October 5, 2005

Harriet Miers and religion (or is that politics?).

The NYT has an article about Harriet Miers and religion on its front page this morning. This is an attempt to gather a lot of information on the subject and to develop ideas about what her religion might say about the sort of Justice she will become if confirmed, but what is most striking is how little one can derive about her actual opinions from any of this.

She became a member of an evangelical church, in 1989, the same year "she took a break from a lucrative law practice and delved into politics with a campaign for the Dallas City Council in 1989, running for a nonpartisan post." She also switched to the Republican Party that year.
In a discussion with her campaign manager in 1989, Ms. Miers said she had been in favor in her younger years of a woman's right to have an abortion, but her views evolved against abortion, influenced largely by her born-again religious beliefs, said Lorlee Bartos, a Democratic campaign consultant in Dallas who managed Ms. Miers's City Council campaign.

"She was someone whose view had shifted, and she explained that to me," Ms. Bartos said.
Is that religion or politics? If I were hot to get a pro-lifer on the Court, I would not be convinced! If she is a pragmatic politician, who made religion part of her persona when she chose to get ahead in Texas politics, what do you think she will do if and when she has the lifetime position on the Court? That depends on how things play out with the set of Justices she joins, what the issues of the day turn out to be, and how the consumers of the Court's work respond. She could very well form a coalition with Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer and win the love of legal academia. There is more glory there than duly contributing her vote to Justices Scalia and Thomas, especially if the new Chief Justice distinguishes himself from them, as I suspect he will.


Kingsley said...

If the administration can use her religion as an affirmative crutch to prop up her credentials, does that mean that Democrats can now start attacking nominees for theirs?

Pastor_Jeff said...

Is that religion or politics? If I were hot to get a pro-lifer on the Court, I would not be convinced! If she is a pragmatic politician, who made religion part of her persona when she chose to get ahead in Texas politics, what do you think she will do if and when she has the lifetime position on the Court?

Great questions, Ann! Nobody seems to really know what this woman believes, what her judicial philosophy is, or anything - except W, who knows her "heart." I hope the hearings will be more informative than they've been in the past.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

One of the best posts on the MIERS issue I've read Ann.

Does anyone know the statistics on what happens to born again Xians over time? My (limited) personal experience with evangelicals has led me to beleive that the fires that burn away the Former Identity and cast the mold for the Born Again Identity often fade with time.

Evangelism is, for some, an effective and moving 'solution' to being stuck spiritually and personally. They literally see a way forward in life through the community and beliefs of evangelic xianity

But once their life is unstuck and the Born Again persona becomes the New Normal, evangelicals will (sometimes) begin to quietly retreat from the more strident aspects of their new religion.

Everything I've read so far about Miers suggests to me the very real possibility that a new identity as Supreme Court Justice could very easily, if subtly, replace her need to indentify TO HER CORE as an evangelical.

She certainly seems like the kind of person who knows the difference between what she believes is personally true for herself and what might or might not be appropriate to set as the law of the land.

ShadyCharacter said...

stranger, can you clarify your intent in using the term "Xian"? Is this a common, neutral usage I've just never come across or are you simply a bigot? The only parallel I see is the hostile use of "Xmas" for "Christmas". I googled the term and came up with a city in Shaanxi province, China, but that does not seem to match your usage!

Your post does not seem unhinged in any way, but it sure seems like that usage is intended to be a poke in the eye to any Christian. If you are a bigot, screw you! :) If not, I apologize.

StrangerInTheseParts said...

ShadyCharacter -

"Xian" is just an abbreviation for Christian, not intended to have any connotation whatever. I got in the habit of using it as a Relgious Studies minor many years ago.

Thanks for noting the lack of unhingedness in my post. I was struggling to find the most reasonable tone to discuss an admittedly sensitive and challengeing subject. I should have typed out Christian each time as well.

Perhaps the point is moot, anyway.
Looks like the competence issue is going to trump the conservative credential issues. In fact, I can almost feel how everyone wants to USE the competence issue to avoid talking about the religious issues.

John said...

Isn't the hostility of "Xmas" an urban myth? Here is the American Heritage dictionary usage note: Xmas has been used for hundreds of years in religious writing, where the X represents a Greek chi, the first letter of [Greek word omitted], "Christ." In this use it is parallel to other forms like Xtian, "Christian." But people unaware of the Greek origin of this X often mistakenly interpret Xmas as an informal shortening pronounced (ksms). Many therefore frown upon the term Xmas because it seems to them a commercial convenience that omits Christ from Christmas.

I agree that it often appears in crass contexts ("Huge Xmas Sale!") but on the other hand, if I were in the mood to demean Christianity (which I am not) I suspect I could find sharper vocabulary to do so.

Stranger, I'd be interested to see an example of "Xmas" being used in a clearly anti-Christian manner.

ShadyCharacter said...

I'll not argue with you that the etymology of "xmas" might be totally benign, but one would have had to been in a coma for the past 20 years not to recall the periodic flare ups between secularists and other busybodies trying (and often succeeding) against public outcry to substitute "xmas" for "Christmas" in various settings. Try google if you doubt me. It was an interim step between schools and stores and most public forums moving from "christmas" pageants and sales and etc..., to "xmas", and finally to what we see now in the public square with the generic "holiday" or the banal "winter". This was a conscious attempt by secularists to de-Christianize the holiday and expunge Christ from the public square.

I simply took Stranger's extension of the usage to the terms "Christian" and "Christianity" as an attempt equivalent to the "Librul" or "KKKonservative" bullsh*t that often pops up on comment sections. I accept his explanation that that was not the case and I apologize for misinterpreting his post.