If "Love Island" is our future: The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the urgency of moral purpose

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If “Love Island” is our future: The legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the urgency of moral purpose

September 24, 2020 -

© New Africa/stock.adobe.com

© New Africa/stock.adobe.com

© New Africa/stock.adobe.com

My wife and I watched NCIS Tuesday night. When the show ended, Love Island began. We watched the first minute and were so shocked we turned the television off.

CBS describes the show this way: “Love Island is the sizzling summer series based on the international smash hit and cultural phenomenon. The matchmaking begins as a group of single ‘Islanders’ come together in a stunning villa in Las Vegas, ready to embark on a summer of dating, romance, and ultimately, relationships.” 

Note the order: dating, followed by romance, which then leads to relationships. Not the reverse. 

The description continues: “Every few days the Islanders pair up and those who are not coupled are at risk of being dumped from the island.” When the swimsuit-clad contestants began to “pair up” in the part of the show we saw, it was obvious what came next.

Here’s my point: CBS airs this highly sexualized show at 8:00 p.m. (CT), early enough for my grandchildren to watch. 

An army of law clerks 

An army of more than a hundred former law clerks for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg met her casket at the Supreme Court yesterday. They accompanied it up the steps to the Great Hall for the private ceremony and public viewing that followed. 

One of Justice Ginsburg’s greatest legacies is the degree to which she influenced the generations following her. As the Wall Street Journal notes, “Few generations of lawyers—particularly women—have looked to her as a role model as much as the students entering the profession today.” 

Her iconic cultural status and tireless work on behalf of women’s equality changed the legal profession. One recent graduate credits the composition of her law-school class—nearly equal numbers of men and women—largely to Justice Ginsburg’s pioneering path. 

One of the mantras of our relativistic culture is that we have no right to “force our values” on others. Ruth Bader Ginsburg clearly did not ascribe to this philosophy with respect to the values she championed. Whether we agree or disagree with those values—and many of us do both—we can learn from her culture-changing example. 

In fact, we must. 

“Optimism by another name” 

According to historian Maurizio Valsania, pessimists have been forecasting the demise of America since our founding. For example, in the 1800 election, one newspaper predicted these results if Thomas Jefferson were to be elected: “Murder, robbery, rape, adultery, and incest will openly be taught and practiced, the air will be rent with the cries of the distressed, the soil will be soaked with blood, and the nation black with crimes.” 

In a day when France and Great Britain were the global superpowers, our infant nation’s future was perilous. From then to now, voices predicting doom have seldom been in short supply. 

However, as Valsania notes (following the work of political scientist Francis G. Wilson), there are two types of pessimism in America: absolute and conditional. Absolute pessimism “is the belief that the nation is a big lie, a fraud, a trick that cunning white males have been playing on women, native populations, African Americans, working classes, immigrants. As such, this nation deserves to be cursed, canceled, sunk, forgotten.” 

By contrast, conditional pessimists “deliver a prophecy of disaster because they want to provide a new hopeful solution. They speak to Americans’ sense of pride, exhort them, incite them, mobilize them, increase the level of commitment to a common cause and enact a ritual whose upshot should be a deeper awareness.” 

Valsania calls this type of pessimism “optimism by another name.” 

“God has no grandchildren” 

It is incumbent upon Christians to follow the example of Justice Ginsburg by investing in the coming generations. In our case, the stakes are even higher, since Christianity is always one generation from extinction. 

As evangelist Reinhard Bonnke noted, “God has no grandchildren. He has only children.” Scripture agrees: “To all who did receive [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12). Note the little word with global implications, “all.” 

However, we should engage our broken culture with the kind of conditional pessimism that warns of God’s judgment against sin while offering his grace to sinners. We should be famous for hope, not hate; for generosity, not guilt. 

Of all people, we who have experienced the crucified love of Jesus should be especially passionate about offering such love to all. 

Identifying our enemy and trusting our refuge 

Love Island and all it represents should call us to brokenhearted intercession, not self-righteous condemnation. Those who made the series and those who watch it are not the enemy—they are deceived by the enemy (2 Corinthians 4:4). And there, but for the grace of God, go we. 

When we are discouraged by the sinfulness around us, this testimony can be ours: “When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul” (Psalm 94:19). And we can say with the psalmist, “The Lord has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (v. 22). 

Then we can pray for God to use us to lead others to make him their refuge as well. 

I read John Baillie’s classic A Diary of Private Prayer each morning and evening. His prayer for this morning includes this petition: “Teach me, O God, to use all the circumstances of my life today to nurture the fruits of the Spirit rather than the fruits of sin.” 

Let’s make his prayer ours today. 

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