‘Why don’t you people ever seem to live near churches?’

Following Justice Antonin Scalia’s weird, epic outburst from the bench Monday at the U.S. Supreme Court, Corey Robin offers a profile of the conservative jurist.

Scalia is a lifelong, ultra-conservative Catholic. Robin highlights one of the curious ramifications of that, which is that here in America, very conservative religious believers tend to drive a lot on Sunday mornings:

After Vatican II liberalized the liturgy and practices of the church, including his neighborhood church in suburban Washington, D.C., he insisted on driving his brood of seven children miles away to hear Sunday Mass in Latin. Later still, in Chicago, he did the same thing, only this time with nine children in tow.

That’s not a commitment to the church, that’s a commitment to an ideology, followed by a search for a local church that will accommodate it:

Scalia’s conservatism … is not a conservatism of tradition or inheritance: his parents had only one child, and his mother-in-law often complained about having to drive miles and hours in search of the one true church. “Why don’t you people ever seem to live near churches?” she would ask Scalia and his wife. It is a conservatism of invention and choice, informed by the very spirit of rebellion he so plainly loathes — or thinks he loathes — in the culture at large.

Scalia isn’t a cafeteria Catholic, he’s a concierge Catholic. Invention and choice shape his spirituality, after which he seeks out the “one true church” that will reassure him that what he has invented and chosen is traditional, right and proper, and that his particular inventions and choices are normal and normative.

The automobile made this possible. The automobile abolished the parish, freeing us all to roam much farther in search of a church that matches our affinities — of style, tone, taste, theology, politics, etc.

I’m not picking on Scalia here — we evangelicals long ago perfected this same art of shopping for the right church, the one that allows us to pretend that our idiosyncratic preferences are the true and ancient essence of primitive Christianity.

If you want to see this same “conservatism of invention and choice” on display among evangelicals, just check out your regional mega-church. It’s the one with the ginormous parking lot.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_M3G5DR3BA75FV4VGJ23MPNJFHI Andrew

    At the opposite end is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  We are geographically allocated to wards (though in much of the world that still means a lot of driving).  Which is better?  I’m tempted to say I’ll be damned if *I* know!

  • http://profiles.google.com/anoncollie Anon Collie

    For me, still in my parents house due to financial necessity more than anything else, going to the parish that I grew up in is a “Aay’han” moment; bitter sweet for those of you who don’t speak Mandalorian.
    (Star Wars: Republic Commando novels are great for made up curse words, while it’s on my mind.)

    It’s not the parish that never seems to challenge it’s relatively homogenous audience to a better standard that makes it bitter for me; it’s the building next door in the grade school. Minus one or two very talented women teachers who knew how to diffuse bullies, my parish grade school was hell for a puny little kid, smallest boy in the class like me. 

    Still, I keep coming back to the parish because it’s where I grew up. During college summers I’d be back to it, and the 18 months I’ve spent in other cities, there was no doubt as to where my family would be attending Mass. I do care what happens to the parish, but any given Sunday, depending on my schedule, I am typically at my home parish. I wander only when my schedule demands it, or when I get sick of the constant homilies that never morally challenge their audience. (And that happens a lot with my current pastor.)

    And yet, that shopping for a parish is something that has been going on far longer than Fred points out. Yes the automobile helps, but Catholics are a fickle lot. A new pastor with a different pastoral focus can chase away or draw people to the parish, as well as changes of power in parish councils and various clubs attached to the Parish, such as Knights of Columbus, Choirs, etc.

    Even if it’s painful to admit, my city does have a deeply ingrained racist streak, and the movement of “the other”, even Catholic “others” into the area can cause people to drive out of their way to a new pairsh, or move entirely. There are several parishes within St. Louis that have gone all-Spanish, or have Vietnamese or Bosnian flavors now.

  • Tonio

     I had heard that Catholics were encouraged to attend their local parish churches.

    Years ago my wife agreed to become a godmother for the children of a high-school friend, who was Episcopalian. Instead of holding the ceremony at the church they normally attend, they chose to hold it at the church that the friend’s husband had attended all through childhood, about an hour away. During the ceremony, the officiating rector mentioned that he appreciated the desire for tradition, but that he believed such ceremonies be held at the local churches to solidify the sense of community.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I’m a bit surprised at Fred here: what are people supposed to do when they grew up in one local church and community, but then discover that this church is no longer their community – like that pastor with the gay son dying of AIDS, just a few entries ago, who choose his son over his church?

