Replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg On The Supreme Court: Why The Political Gap is So Wide
With the death of Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, it seems the political landscape has just become “supercharged” once again. Why does this occur so often when major events hit the national stage?
At the risk of oversimplifying things (which I’m bound to do in a blog of just under 600 words), the primary reason that things heat up so much at times like this is because the political divide beneath our public discourse is so massive. Indeed there is a great tectonic divide just below the surface of our cultural conversation. It is a gaping chasm that becomes visible on occasion when major events grab the attention of the body politic—such as the death of a Supreme Court Justice.
What is this great tectonic divide? It’s actually a worldview divide. Some folks are honest and candid about their worldview, while others are less so. But everyone operates from within their worldview—Nancy Pelosi does and so does Ted Cruz. Both sides of the political divide have definitive views on anthropology, cosmology, and a resulting set of moral values. Both sides have a specific historiography and eschatology, and both sides also have a decisive view of language and epistemology—these views affect everything!
For example, Justice Ginsburg was very candid about her belief in a “Living Constitution,” a form of jurisprudence that believes the United States Constitution is a document that adapts to the times, taking on different meanings depending on when it is interpreted. In short, the Constitution can mean different things in different eras. This is an idea that is hostile to a biblical worldview of language, reality and truth. The Bible’s view of language is rooted in a particular concept of theism and a resulting epistemology. The Bible views words and language as rooted in an objective reality—namely a personal God who has spoken in space-time history. The phrase “Living Constitution” is derived from a 1927 book by the same title, written by Professor Howard McBain. Early efforts in developing a more modern form of this concept have been credited to figures including Oliver Wendell Holmes, Louis Brandeis and President Woodrow Wilson.
In contrast, the “Originalist View” of the Constitution believes that all statements in the Constitution must be interpreted based on the original understanding of the authors at the time it was ratified. This view of the Constitution is rooted in a very different theory of language and epistemology. The point I’m trying to make is this: both sides of the political spectrum operate from within a defined set of theological beliefs—It cannot be otherwise.
With this brief exposition of these two views of human nature and reality, it should be fairly obvious why the “two main” political camps (again I’m simplifying) do not get along very well. More to the point, there is very little common ground between these two views of the world. Those who hold to an originalist view of the Constitution will inevitably come to very different conclusions about transgender issues, abortion, immigration, LGBTQ+ issues or school prayer than those who do not. How could it be otherwise?! The worldview gap, at this point in our nation’s history, is simply too massive. That is why the political divide is so great. Only by acknowledging—and being honest about—this great divide, can we even begin to have civil dialogue and conversations with those with whom we disagree.