Why Amy Coney Barrett Might Surprise Everyone

Why Amy Coney Barrett Might Surprise Everyone
(AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Commentators are treating Amy Coney Barrett, recently nominated to the Supreme Court, as a conservative Christian who will vote in lockstep with other conservative justices. Her religious background, though, makes her less predictable than many presume.

People of Praise, the community into which Barrett was born and to which she still belongs, is one of many communities formed in the heady days of the late 1960s and early ’70s, when many Americans became hippies and then Christians, drawn by a radical critique of the mainstream world and the sense that by living differently together, they could bring change into the world. The movement offered young people a way to avoid the ugliness of dropping acid and casual sex but still get the experiential high for which they yearned. As Larry Eskridge argued in God’s Forever Family, the Christian youth movement is among the most important and underappreciated in American religious history. It transformed American evangelicalism in the decades after the Vietnam War—endowing evangelical Christianity with its distinctive folk music, its come-as-you-are informality, and its insistence that everyone can have a direct experience of God.

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