Parallel Worlds

Scalia

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is dead at 79. The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court is composed of judges who have life appointments. They are nominated by the President but must be confirmed by the Senate. Justice Scalia was nominated by President Roland Reagan in 1986 and was unanimously confirmed by the Senate. He was remarkable for many things, but two of the most notable were the universal agreement of his “towering intellect” and his affability. Even his most polar-opposite colleagues described him as their "best buddy.” In his written opinions from the bench, he would often be both penetrating in his opinion and humorous in his turn of phrase. 

One of my favorite opinion phrases was in his dissent of the Court’s rescue of the “Affordable Care Act,” otherwise known as ObamaCare: “The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges.” I’ve never heard of “jiggery-pokery” before, but I get the idea that it involves some scurrilous mental gymnastics to save the deeply flawed takeover of American health care. (Parenthetically, not only was he right, but the “ACA” is showing itself to be expensive, unsustainable, and unsuccessful in bringing everyone under medical care. Most college-aged students, whose good health and abundant premiums were relied on in the economic model to make ObamaCare work, have refused to sign up. As a result, there is no where near enough income to pay for ObamaCare.) Jiggery-pokery indeed. 

Another great phrase was: “This Court, however, has no free-floating power ‘to rescue Congress from its drafting errors.’” 

Opinions like those were fully based on his commitment to apply Constitutional Law consistently with the language of the original framers, and as much as can be determined, in the way that the writers originally meant. That position is “textualism.” Seeking to follow what the authors originally intended is called being an “originalist. 

Justice Scalia’s death opens an appointment on the court that will be challenging. President Obama has neither the textualist or originalist perspective. His appointments have been individuals who are thoroughly postmodernists and have even expressed distain for the Constitution. That is a far cry from Justice Scalia’s position! 

It is likely that the President will make a nomination, but I think it is extremely unlikely for a nomination of his to be approved by the Senate under the current political climate. That means that the upcoming election is even more important because it will surely involve one Supreme Court nomination, and may well involve three. With most significant decisions in recent years being decided by 5-4 vote margins, these appointments have huge significance.

Over time, the Supreme Court has evolved into being (in some areas) the most influential branch of government. From an originalist perspective, I don’t think that was ever intended, but it is the way things have developed. It is called “judicial activism,” in which the court imposes decisions in areas that were never anticipated. The underlying situation is that liberals view their perspective of re-appraisal as superior to established standards and norms. Whereas I view it as short-sighted, they are convinced that they are serving their ideals faithfully and that it would be tragic to do less.  Abandoning core documents is not seen as a loss, but an evolution.

In the Episcopal Church (TEC) and a number of other Provinces, those of liberal perspectives are taking virtually the identical position. Instead of the Constitution, the document in question is the Bible. Those committed to Biblical authority do not want to change from the revelation that was given in Jesus Christ and through the Scriptures. The re-appraisers are eager to embrace whatever seems good to them at the time. Tragically, their solutions, even if they are well-intentioned, rarely take into account enough factors, so the result is being shackled with unintended consequences. Rarely are the unintended consequences positive! 

In both the political arena and the ecclesiastical one, a number of principles can be pursued that will help maintain fidelity to our foundations. Here are some considerations for thought: 

Engage

Failure to get involved would be tragic and will result in revolutionary re-shapping of both church and State. In the Church, it means taking the trouble to find out what is happening and even going to the lengths to offer yourself for service on Vestry or other leadership bodies of the Church. 

In civil government, the critical thing to do is to vote and to do so with a Biblical world view in mind. In the USA, only about half of eligible voters who are evangelicals even register to vote. Perhaps they have bought the lie that those who are “truly spiritual” will not sully themselves with such things as politics and voting. But it is worse than that. Of the one-half of evangelicals who register to vote, only half of them actually cast ballots! That means only 24% of evangelical Christians vote. If they did vote, and did so consistently with a Biblical world view, every election would be decided overwhelmingly in favor of a Biblical perspective. 

I was just in Australia, where voting is compulsory, and a hefty fine is imposed on one who fails to vote.  As a result, they get very high voter turnouts. Suddenly, that sounds very attractive! 

Take courage:

Many things in the world today are anxiety-producing. It is easy to be overwhelmed, but we need not be. Our lives, both ecclesiastical and “secular,” are overshadowed by the overwhelming victory of Jesus Christ as demonstrated by the Resurrection. There is nothing that can come to us that is greater than the victory of the Resurrection. Even if circumstances take our very lives, they cannot take our life in Christ—our eternal life. St. Paul wrote it this way: 

Rom 8:35-36 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written:                                     

“For Your sake we are killed all day long;

We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.”

