Commentary

“Jesus, RBG, and the Law”

 

Dwight A. Moody 

Jesus told a parable about a man beaten, robbed, and thrown into the ditch. Two temple leaders passed by and refused to help. They read the law as preventing them from assisting the man in the ditch. Perhaps they quoted Leviticus 21: “A priest must not make himself unclean…by approaching a dead body”.

 

But another man, the Samaritan emphasized a different portion of that Law, and found not only justification but encouragement for helping the man in the ditch. Perhaps he read Leviticus 19: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

 

He bound up the man’s wounds, took him to a nearby inn, and paid for his care.

 

So it is with our Law today. We can find elements of that Law that empower us to help those in need; this is known as a liberal reading of the Law. Or we can rely upon other parts of that Law that prevent us from helping those in need; this is known as a conservative reading of the Law.

 

A recent case in Florida illustrates this in a wonderful way.

 

The people of Florida voted in 2018 by a 2-1 majority to approve a constitutional amendment giving felons who had served their time in jail the right to vote. Laws limiting felons from voting date to the Reconstruction era following the Civil War as part of a larger strategy to prevent people of color from voting. Over the years, most of these laws have been removed from the books. In many states, felons automatically regain their voting rights the moment they complete their prison sentence. In some states, felons can vote from prison.

 

There are approximately 1.4 million felons in Florida who have served their time and who, therefore, thought they were free to vote.  The legislature wanted to prevent this, so they passed laws to require these felons to pay crime-related restitution and all court costs before regaining their right to vote.

 

Federal Judge Robert Hinkle threw out the court costs restrictions, calling them a poll tax. The case was sent to the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, which serves Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. The Court meets in a building named for Elbert Tuttle who served as a Chief Judge in the 1960s, known for decisions advancing the civil rights of African-Americans.

 

The question before the Appellate Court was this: Will these judges interpret the law to help these citizens vote or to hinder them?

 

Therein lies the chief difference between a liberal judge and a conservative judge.

 

The four liberal judges, all appointed by Democrat presidents, voted to free the felons to vote without the prior necessity of paying all court-imposed costs. But the majority, all conservatives appointed by Republican presidents (including five appointed by President Trump), voted to keep the financial restrictions. Voting with the majority is one of women currently being considered for the U. S. Supreme Court, Barbara Lagoa, of Miami, appointed to the Circuit Court just last year by President Trump.

 

This is a classic “Good Samaritan” case, contrasting judges who walk by on the other side, quoting from the Law to hinder people from exercising their right to vote, from liberal judges who stoop to help the citizen in the ditch, quoting from the Law to help people exercise their right to vote.

 

In the story Jesus told, the Samaritan traveler who helped the man in the ditch was the hero. “Which of these men,” Jesus famously asked, “was a neighbor to the man in the ditch?” But in Florida, the contemporary story has a different narrative, leaving hundreds of thousands of Florida citizens uncertain if they will be able to vote. The conservative judges left the citizens in the ditch.

 

But Jesus, blocked by the conservative judges of the federal appellate court in Atlanta, has taken a different route to justice. He has inspired some of those kneeling, protesting athletes to pay the fines. An organization founded by star basketball player LaBron James has taken the lead, motivating athletes to pay the court costs of Florida felons. Their actions mirror the deed of the Good Samaritan in the story of Jesus, carrying the wounded man to the nearest inn and saying, “Care for him. When I return, I will pay you for all expenses.”

 

What does Jesus say?  “Go and do likewise”

 

Which is the sort of thing Ruth Bader Ginsburg has been doing all her judicial life, beginning with her 1972 presentation before the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver on behalf of the rights of women. Learn all about that in the 2018 film “On the Basis of Sex.” Which is the reason, she (like a Good Samaritan) will lie in state in both the Supreme Court and the Capital, while the majority of judges on the Atlanta Circuit Court will be remembered as walking by on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

(September 2020)

 

 

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Commentary: Archives

Here is an archive of my new series of weekly columns, which began in the spring of 2018.  I welcome your feedback using the reader RESPONSE form at the bottom of every page of this web site.

