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Heading toward Agincourt

A new Supreme Court opening ratchets up the tension of a stress-filled year

Heading toward Agincourt

A woman holds a candle in remembrance of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (ALEX EDELMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

The weekend that began at dusk on Friday, Sept. 18, brought us Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year's Day, and one more hard twist in a year, 2020, that already looks like three years—COVID-19 year, racial tensions year, and a knife’s-edge presidential election campaign—rolled into one. 

The weekend began with the news of Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death. President Donald Trump’s initial response to the Supreme Court justice’s passing was gracious: “Whether you agree or not ... she led an amazing life.” Ginsburg did. If you live in a conservative bubble, either of two recent films that turned her into a pop culture celebrity—RBG and On the Basis of Sex—is worth watching to learn how the other half thinks.

Ginsburg also had an amazing friend, the late Antonin Scalia. They were opposites ideologically, but hours after Ginsburg died, Scalia’s son Christopher tweeted a story about Scalia buying her two dozen roses for her birthday. Asked if the gift softened her up so she voted with him on a 5-4 decision, Scalia said, “Some things are more important than votes.”

Saturday, Sept. 19, brought another milepost on this memorable weekend: the 100th birthday of America’s greatest writer on baseball, Roger Angell. He’s lost much of his sight but can still follow games. Angell centered his greatest article on what seems to me the greatest game ever, the sixth game of the 1975 World Series on Oct. 21, 1975. When Carlton Fisk ended it with a 12th inning home run, Angell visualized Red Sox fans all over “dancing and shouting and kissing and leaping about like the fans at Fenway—jumping up and down in their bedrooms and kitchens and living rooms.”

I imagine that will be the reaction of millions of Christians and others some day when the Supreme Court reverses Roe v. Wade. Angell continued his description: “And on back-country roads, a lone driver getting the news over the radio and blowing his horn over and over, and finally pulling up and getting out and leaping up and down on the cold macadam, yelling into the night, and all of them, for once at least, utterly joyful and believing in that joy—alight with it.” Pro-lifers await that moment.

Angell titled his essay “Agincourt and after.” The Battle of Agincourt in 1415 was a smashing English victory over a far more numerous French army. It became grist for William Shakespeare’s eloquence. He has one noble, Westmorland, complain of having not enough soldiers. Henry V replies, “The fewer men, the greater share of honour. … But if it be a sin to covet honour, I am the most offending soul alive. … We few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.”

Allison Shelley/Getty Images

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks at an annual Women's History Month. (Allison Shelley/Getty Images)

Even before Ginsburg’s death this coming presidential election looked like an Agincourt contest, with Donald I trying to rally his forces against Democrats more numerous in polling and in the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court opening ratchets up the tension. Concerned Women for America head Penny Nance says, “Our happy warrior women are battle-tested.” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, calls on Trump and GOP leaders to “move swiftly to fill this vacancy.”

How swift is swift? Eight months before the 2016 election Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court seat suddenly vacant via Scalia’s death. Republicans refused to vote on it. Now, six weeks before the 2020 election, Republicans are in a hurry. True, in 2016 the White House and the Senate were in opposing hands: Now they are both in GOP control. True, Democrats have also switched positions: “Just do it” in 2016 and “no, no, no” now. Nevertheless, the switches supplement the Critical Theory view that everything is a matter of power, not principle. Evangelicals who have already abandoned the previous insistence that “presidential character matters” may gain more disdain.

Adding to the complexity: Scalia rightly said, “Some things are more important than votes,” but some votes are life and death. Shouldn’t we seize the opportunity to throw Roe v. Wade into the dumpster of inhumane decisions next to Dred Scott v. Sandford and Plessy v. Ferguson (“separate but equal”)? Yes, a Roe v. Wade reversal that would empower state legislatures won’t come close to ending abortion—New York, California, Illinois, and other blue states would still be magnet murderers—but it would probably save 100,000 lives per year.

On the other hand, Republicans can’t act in a vacuum. If Mitch McConnell pushes an affirmative vote on Trump’s nominee and finds a way to have his caucus hang together, the Democrats have an obvious response if they win the White House on Nov. 3 and gain a Senate majority: Expand the court and add two more liberal justices. (Or if the radicals have their way, add six.)  

And yet, as our Jewish brothers and sisters celebrated Rosh Hashanah, it was all too easy in thinking through moves and counter-moves to sound like Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof: “On the other hand … on the other hand.” Harry Truman, complaining about the conflicting advice economists offered him, said he was looking for a one-handed economist.

Some WORLD members may be looking for the same, but our editors and reporters are unlikely to comply. Our operating principle of Biblical objectivity means that we present clear views where the Bible is clear, as it often is, but we don’t pretend to say “God saith” when God hasn’t saith whether it is wiser to push for a Supreme Court vote before the election or wait. We all have our opinions, but we should acknowledge they are just opinions.

