Where Have You Gone, Justice Kennedy?

I trust that I’m not the only one who feels as if forces much larger than us and way beyond our control are pulling our country further into darkness, and, I would say, further into sin. I don’t believe that the U.S. has ever been a “Christian country” – a nation born and expanded by genocide and ethnic cleansing, dependent on slave labor for its prosperity, could never be “Christian” – but it sure feels as if whatever goodness our society still possesses is slipping away.

The tears of 2300 children as young as three months old, seized and hidden thousands of miles from their parents, testifies to this. The fears of our Muslim American friends and neighbors, seeing a second branch of government turn hostile, essentially classifying believers in their faith as less deserving of equal protection, also bear witness.

Then comes the announcement of Justice Kennedy’s retirement, and it feels like a punch in the gut. And despair begins to creep in, does it not?

But though most of us were surprised by the Kennedy news, God was not. He knew that it would come today. And He knows what He’s going to do about it.

He may let our current president and Congress install a justice who will do things over which we, and He, will grieve. He may permit things to get even worse before they get better.

On the other hand, He may move in this new justice’s heart to surprise us, even as Justice Kennedy did on several occasions and Chief Justice Roberts did with health care. Or He may cause the president’s preferred nominee to withdraw over disclosures of bad behavior, as in the case of Judge Douglas Ginsburg, who withdrew over revelations of marijuana use while a professor at Harvard. (Remember, it was the ’80s.) This led to then-Judge Kennedy’s nomination to the Supreme Court. (Ginsburg himself was a replacement nominee following the Senate’s vote to block the nomination of President Reagan’s true first choice, the highly controversial Judge Robert Bork.)

President Reagan and then-Judge Kennedy, November 1987. (Photo: Reagan Library)

We don’t know what God is up to.

But we can trust that He does care, because He sees each of the unnumbered tears that fall tonight from the eyes of migrant children traumatized and, truly, abused by our current president and his administration. And each salty drop on each tender-aged cheek breaks His heart, much more than even ours.

We can trust that He is pissed off as He watches the persecution of Muslim Americans, egged on by the current president and often carried out by people who claim Him as the motivation for their hate. He is roused to anger that these precious children, women, and men that He made and that He loves are being emotionally terrorized and even physically assaulted.

And let us not forget Muslim American tears. The five year old crying on the playground because another kid calls him a terrorist. The teenager bursting into tears as soon as she comes home because some jackass tried to rip the hijab off her head. The Marine quietly weeping that the country for which he braved death in Operation Iraqi Freedom is turning its back on him. The naturalized citizen despairing that she can’t move her sickly, elderly parents here from Syria because of the travel ban.

We don’t know what God is planning. It likely won’t happen when we want it to happen, and in the ways that we want it to happen, but He does care, and He will act.

One Scripture in particular has come repeatedly to my mind in recent weeks:

“But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols” (Jeremiah 7.5-6 NLT).

I took this photo yesterday with my typically-subpar-for-photos cell phone:

Pink Hibiscus
A reminder of who God is.

I hope that what I then wrote about the pink hibiscus helps you as well:

A reminder in these dark and disturbing times,
when we feel powerless against kings and princes
who rejoice in sinning against those who are vulnerable and different
(even invoking Holy Scripture to rationalize their evil)
that Creator is so much bigger than all of it,
that He is more beautifully good than we can imagine,
and that He will,
at the times and places of His own perfect choosing,
by revealing the fools for who they are
and vindicating the oppressed and ostracized.
So we pray,
and in this hope
we will work.