Don’t Be Surprised by the Supreme Court

Over the last few weeks, the Supreme Court has made some decisions that were surprising to many. The apparent conservative majority among the justices was supposed to ensure that significant cases regarding ethical issues would be destined to lean toward conservative conclusions.

That has not been the case.

  • June 15, 2020 – In a 6-3 ruling of a consolidated group of cases styled Bostock v. Clayton County, the Supreme Court expanded the definition of “sex” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This ruling will have long-term effects on non-profits regarding how they operate and the opportunities for outside organizations and individuals to pressure them.
  • June 29, 2020 – In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court denied reasonable medical regulations for abortion clinics in Louisiana in the case, June Medical Services LLC v. Russo. This ruling essentially failed to prioritize the health and safety of women over the profits of the abortion industry.

Who were the votes that tipped the ruling in the surprising conclusion?

  • Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, Jr., appointed by President George W. Bush
  • Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed to the Supreme Court by President Donald Trump

Both conservative appointees have leaned differently than expected on the two particular cases above in recent days.

And I’m not surprised.

Do I have insider information? Not on the thinking of those individuals, but I think I do understand the complexity of the human heart.

With liberals rejoicing over the rulings and conservatives reeling over the decisions, what are the takeaways? Here are some questions to consider.

Questions to Consider

  1. Does the end justify the means? In the controversial 2016 election, many conservatives struggled with the morals of Donald Trump as a candidate but supported him for one reason alone: the upcoming seats on the Supreme Court. The logic was to ensure that a Republican got the office so that a conservative would get the imminent openings on the bench. Trump was elected. He appointed two justices – Neil Gorsuch (a swing vote in the above-mentioned case) and Brett Kavanaugh (who had to fight a horrific battle to defend his reputation). The consensus that Republicans had to “endure” Trump to gain the seats so that cases like these mentioned would end with a conservative verdict. That has not happened as seamless as anticipated.
  2. Would the alternative have been any better? While I hold to biblical values, I personally do not tow a party line. That means that my values are tied to a person and not a party. My commitment to Jesus defines what I believe. With that in perspective, I would often rather see someone with conservative values be in positions of authority rather than someone who disregards biblical truth as annoying principles, but it is never as simple as a “check all” box. Would I rather have had two seats on the Supreme Court filled by Hillary Clinton? Most likely, I doubt those candidates would have ever ruled with a bent toward the biblical. The alternative would not have been better, but that does not mean that the reality is something to rejoice about either.
  3. Is hope lost for conservative beliefs? In a time with a “conservative majority” on the Supreme Court, if some of these critical cases aren’t landing where conservatives expected, is all hope lost? If your hope is in conservative politics, then, yes. Hope is lost. If your hope is in something higher, then, no. Hope is not lost. When I read the Bible, I notice that the majority of the timeline describes God’s people trying to follow God when they were not the moral majority. God’s people were often enslaved, exiled, or marginalized under political leaders that did not practice biblical values. And yet, the Church advanced and survived during such times. So while I am frustrated at where our culture is going, I am not surprised or deterred by it. As a follower of Jesus, I won’t stop following him no matter what this culture does.
  4. Should we be surprised? No, we shouldn’t be surprised. Shame on us if we were. The moment we try to ensure our biblical mandate is fulfilled by pressured politicians is the moment we cease to be the Church. “It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes” (Ps. 118:9). If followers of Jesus belittle our ambassador responsibilities merely to casting a vote every so often, no wonder the world is in so much trouble as it is right now. I am so tired of Christians whining about when an election or a decision doesn’t go their way and watching them simply retire to their houses of worship immobilized to seek any further change.

The Great Commission teaches us to make disciples and not to rely on politicians.

If you are shocked by the latest decisions, prepare yourself: more is to come. If you trust people to do what only God can do, you will always be disappointed. Stay involved. Cast your votes. Pray for just outcomes. But above all else, don’t sit on the sidelines when the game doesn’t seem to be going your way. God’s scoreboard always looks different than ours.

I’m not surprised by any decision that the Supreme Court makes; I’m just surprised when we put our hope in them in the first place.