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So yesterday the Supreme Court issued a decision in the highly anticipated case of Jack Philips, a traditionally Christian baker that did not want to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Traditionalists rejoiced at first, but I don’t think the decision means what they think it meant.

In a 7-2 decision, written by Court bellwether Anthony Kennedy, the Court sided with the baker. However, Kennedy’s decision was narrowly tailored to the facts of this specific case. In this particular case, Kennedy ruled as he did because he took issue with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, or at least one particular member, showing an open hostility toward the baker’s religion. Kennedy’s decision turned on that. Kennedy left open the possibility that a more neutral, less hostile (at least openly) commission might be able to make a similar ruling. Kennedy’s decision did not balance the cake shop owner’s First Amendment freedoms of religion and speech (ie. artistic expression) against the purchasers’ Fourteenth Amendment right of equal access.  Liberals may disappointed in the short-term here, but I suspect conservatives may be disappointed in the long-term.  Kennedy’s refusal to write a broader decision that overtly protected the baker’s 1st Amendment right to refuse to provide a service that violated his sincerely-held religious beliefs speaks of one of two things: 1) either he wants society to try to work this out before having the court’s decree one way or the other, or 2) when a less openly hostile commission rules on a similar case, Kennedy would be part of a 5-4 majority to uphold the ruling.
(Note: one thing left out of much commentary is the Commission’s conduct. It is a window on the future that sincerely (and conservatively) religious citizens fear. Now, such anti-religious language will be muted, but that doesn’t mean Commission members won’t still harbor such animosity and vote accordingly.)

So yesterday’s ruling was a little like the Trump election. It wasn’t a large victory; it was merely a speed bump on the path to secularism. And it raises the stakes for a Court nomination if the rumors about Kennedy’s retirement are true.

– 1TF

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Yesterday was the Feast of the Holy Cross in the Roman Catholic Church. This got me to thinking – when, one steps away and looks at it from a distance, the veneration of the cross is a strange thing. Victims of the Holocaust remember the crematoriums, but they certainly don’t venerate them. People may respect the patriots Crispus Attucks and Nathan Hale, but they don’t venerate the rifles or rope which ended them. Thomas More fans don’t venerate the ax.

So why this veneration of the implement of execution?  It may be the idea of displacement.  This has been seen done by the homosexual community appropriating the words gay and queer, and by doing so, turning them from pejorative terms four decades ago into mere descriptions these days.  More recently, “deplorables” and “nasty woman” were terms uttered by presidential candidates that were then gleefully used by their opponents to describe themselves.  In each of these cases, the objects of scorn turned the use of a term back on itself.

The cross on which Jesus was crucified may have been more in the shape of a capital “T” then in the form we think of now.  It appears this, not the current symbol was what early Christians used, taking its place with the fish, lamb and an X that supposedly represented Christ.   This implement of torture and death has been turned back on itself.  The practice has been largely eliminated; the church and its symbol go on.

So why the cross?  It’s not clear, but I propose on possibility:  it might just be smart politics.  While the fish was a way to say Christ would provide, the cross could be a way to say either “Christ loved us enough to die for us” or in the alternative “I am willing to take up my cross, and not even death will stop us.”  That can be a useful symbol of power and affirmation in a church that consisted of the poor and powerless for its first three centuries.  If nothing else, it didn’t appear to hurt.  By the time of the Emperor Constantine’s conversion in 315 A.D., Christians were regularly making the sign of the cross (although “crucifixes” or crosses with Christ on them wouldn’t appear for another 200 years.)

This implement of torture and death has been turned back on itself.  The practice has been largely eliminated; the church and its symbol go on.

` 1TF

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