren’t doing that and what are the consequences, especially in the culture we’re living in today?

STONESTREET: The interesting thing about I Peter 3:15 is that it’s in First Peter. I know that’s really profound, but First Peter is the book about hope and it’s a remarkable thing that the book of joy, Philippians, was written from a prison by Paul. This is the book of hope. The theme throughout this is all about having hope and it’s written in the context of persecution. 

You can see it right in the opening verses of that. And of course the assumption here is that hope is not an option. Hope is not a feeling. Hope is not dependent on any external circumstances. In fact, the people that he’s writing to, Peter’s writing to here, he uses words that bring to mind Old Testament exile because they’re about to get run out of town. They’re about to be the diaspora. The persecution is about to go from Jewish persecution to Roman persecution. And there’s a guy named Nero that’s going to be behind this that many people maybe will recognize. 

So, that’s just what’s so interesting. And, of course, embedded in this verse is this idea that hopeful living makes people ask. So, the first thing we have to wonder is are people asking? Are we hopeful? Are we known for hope or are we known for fear? Are we known for hope or are we known for anger? That’s the first question we have to ask. The second thing we have to say is, look, this is the golden age of apologetics. If there’s a tough question about Christianity, it’s at least been wrestled with, probably been answered well, very likely answered just definitively. 

The problem is, why is there such a disconnect between the answers that are there and the everyday person on the pew that are being asked these questions. I mean, listen, I meet tons of students, Myrna, who grew up in a Christian home and then they go to college and they get a question and they go, well, I grew up in a Christian home. I never heard the answer, therefore the answer does not exist. And that’s almost always not true. It’s almost always true the answer exists but they didn’t hear it growing up, and that’s a really unfortunate thing. And I think it’s something we can remedy through events like this.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview.

BROWN: John, great to talk with you as always. Thank you!

STONESTREET: Thank you so much.

(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool) Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett is sworn in during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

Like this story?

To hear a lot more like it, subscribe to The World and Everything in It via iTunes, Overcast, Stitcher, or Pocket Casts.







Pocket Casts

(Requires a fee)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.