Reading Time: 5 minutes

The headline was as subtle as an air horn:

How Strong Women Like Amy Coney Barrett Submit To Their Husbands With Joy.”

OMG2. (That’s OMG times itself, if you’re math-vague.)

The article by Matthew Cochran, which blithely assumes the supposed continuing primacy of religion-inspired patriarchal socio-sexual norms in America that are, in fact, long (long) past their expiry dates, appeared Oct. 5 in The Federalist, an ultra-conservative online e-zine.

It may have been the single most irrational, delusional piece of prose I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and I almost regret reading it. Except it allows me to do a public service and again remind secular and reasonable people of the intellectually counterfeit, knee-jerk, conservative mindlessness now infecting the United States — a divisive milieu that the Trump era’s steamrolling religious hypocrisies have only accentuated.

My first thought upon reading this piece (after “OMG2”), was wondering whether The Federalist Society, the august and influential right-wing Republican organization that compiled lists of super-conservative candidates for President Trump to peruse for federal court judgeship appointments, is related to the The Federalist e-zine.

“Say it isn’t so, Joe,” I said to myself. Because if it were so, that would mean the Trump administration has appointed hundreds of federal judges and a couple of U.S. Supreme Court justices recommended by an organization that endorses the patently bogus, mindless nonsense of this online magazine. The now-seated Federalist Society-promoted justices under Trump are Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh; the president just nominated a third Society recommendation, federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

But I couldn’t confirm a connection between the publication and the Society, because nothing I found online definitively connected the two entities. I did note, however, that The Federalist runs a lot of articles related to and strongly in support of The Federalist Society issues.

In any event, read the article above (or as much as you can stand), and I trust you’ll quickly get a strong sense of my deep disquiet about this kind of dangerous claptrap.

At immediate issue in the article is Barrett’s widely reported affiliation with a charismatic Christian group known as People of Praise (she’s been listed on its board of directors), which apparently promotes God-given male supremacy in families — and, therefore, the divinely ordered servility of wives.

“This controversy is about something bigger than the People of Praise or Barrett,” he wrote. “Rather, it requires us to defend the most hated Bible verses in America — the very ones that trigger so many of us who grew up indoctrinated with an irrational fear of masculine authority.”

Cochran offered this scriptural passage from Ephesians:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.”

Heavens to Betsy! Who knew that a “fear of masculine authority” was “irrational,” right? To be fair, I haven’t been to church in many decades, so maybe I just forgot that was a thing.

The really jarring part of this screed is Cochran’s “argument,” so to speak, that because Amy Barrett is a very successful and accomplished woman at a young age (47), it would be utterly ridiculous to think she would agree to be subservient to anyone. Even if she believes the God she fervently worships ordains it?

Just some quick research into the reality of sexual, physical and mental abuse in fundamentalist/conservative Christian families, for example, and you become aware that the cradle-to-adulthood patriarchal indoctrination of females emotionally imprisons them in awful situations as surely as chains, often for years if not lifelong. To get a visceral sense of this kind of atrocity against children (that then also deeply affects them as adults), I recommend reading Tara Westover’s achingly beautiful Educated: A Memoir (2018).

To think that Barrett it somehow wholly immune to any affects from that kind of intense Christian (she’s Catholic) brain-washing as a girl is naïve and unreasonable. That she reportedly continues to embrace such paternalistic dogma is worrisome, despite her undeniably sterling legal and academic career and reputation.

You just can’t wave this stuff off. It matters. How it may matter for Barrett is an open question, however. But when U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-California) expressed worry at Barrett’s 2017 federal appeals court nomination hearing that “the dogma speaks loudly within you,” it was not an anti-religion troll. That judicial candidates’ religious views clearly might potentially affect their public-job performance is a fair concern to publicly address.

Cochran continues to argue, unconvincingly:

“The specter of domestic abuse is frequently raised in response to these verses [Paul in his letter to the Colossians and by Peter in his first epistle], which, indeed, is a real issue with real victims. Nevertheless, complaining that biblical submission primes women for abuse makes about as much sense as complaining that ‘honor thy father and thy mother’ primes children for abuse. The possibility that authority may be abused does not negate that authority.

That’s nonsense, of course. Abuse absolutely negates authority, as say in the case of a father or mother whose alcohol or drug addiction problems translate into the regular shaming and beating of their children. Just because someone is a parent or just a man, for that matter, doesn’t give them special moral dispensation and received “honor.” People deserve “honor” only when they actually earn it.

In Cochran’s bogus view, every husband has “a responsibility to patiently care for his wife’s needs and to help her to grow into what God ordained her to be,” which is to accept subservience to his final, decisive authority on everything. He sniffs at feminist concepts as unnatural.

They’re only “unnatural” if you’re stuck in the dogma of hoary, 2,000-year-old religious texts written by largely ignorant male supremacists who knew no different.

Cochran opines that “most of our appeals to equality” between the sexes “are empty platitudes that fail to point us to anything meaningful.”

Empty for whom? Men who fear losing age-old, unearned authority?

This Cochran quote below I hesitated to use (but then changed my mind). It is prejudicially wrongheaded, of course, but I think it’s important to show the irrationality of fundamentalists who make nonsense assertions that can never be substantiated:

“Biblically speaking, we can say that men and women alike are equally made in the image of God and that both are equally forgiven on account of Christ. But we don’t say that both have equal authority in the household or in the church, any more than we say that both are equally tall or equally equipped to nurse children. Neither should we expect rigid across-the-board equality in those social institutions that are meant to support and protect families.”

If you’re an atheist, for instance, the phrase “in the image of God” means “in the image of something that has not been confirmed to exist in reality.” A fantasy, in other words, which human beings create, not the other way around. And equality is not about how tall or breast-feeding-ready you are.

So, my question is, how can Christian devotees like Amy Coney Barrett, for example, be expected to judicially rule rationally on national moral and practical issues that affect believers and heathens alike, when her thought processes can be expected to instinctively hark back to fantastic and discriminatory faith concepts like this one above that marginalize half of American citizens?

Judge Barrett insists she can. But I’m not convinced. Just as I’m not convinced that people who think like Matthew Cochran can ever be trusted to be rational.

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Rick Snedeker is a retired American journalist/editor who now writes in various media and pens nonfiction books. He has received nine past top South Dakota state awards for newspaper column, editorial,...

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