Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Are You, or Have You Ever Been, A Follower of Jesus Christ?

Here inside the Beltway, the political classes are humming with anticipation at the upcoming nomination of a new Supreme Court justice. Talking heads and politicos and apparatchiks of every possible persuasion are trying to figure out just who is going to get the nod to replace Justice Souter. What will the criteria be? What peculiar mix of jurisprudential knowhow will the individual bring to the court? Even more importantly, what demographic check-boxes will they fill?

As someone who finds this kind of prognostication entertaining, I think we're going to see a female nominee. I mean, c'mon. 51% of the population...and only 11% of the court? No progressive could possibly resist shifting that imbalance. The question is: what kind of woman? Will she be a Latina? I think the odds are good, and it would make political sense. But why stop there? How about a lesbian Latina? Or maybe a disabled lesbian Latina? Or a disabled lesbian Latina single mom with two biracial kids and a cat with a learning disability? You can get 175-to-1 on that last one at any DC bookie. 200-to-1 if the cat is named "Puddles."

Of course, that OCD progressive tendency to want fairness and balance in all things is not shared by folks on the other side of the aisle. But if the conservative pre-response to the not-yet-announced nominee is any guide, it seems that the GOP has only one criteria for rejecting a nominee:

They cannot under any circumstances be a Christian.

The one criteria that's been repeated by the administration, over and over again, is that the candidate must show "empathy." And so it is against empathy as a judicial virtue that conservatism as a movement is now railing. Anyone in a position to judge must be utterly dispassionate, completely unswayed by feeling and solely motivated by a cool clinical and academic understanding of the history and dynamics of the law. "Personal feelings," which is how conservatism interprets empathy, have no place in the law. This position has been resounding throughout conservative corners of the blogosphere, and was reiterated in an op-ed piece today by Senator Jeff Sessions, the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Unfortunately, Christianity is all about empathy. Yeah, I know, we've been lead to believe Jesus only taught about abortion and gay marriage. But we have all of us, as the breathy lady says at the beginning of the Lord of the Rings, been deceived.

Compassion and an unconditional love of neighbor are the roots-rock-foundation of Christian values. If you've missed this in your readings of the teachings of Jesus, or in the teachings of the Apostle Paul, then you haven't been paying attention. Love is the highest law, and the law that defines and interprets the application of the law. Christian compassion is also not something that exists for us in the abstract. It is a value...a virtue...that must be manifest in every corner of the life of every person that claims to be a follower of Jesus of Nazareth. You can't say he's your Lord and Savior unless that love for others suffuses every part of your life.

Unfortunately for American conservatism, that includes your vocation. You're a Christian if you practice medicine. You're a Christian if you work in a cubicle next to a guy who smells of tobacco and rancid cheese. You're a Christian if you're appointed to serve as final arbiter of the legal framework of a constitutional democracy for the rest of your born days. You never leave that behind. It defines you, in all that you do.

That means that anyone who authentically roots their faith in Christ...well..let's just say that conservatives need to be sure none of those radicals get on the Court. Nominal, surface-level, wink-wink-nudge-nudge Christians are fine. Cultural Christians are fine.

Just no real ones. They can't help but be compassionate. Think of the mess they'd make of the law if they started actually interpreting it through the lens of Christ's teachings!

And we can't have that.