Last week the United States was thrown into chaos at the expected announcement of retirement by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Every specialist group imaginable immediately responded with a strong lament of what was at stake for each one. Last week I addressed some of those thoughts in a two-part series about how to respond to Justice Kennedy’s retirement (which you can read by clicking the following: Part One and Part Two). Admittedly, I have had a number of issues with the Supreme Court and certain processes surrounding the system for many years now, making it easy to write about such a topic. Yet, I have no desire to revisit the same issues over and over. But more musings this week about the Supreme Court have generated further concern about the status of our culture that need to be evaluated from a biblical worldview.
The process for picking the next Supreme Court justice reveals flaws that personally, I find concerning and worth talking about. The very fact that the retirement of one person can cause so much chaos is indicative of just one of those issues: the amount of power given to one person. This week though, with the speculation of possibilities has come also speculation about those individuals and from that we see several societal factors needing to be rectified.
The Consistent Status
Whenever there is a nomination in play, we see a consistent reaction. If the presidential incumbent is democratic, the Democratic Party exalts any nomination to the position of a messiah, while the Republicans are certain to portray that nomination as nothing more than a demon in disguise. Yet, if the presidential incumbent is republican nothing changes, except the roles are simply reversed so that the Republican Party will exalt any nomination to messiah status while Democrats portray him/her as nothing more than one of Satan’s workers.
Assignments: First, it points to the danger of labeling individuals. The first task of the media is to assign labels from racist to religious, or constitutionalist to conservationist. Labels, at best, are imprecise, because they try to fit an individual into a specific genre of people. Yet, if we are to be individuals (as is the modern mantra) then to define people by their sameness with others goes against the societal mantra. Even more, it limits the truth of that person. Instead of examining an individual for who he or she really is, we assign labels and then evaluate them based on our understanding of those labels.
Assumptions: Related to the use of labels are the assumptions that labels instigate. From here is the revelation of the human heart because it shows our impetus to judge not according to personal knowledge but through personal speculation. Quick to rush conclusions, most people are content with only partial information. This is not only unfair to the person but also simply irresponsible leading to consequences for maintaining an ordered society.
Attitudes: Finally, the attitudes the accompany these assessments is discouraging. Rather than judge a person on individual merit, labels are assigned and assumptions are made and that attitude of response is to deeply oppose a person or deeply support a person based on simple presuppositions. In fact, it almost seems that those most vehemently opposed to a person are idea are those that are the least informed about that person or idea. Just consider the following story about college students’ reaction to President Trump’s Supreme Court nominations . . . the one he hasn’t yet made (for reference, I wrote this article on July 6 and found the attached article on July 8) (read the article here) or if you want to see a more recent story, see the same This type of response demonstrates how responses are not responses at all, but preconceived notions.
This matters on a greater scale because it is indicative of our behavior with one another as well. We are quick to utilize labels in order to define an individual and our relationship to that individual.
The Christian Status
We do not have to function in this way. In fact, we should not function this way. Through his Word, God has identified just what our response should be in the circumstances outlined above:
Evaluation: First, God has set forth the standards that one must maintain for consideration for a leadership position. In Ephesians, Paul outlines what mothers, fathers, and children are to be like while to Timothy he outlines the behavior of men and women (specifically be considered for church leadership). Consistently, the evaluation consists of phrase such as free from sexual immorality, a character testimony that is above reproach, or simply put, holiness. Of course, we recognize that apart from Chris’s work no person will fulfill the test of perfection. But the Lord’s standards are ones that emphasize character assessment and are not based upon subjective principles.
Evaluator: The Lord has not only outlines the character of those being evaluated, but also of those doing the evaluating. Unsurprisingly, their standard is similar: holiness. They are not to evaluate on an outward perception but on an inward condition. That requires an attempt to know the person more intimately than indirect information.
Ultimately, the character of those being evaluated and those doing the evaluating is to be the same. Moreover, their character should be some in which their behavior matches their beliefs.
I am disappointed that we are a society given over to such subjective evaluations and in a manner that is detrimentally harmful, both to individuals and a culture. I am disappointed that we are so quick to respond to people not based on who they are, but who we think they are. Instead, we must respond in a reasonable and rational manner that is outlined by a reasonable and rational God.
Photo “On the Hill” courtesy of user Eric B. Walker and Flickr.