 

Rom. 8:37-39   Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come,  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

We do not have to fear. Timothy wrote, “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and a sound mind.” (2Tim 1:7) That is our inheritance given because of the victory of Christ. The most important factor to pursue in order to have those truths produced in our lives is to pursue them in relationship with Jesus. As we know Him more and pursue Him more, we will experience more and more of His peace and the fruit of the Spirit. 

Of course, there are things that are difficult in life, but however strong the difficulty may be, it is no match for the strength of the Risen Lord. Ask any Christian who lives in the midst of persecution and even martyrdom. The churches and believers there have great joy and abundant life. That is true even where the circumstances are difficult. 

 

Remain true to the foundational document:

For Christians, our primary foundational document is the Bible. It is, according to the faith once delivered, the ultimate authority. Nothing we do can contradict what the plain meaning of Scripture is. For those in the USA, the core document is the Constitution. Though it was crafted by men and does not have the same seal of inspiration that the Bible has, I believe it is a document that is unique in the world, that was inspired, and has brought great good and prosperity to millions. In the “secular” arena, insisting on following the Constitution is (in my view) the best way to have the most stable, fair, and even compassionate circumstances for everyone. In ecclesiastical circles, those who want to move on from the authority of Scripture, do not tend to depart in just some small way. They often—maybe even usually—wind up going very far afield. Those who remain true to Scripture will never be disappointed. 

Take the long view:

To be short-sighted is usually to miss the most important aspects of an issue. Looking toward the long view will also give a better chance to discern more of the complexities involved and may even help avoid some awful unintended consequences. It takes effort and discipline to look downrange, but it is critically important that we do so. For example, looking at the last Primates’ Meeting/Gathering, the focus was pretty limited. There was focus on the very narrow action of The Episcopal Church and little attention given to other Provinces that are doing essentially the same thing (if less officially). In doing that, the problems presented by a BUNCH of other Provinces have not yet been addressed. Ultimately they will have to be addressed as well. They are just as serious departures from Scriptural authority as what is being done in TEC. 

Accept incremental change:

Remember what Moses wrote in Exodus:

EX 23:29-30 I will not drive them out from before you in one year, lest the land become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you.  Little by little I will drive them out from before you, until you have increased, and you inherit the land. 

While change sometimes comes at a dizzying pace, more often than not, it doesn’t. Most victories have to be won step by step, bit by bit, and little by little. Many people get discouraged because the change they see is not all they want to see. Often, the progress seems so anemic that people get discouraged. The worst part is when people get so discouraged they drop out of the process. That happens in Church and in politics all the time! If there is something we don’t like, the worst response is to quit and go home. Receiving the fruit of Christ’s victory takes work and effort. We have to face things in our own lives that need to be changed, and we need to follow His lead to engage the things in the world that He wants us to change. Those who are so offended by a tainted world that they seek to withdraw from it rarely help produce a more Kingdom-oriented environment. How tragic to sit out from the fight and just offer criticism. 

 Weigh things carefully:

Years ago, there was consensus to ban abortion in all cases except rape, incest, and the life of the mother being in jeopardy. The purists insisted on a total ban of all abortions. They did not accept what would surely have been accepted that would have limited abortion in the U.S. by 97% to 99%. Now years later, there have been more than an extra fifty million abortions that might have been stopped. Fifty million unnecessary deaths! But the “purists” insisted. I believe they were very wrong. 

In the political sphere, that means making decisions that are the best ones that can be made. It does no good to wring our hands insisting on options that we don’t have. We have to decide between the choices we have if we are to do as much good as possible. In ecclesiastical terms, we should take what progress we can without violating Scripture. If that means that TEC is disciplined today and we need to work on discipline for Canada tomorrow, then so be it. If it means that the discipline being exercised against TEC is very light and not what we had hoped, then we should implement the discipline we can today and seek to do more tomorrow. 

In all these things, we in the Anglican Church are surrounded by struggles that are very much like the ones faced on the American political scene, where re-appraisers seek to force changes on the Constitution—or press for it to be ignored. Our response should be to engage, take courage, remain true to our foundational document, take the long view, and weigh things carefully! That way we will make the most impact we can possibly make. 

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