Tag Archives: Supreme Court

Justice Antonin Scalia, the Constitution, and Scripture


antonin scalia

Ninety-eight to zero. An impressive score in any game. And one unlikely ever to be seen again with regard to our nation’s Supreme Court. Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia was appointed in 1986 by President Ronald Reagan. His Senate confirmation vote? 98-0.

When Justice Scalia, 79, passed away this week, our nation lost a brilliant legal mind, a man whose incredible intelligence and breadth of knowledge coupled with a deftly-wielded pen and wry wit to produce amazing results. Friend or foe, no one who spent time with Scalia ever left unimpressed and neutral, wondering how Scalia’s argument could have been made more skillfully or, many would say, more delightfully. Boring, dull, lifeless? Neither Scalia nor his positions ever were.

An astounding agility of mind paired with a quick smile and a predilection for laughter is an amazing combination, particularly if your most vociferous opponents find smiles and laughter very challenging. Listening to a recording of his speech in 2005 at the Woodrow Wilson Center, I kept having images of a black-robed cherub smiling, turning phrases incredibly, and about to get into delightful mischief.

Scalia has been described as a “strict constructionist” in interpreting the Constitution. He eschewed that term, arguing not for a strict or a loose interpretation, simply a “reasonable interpretation” centered on what it actually meant when it was written. He preferred the term “originalist,” by which he meant an increasingly small number of judges, lawyers, professors, and anyone else whose approach to the Constitution is “to begin with the text and give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people.”

Scalia said that was the orthodox position for many years. Not now. Now the prevailing view is that the Constitution is a changing, evolving, “living” document, which is convenient if you wish to give it almost any meaning at all, based perhaps on the latest opinion polls: “The Constitution didn’t used to mean that, but it does now.” Hogwash, said Scalia.

To beaming grammar school students proudly parroting, “The Constitution is a living document,” Scalia had news: No, it’s not; it’s dead. But also more news to mitigate the sorrow: It was never alive. It was and is a dead, though amazing, document that meant what it said and still does. Scalia’s reading it this way sometimes maddened both liberals and conservatives. A very good sign, I think.

For American Christians like me, does such a discussion of how to properly read the Constitution have anything to say about how we properly read the Bible? I think so.

The short answer is, we first make the effort to understand the kind of document it actually is. Parts of the Old Testament, for example, are literally “law,” setting forth a specific code of conduct. But the New Testament bears witness to a living Lord who relates to his people not on the basis of law but through a life-giving Spirit. What difference does that make? All the difference in the world.

I’ll miss Justice Scalia, as will our nation. I like the way that incredible mischief-making Constitution-loving “cherub” forced us to actually try to think.



     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2016 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

One Word From the King Trumps the Supreme Court


flag stars

The colored lights recently painting the White House, the Obama administration’s anything-but-classy dance in the end zone after the Supreme Court’s incredibly overreaching “legislation” last week, cast the White House flag in a strange and dim light.

I don’t like how some folks have tried to dim and sully rainbows and their breathtaking beauty. I don’t like what the Supreme Court majority, in breathtaking arrogance has tried to do with a flick of the pen to an institution ordained by the Creator of the universe. (That institution, is “marriage,” not “federal power.”)

And I deeply dislike this most recent federal assault on the Constitution and the powers that should remain with the states. Reading Winston Churchill’s amazing A History of the English-Speaking Peoples (Churchill is incredibly astute in his “take” on the Civil War), I was at first surprised to see him using “United States” as the plural term that it originally was. But I soon found such usage amazingly refreshing, a much-needed reminder.

What a sad and putrid river of arrogance, idiocy, and immorality overflowed its banks last week. No wonder the White House flag was painted in a weird and unnatural light.

It will be, I’m afraid, a strange Independence Day this year, particularly for those who’ve held as priceless the words of the First Amendment regarding the “free exercise of religion” and “freedom of speech.” The federal government is a giant step closer to telling pastors who they can unite in marriage. And increasingly in our land, any speech not approved by the majority is easily defined as “hate speech.” One wonders how many “Fourths” will still pass in our land while the First Amendment means anything.

I think—I hope—that I would be willing to die for this nation. I would do the same, by the way, for my state. I’ll fly my nation’s flag on July 4th, as I always have. But I’m tempted to tie a black ribbon around its pole. Some national sorrow. Some national repentance. Some national recognition of shame seems in order.

The recent Supreme Court decision well deserves a boatload of adjectives: shameful, immoral, overreaching, unjust, heavy-handed, illogical, arrogant, pretentious, egotistic. Yet again states and citizens get shoved down their throats a ruling legitimized simply because a majority of nine lawyers choose to cut off public debate and steer us by force in the direction they personally prefer.

Among my respected colleagues in ministry, I know not a single one would be cruel to a homosexual. But I know more than a few who would go to jail before they would willingly preside at a same-sex marriage.

Whatever happens, it is good for American Christians to have to realize what most Christians in most times have always realized: Truth is truth, no matter what the majority believes. “Fiery trials” for Christians are the rule, not the exception. Our hope is in God, not in government. One word from our King trumps the time-bound rulings of a million courts. His victory is assured.


       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!



Copyright 2015 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.o

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