Weekly Message from T. J.

Message Received

When I read the news I was trying to eat a bowl of rice and beans. My friend was trying to tell me about the things going on life. I was trying to do anything else but think about it. But I was failing. There it was: “Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement.” For something printed in black and white, the message was far from clear. The implications of the swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court retiring on the current administration’s watch are terrifying to me personally.

In a moment of tearful distraction I text messaged a lawyer friend who I know follows the Supreme Court with as much concern and interest as I do. I asked how handling the news was going. The response came back: “I’ve been sitting in my office holding back tears.” And the image of this fine attorney who devotes a career to careful planning of the estates of clients, a choice of practice areas that is well-known to attract some of the kindest, most thoughtful people, bravely fighting tears alone in an office, weighed as heavy on my heart as the news of the Justice’s departure. Then came this message: “This is what America wanted. This is what we are getting.”

Then while I was contemplating the implications of this event, the dire consequences that could be coming for those who rely on any sense of common decency, let alone common sense, with regard to reproductive rights, gun control, and the sanctioned killing of prisoners, I got another message. This time from a friend from divinity school: “T. J., there’s a SCOTUS seat with your name on it.” A part of me wasn’t ready to be joking about this yet. But my friend and the message thought better than the doom I was predicting in this moment. And I chuckled out loud.

In truth, I confess, I will have a hard time forgiving Justice Kennedy for yesterday casting the swing vote in the ruling that will permit this administration’s travel ban to remain in place and then retiring the next day. I believe it was a move that lacked dignity, especially coming the day after he sided with a bald-faced attack upon the worth and dignity of every human being enshrined in the travel ban. That is the message I received from these actions.

But I received two other messages today: one from a person who admires (though tearfully) the law enough to reconcile its current state with the will of those it governs, and another from someone with enough perspective in life to remind me that joking about painful situations over which we have zero control might actually be the wiser course than wallowing in a doomed future yet to come. And as the messages came in, they both combined somehow and reminded me of the message that might make the most sense in the world right now: “Remember to take very seriously the joy we want to share with others.” Thank you for this message, friends.

And may it ever be so.

Rev. T. J.

4 Responses to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. I like the “ There is a SCOTUS seat with your name on it,” T.J., though I would hate to lose you as our minister!

  2. Thank you for that reminder, T. J. It’s hard not to feel despairing, because unlike a president a Supreme Court Justice will likely be with us for decades to come. And I can’t help but feel such great resentment about the Republican actions which prevented President Obama from nominating anyone. But all the more reason to, as you say, take very seriously our joy. Thank you for YOUR message, and the insights you share with us every week.

  3. I’m in shock and mourning for the losses this will almost certainly mean for our nation in the years to come. Appointments to the Supreme Court — and to all the District Court vacancies left as well when the Republicans in Congress refused to allow President Obama to fill vacancies— will likely be the most lasting legacy of this evil administration. Thanks, TJ, for putting as upbeat a spin on it as possible, but I’m not there at this point. It just seems too painful.

  4. Just a bit too much REAL news this week from the Supreme Court. Let’s take action to get out the vote from around the country in swing districts this mid term election by making calls from Hawaii. Our Convenant Group is looking into this as our service project.

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