Our Discomfort with Faith

In today’s New York Times (July 21, 2005), there’s a thorough article about our next Supreme Court justice, John Roberts. (He seems like an alright guy, and despite my liberal tendencies I will not join the knee-jerk throngs who oppose his nomination.)

What fascinated me about the article is the cautious and uncomfortable tone it took in regards to religion. When describing Judge Roberts’ faith, those interviewed went to pains to say that though the nominee is religious, his religion doesn’t affect his professional life. "John’s faith is his faith, and his approach to the law is a separate issue," said one friend. Is faith a separate issue from our vocation, our jobs, our daily life?

The president of the College of the Holy Cross, where Judge Roberts’
wife is on the Board, said about John and Jane Roberts that religion
"would affect their personal lives, but they are very professional in
their work." It would not be professional for faith to affect their
jobs, I guess.

Why can’t we have a healthy attitude towards religion in this
country? I’m no fan of politians or judges misusing religion as a
political/judicial tool, but neither am I a fan of the anthropological
fiction that we can somehow separate our spiritual self from our
professional self.

If faith is separate from daily life, then religion is simply a
hobby like collecting stamps or knitting. But if faith has greater
consequence than a hobby, it seems to me that it can and should
influence the whole of our lives. (What that influence looks like, on
the otherhand, varies dramatically from faith to faith and person to
person. More about that, perhaps, in another post.).

Just because Judge Roberts’ faith doesn’t overtly determine how he
decides cases doesn’t mean that his faith is separate from his
vocation. In fact, it is quite possible that his faith and active
participation in the Catholic Church has led him to a position of
public service and a dedication to the rule of law as a means of
promoting justice, a key theme in Catholic and Biblical theology. Of
course, this is just speculation. We don’t know how he understands his
faith and his vocation. But if he’s as devout and as active a Catholic
as some say he is, I doubt that his faith sits on the sidelines when he
sits on the bench. That would just be impossible.

And that’s OK with me.


  1. proclaimingsoftly · July 7, 2006

    Question: Is faith a separate issue from our vocation, our jobs, our daily life?
    Answer: NO! Not it it is real Christian faint, whatever real means.

  2. proclaimingsoftly · July 7, 2006

    I can see why a person who posts a lot would want an excerpt of many postings to remain on the main page. But when I’ve gone to other blogs that do this (new to me) I find it somewhat annoying and confusing. Now I’m finally getting used to it. I guess I’m confused when some blogs do as you’ve mentioned and other blogs seem to lead toward articles published elsewhere.

  3. hamletta · July 7, 2006

    Answer: NO! Not it it is real Christian faint, whatever real means.
    Well, yeah, but if you’re a Supreme Court justice, it becomes a bit problematical. It’s not like you can just say, “Well, my faith tells me ”
    You have to base your opinion on previous opinion and scholarship. Contrary to wingnut belief, judges don’t just make it up as they go along.
    I’m OK with faith guiding decisions in the legislative or executive branches, but the judicial, not so much.

  4. Johann · July 8, 2006

    I suspect we don’t all mean the same thing when we use the word “faith”. In the context of the NY Times article about Chief Justice Roberts, I sense that “faith” refers to his acceptance of the dogmatic teachings of the Roman Church, and they mean to imply that he does not allow dogma to dictate his understanding, interpretation, or application of civil law. By contrast, I tend to think of “faith” as one’s ultimate concern, that fundamental idea, conviction, or relationship that makes any purposeful or meaningful life possible.
    Now while it is entirely possible (and prudent) to keep religious dogma and civil law separate, how does anyone separate their ultimate concern from any other aspect of their lives? Faith, in that sense, lies at the very center of their lives and defies attempts to compartmentalize and pack it away at will. And faith that can be packed up and set aside at will isn’t faith as ultimate concern at all.

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