By Scott Kinder-Pyle
When Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia compares himself to a ring-bearing hobbit, every orc in middleearth gets her wings. This is true for Clarence. Clarence Thomas as well as for any other advocate of an Originalist-Orthodox view of the United States Constitution. Don’t look now. Up is down. Down is up. And the long arc of the moral universe bends under the strain of a weighty Reagan-era appointee. Scalia is not only clumsy with his references to the epic-fantasy-genre, his advocacy on behalf of religion doesn’t do us any high-court favors.
Claiming that government can indeed favor religion over non-religion, the Roman Catholic gave the scholars at the University of Colorado Boulder Law School a glimpse into his allegorical malaise. Scalia is Froto, the humble figure in the Tolkien trilogy who can bear the temptation of the primordial ring’s power. Froto is able. Froto is courageous. Froto is compassionate. Froto has the trust and the support of Gandalf as well as an assortment of elves and dwarves. And Mister, Supreme Court Justice, you are not Froto. You’re more like Saruman with a shorter haircut… with apologies to Christopher Lee, who played the part in the Peter Jackson film.
The point is, I cannot blow off the delusion, and the ad hominem attacks that pass for jurisprudence. Scalia calls other members of the high court “idiots” for adopting an interpretive understanding of the document upon which the nation’s founded. He refers to those who oppose him as “utterly absurd” secularists. And if anyone within the sound of my voice, or within eye-shot of my syllables, believes that such tactics are good for America’s political health, I beg you to listen for the subtle, but spirited dialogue that happens while the Google newsfeeds explode in bold font, and whileYoutubed beheadings parade across our I-Phone screens.
Yes, it’s true. The men, women and children of these United States seem just as crazed and just as cynical as those who perused the Spokesman Review a hundred years ago. (Jim Kershner notes that on September 27, 1914, debates raged over the regulations that would implement an eight-hour work day!) And yes, the Supreme Court then had its dubious characters who believed that Jim Crow segregation-laws were consistent with the original founders’ intentions! But, given the technology and the rich diversity of 2014, we may take back the Shire for every hobbit who knows he or she can’t remain in the Shire, that sooner or later, adventure calls…
Adventure calls, and Scalia is left in the dust.
Shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against him.
It’s better to see words, all words, even the words of the U.S. Constitution as alive and vibrant, and helpful along the way.
Moreover, no matter how many times a belligerant legalist tells me that prayer in public schools, or religious perfunctory-acts in civil ceremories are truly the source of our nation’s institutional strength, the more I am suspicious about what’s whispered after the ceremony, and when school’s out of session. Or when the Lord of the Rings morphs into a more disingenuous fantasy world.
Charles Scott Kinder-Pyle goes by Scott, and loiters amid the millennial generations along the Spokane River, where he teaches, as an adjunct professor, in the philosophy departments of Eastern Washington University and Gonzaga University.
Here’s a little more biographical background on Pastor Scott.
In 1988, he graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary and was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (USA). His work has taken him through Washington state, to Ohio, Pennsylvania (where he grew up) and back to Washington. For 16 of those years, Scott has enjoyed the creativity and adventure of starting newly forming congregations who reach out to those who feel alienated from the more formal institutions of Christianity.
In 2008, he received a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary and penned a dissertation, ‘Pastor as Struggling Poet: Exploring An Alternative Mode of Missional Church Leadership.’
Then, from 2011 through 2013, Scott studied with various poets and eventually received a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry and poetics from Eastern Washington University Center for Writers.
He’s been married to Sheryl, whom he met at Princeton, for nearly 30 years; they have two affectionate children (Ian and Philip), and two wondrous dogs (Pearl and Caesar).