Oh, that U.S. Supreme Court.
Some people right now are more excited than they’ve been in decades. Other people are considering this the end of the world.
Both are right. And both are wrong.
The highest court in the land cranks out many verdicts each year. Some deal with individual rights. Others deal with business or corporate rights. Some rulings cover very broad topics. Others might only deal with a small minority of situations or people.
The Supremes have a difficult job. From their own official website…
"EQUAL JUSTICE UNDER LAW" - These words, written above the main entrance to the Supreme Court Building, express the ultimate responsibility of the Supreme Court of the United States. The Court is the highest tribunal in the Nation for all cases and controversies arising under the Constitution or the laws of the United States. As the final arbiter of the law, the Court is charged with ensuring the American people the promise of equal justice under law and, thereby, also functions as guardian and interpreter of the Constitution.
Perhaps there is where the arguments truly begin. What exactly is “equal?” Are they really “guardians?”
And have the nine justices, or at least five of them, become a “theocracy” as some left wing politicians and pundits have now declared them?
Just in the past week the court has handed down decisions on three cases that have some direct contact with people of faith. All three could be recognized as victories for American Christians.
Two of these cases included the vaunted and sometimes mythical argument of the “separation of church and state.” Found nowhere in the Constitution, this line from a letter from Thomas Jefferson in 1802 has been so twisted and turned it would make a pretzel jealous. You can’t do anything even remotely religious outside of your home or place of worship. At school, in a town square, anything deemed “public.”
Until now, perhaps?
A football coach from a high school in Washington State liked to pray on the field after games, and some of his players joined him, even players from other teams. Others complained and his school district threatened to fire him if he continued. So – he continued. And he was let go.
The coach took his case to court. Lower courts sided with the school, but the coach kept appealing. He knew his feelings were right – he was simply praying to God after games and shouldn’t have to hide it. Not some sermon, just a 20 second prayer.
This week the Supreme Court agreed with the coach. And as of this writing the world hasn’t collapsed. We’ll give it another couple of weeks.
Earlier the high court ruled on a case from Maine where parents could get school voucher money to send their child to another school, but the tax money could only go to CERTAIN schools. And any school somehow religious was off limits.
Apparently Maine has a high number of private schools and a significant number of church-related schools. But nope, can’t send your kid and the voucher money there. Church and state, church and state, blah blah blah.
The Supreme Court disagreed and struck down the Maine statute. Now parents in the Pine Tree State can send their children to schools of THEIR choice, which should hopefully foster some renewed competition between schools there and improve overall education of young people.
And then there’s Roe vs. Wade, perhaps the most famous count ruling in history.
The 1973 version of the Supreme Court couldn’t be considered liberal. Seven of the nine justices at the time had been appointed by Republican presidents, including three by Richard Nixon in just a three year span.
For those old enough to remember those times, the makings of the court weren’t nearly as contentious as in recent decades. Back then it was more about experience; today it is much more about ideology.
Their ruling last week that decisions on abortion should go back to the state level as it was before 1973 sent the expected shockwave through society. It’s extremely rare when the court overrules the mandate of an earlier court, although it has happened before.
In the mid 50’s the famous Brown vs. Board of Education decision that schools should not be segregated turned back the Plessy vs. Ferguson decision from 1896 when “separate but equal” became the law of the land. Brown was absolutely the right decision, reversing six decades of separation between races that caused serious damage to our national fabric.
Interesting – “separate but equal.” It could be argued that American Christians have sometimes felt that way…
But already the overturning of Roe has led to people spewing hatred of Christians. Social media has been filled with destructive comments about people of faith. Health centers with religious connections who have helped women in dealing with pregnancy have been vandalized with threats and destruction. An historic Catholic church in West Virginia was burned to the ground, all apparently so some Roe supporters could vent their “rage” over the decision.
The apostle Paul had an interesting reaction to the young church in Galatia who was looking for guidance on how to handle themselves and those around them not of the faith.
Read the words carefully. Some would consider this very harsh but Paul knew that the world around us rarely mirrors God’s views. Not then, not now…
You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 1:13-26 NIV
As you can see here the “acts of the flesh” cover a lot of ground. And step on a lot of today’s toes. The “fruit of the Spirit” will never be easy because of our innate human nature to get emotional when things don’t go our way. And boy have we seen a lot of THAT in the news recently.
When you look closely there is so much tied to the abortion debate that can be connected in this New Testament passage. Desires of the flesh. You are not to do whatever you want. Just writing those words may have just caused someone’s heart rate to go up because the situation has become so inflamed.
What can we do as Christians in this time? Pray, for all sides. ALL sides. We certainly don’t condone the destructive actions of many these last few days. But the idea that a woman or girl who has been raped or a victim of incest, two of our most heinous crimes, and then becomes pregnant must now be forced to carry that burden for the next nine months in some states – that’s just not right.
And pray for the woman or girl who demands an abortion literally up to the moment of birth, even when our current health care can save an infant after just six months in the womb and loving families who can’t have children of their own are waiting to take care of that new life. Abortion on demand like that example - is just not right.
Pray for our elected leaders to take a step back, gather information, get a serious dose of common sense and then pass new laws respecting both sides of this issue. Multiple surveys of Americans say the majority realize abortion is a difficult decision but support it in certain circumstances. And multiple surveys say a large majority support definite limits on the procedure. The Mississippi law that went to the Supreme Court had a 15 week limit – that’s three and a half months, not a ridiculous number.
This could be a golden opportunity to finally put this contentious issue to rest – and remove it as the political football it’s been for too many decades. That’s of course if politicians WANT to remove the football. There’s been a tremendous amount of political fundraising in the past week…
Pray for the people on the two extremes of this issue, the ones who always seem to control the narrative. With God there is always hope – hope that reason and clear thought will win the day, not emotion and hate. Too much of society today is ruled by emotion. What we need is a lot more “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Yes, self-control. Both sides of the issue.
Good Lord above, help us now to let it be so…
From George Churchgoer