The remarkable friendship of Justices Ginsburg and Scalia

The Standard September 24, 2020

The unlikely friendship of Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia has been the topic of conversation recently since the news broke of the death of our second female Supreme Court Justice in U.S. history. In a country seeming more and more polarized the story of these “best buddies” is refreshing. Ginsburg was a soft-spoken petite woman of Jewish heritage who described herself as nonobservant and who defied social conventions. He was the first Italian-American on the Supreme Court, a burly devout Roman Catholic who was almost larger-than-life in the brash way he presented his views. Ginsburg and her husband had two children while Scalia and his wife had nine. Ginsburg was a staunch liberal who believed in a “living Constitution” that could change with the times while Scalia was a staunch conservative “originalist” who believed in strict adherence to what the text meant when it was written. President Clinton appointed her while President Reagan appointed him. On controversial cases where the justices were divided, they were likely to disagree.

Despite their major differences, Ginsburg and Scalia were treasured friends who forged an uncommon bond. They and their spouses frequently dined and vacationed together.  The two couples even had a tradition of gathering to ring in the new year. Their friendship transcended opposing ideologies. They both appreciated well-reasoned arguments and good writing. It was appropriate that, due to their mutual love of opera, Derrick Wang wrote a one-act opera entitled “Scalia/Ginsburg.”

How often do we, as Christians, establish deep friendships with people of other faiths? Even within the church are we prone to connect mostly with those who think the way we think? Although it might be tempting to stay within a bubble of people who almost always agree with us, what would that do for our personal growth or our impact on society?

In his Sermon on the Mount Jesus says,“You are the salt of the earth.You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13a, 14-16)

To be salt and light we must invest ourselves in caring relationships with a variety of friends. Pastor Steve Norman writes that it is important for Christians “to develop legitimate, agenda-free friendships with people who don’t share our core convictions.” It is beneficial for us to learn to listen and also to articulate what we believe. Justices Ginsburg and Scalia demonstrated how much nicer life is when we enjoy mutual respect despite our differences.

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