Two of the most powerful positions in the president’s cabinet are the office of the Attorney General and the Secretary of State. On October 11th, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr both gave speeches on a singularly polarizing subject: God.
The venues were different. Attorney General Barr spoke at Notre Dame University in West Bend, Indiana to the law school and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.
Secretary Pompeo spoke at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, to the American Association of Christian Counselors.
God is a no-no in the P.C. culture
In an era of suffocating political correctness, the subject of God is a no-no to public figures associated with an administration which identifies as pro-life. And yet Mssrs. Barr and Pompeo didn’t hold back.
Barr began with a reminder of the centrality of religious liberty in the founding of our nation:
“The imperative of protecting religious freedom was not just a nod in the direction of piety. It reflects the Framers’ belief that religion was indispensable to sustaining our free system of government.
In his renowned 1785 pamphlet, “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments,” James Madison described religious liberty as “a right towards men” but “a duty towards the Creator,” and a “duty….precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society.”
Break out the pitchforks!
Pompeo talked about the importance of God in his work:
“As believers, we draw on the wisdom of God to help us get it right, to be a force for good in the life of human beings.
Now, I know that even having just said that, I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work. But you should know, as much as I’d like to claim originality, it is not a new idea. I love this quote from President Lincoln: “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.”
A transcendent moral order
Barr reminded us of the Founders’ conviction that freedom was dependent upon belief in God:
“In short, in the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people – a people who recognized that there was a transcendent moral order antecedent to both the state and man-made law and who had the discipline to control themselves according to those enduring principles.
As John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with the power which is capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.”
Pompeo made it clear that it is Christianity that animates his faith and directs his leadership style:
“… My focus too, to be quite candid, is not just on being a leader. I learned how to lead at whatever level I’m blessed with during my time at West Point and other experiences, but I want to talk today about being a Christian leader. I learned that through a very different experience, an experience with God and my own personal faith in Christ.
How you carry yourself is the first arena of Christian leadership.”
Barr correctly identified the contemporary assault on Christian leadership as an orchestrated attack by a competing ‘creed:’
“One of the ironies, as some have observed, is that the secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor. It is taking on all the trappings of a religion, including inquisitions and excommunication.
Those who defy the creed risk a figurative burning at the stake – social, educational, and professional ostracism and exclusion waged through lawsuits and savage social media campaigns.”
The mission of defending human dignity
Pompeo acknowledged that his faith is critical to defending human dignity:
“My day is often scheduled into 15-minute increments. Every now and again I get a half hour, and every now and again I get to hear some of the beautiful worship music that I was able to sit with you for. I need to be intentional – we each need to be intentional – about carving out time to pursue the mission of defending human dignity.
International organizations will try, from time to time, to sneak language into their documents claiming that abortion is a human right. And we’ll never accept that. (Applause and cheers.) We’ve worked diligently to find every dollar that might be going to that and we have worked tirelessly and successfully now to bring it nearly to an end.”
Barr says we need to look at the underlying causes of growing social pathology in the American culture:
“But today – in the face of all the increasing pathologies – instead of addressing the underlying cause, we have the State in the role of alleviator of bad consequences. We call on the State to mitigate the social costs of personal misconduct and irresponsibility.
So the reaction to growing illegitimacy is not sexual responsibility, but abortion.”
“The law is being used as a weapon”
Barr said that the “law is being used as weapon in a couple of ways:”
“First, either through legislation but more frequently through judicial interpretation, secularists have been continually seeking to eliminate laws that reflect traditional moral norms.
At first, this involved rolling back laws that prohibited certain kinds of conduct. Thus, the watershed decision legalizing abortion. And since then, the legalization of euthanasia.”
William Barr’s speech garnered more attention than Mike Pompeo’s. The pushback bordered on the hysterical with reactions like these:
Barr is “neck deep in extremist Catholic institutions.”
“God is now Trump’s co-conspirator.”
“Is this Barr’s cry for help?”
Reactions like these only prove his point.
How often do you have the Attorney General and the Secretary of State give life-affirming speeches on the same day?
Gentlemen, good job.