Adam Gopnik is a gifted essayist and writer whose contributions, often published in The New Yorker, are almost always thoughtful and interesting. Nevertheless, one of his most recent writings is deeply disturbing, and at the deepest level.

Reflecting on the debate between Vice President Joseph Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan, Gopnik registered alarm at “something genuinely disturbing and scary” that had been said by Paul Ryan. Gopnik first complained that Biden and Ryan should not have even been asked about the role their Roman Catholic faith plays in their thinking, specifically on the issue of abortion.

Gopnik then wrote:

Paul Ryan did not say, as John Kennedy had said before him, that faith was faith and public service, public service, each to be honored and kept separate from the other. No, he said instead ‘I don’t see how a person can separate their public life from their private life or from their faith. Our faith informs us in everything we do.’ That’s a shocking answer—a mullah’s answer, what those scary Iranian “Ayatollahs” he kept referring to when talking about Iran would say as well. Ryan was rejecting secularism itself, casually insisting, as the Roman Catholic Andrew Sullivan put it, that ‘the usual necessary distinction between politics and religion, between state and church, cannot and should not exist.’”

Gopnik accuses Paul Ryan of reasoning like a mullah and rejecting any distinction between church and state. Ryan did no such thing, of course. Instead, Ryan stated the obvious — “Our faith informs us in everything we do.” Any faith of substance will inform every dimension of our lives. It is hard to imagine that Adam Gopnik would have complained or even taken offense if a similar statement had been made, for example, by the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., concerning his advocacy for civil rights….

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