    What can people do who either open their own eyes, or suddenly realize that a church that was okay 20 years ago has drifted in bad fellowship? If they leave and go nowhere else, they are left spiritually empty and have no companionship.

    If they look for a church more suited to their beliefs – one that doesn’t preach hate against LBGTs, one that stresses love more than rapture, one that tries to help all poor with laws, not only the few deserving ones … – then that’s picking and choosing, and occasionally a lot of driving.

    One single member can’t alter a church community away from a course. A pastor who is couragous enough may be able to “preach down to four” (an earlier article of Fred describing a pastor in a Southern white church preaching against racism until only 4 members remained … and then the church filled with new members, until today it’s one of the sadly very few, full integrated and liberal churches in that area).

    So how else, besides picking and choosing, walking out on churches you don’t agree with, can one person make a difference and show his opinion?

    If you could get 20 members of the church council together, you could effect some changes … except for Catholics, who are governed from top down only. The local community can’t choose their pastor, and can’t fire him, either.

  • Tonio

     From my reading, Fred is not criticizing Scalia’s decision but his reasons for doing so:

    he seeks out the “one true church” that will reassure him that what he
    has invented and chosen is traditional, right and proper, and that his
    particular inventions and choices are normal and normative.

    Scalia isn’t taking ownership of his choice, but instead looking for external validation. It’s not much different from “I didn’t leave the church, the church left me.”

  • Münchner Kindl

    So is there any possibility – is anybody with power thinking aloud about it – to replace the current Supreme Court system where “Judges are chosen and then hang on to the job until they die” with a more normal one where “Judges are chosen and then serve a 4 or 5-year term on the Supreme Court, with no more than one additional term, and then retire”?

    I understand that enforcing the second standard that is expected from a Court whose job is to watch the Constitution over here – that the judges who are selected for it consider it their highest duty to not be partisan towards Republicans/ Democrats or liberal/conservative, but rather that their duty and loyalty is only towards the constitution itself (so far as that it’s expected that they renounce their membership in a political party upon selection, if they have any – most don’t even before selection) – is difficult to enforce, because it’s an unwritten code depending on the character of the people chosen.

    But a term limit, and maybe an age limit, should be rather easy. It’s strange that the POTUS is limited to two terms to restrict their power, but Judges can hang on for decades and influence the laws.

  • Münchner Kindl

    he seeks out the “one true church” that will reassure him that what he  has invented and chosen is traditional, right and proper, and that his  particular inventions and choices are normal and normative.

    How does Fred know that? In the quote from Scalia himself in the linked article, Scalia says the opposite, actually:

    Commenting on how he and his wife managed to raise conservative children during the sixties and seventies—no jeans in the Scalia household—he says:
    They were being raised in a culture that wasn’t supportive of our values, that was certainly true. But we were helped by the fact that we were such a large family. We had our own culture . . . . The first thing you’ve got to teach your kids is what my parents used to tell me all the time, “You’re not everybody else . . . . We have our own standards and they aren’t the standards of the world in all respects, and the sooner you learn that the better.”

    So if the standards of the Scalia household are different from the world, then they don’t need validation.

    The real strange part about choosing different parishes is that they are choosing among Catholic Churches. Which should be the same all over, that’s what the hierarchy is working on. It’s completly different from Protestant Churches, where First Baptist Church has different attitudes from Lutheran- Protestant from Second Baptist (re-invented) Church etc.

  • Tonio

    That Scalia quote is very compatible with Fred’s point. That’s because the family could easily feel alone and isolated if they don’t perceive the world as sharing its values, questioning the wisdom of their choices. Surrounding themselves with like-minded believers may have provided the Scalias with reassurance and validation.

  • Michael Cule

    It would, I believe, take a constitutional amendment to change the current tenure of Supreme Court Justices. And those are hell on earth to arrange. And I’m sure that most people who want an amendment have things they’d rather spend the political capital on than SCOTUS.

  • Tonio

    And if my theory is correct, it would explain why conservative Catholics like Scalia seem like fundamentalists despite the doctrinal differences.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     One effect of the Orthodox Jewish prohibition against driving on the Sabbath is that Orthodox synagogues are necessarily within walking distance of their observant members. It makes them much more community centers than they would otherwise be, and it also means that the existence of a synagogue becomes both a marker of and a center of gravity for accreting a Jewish community. It’s kind of a useful thing.

  • Vass

    Speaking as a lesbian: you’re DAMN RIGHT I’m going to drive as far as necessary to find a church that’s not ACTIVELY ABUSIVE to me and mine. And I will make no apologies for that.

    Christians are meant to be family, but even with my birth family there are some of them more than others that I’d be more likely to want to see for two hours once a week.

  • Jessica_R

    And as a nicely silly counterbalance to all the sound and fury, I can’t pick a favorite out of these, 
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/gavon/the-internet-responds-to-supreme-court-ruling-on-o

  • Albanaeon

     Well, after things like Bush v. Gore, and  Citizen’s United I wouldn’t be so sure of that.  There’s is a lot of power concentrated in the Supreme Court and they have a long and uncontested time to wield it.  Expending political capital on preventing one branch of the government from becoming a bastion of one political party would be a good investment.

  • Aliaras

    Chiming in as well from a queer perspective — I will never not church shop. And when I find a church that looks okay you bet anything I will walk in there and ask the pastor what his views on homosexuality in Christianity are, and whether he plans to harp on a restrictive and confining sexual morality from the pulpit. If I have to drive an hour to get to a church that will treat me as a human being I will do so, and do so happily. When I say treat me like a human being, I go beyond “well it’s a sin but it’s God’s to judge, we love everyone here.” Nope. Close, but not close enough. I’ve been hurt too many times not to.

    I don’t know how to easily separate this church shopping from Scalia’s. We are both seeking to avoid discomfort. Is mine more valid? Maybe. I don’t know.

  • Dash1

     Wait a minute! The rector took the occasion of the ceremony to chide the parents for honoring him by asking him to baptize their child???

    Doesn’t a young parent’s decision to present his child, so to speak, to the people who supported him when he was growing up solidify a sense of community in that church?

    The rector, methinks, was–or at least at that moment was being–a nitwit.

  • MaryKaye

    Sad though it is, cars are a boon to Pagans who want to be able to practice with a group at all.  The nearest full-time Pagan church to where I live–and I am in a big city in a liberal area–is unreachable by transit and over an hour by car.  I think this must be an issue for all minority religions.

    My fundamentalist interlocutor used to hassle me on my need to pick and choose those I would practice religion with.  “If your eyes are on God,” he said, “why does it matter which of your brethren are beside you?”  But my eyes aren’t going to be on the gods if the person beside me is likely to grope me or pick my pocket, or if they don’t want me there, or want me there only under their terms that I can’t accept.  Pagan ritual tends to involve some level of emotional vulnerability and it really doesn’t work if you’re afraid of, or hostile toward, the people around you. 

    I think the flip side to the church shopping is sitting in a church being emotionally and spiritually disconnected from it, which I certainly was at my parents’ Catholic church.  I think that’s worse, personally.  And no, even Catholic churches are not all the same by any means.  That one had a pastor who said there couldn’t be a population crisis because when he flew over the Midwest he saw open land.  There wasn’t much to be learned other than patience, and I hope for more from my spirituality.

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Fred has never been against church shopping or driving a long way to get to a church you agree with, he’s come out in favor of it repeatedly.

    See, for example, any time he’s brought up the “Preached down to four” story about a racially integrated church in 1950′s South Carolina that got that way by first getting the racists out, and then sustained itself by people coming in from greater distances to be in a church they felt comfortable in (one cited example being someone who drove in from 70 miles away.)

    What he’s attacking here, rightly or wrongly, are Scalia’s reasons.

  • http://jdm314.livejournal.com/ Mad Latinist

    Like I always say: the more I agree with a Catholic about Latin, the less I agree with him/her about everything else.

  • Tonio

     Good point. The rector did the chiding gently, to my ears, but I still felt it was inappropriate.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Wait a minute! The rector took the occasion of the ceremony to chide the parents for honoring him by asking him to baptize their child???Doesn’t a young parent’s decision to present his child, so to speak, to the people who supported him when he was growing up solidify a sense of community in that church?
    The rector, methinks, was–or at least at that moment was being–a nitwit.

    First, it depends on how you view baptism. In the normal Catholic and Lutheran-Protestant church, it’s not only about washing away the original sin; it’s also an entry into a community – of believers all around the globe, and locally as well.

    That’s why in those churches that practice infant baptism instead of adult baptism, it’s followed later with confirmation/ firmung+ first communion, so that in the years in between, the child/ teen has a chance to learn about what the faith means and activly affirms the faith.

    So Baptism is not one single ceremony, over and done with, but rather start of the journey (hence you are often asked to show your baptismal certificate for other church functions).

    The problem is thus not whether the parents had good memories about the parish they grew up in – it’s that now the parents live elsewhere, hence their child is going to grow up elsewhere and should be baptized there.

    Quite proper of the pastor to point this out. Whether it should be done during the ceremony or quietly during the talk before – that’s another point.

    There is sadly a lot of “tourist” aspect among submarine Christians (those who surface once a year on Christmas, but are invisible the rest of the year) to choose the “nicest-looking” church building for weddings, and not the local community where they will be living in the future, and this is from a spiritual aspect rather wrong: either you want to become a part of the church, then do it in your local parish; or you don’t really care about religion, then please don’t use a real Church building for nice backdrop scenery.

  • The_L1985

    Me too! But then, sola lingua bona est lingua morta. (pretty sure my syntax is off.)

  • The_L1985

    As our former co-religionists would say, Amen, sister!

    But there’s a difference between “I want to feel safe and welcome at church” and “I want my pastor to reinforce my sense of self-righteousness.” :) That’s the point Fred’s trying to get across about Scalia.

  • The_L1985

    Good! No one should waste a Sunday morning being told they’re monsters, and I have little respect for churches that treat potential members that way.

    On the other hand, you have my dad. Devoutly RepubliCatholic. When I was 7 or so, the diocese appointed a new priest to our church. Dad immediately started taking us to church and CCD in the next town over. Not because the new priest was a bad person, or condemned us for things that weren’t wrong. Because he was liberal, and Dad didn’t want us to learn Catholicism “wrong.”

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     I *think* the idea with the judges having lifelong positions is that that way, there’s often a point of constancy.

    I’m speaking in terms of ‘how I imagine things were intended’ not ‘how they’ve actually wound up’ – but this is kind of how I imagine it:

    The House changes every 2 years – fast, rapid, sometimes enormous turnover – it’s intended to be an immediate reflection of the will of the voters.

    The POTUS changes every 4 years (well, can rather), is a bit slower to change so that a single tough decision that’s immediately unpopular may have time to be reflected on before the next race.

    The Senate changes every 2 years, but only 1/3rd of it, so it’s a much more gradual movement than the house.  It’s intended to prevent a sudden not-well-thought-out majority position from running amok across the entire federal government.

    The Supreme Court is a lifetime appointment – with the expectation that even if the government at large generally goes a bit batty (if I remember right, demagoguery was a significant concern with implementing democracy in the first place), there’s a touchstone to the past there that can keep things in line/prevent the majority from quashing the minority.

    I’m not saying it’s actually *worked out* properly, but I think that was the idea, generally speaking.

    As for changing judges frequently – I don’t think I agree with term limits and I think I’d prefer terms be longer – 10 years at a stretch.  The reason being, if terms expired every 4 or 5 years, then it means every single presidential term could see the complete alteration of the court based on decisions it’s made recently.

    Look at all the civil rights cases in the past that would have immediately seen the court tossed at the next available opportunity – decisions that may not have been made if that were likely to happen, or that would have been reversed by the next set of justices installed.

    I’m not saying things don’t need fixing though – they do; but changing the way the Supreme Court works is tricky (and would require a constitutional amendment I think), so it would need to be done with some caution and forethought.  Otherwise you end up with rapid periods of progress under more left-leaning presidents, followed immediately by reversal of most of that under right-leaning presidents. 

  • Tricksterson

    Nithing is ever uniform.  Idividual priests and monsignors can have considerable influence on their churchs no matter what the bishops might want.

  • Tricksterson

    That’s easy, 16.

  • Tricksterson

    Hey!  You’re in America!  Speak Esperanto!

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I’m flat-out against limiting the terms of SCOTUS justices, and here’s why:

    You think the court is corrupt and partisan now? Think what would have happened if Justice Roberts had to worry about his employment prospects after his term ends.

    For the Supreme Court to work AT ALL, justices need to be able to render verdicts without worrying about polticial retribution or how they’re going to get a job once they get out. 

  • LL

    Yeah, Scalia’s out of his damn mind. Every now and then, he manages to act somewhat normal, but then the crazy surfaces and becomes dominant again. Just because a person has a halfway decent command of English doesn’t mean that what they say makes any sense. 

  • http://deird1.dreamwidth.org Deird

    “If your eyes are on God,” he said, “why does it matter which of your brethren are beside you?”  …  Pagan ritual tends to involve some level of emotional vulnerability and it really doesn’t work if you’re afraid of, or hostile toward, the people around you.

    This should be true of Christian gatherings as well. Sadly, it usually isn’t.

  • torrilin

    From one point of view, I was brought up as a Catholic “church shopper”.

    When I was very small, we lived in a tiny town that wasn’t properly in any Catholic parish. (yes, technically it would have been in some parish, but whichever one it was was between a 20 minute and 1 hour drive away) My parents attended one of the closest parishes, and led the music for the Saturday evening Mass. The long time pastor was not a good speaker, but he was caring towards the kids and very very very proper in his behavior to them. If he was around kids, it was never with him as the sole adult. So while it was only recently established as a parish in its own right after having been a mission church for a couple decades… the environment was pretty decent for kids and adults. 

    Even when we moved so that parish was a bit onerous to go to, we continued attending for years. It was our community. But properly speaking, we really ought to have switched to the parish we lived in.

    Practically speaking, that would have happened over my mother’s dead boy, because she knew that the parish school had an abusive principal and a couple abusive teachers. And she knew the abuse was tolerated for years.

    When we did eventually switch to new parish, it was for one that was quite close to home, but not actually the parish we lived in. Shortest drive to church of my whole life. And yes, our “proper” parish was rather a longer drive.

  • LL

    I’m fine with lifetime tenures. I may not like individual justices, but I’d rather the Supreme Court, at least, be as insulated as possible from all the political bullshit that flies around. I think they mostly are. I think most of them (recently, anyway) have taken seriously the idea that they represent everybody in America, not just the percentage who voted one way or the other, and that their duty is to interpret the law vis a vis the Constitution, not be concerned about whether that law conforms to some religious standard. I don’t always agree with their rulings, but I’m grudgingly OK with living with them. It’s obviously impossible to keep them from having preferences or leanings towards one party over the other. They’re humans, after all. But 3 of them now have a uterus, so that’s progress. Three of the people who upheld the health care reform law are women, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s sad that this is the case, but I think women, more so than men, see the need for some form (however imperfect) of universal healthcare, and because women use healthcare more so than men do, in the younger age groups, they know what it means not to have insurance or reliable birth control. It’s sad because you’d think reasonably educated, somewhat decent men could understand that just because you yourself don’t think you’ll benefit from something, that doesn’t mean it’s OK to keep other people from having it. 

  • http://redwoodr.tumblr.com Redwood Rhiadra

     Sorry – the Constitution specifies lifetime appointments for all Federal judges. (“shall hold their offices during good behavior”). Hence, it would require an amendment to change.

  • heckblazer

    The actual limits that I’ve seen proposed are a good bit longer than that, ranging between 15 and 18 years.  The terms would be staggered by two years,  so a president would have a chance to appoint at least two justices.   The specific reason why this is being viewed as a problem is that justices are getting appointed at younger ages while living much longer, and so throwing the original balance between the branches off by having an increased.  Rehnquist served on the court for 33 years and if Roberts were to live as long we could expect to have him serving until 2035.  2035 is mere five years before when I hope to retire. 

    It’s also worth noting that a change in term length may not require a amendment.  The constitution doesn’t say the serve a  life term, it says specifically that they serve “during good Behaviour.” 

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    (Star Wars: Republic Commando novels are great for made up curse words, while it’s on my mind.) 

    Also great for marching chants.

  • PJ Evans

    But a term limit, and maybe an age limit, should be rather easy. It’s
    strange that the POTUS is limited to two terms to restrict their power,
    but Judges can hang on for decades and influence the laws.

    You’d have to amend the Constitution to give the justices fixed terms, just like the Constitution was amended to limit the number of terms a President can serve. It is not at all easy to do.

  • http://twitter.com/FearlessSon FearlessSon

    I remember something my father’s family did.  

    Every Sunday, they would put on their nice cloths, all get into the car, and go to church.  The catch was, every Sunday they would go to a different church than they went to the last week.  

    The idea was that they wanted to expose their children to a very broad view of the Christian faith and see how many perspectives could be shown on it, rather than lock them into a particular theological sect.  My grandmother was very devout, but more to the faith itself than any particular preacher’s interpretation of it.  

  • PJ Evans

     Which, since it’s almost impossible to impeach a judge, means effectively a life term, or until the justice decides to retire.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    What constitutes “good behavior”? Because I rather think Scalia’s gets perilously close to not good behavior.

  • Mau de Katt

     Yes, that’s my take on Fred’s point, too.  Scalia and the rest of his Politically Elite Conservative Fundamentalists (and yes, I consider Scalia a fundie, regardless of the fact that he’s Catholic and not Evangelical) say they’re “upholding Traditional Values” and go out of their way to ostentatiously do so.  Except they are traveling long ways, and over and over, to find those “traditional values” that they are supposedly upholding.  They’re searching out and entrenching, not defending what’s already there.  Scalia didn’t even grow up in his “traditional” values.

    <blockquoteIf you want to see this same “conservatism of invention and choice” on
    display among evangelicals, just check out your regional mega-church.
    It’s the one with the ginormous parking lot.

    Yep, there is one of those just a block up the street from me.  So youbet I drive a ways to get to my new church (I just started going back to church two months ago after an absence of over a decade). 

    ((Said church being, oddly enough, ELCA, lol… referring to that other post…..))

  • Münchner Kindl

    Nithing is ever uniform. Idividual priests and monsignors can have considerable influence on their churchs no matter what the bishops might want.

    Um, not in the RCC. Yes, a priest (a monsignore is higher up the hierarchy) has considerable influence over their local parish – but only as long as the bishop or arch-bishop wants it.

    Actually, even bishops themselves are not immune to sudden transferrals is the higher-ups in the hierarchy decide that they are getting to chummy with the lay-folk or are preaching dangerously about the “theology of liberation” and gasp! actually trying to help the poor escape poverty through initiating projects – such a bishop will be kicked out to a very different diocese by orders from Rome quickly. Look at several instances of South American bishops this actually happened to because everything against poverty was too close to socialism for Rome.

    And I have seen it happen on local levels often enough – Rome sends a priest who has a very good rapport with his parish away and a new hardliner in. Heck in Cologne, the church members threatened to go on strike when a new known-hardliner was appointed. (In the end they had to give in as always, but it lasted for many months.)

  • Münchner Kindl

    You think the court is corrupt and partisan now? Think what would have happened if Justice Roberts had to worry about his employment prospects after his term ends.
    For the Supreme Court to work AT ALL, justices need to be able to render verdicts without worrying about polticial retribution or how they’re going to get a job once they get out.

    um, what? First, I never accused them of corruption – if that were a concern, term limits wouldn’t be the answer.

    Second, why the fuck should judges take a job after Supreme Court? Don’t your normal judges have a mandatory retirement age anyway, after which they get a good pension (since they already had a good income while working)?

    If not only politicans but also judges can take on jobs with private companies after their job is over, then you seriously need to plug that hole, too, because obviously the temptation to go easy on companies you later want to work for is too big.

    But then, I’m used to the attitude among all judges that being called to the Court watching the constitution is a high honour, the pinnacle of your life time before, good work showing that you are able to be impartial, and upholding that impartiality.

    If your judges see it simply as stepping stone to making money/ getting a job, then I wonder how judges on lower levels are dealt with: do they, too, work until they drop dead no matter how senile they might become? Do they get a pension when they retire high enough not to tempt them? Or do they go into private industry after retirement?

    (I also don’t understand what kind of job a retired judge would get – he’s not an attorney. The profile and therefore education for both are quite different.)

  • Münchner Kindl

    You think the court is corrupt and partisan now? Think what would have happened if Justice Roberts had to worry about his employment prospects after his term ends.
    For the Supreme Court to work AT ALL, justices need to be able to render verdicts without worrying about polticial retribution or how they’re going to get a job once they get out.

    Yes, that’s one of the fundamental differences – in your system, you need “touchstones to the past” because everything depends on what a bunch of white men thought 200 years ago in a different society.

    It doesn’t matter what the law says, or how the intent would be applied today – (how we interpret our laws*) – no, only the Founding Fathers count.

    * Since our constitution is younger, many of the Fathers of Constitution were still around in the first decades, but they were never asked for their intent. The laws are interpreted as written, applied to the general attitude of the population. Because if 100 years ago most people thought treating blacks second class or making sex between two men a crime, and today we think different because we have progressed, then the judges should take that into account.

  • Münchner Kindl

    I may not like individual justices, but I’d rather the Supreme Court, at least, be as insulated as possible from all the political bullshit that flies around. I think they mostly are. I think most of them (recently, anyway) have taken seriously the idea that they represent everybody in America, not just the percentage who voted one way or the other, and that their duty is to interpret the law vis a vis the Constitution,

    Sorry, are we talking about the same Supreme Court – the one of the USA?

    Because if they are insulated from political bullshit, given the fierce fighting about each appointment and the way they are held up as “Republican” and “Liberal/Democrat” judges based not only on who appointed them, but which values they feel beholden to, including voting almost reflexivly “yes/no” on certain issues based on those values – then you really need to see some real neutrality in judges elsewhere.

  • Münchner Kindl

    It’s obviously impossible to keep them from having preferences or leanings towards one party over the other. They’re humans, after all.

    There’s quite a difference between “I have opionions and biases because I’m human, but I do my very best to make my decisions neutral and objective” and what we’re currently seeing when the judges talk about their values guiding their decisions.

    But 3 of them now have a uterus, so that’s progress.

    No, it’s not. Women are not automatically better than men, that’s a terrible myth.

    Margaret Thatcher was not in any way good for the UK just because she was a woman. Angie Merkel is not only a woman, but also a scientist, but her political decisions are the usual bad conservative, ideology-based, harmful to many citizens stuff with no difference to the male politicans.

    It’s sad that this is the case, but I think women, more so than men, see the need for some form (however imperfect) of universal healthcare, and because women use healthcare more so than men do, in the younger age groups, they know what it means not to have insurance or reliable birth control.

    First, I doubt that anybody who works in the legal profession (save for the few real idealist attorneys) has problems with healthcare. To enter jura, you usually come from a rich background; and once you enter a prestigous company or are appointed as judge, you earn enough money to pay for healthcare.

    Second, you assume that people need to immediatly experience how much healthcare sucks to be able to vote for a better system. But whether you care for long-term thinking or empathy is not related to actual knowledge – a lot of people suffer under the system but believe Fox News lies and are against helping others; a lot of people are personally removed from problems but keep up to date with other news sources on how it affects poor people or what the factual benefits would be.

  • http://mistformsquirrel.deviantart.com/ mistformsquirrel

     Erhm… were you actually replying to me? Or someone else?  Cause I know the bit in quotes isn’t what I said; and the rest is a gross mis-characterization of my argument, if that was actually addressed to me.

    All I was trying to do was explain why A) I think term limits are not really the way to go, and B) Why I think the court is set up the way it is.

    I wasn’t making a “This is the Founder’s Intent and thus sacred writ” type argument.  There are people who would indeed DO that, but I’m not one of them.  I’m a liberal, I believe in a living Constitution – which means yes, it gets interpreted in light of modern circumstances.

    Mostly I was trying to explain why things are the way the are today in light of how the system was set up.  I think keeping in mind the original intent can be *useful* even if it should not necessarily be the only or primary consideration.  It’s part of understanding how the US political machine works – why different things are set up as they are has an impact on their function and also is important.

    At any rate, that’s all I’m saying.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Sorry, that is indeed the wrong part I copied for the quote.

  • Tonio

    Since our constitution is younger, many of the Fathers of Constitution
    were still around in the first decades, but they were never asked for
    their intent.

    Jefferson rejected constitutional originalism. That idea today is pushed most often by conservatives, and as Fred observed, the Christian ones tend to push the same concept for the Bible.

  • Münchner Kindl

    Mostly I was trying to explain why things are the way the are today in light of how the system was set up. I think keeping in mind the original intent can be *useful* even if it should not necessarily be the only or primary consideration. It’s part of understanding how the US political machine works – why different things are set up as they are has an impact on their function and also is important.

    The thing is, I’m not mainly interested in history lessons on why things were set up this way; I’m interested in logical or factual reasons for “why don’t we change things”.

    However, the usual response I always get are
    1. We’ve always done it that way (a thousand dead people can’t be wrong, as TPratchett wrote)
    2. The Founding Fathers wrote it/ we can’t change the constitution (while it’s not easy to pass an amendment – for reasons, obviously – acting as if it never can be achieved instead of talking about it and pushing for it would be possible)
    3. The US is special (often together with 1), why do you hate America; your country isn’t any better, either (which has zero today with an argument whether changing one aspect would be better – but which is nevertheless extremely popular among USians)

    As you can see in this thread, too, the only argument against that didn’t follow this pattern was that if judges would only have limited terms, they would consider future jobs when making decisions, which speaks very badly about the judges.


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