The big news out of the Supreme Court this week, of course, involved two decisions regarding public displays of the Ten Commandments.
In one case, the Court ruled that a monument of the commandments had to be removed in Pulaski County Kentucky. In another, it ruled that a similar monument could remain in Texas where it was displayed in tandem with other historical documents.
Many have expressed frustration over the resolution of the Kentucky case in particular. In all honesty, I just don’t see why such displays are a big deal. I’m not sure that courthouse displays of the Ten Commandments really influence people one way or the other. We do not live in a Christian nation, so it seems to me that we should not be surprised when that nation rejects official displays of Judeo-Christian faith. I’m just not that bothered by it; maybe you are.
The Reaction Betrays a Two-Storied Worldview
I do think that some of the popular conceptions about the issue betray faulty thinking. A local radio host, in talking about these decisions, said personal belief has no place in a court of law. I think many would echo those sentiments.
Is that a good thing?
Here we see a classic example of the two-story thinking I described in an earlier post (and that Francis Schaeffer diagnosed decades ago). You have the upper story of private, personal beliefs or values, and the lower story of public fact. The two levels have nothing to do with each other, and so anything that smacks of religious conviction is relegated upstairs to the realm of personal values that really have no business in the real world.
The Christian View of Truth
Christianity, of course, posits no such distinction. Instead it is a truly holistic faith, one that articulates an entire worldview.
It claims to hold Truth (capital T) that is real and applicable to all things – even (or especially) a court of law, where, at least in theory, decisions on right and wrong are made in a search for truth and justice.
But that’s not how the legal game is really played. As Pearcey writes, the modern practice of law seems to have more to do with spinning facts, manipulating juries, and looking for legal loopholes to get a client the victory or acquittal they need. The quest is for a win rather than for the truth. Pragmatism and situational ethics hold sway.
So it ought not surprise us that a court would reject displays of a document purporting to form the basis for absolute truth and morality.
So as Christians we ought not be surprised. Indeed, ultimately we should not reall by worried about these decisions. What matters is not what statues are erected in the town square, but what worldview is at work in the hearts and minds of the people.
We need to understand and claim the biblical worldview that shatters the divide between the upper and lower story.