Last Saturday, Attorney General William Barr paused just long enough in his globe-hopping, dirt-gathering Biden crusade to return to South Bend, Ind., to play his bagpipes and deliver a lecture to the Notre Dame Law School warning Americans about the militant secular minions destroying our nation.
This speech has been widely reported in the media with glowing adoration or shocked disbelief, depending on where a one stands theologically and politically. Unable to find a transcript of last week’s 40-minute address, I suffered through the lecture on the Internet.
Some of Barr’s observations can be embraced by practically all persons of faith and even most persons of no faith. No nation, he said, can prosper or survive unless its people have inner discipline and morality undergirded by religion. Laws in and of themselves cannot make people act morally, generously or with goodness.
But then Barr launched into the heart of his address – savaging unnamed persons he called militant secularists bent on destroying our country, burning Christians at the stake, destroying Christianity and forcing irreligion on the rest of us.
Barr’s real target, however, is not “militant secularists,” whoever he thinks they are. A religious man with a very conservative faith, Barr is smearing and besmirching deeply faithful, obedient Jews and Christians who follow the Torah and Jesus in ways Barr neither understands, appreciates nor respects. The intolerance he accuses others of actually exposes his own judgmental, narrow brand of Christianity. Displaying the worst of religious faith, Barr attacks other sheep in the fold who understand faith and discipleship differently than he.
The key moment in Barr’s address came when he described an experience at a Washington, D.C., Catholic parish he’d recently attended. He didn’t like the way this faithful Body of Christ addressed hunger in Washington. He said after Mass the social action committee reported on behalf of the poor, whom Jesus loves, that they had entreated the city’s authorities to fund more mobile soup kitchens. Yes, that upset Barr.
The miffed scolder then said the congregation wanted the city to increase taxes. Furthermore, he was irritated that the person making the report didn’t ask for volunteers to pour soup. The implication was this congregation wasn’t involved in “real” mission.
This tirade was shocking. First, it is more than bad form that a federal official would publicly take to task a Christian church. Second, it is all the more remarkable because Barr admitted he wasn’t even a member of that parish. In spite of his ignorance of the comprehensive mission strategy outreach of a local congregation, our nation’s top legal official attacked them. This makes me wonder about his summary of Mueller’s report.
The rich, diverse practice of faith in this nation is what makes us great. It is dangerously irresponsible to suggest that persons who practice faith differently from the attorney general are destroying this country. Grand Inquisitor Barr’s fatal intolerance will inevitably lead others to reject the very faith he claims to defend.