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Don’t Let Scalia Take The Shire High ground


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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.

Scott Kinder-Pyle
Scott Kinder-Pyle
Scott Kinder-Pyle identifies as an ordained pastor in Presbyterian Church (USA), and has served as an adjunctive professor of philosophy, religion and literature at Eastern Washington and Gonzaga universities. Scott is a poet and the author of There’s No I in Debris—Except this One! In 2020 and 2021, he served as a resident chaplain at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, and has subsequently worked for Kindred and Gentiva Hospice as a Board Certified Chaplain [BCC], accountable to the Association of Professional Chaplains. Most recently, Salem Lutheran Church of Spokane’s West Central neighborhood has welcomed Scott as their interim pastor. He’s married to Sheryl going on 36 years, loves his children, Ian and Philip, enjoys films like Adaptation, ponders painting in the near future and appreciates the thinking of Emmanuel Levinas.

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