Jesus, RBG, and the Law 

Soundtrack of My Life

The Soul of the Church 

We Thought It Could Not Be Done

Standing on the Street Corner

Abortion and the Virus 

The Power and the Glory

Redeeming the Year

Seven Steps Toward Justice 

What I Miss Most 

More of What Happened 

Here Is What Happened

Late Great Planet Earth

Walk Together Children 

The Color of Jesus

Lexington and Galveston 

Black Lives Matter

When Christians Ruled 

Lament and Longing 

The Pentecost We Need 

A Christian in Brunswick 

Is This Man A Christian?

Ever the Twain Did Meet?

Remembering Ridgecrest

Science, State, & Stranger

He Did Not Have To Die

Moses, Jesus, and Brett 

In Honor of Pierce Gerety

The New Mission Field 

Pandemic: What It Ain’t

Is Your Church Ready?

Pandemics and Prayers 

Give Me the Ashes

The Color of Money 

All the Way to Rome

Turn Your Radio On!

Where’s Jesus?

Eulogizing Kobe

The Education of a White Man 

Living with an Angel

On the Road Again

Signs of Hope 

What’s Right with Southern Religion?

What’s Wrong with Southern Religion?

The End of the World 

Partners in Persecution 

The Write and Wrong of C. S. Lewis

Can the Court Save the Culture?

With Billy Barr on the Sawdust Trail

Can Singing Save America?

Living, Dying, and Praying 

The Mystery of  Mister Trump 

One Story, Two Visions

Blowing in the Wind 

Will You Also Unsubscribe?

What Do They Want?

“A Completely Crazy Position”

“Let It Go. Give It Up. Throw It Down.”

“I No Longer Identify As A Christian”

Graham, King, and the Two Americas

I Am So Very Sad

Running as a Pro-Jesus Democrat 

Celebrating America the Beautiful 

Surviving a Screen Sabbatical 

Moving the Statue of Liberty

Jesus Loves Obamacare 

Freedom or Confusion?

Praying for the President

And What Do You Do?

Saving the Catholic Church

A View From the Top 

Praying on a Three-Legged Stool 

Was Jesus a Christian?

Keeping My Religion in 2020

What Has Paris To Do With Jerusalem?

Getting Religion in 2020

Religion, Politics, and Election 

Listening to the Preacher 

Making America Great Again

David, Goliath, and Donald

Southern Baptists and United Methodists 

Practicing Exclusion 

Praying for Revival

From the East and the West

Forgetting the Past

Remembering Angela 

Loving Our Neighbor 

Preaching Us Together 

My Theory of Preaching 

Twice A Year

Helping Dr. Mohler 

Reading Thomas Merton

Meeting Kevin Cosby

When I Read the Book

Bohemian Encounter

A Future for Baptist Seminaries?

Fear in Politics and Religion

The First Muslim Seminary

Don’t Preach This Sermon

Read.Talk.Pray.Gossip.

The Lilly Endowment 

The Christian Tsunami

Words Seem Like Nonsense 

The Big House in the Middle 

Judge, Preacher,  and Good Samaritan 

I’ll Pass on the Bottle 

A Week of Shame and Pride 

Sabbatical Grace 

Questions for Catholics 

Religious Liberty for All

Resurrection of Kristopher Hampton 

Death of Kristopher Hampton 

All About the Children 

I Pledge my Allegiance

Let’s Move the Statue of Liberty 

Some Preachers of Promise

Southern Baptist Need Pope Francis 

Mystery of the Trump Presidency 

Two Funerals: Graham and Cone 

On the Other Side of Oddville

Here are a few of the articles and stories from my book On the Other Side of Oddville. These were collected from my first series of columns, published by Mercer Press in 2002. You can order a copy by using the response from at the bottom of this page; $20 will cover the cost of the book and mailing. (Checks to Dwight A. Moody).