Justice Amy Coney Barrett is already a fascinating figure and poised to become a feminist icon in her own right, fulfilling the dream that Sarah Palin awakened for conservative young women of my generation over a decade ago. A dream that inspired many of us to consider politics ourselves. But, like her predecessor, her husband may turn out to be more intriguing, especially to those who appreciate the unseen realm and understand what goes into making a professional fairytale a real possibility.
Most of the time, the supporting spouse goes unnoticed, especially if it’s a supporting wife. The few rare men in history who took on this role (like my personal favorite, Prince Albert)—sometimes referred to as members of the “Denis Thatcher Society,” men whose wives “have a job which deep in your heart you wish you had”—pique our attention because they and their wives were outliers.
I can’t help but be curious of the man behind the curtain. Any time there’s a strong married woman and mother in the spotlight, I’m always looking for the one making it happen behind the scenes—the one taking on more of the duties at home to make the call on her life possible, the one who saw the extraordinary in her and chose her—the one who, perhaps unknowingly, but unenviably, chose all of this.
And for conservative, Christian, specifically Catholic, millennial women who see ACB as #Goals, the thought that often occurs for those paying attention to her reality is: where does one find a man like Jesse Barrett? Notre Dame Law School, apparently.
There’s something we intuitively know: that you cannot ‘have it all’ without the right man.
There is not much information out there on husband Jesse Barrett, except that Amy admits she “hit the jackpot when she married [him].” He, a lawyer in his own right, is apparently much ‘cooler’ than her—according to both her and her children—being a former prosecutor at war with bad guys. He has also served as a high school mock trial coach, and has publicly said, “it is humbling to be married to Amy Barrett.”
In fact, Justice Barrett gives credit to her husband every chance she gets. When asked how she balances her demanding profession and full-time motherhood, she said, “I think I have an awesome husband… We were open to either one of us staying home at different points when things were intense with the children… It’s a team effort. We’ve gone in cycles.” She also noted that living in a small town, having the flexibility of a family-friendly workplace, and extended family to help with childcare makes her “very full life” easier to manage.
At her Supreme Court nomination, she shared what her husband of twenty years asks her every single morning: specifically, what he can do for her. “And while I almost always say nothing, he still finds ways to take things off my plate.”
Aside from clearly being a sacrificial and supportive husband, “as well as the better cook,” the most interesting part about Jesse Barrett is that he is also the spiritual leader and head of their home.
The Barretts’ devout Catholicism and affiliation with the charismatic group, People of Praise has ushered in controversy because, as was said in The New York Times, “the group teaches that husbands are the heads of their wives and should take authority over the family.”
This is called spiritual leadership, and it’s actually attractive—not to mention very orthodox in Christian marriage. The problem is that submission and headship are almost always misunderstood or simply not applied.
I doubt many have ever fully read Ephesians 5:21-33. Most likely they catch the phrase, “wives should be in submission to their husbands” and conjure up some sexist and misogynistic mental image of a wife who has to be meek and mild and passive to an abusive and domineering husband. The fact that this is so widely misunderstood, looked down upon, and controversial is exactly why we have a massive lack of authentic masculinity in the culture and the Church.
For greater context and unpacking, I would recommend reading John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, but for a simple explanation, submission in this sense means to freely relinquish the need to control and lead the relationship and family, and allow a man to fulfill his role. When properly executed, this ultimately best serves the woman and their children.
By submitting to your husband (who is submitted to Christ), you’re essentially saying to him, “I trust you.” And when a man knows that you trust him, out of his love for you (a love that resembles Christ laying down His life for the Church), he will serve you and do right by you.
In fact, the man’s call is greater: it is to lead his family to heaven and die for his bride like Christ died for His bride, the Church. If that call does not cumulate in a literal death, it certainly constitutes a figurative death, a daily “dying to self.” This could be seen in a myriad of ways, including serving her so she can serve on the Supreme Court.
And since love is to will the good of the other, according to St. Thomas Aquinas, both submitting and leading can be the ways in which we love, where the other person displaces our own egoism.
It seems Amy Coney Barrett’s predecessor knew something of sacrifice and teamwork in a marriage. The most admirable thing Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever did (aside from her being married and having a baby in law school at a time when women didn’t attend) is a widely known act of great love. When her husband Marty was diagnosed with cancer while in law school, Ginsburg went to both his classes and her own, and typed his papers for him. She added more to her plate. She saw him being a gifted lawyer in the future as a good, and she willed it for him. She even followed him to New York after he graduated from Harvard and finished her own schooling at Columbia for the sake of keeping her family together. It was his genius in tax law that brought about a famous case that he suggested she take on, and it was his campaigning for her which ultimately paved the way for her to be on the Supreme Court.
Ruth had once said, “Meeting Marty was by far the most fortunate thing that has ever happened to me.” He as kingmaker, “tirelessly leveraging his network” for her to reach the pinnacle of the field they both studied was never something he resented or envied her for; he wanted it for her, he thought it was suited for her. She once said he was the “only boy she ever knew that cared she had a brain.” Makes sense that he’d want her to use it, and goes to show: often behind every exceptional woman is an even more exceptional man.
Jessica Kramer is a freelance video host for Media Research Center and writer and currently resides in the Washington, D.C. metro area. You can follow her on Twitter @JessKramer1776 or check out her budding YouTube channel.
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