Somewhere along the line, and the sooner the better, we all need to take a step back from our strong political opinions and remember that we live in a DEMOCRACY, or, to be more precise, a REPUBLIC. That is to say, we make our decisions as by voting—voting for the people who will vote on the policies that will affect everything from our local school district to our entire nation. And then after the election, we live with the results, which hardly ever are to anyone’s complete satisfaction. But we can, and must, go on living in peace with those with whom we have disagreed. We can disagree and we can argue, but we must not become enemies. We do not have to become enemies.
But across our great cultural divide we are becoming enemies. Friends on Facebook are unfriending each other right and left. Families dread their holiday gatherings, or do not get together at all anymore, because of divisions within the family. And many churches are no longer united by their common faith in Jesus Christ, but are divided by the political parties they have put their faith in.
This is not necessary. Again, we can speak our minds, and we can vote, and then we can go on living in peace with the results. We HAVE to go on living with the results anyway. We may as well do so peacefully.
It can be done. Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsberg and Antonin Scalia were on the opposite ends on our great cultural divide, but were good friends. They were constantly disputing about how to decide the issues that affected our life as a nation. They disagreed, they argued, they voted, they wrote scathing opinions denouncing and condemning the views and votes of the other—and then they continued their close friendship. If they can do that in their setting, we should also be able to do that with our children, parents, siblings, neighbors, friends, and brothers and sisters in Christ. Read and enjoy this description of their friendship.
“ARGUING, BUT NEVER QUARRELING: THE ODD COUPLE OF SCALIA AND GINSBURG” by Dr. Ted Worner, posted September 19, 2020, at: http://www.wordonfire.org
There are no odd couples anymore. In an age of heightened partisanship and unsparing vitriol, it is conventional wisdom that if you are a conservative, you cannot pal around with a liberal. And if you are a liberal, you can have nothing in common with a conservative.
Not so Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia.
From the standpoint of their politics and jurisprudence, you might have thought these two Supreme Court giants were from different planets. Ginsburg would be described as a liberal’s liberal with staunch opinions (literally) on everything from civil liberties to abortion. Scalia was recognized as a towering conservative who championed the separation of powers and a keen deference to the text of the law. Ginsburg believed in the living Constitution while Scalia defended originalism. Though both were native New Yorkers, their judicial philosophies could have spawned a rivalry akin to the fiery mid-century rows between New York Yankee and Brooklyn Dodger fans.
And yet they really liked each other.
In serving together on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, their mutual professional respect grew and their friendship blossomed. In roasting Ginsburg on her tenth anniversary on the Ninth Circuit (after Scalia had moved on to the Supreme Court), Scalia warmly recalled:
[Ruth’s] the only one from whom I recall regularly receiving comments for improvements rather than corrections. Not “this is wrong, Nino” but “the point would be even stronger if.” And maybe I’m the only judge that appreciated receiving them. Ruth and I had developed something of a mutual improvement society—and I miss it.
In 1993, Ginsburg would be elevated to the Supreme Court to sit and debate vigorously with her old friend Nino (Scalia had joined the Court seven years earlier). And, oh, would they debate. In non-unanimous decisions, according to SCOTUS blog, Ginsburg and Scalia found themselves on opposite sides of the decision fifty-two percent of the time (the only one Ginsburg disagreed with more was Clarence Thomas). “I love him,” Ginsburg admitted. “But sometimes I’d like to strangle him.”
Nonetheless, they deeply respected each other. Upon hearing that Ginsburg was receiving the prestigious Burton Award for excellence in law (an award Scalia had won the year before), Scalia beamed, “That’s wonderful. She’s such a good writer.” On Scalia’s work, Ginsburg would note, “I think everybody respects Nino’s wonderful writing ability and his style.”
But they also had a lot of fun.
In an interview about their friendship, Ginsburg recalled, “I have always enjoyed Nino. No matter how overworked and tired I feel, he can always say things that make me laugh. He can also say things I find provocative, even irritating.” According to Scalia’s son, Christopher, “Justice Ginsburg said that when they used to be on a court together before the Supreme Court, and they sat next to each other, my dad used to whisper jokes to her. She would have to pinch herself so that she didn’t audibly laugh and kind of disrupt the courtroom.”
As their friendship grew, they and their spouses annually spent New Year’s Eve together. They traveled together far and wide. Just look up the picture of Scalia and Ginsburg riding an elephant on their 1994 trip to India. When asked by a feminist friend why she sat behind Scalia, Ginsburg puckishly quipped, “It had to do with the distribution of weight.” They loved and attended opera together, once dressing as extras donning powdered wigs in a Richard Strauss production at the Washington National Opera. Their friendship and love for opera even found a quirky melding in an original opera aptly named Scalia/Ginsburg.
But should they have gotten along so well? Weren’t they compromising their principles by fraternizing with the enemy? Not according to them. Scalia, when asked about such a friendship, answered, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job, for Pete’s sake.” He would also say with a twinkle in his eye and a mischievous grin, “She likes opera, and she’s a very nice person. What’s not to like? Except her views on the law.” Meanwhile, Ginsburg, amidst her spirited disagreements with her friend, noted, “I was fascinated by him because he was so intelligent and so amusing. You could still resist his position, but you just had to like him.”
In an age and season of harshness, of gleeful degradation and unforgiving cancelation, we can learn a little from Justice Scalia and Justice Ginsburg, the odd couple.
When G.K. Chesterton reflected fondly on the spirited relationship he had with his brother Cecil, he remarked:
My brother, Cecil Edward Chesterton, was born when I was about five years old; and, after a brief pause, we began to argue. We continued to argue to the end. . . . I am glad to think that through all those years we never stopped arguing; and we never once quarreled.
To be sure, Scalia and Ginsburg argued. Fiercely. Passionately. But they never let a quarrel—unforgiving anger, personalized and spiteful—get in the way of an argument.
Years ago, at a celebration of Ginsburg’s accomplishments, Scalia turned to her and warmly said, “[Ruth] was the best of colleagues as she was the best of friends. I wish her a hundred years.” And upon hearing of Scalia’s death on a cold February day in 2016, Ginsburg quietly said that “we disagreed now and then,” but “we were best buddies.”
May we love our enemies who may turn out to be our best friends.
Conclusion to Abraham Lincolns First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861, (one month before the start of the Civil War):
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break, our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
Matthew 5:44a — (Jesus said), “I tell you, love your enemies.”
James 1:19-20 — My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.
James 3:9-10 — With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be.
Luke 7:36 — (Jesus had many arguments with the Pharisees, yet…) When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.
Almighty and most merciful God, who hast given us a new commandment that we should love one another, give us also grace that we may fulfill it. Make us gentle, courteous, and patient. Direct our lives so that we may each look to the good of others in word and deed; for the sake of him who loved us and gave himself for us, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
–B. F. Westcott, Bishop and Bible scholar, (1825-1901)