With you I look forward to the third Sunday of African-American History Month. I know you will want to be in worship on Sunday to support Paul Keener as he preaches and to benefit from the good word he will bring. In the Forum we will discuss “March, Book 1” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell.
The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia on Saturday has been cause for both expressions of loss and fierce political debate. Brent Walker of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty which both considers the impact of Supreme Court decisions on religious liberty and participates in cases that come before the court said of Justice Scalia “We extend our sympathy to the Scalia family and his colleagues on the U.s. Supreme Court, and we pray for God’s grace and comfort for them during these difficult days ahead. While the BJC often did not agree with his interpretation of the First Amendment’s Religion Clauses, Justice Scalia will be remembered as a towering figure on the High Court for his intellect, his wit and his incisive opinions.”
I did not agree with Justice Scalia’s theory, known as “originalism” and “textualism,” that judges should decide cases according to the “public meaning” of the words in the Constitution, or its Amendments, as understood by the American people in the state constitutional ratifying conventions. He wrote and lectured against a “living” or “evolving” interpretation of the Constitution.
Even if we could determine precisely what those who voted for the clauses and amendments of the Constitution thought they were supporting, context, setting, beliefs, practices, understandings and perspectives change. Those who voted for the Constitution believed that white, male land owners should rule the country, if not the world. Are we to be bound by those perspectives and beliefs?
There are parallels between biblical interpretation and constitutional interpretation. We try to understand what the words meant in there original context, a difficult task in and of itself. Yet, having done this, the task of interpretation is not complete. We must ask what the words might mean in a world that is changed and changing. For example, there are times where the the Bible accepts slavery as a given. Are we to be bound by the worldview of its writers or are we to consider how the Bible might change us and the world we live in?
In my humble opinion, we must adopt a living view of both Bible and Constitution if we are to address the ills bequeathed to us by the past.
Loving God, We pray for all who are grieving, all who are seeking, all who are longing for a better day. We pray also with those who are contemplating tasks completed, gifts received, honors bestowed. Awaken us again to the truth that you are with us in these realities and that you not only long for a better day but you work to lead us to it. It is in the Spirit of Hope that we pray, Amen.
We are grateful that Evan Wilkinson was in church, that Luke Joachim is engaged and that Eva and Spencer Hadley are doing well as they await the birth of their first child. We pray for better health for Ted and Doris Evans, Warren and Camille Parker and Sydney Webster. We pray also for the ministry of all our sister churches in the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches.