The Friendship Between Justices Scalia and Ginsburg and the Importance of Civility for Public Dispute

I’ve just guest posted over on Political Theology Today, discussing some of the lessons that we can learn from the friendship between Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg:

The current rise of inflammatory and uncivil rhetoric, of prescriptive, punitive, and censorious speech codes, of rapid recourse to litigious and officious measures, and of sharp political polarization all manifest and encourage in their own ways a general cultural loss of faith in persuasion, discourse, and civil society to contain, mitigate, or resolve our differences. The tsunami of discord sweeps all before it.

In their capacity as Supreme Court justices, Scalia and Ginsburg both represent the authority of the law. However, part of the purpose of healthy legal structures is to discourage people from swiftly resorting to them, providing an incentive to pursue conciliatory measures, to achieve compromises, or to resolve disputes privately and in a civil manner (observe Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:25).

Through this negative function, the law serves to encourage a generous and spacious civil realm, to discourage us from totalizing and absolutizing our conflicts, to set bounds upon the seething waters of our disputes. In their personal friendship, Ginsburg and Scalia offer an example of the possibility and power of a renewed civility for moderating the vicious oppositions of our social and political discourse, for containing and mitigating the antagonisms that they have so powerfully symbolized in their legal capacity.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Controversies, Culture, Ethics, Guest Post, In the News, Politics, Society. Bookmark the permalink.

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