Supreme Court Flurry
Since 2015, I have been far more involved in reading case law related to Supreme Court actions. I spent one entire study retreat delving deeply into the arguments and opinions on key moral subjects that affect Christians while recognizing that I am a pastor, not an activist. Most of you know that I have never sought to be a political commentator, but there are times when it’s essential for me to weigh in or help bring clarity to murky issues.
The court has always made decisions that reflected the values of the individual justices and the ways they read case law. While the justices examined cases through lenses shaped by the party affiliations they had, I believe that they really did work to weigh issues with values that go beyond that. Still, case law coming out of the years when left-leaning justices held the majority tended to be much more problematic for the practice of faith.
Today, we’re seeing a flurry of activity that is quite different from those case decisions of a few decades ago. Accordingly, the opposing side has reacted with volcanic anger. I expect that, but I remember the volcanic responses of Christians during the decisions that disappointed them. The line of difference between these groups’ behavior was uncomfortably thin. That bothered me. Surely we must be different. Surely we must handle this in a way that’s distinct.
In the last 50 years, one pattern has been troubling: instead of trying to determine what the FRAMERS were trying to accomplish and what they had in mind, the court has “created” constitutional rights that would be a shock to the framers. As I have read the full opinions of those decisions, I have often said under my breath, “They just created something and added it to the Constitution.”
In the last ten days, three opinions have been released that reasserted the foundational understanding of the free exercise of faith and moral values that reflect biblical theology. They all received dismay from those who think that ANY religious expression is oppressive. But those decisions were overwhelmed and forgotten quickly with the Roe v. Wade decision. When that news was announced, it became the supreme fight of our era.
I spent a great deal of time studying the movements that fed the hunger for independence in our country. We had a very rich history of oppression and persecution in the personal background of the early settlers of our land. So when they crafted the Constitution, they wanted to insure the freedom to worship as they saw fit without a government framing that practice for them. That same desire led them to the “no establishment” clause so that people could choose NOT to practice faith. So “free exercise” and “no establishment” have operated side by side, but that balance will always be up for debate, interpretation, and legal action. That’s the nature of living in our culture where we want people to be able to worship and we want to ensure that people have a choice for NOT worshipping.
Can I suggest something?
Guard your words and your heart in this time. We need to celebrate and grieve in ways that honor Christ. Our charge is to love people, even when they hate us. Are your actions and words reflecting that charge? Would people be able to see that you operate differently? Because at the end of the day, pleasing CHRIST is going to matter more than the latest opinion of a human court, no matter how “supreme” that court may be. The people around us need to see a difference. Their eternity may depend on it.