Meaning in Life and the Supreme Court

Every human is a meaning-searching being. Some of us engage in the search overtly and often. Many of us think of it from time to time, but nonetheless look for places to ground ourselves and our sense of direction and value in life. These places of meaning do a lot of work for us. They provide our moral frameworks, agreements for how relationships work, powerful ideas about justice and injustice and they give us the goals for which we hope and the means by which we believe we will reach them.

We do best when our sources of meaning are deep and reinforced by several institutions. We are most likely to find meaning (and peace in that meaning) when the ideas we ask to bear the weight of life are big enough to carry the load, and are shared by several others in our circles of relationships.

That’s why many of those who took the time to yell about the nomination of Kavanaugh are really, really mad. They – implicitly or explicitly – have asked a Court to bear the meaning of their lives. They allegedly showed up to protest a Supreme Court nominee, but if you parse their rhetoric and fear mongering their allegations and anger go far beyond what is warranted. Some of it is on par with tin-foil hat conspiracy theories. One single nomination to arguably the least proactive branch of our government turned them inside out. They traveled, spent money, made signs and went hoarse, not because it really is the end of the world, but because their ground of meaning is way too shallow to carry the weight of a political setback.


The Supreme Court is a bad place to root the purpose and meaning of a life. And as evidenced on this night, a single individual is a bad place for that, too. It isn’t just Justices. Our politicians will often bill themselves as “riding in on a white horse” or as cultural messiahs. “Vote for me and I’ll fix (fill in the blank with any significant social ill).”

Law and Politics are great places for all kinds of practical justice, meaningful work, and even a degree of moral reform. But they fit best into the larger scheme of things. They are not the larger scheme of things.

The only place that has the depth and strength to hold up to the strain of “the meaning of life” is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If that is where I begin, then I can find a much better place to put the nomination of a single Supreme Court Justice (as consequential as it really is). And I can find the appropriate places for church, family, friends, work and my dogs.

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