A Disputatious Friendship
What we can learn from the justices, though — beyond how to be a friend — is how to welcome debate and differences…Not for a moment did one think the other should be condemned or ostracized. More than that, they believed that what they were doing…was essential to the national good…How fortunate for us all, especially those who are partisans of one or the other of these great figures, to have the example of their disputatious friendship.
Scalia and RBG had the privilege of debating long, scholarly, carefully developed opinions inside the marble walls and wood-paneled halls of the Supreme Court. They were not hurling verbal spitballs, tossing out manipulative bits of disinformation, or forwarding cartoonish mimes at each other on Facebook. We don’t have that privilege, but I trust that the same kind of mutual respect that they shared can be present in my disputatious friendships with thoughtful people who see things differently that I do.
The Strength of RBG
In the movie, Becket, when Thomas Becket hears that the old Archbishop died, he responds, “That little old man. How could that feeble body contain so much strength.” (p. 38) It’s a turning point for Becket, whose faith leads him to stand up against the immoral and self-absorbed desires of King Henry II.
I remembered those words as we watched Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s feeble body carried into the Capitol rotunda. (Why did it take over 200 years for a woman to receive that honor?) Historians agree that some of the most influential opinions written by the most influential woman of our lifetimes were the ones in which she declared, “I dissent!”
As we approach this year’s election, I believe we find ourselves at a critical turning point in our nation’s history; a moment in which it is possible that the survival of our democracy demands that both my patriotism and my faith clearly declare, “I dissent!” to the narcissistic desires of the President.
Five years ago I used this blog to name the moral, ethical and biblical reasons I could not support Donald Trump’s election. His behavior, along with the compliant weakness of members of Congress who have enabled him, have far exceeded my worse expectations, forcing me to once again declare my dissent to his reelection.
I resonate with the words of my long-time (and seldom disputatious) friend, Dan Johnson, in response to the question of why, as a retired Pastor, he felt called to speak out clearly about this election. Because I can’t improve on his words, I share them with you. Dan wrote:
1. The Prophetic Role – while I loved being a Pastor and prefer that Biblical role, I am also charged by my calling to fulfill a prophetic role, even though that is not my first love. A Prophet is charged with holding political leaders of his time accountable: Elijah – Ahab; Isaiah – Ahaz; Jeremiah – Jehoiakim; Ezekiel – False Rulers of Israel; Amos – Jeroboam.
2. My Grandchildren and Great Grandchildren – I agree with Retired Air Force Gen. Charles G. Boyd (36 years in USAF, 6+ years as POW in Vienam and a Republican): “Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law that makes a democracy possible has been so egregious I’ve decided to speak out.” For this reason and the many other egregious actions by this POTUS (his racism, his assault on the environment, the results of which will impact our and your future generations, his unending untruths, his denial/betrayal of science, and more), I want to be able, in the years to come to look my descendants in the eye and with integrity, say: “I did what I could; I did not remain silent.”
3. As a Christian Leader, it is important to me that I make it known that people like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Paula White, Robert Jeffress, and a host of other right wing “Christian leaders” do not speak for me or for the broad spectrum of the Christian Community. I feel I must lend my voice to a view of Christianity that I believe honors Jesus, cares for, and doesn’t mock, the disabled, extends kindness, not belittling, to “the other,” that seeks justice for the oppressed – all the things Jesus lived and died for.
I don’t often let Dan put words in my mouth, but I’m grateful for these! These are the reasons, I respectfully dissent!
Grace and peace,