A great man has died, Antonin Scalia. Imagine his great homecoming to be with his Lord, whom he ultimately served.
If there is not a battle royale over the appointment of his successor, then it would appear that the Republican Party has no pulse.
Such a battle will be about what the future of America is to be—Constitution or no Constitution?
Appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986, Scalia stood fully for the Constitution, including its original intent.
Growing up in modern America, we assume that it’s just natural for the Supreme Court justices to impose their opinions on the rest of us, to effectively legislate from the bench. After all, judicial activism has been on display in the courts at least since the 1940s.
We tend to forget that activist courts reinterpreted the First Amendment’s prohibition on the governmental establishment of religion to mean the separation of church and state—even, in effect, the separation of God and state.
The Supreme Court gave us abortion on demand, opened the floodgates of pornography, and even same-sex marriage—despite the expressed will of the people.
All of these things fly in the face of our history, where, for example, our first president said we could never hope to be a happy nation unless we imitate Jesus.
What did the founders think of the idea of legislating from the bench? They were against it. They said that the legislative branch (covered in Article I) is the most important branch in our country since it is closest to the people.
They delegated powers to the executive branch (Article II) and to the courts (Article III). Clearly, the founders were more concerned about the legislature than the judiciary. Article I of the Constitution deals with the legislature in 2266 words. In contrast, article III, which deals with the judiciary, is only 375 words.
Brave Scalia tenaciously fought with wit, charm, and a great deal of courage, for the people to retain the powers (through their legislators) that the Constitution recognized.
Twenty years ago, Justice Scalia gave a speech at a prayer breakfast for the First Baptist Church of Jackson, Mississippi, where he famously said, “We are fools for Christ.”
Those familiar with the New Testament knew that Scalia was simply quoting the Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Christians in Corinth, where he said that to those who are perishing, the cross of Christ is foolishness. Paul adds that we may appear to be fools in the eyes of the world. But God’s so-called “foolishness” is wiser than man’s “wisdom.”
In that speech, Scalia noted how unbelievers today sneer at the idea of Christ’s resurrection—a miracle, therefore, in conflict with reason: “Reason and intellect are not to be laid aside where matters of religion are concerned. What is irrational to reject is the possibility of miracles and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
But to “the worldly wise,” noted Scalia, “everything from Easter morning to the Ascension had to be made up by the groveling enthusiasts as part of their plan to get themselves martyred.”
Scalia endured year after year, decision after decision, in contradiction to the prevailing wisdom of the dominant rulers in our culture—as seen in the major law schools, law firms, the Washington elite, and the mainstream media.
I had the privilege to interview Robert Bork once, who also had been nominated to serve on the Supreme Court by Reagan, until a massive smear campaign “borked” him, adding a word to our political lexicon.
I asked him why supposedly conservative justices often turned liberal after a few years on the Court. He replied: “…the Court is part of the intellectual class and it responds to the intellectual class. If, when you go one way, you get praised by all of New York Times and the Washington Post and the NBC and CBS and ABC, that’s kind of seductive. But if you go the other way, you get criticized and over time that, I think, has some effect on some justices.”
So how was it that Scalia was able to endure the perpetual criticism? His Christian commitment. Going back to his remarks at the Jackson prayer breakfast, he said that the “view of Christians taken by modern society” is a derogatory one. He added, “We are fools for Christ’s sake. We must pray for the courage to endure the scorn of the modern world.”
No wonder Scalia could tell the graduating class of William and Mary in 1996, “The only thing in the world not for sale is character.
Scalia will be missed. He has left a huge whole in our national politics. May God grant that it be filled well.