BLOG4 Lessons We Can All Learn From Justice Antonin Scalia’s Legacy

By Alan Sears Posted on: | February 16, 2016
The passing of an extraordinary man, and the deafening commotions of our increasingly pugnacious politics and morally unhinged culture put me in mind, these days, of some lines from Rudyard Kipling’s Recessional:


The tumult and the shouting dies;

The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget – lest we forget!

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was surely among “the Captains and the Kings” of our age: a man whose deep personal faith guided and informed his profound and decades-long service to the nation as the  High Court’s most outspoken and passionate voice for religious freedom, the sanctity of life, and marriage and family.

He was also at the perennial center of the most crucial legal question of our day, as the leading proponent of Originalism (the idea that the Constitution still means, and should be applied by, what the Founders meant when they wrote it) against the aggressive efforts of activist judges to make it a “living” – i.e., endlessly pliable – legal guideline. The Constitution, Justice Scalia contended, should mean what it says … even if that’s not what politicized jurists want it to say.

Much has been and will be written in the days and years ahead of what Justice Scalia’s rulings, opinions, and philosophy have meant to American jurisprudence. Not everyone will agree with him on those matters. But the man – like all of us – was more than the words that he said. Like all of those who demonstrate such exemplary personal character, his most priceless testimony was simply in the way he lived his life … and for that, I would hope, a great majority of even his most vociferous opponents could express their appreciation.

So, “lest we forget,” a few observations from the life of this good man:

We must use our heads. Too many Christians seem to think that being on the side of God and His truth excuses us from having to do our homework – from studying Scripture, from knowing our legal rights and protections, from understanding what is happening in the culture around us.

Even those who took issue with Justice Scalia’s opinions often marveled at the breadth of his knowledge and the keenness of his thinking. They may not have liked what he said, but they couldn’t pretend he didn’t know what he was talking about. His life embodied what Paul wrote to Timothy, that “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).”

Like him, we should “Study to show [ourselves] approved unto God, [workers] who need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15).”

We must learn to stand. Not for nothing was Justice Scalia known as “The Great Dissenter.” He was, if anything, more famous for the opinions he wrote in opposition to the majority than he was for those he wrote in support of them. With rare wit and unswerving legal logic, he parsed his opponents’ arguments and thoughtfully, boldly affirmed his own convictions.

We live in an era when so few Christians seem to know Who their God is, what His Bible says, or why they themselves have joined themselves to the faith. Great numbers of believers shrink from having to stand for openly – much less defend publically –  a Truth they have studied insufficiently and thought through hardly at all. 

Justice Scalia – a man who was not ashamed of either the Gospel or the Constitution – knew Whom he believed (2 Timothy 1:12) and cultivated the courage to speak the truth to his peers, his fellow professionals, and his country.

We must care about those who disagree with us. Justice Scalia was well-known for his close friendships among those on the opposite end of the legal and political spectrum, particularly fellow justices Ruth Ginsberg and Elena Kagan. He had the purest Christian trait of being able to disagree with people without despising them. His friendships did not dilute his convictions, nor did the depths of his beliefs dissuade him from reaching out in genuine kindness, concern, and fellowship to those who believed differently.

We must leave a good legacy. Because Justice Scalia lived out his life and faith so boldly, thoughtfully, and generously, his wisdom and example will continue to impact the lives of others. As George Will put it so beautifully this week:

“A teacher, wrote Henry Adams, attains a kind of immortality because one never knows where a teacher’s influence ends. Scalia, always a teacher, will live on in the law and in the lives of unnumbered generations who will write, teach, and construe it.”

Even as we pray for those who choose his successor, and about the implications of his sudden passing for our cases and our nation’s future, we at Alliance Defending Freedom give thanks today for the life, work, and faith of Justice Scalia … and for the far-reaching impact one fully committed soul can still make on his nation, and on eternity.

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget …

Alan Sears

Founder

Alan Sears serves as founder of Alliance Defending Freedom, building on his experience as longtime leader of the organization to strengthen alliances, forge new relationships, and develop ADF resources.

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