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
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.