This week, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg will become the first woman in history to lie in state at the US Capitol. Her casket will be placed in the National Statuary Hall on Friday, where a formal ceremony for invited guests will be conducted.
Beforehand, her body will lie in repose at the Supreme Court Wednesday and Thursday. A private ceremony attended by her fellow justices, relatives, and close friends will be held in the Great Hall of the court building at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow. Her casket will then be brought outdoors for a public viewing under the Portico at the top of the front steps. Next week, her remains will be interred alongside her late husband in a private ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.
After her death last Friday, I read My Own Words, a collection of her most significant writings. The first piece in the compilation was published in her school newspaper in June 1946. She described and assessed “four great documents” that have changed the world: the Ten Commandments, the Magna Carta, the 1689 Bill of Rights in England, and the Declaration of Independence. She then affirmed the Charter of the United Nations as a fifth.
She was barely thirteen years old at the time.
Later that month, she published in the bulletin of her local Jewish Center an article which concludes: “There can be a happy world and there will be once again, when men create a strong bond towards one another, a bond unbreakable by a studied prejudice or a passing circumstance. Then and only then shall we have a world built on the foundation of the Fatherhood of God and whose structure is the Brotherhood of Man.”
How many of us could have written that paragraph when we were thirteen years old?
How her husband described her
The more I read about Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the more I was impressed with her intellectual brilliance and her personal story.
When she was fourteen months old, her older sister died of meningitis at the age of six. Her mother died of cancer at forty-eight years of age, two days before Ruth’s high school graduation. Ruth was one of only nine women in her class of approximately five hundred at Harvard Law School.
Her husband once introduced her as a person of “great intelligence, fine judgment, personal warmth, unremitting hard work, and an advantageous marriage, which is just what I expected after our second date fifty-three years ago.”
The more I learned about Justice Ginsburg, the more I wished, respectfully, that she had used her amazing gifts in the service of a more biblical worldview.
The National Abortion Federation published a statement after her death calling her “a crucial defender of abortion rights.” A website devoted to LGBTQ advocacy headlined, “RBG Fought Like **** for LGBTQ+ Equality. It’s Our Turn to Fight for Her Legacy.”
Consistent with the relativistic claim that truth claims are subjective and personal, Justice Ginsburg advocated a view of the US Constitution as “living” and thus subject, as Justice Antonin Scalia derisively noted, to “whimsical change by five of nine votes on the Supreme Court.” Such “whimsical change” discovered a “right” to abortion in 1973 (predating her elevation to the court in 1993) and to same-sex marriage in 2015 (where she voted in the five-to-four majority).
Imagine the impact Justice Ginsburg could have made if she had reasoned according to God’s unchanging word on life, marriage, and truth.
Anselm’s definition of God and Abraham Lincoln’s riddle
Schitt’s Creek received seven Emmys last Sunday night. One of the winners is a gay actor who plays a gay character. He told the audience, “Our show, at its core, is about the transformational effects of love and acceptance. We need it now more than ever before.” Time said, “Nothing captured our collective thirst for comfort, positivity, and familial togetherness more than the Schitt’s Creek sweep.”
Unbiblical morality has become more normalized by the Supreme Court and the court of public opinion than ever before in our nation’s history. In these perilous days, we can learn from Ruth Bader Ginsburg the importance of intellectual excellence and persuasion.
For example, let’s note that changing our opinions regarding God and his word changes neither God nor his word. As C. S. Lewis observed, denying the sunrise does not harm the sun.
Psalm 90 declares, “Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations” (v. 1). “Dwelling place” translates the Hebrew for a home and a refuge. God has been this for his people “in all generations” because “from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” (v. 2).
The most logical description of God I have found comes from Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109), who characterized him as “a being, than which nothing greater can be conceived” (Proslogion 2). God cannot change or he would at times be less than God (cf. Malachi 3:6). Nor can his word change its truthfulness, for it reflects the One who revealed it (2 Timothy 3:16).
When we change our opinions regarding the truth, we do not change the truth. President Abraham Lincoln once employed a popular riddle: “If I should call a sheep’s tail a leg, how many legs would it have?” His audience answered, “Five.” Lincoln replied, “No, only four; for my calling the tail a leg would not make it so.”
When the world seems very small
Are you living by the court of human opinion or the counsels of God? If your life were to be even more aligned with your Father’s unchanging word, what would change?
Are you using your influence to encourage those you influence to live by biblical truth? Whatever it costs us to declare and defend God’s word is a small price to pay for the privilege of partnering with the King whose Son died that we might live with him in paradise forever (Luke 23:43).
St. Gregory (AD 540–604) observed that the world seems very small to a soul who contemplates the grandeur of God.
How small does the world seem to you today?
NOTE: My newest book may be my timeliest and most essential, especially in these days of political rancor. In Respectfully, I Disagree: How to Be a Civil Person in an Uncivil Time, I offer a biblical path to becoming a people of civility in a season of conflict. I pray that my latest book both encourages and challenges you to seek godly civility in these contentious days. Please request your copy today.