Nadia Marzouki in Public Books:
On August 20, 2020, the last day of the Democratic National Convention, Sister Simone Campbell, the executive director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, delivered a prayer to the delegates. Wearing a blouse with blue flower motifs and an optimistic smile, she invited her audience to fight for “a vision that ends structural racism, bigotry and sexism.” Not even a week later, Sister Deirdre Byrne, a surgeon and retired colonel in the U.S. Army Medical Corps, gave a more somber speech at the Republican National Convention. Clad in a long black veil and black religious habit, she sternly contended that the “largest marginalized group in the world can be found here in the United States” and that “they are the unborn.” She described Donald Trump as “the most pro-life president this nation has ever had, defending life at all stages.” The juxtaposition of these two speeches embodies—almost to the point of parody—just how much the culture war has shaped (and been shaped by) American Christianity.
The two sisters’ showdown is just one example of the countless controversies over whether and how religion should contribute to struggles for social and racial justice.