Darrow Miller and Friends

Bill Barr, Freedom Fighter

  1. Bill Barr, Freedom Fighter
  2. Freedom: Where Does It Come From?
  3. Self-Control: Will Just Any Religion Achieve It?
  4. Self-government: The Legacy of Christianity
  5. The Death of Morality

US Attorney General Bill Barr

A political theory says the fiery oratory of a leader has less effect than the collective, quieter influence of his subordinates. Let’s hope so.

That’s one way to reflect on a recent speech by President Trump’s Attorney General Bill Barr at Notre Dame. His forty-minute address at the Notre Dame Law School on October 11 comprised a bold, refreshing, comprehensive and succinct defense of religious liberty.

Barr’s remarks, at a time when the political and academic institutions of the West have long ago surrendered to secularism, could be characterized as astonishing. He calls for a return to earlier freedoms, liberties lately grown dim in the fog of secularism. Kudos to this brave soldier in the culture wars. His lecture—given to law students but highly accessible to laymen—rings with affirmation of the Judeo-Christian ethic on which America was built.

More below, but first this summary of Barr’s history and credentials, largely from Wikipedia.

  • An American lawyer serving as the 85th United States Attorney General in the Trump administration.
  • Born May 23, 1950 in New York City and raised Catholic.
  • Earned his MA in government and Chinese studies from Columbia University and a JD degree from George Washington University Law School.
  • Held numerous other posts within the Department of Justice, including Deputy Assistant Director for Legal Policy at the Reagan White House, as well as Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, Deputy Attorney General, and then Attorney General for President George H. W. Bush.

Perceptive commentary

So many of Barr’s salient observations correspond to principles deeply held at the DNA that we are planning a series of posts to highlight his remarks. We found Barr’s reflections worthy of this level of exposure to the readership of this blog. Here’s a sample:

  • The Founder’s question was whether the citizens in such a free society could maintain the moral discipline and virtue necessary for the survival Bill Barr quoted Edmund Burkeof free institutions.
  • Quoting Edmund Burke: “Men are qualified for civil liberty, in exact proportion to their disposition to put chains upon their own appetites.
  • In the Framers’ view, free government was only suitable and sustainable for a religious people.
  • Judeo-Christian moral standards are the ultimate utilitarian rules for human conduct.
  • Over the past 50 years religion has been under increasing attack. The campaign to destroy the traditional moral order has brought immense suffering, wreckage, and misery. And yet, the forces of secularism, ignoring these tragic results, press on with even greater militancy.
  • What we call “values” today are really nothing more than mere sentimentality, still drawing on the vapor trails of Christianity.
  • The force, fervor, and comprehensiveness of the assault on religion we are experiencing today is not decay; it is organized destruction.
  • The secular project has itself become a religion, pursued with religious fervor.
  • There is no greater gift we can give our children, and no greater expression of love, than the passing on of our faith. For the government to interfere in that process is a monstrous invasion of religious liberty.

Barr’s critics weigh in

Barr courageously held forth, knowing he would be excoriated for talking like he did. And he was.

  • Congressman Ted Lieu, “Dear Bill Barr: I’m just a simple Catholic, but even I know your job is to enforce the law, not the Bible. We are a Constitutional Republic, not a theocracy. Do your job instead of being a full on conspiracy theorist.”
  • Heidi Feldman, professor at Georgetown Law: “Barr’s comments evinced a fundamental misunderstanding of fundamental constitutional principles upon which the U.S. was founded. … Incredible that a law school would have such a legal know-nothing to speak.”
  • NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat: “This is the language of authoritarianism, which has used state power to crush ‘organized destruction’ for 100 years. Barr is gearing up for something.”
  • Paul Krugman, New York Times columnist: “The Constitution guarantees freedom of religion; the nation’s chief law enforcement officer has no business denouncing those who exercise that freedom by choosing not to endorse any religion.”

Barr’s address evokes Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech, a powerful, truthful word spoken at just the right time. Reagan gave hope, and clarified and mobilized those who resisted Soviet totalitarianism. May Barr’s words have like effect at another important moment in Western history.

Series of posts around Bill Barr speech coming

We have divided Barr’s talk into eight sections, and are planning the following series of posts.

  1. True liberty is grounded in Biblical morality and self-government.
  2. What is self-government, and what enables it?
  3. Our present moral upheaval; biblical morality is under attack.
  4. Can biblical morality make a comeback?
  5. The new secular morality is “macro”: external and top down. Biblical morality is both macro (rooted in the character of God) and “micro” (manifested through self-governing people).
  6. The law is being used to promote secular morality as the new orthodoxy.
  7. Education: The most important battleground.
  8. What is the hope for a renewal of biblical morality?

That’s ahead. In the meantime, you would do well to listen his speech for yourself.

We will lose these principles upon which our country was founded unless we too understand them, teach them to our children and our churches, and openly, publicly defend them. We are on the verge of losing them altogether. The hour is very late indeed.

  • Gary Brumbelow. Scott Allen contributed to this article.



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Gary is the Disciple Nations Alliance editorial manager. He manages Darrow Miller and Friends and serves as editor and co-writer on various book projects. For eight years Gary served as a cross-cultural church planting missionary among First Nations people of Canada. His career also includes 14 years as executive director of InterAct Ministries, an Oregon-based church-planting organization in Canada, Alaska, and Siberia. Gary is a graduate of Grace University, earned an MA from Wheaton College and a Graduate Studies Diploma from Western Seminary. He lives near Portland, Oregon with his wife, Valerie. They have two married sons and twelve grandchildren. In addition to his work with the DNA, Gary serves as the pastor of Troutdale Community Church.