On Aug. 14 and Sept. 1, I interviewed two Christian conservatives, pro-Trump Wayne Grudem and anti-Trump David French. You’ll see their arguments in the upcoming issue of WORLD. The new court opening is likely to move the national focus from a physical virus to a judicial virus, which probably increases the pressure on pro-life people who oppose Trump, but I’ve seen no indication of French modulating his criticism. Instead, he noted on Sept. 20 that we are in for “another sharp escalation in the culture war, and this escalation could well lead to a cascading series of events that could strain the constitutional and cultural fabric of this nation.”

So I have only three pieces of advice. The first is to read a variety of views, not just those that confirm what you’ve already decided. Here’s centenarian Roger Angell’s favorite joke: A beat-up worker after a hard day comes into a diner and says, “Give me a cup of coffee, a piece of pie, and a few kind words.” The waitress serves him the coffee and pie. He says, “Hey—where are the kind words?” She leans over and says, “Don’t eat the pie.”

Second, read what the Bible says about people confident that they know exactly what “the smart play” is in judicial nominations or theology. For example, Psalm 2 offers one of God’s favorite jokes: “The nations rage and the peoples plot in vain. … He who sits in the heavens laugh; the Lord holds them in derision.”

Third, esteem leaders who know God’s in charge. A millennium ago King Canute’s kissing-up courtiers said he could control the ocean tides. Storyteller Henry of Huntingdon described Canute—king of Denmark, England, and Norway—setting his throne at the seashore and saying, as the incoming tide wet the bottom of his robe, “Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws.”

Marvin Olasky

Marvin Olasky

Marvin is editor in chief of WORLD and dean of World Journalism Institute. He joined WORLD in 1992 and has also been a university professor and provost. He has written more than 20 books, including Reforming Journalism. Marvin resides with his wife, Susan, in Austin, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @MarvinOlasky.


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    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 04:40 pm

    I very much appreciate this reminder to think and act biblically.  The end never justifies the means and there is much more at stake here than one presidential election and one judicial appointment.  God commands us to live righteously and trust Him for the results. 

    I admit, if Democrats currently held the presidency and a majority in the Senate, I would take offense if they sought to replace RBG before the election.  They would have every legal right and I'm not trying to say what should or should not be done.  I am simply saying, I musn't pretend to have moral high ground when I do not.  

    I am undoubtedly naive, but do unto others as you would have them do unto you seems like a good idea here.  Then trust God for the results.

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 06:10 pm

    King David didn't put his sling down and say, "This might be unfair". He powerfully slung his sling and hit the giant in the head. He took his sword and cut off the head. With blood still dripping from the neck he took it to the king. 

    Strong Christian men are not afraid of battle and when the opportunity comes their way they seize upon it. Sadly, many Christian men exist today who wallow in their doubt, sanctimoniously giving reasons why they should seize defeat from victory. 

    We have sought this day since the abortion slaughter began. Let us behave as victorious soldiers and bring victory home by appointing a solid justice to the Supreme Court. Whatever should come our way because we defended the weak and defenseless, let us trust in God. 

  •  SleeperSRT10's picture
    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 07:09 pm

    Donald Trump is still our president.  Please allow him to do his job! 

  • MTJanet
    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 07:36 pm

    I honestly am not sure what the point of the article is - politics are going to played, as they are every day, by the party that is in power and the one that is not.  The dem/rep battle of words and actions are not going to be based on the Bible, and the only surprise would be if they were.  Trump is going to pursue what the president in power should pursue - a court appointment.  The dems will do everything in their power to hinder it.  Nothing is new under the sun - but I'm not suggesting this will be a yawner either.  

  • Leeper
    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 08:10 pm

    The threat to stack the court was make before the the death of RRG. The Democrats will shred the constitution when if and when they are in the majority again. They will assure one party rule forever.



    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 08:13 pm

    Having read four comments at this point in time, I concur most closely with TeamEaton, SleeperSRT10 and MTJanet yet cautiously echo CYBORG3 in that "Whatever should come our way because we defended the weak and defenseless, let us trust in God."

    O that those in all Government positions would realize and submit to the authority of GOD, the ultimate reason they are in their positions, and that Believer's prayers would be for reconcilliation to GOD for each of those...

    Posted: Mon, 09/21/2020 11:43 pm

    Prayer is the fourth piece of advice. My church is corporately praying through a helpful guide, Praying for an Election: A Non-Partisan, Scripture-Based, Prayer Guide, by David Butts, published by PrayerShop Publishing, Terre Haute, Indiana ( There are seven prayer points: (1) our nation and the issues it faces, (2) the election process, (3) candidates and leaders, (4) the church, (5) media, (6) spiritual warfare, and (7) revival and spiritual awakening.

  • SamIamHis
    Posted: Tue, 09/22/2020 01:26 pm

    Ruth Bader Ginsburg may have set the pattern for the direction of the current administration regarding a Supreme Court appointment.  Through many illnesses and the death of her husband, she showed up to do the job she was appointed to do.  Even though her family quoted her as saying that she did not wish for this president (Trump) to fill her vacancy in the Supreme Court, in death no one has any say over what occurs in the land of the living.  She is the one who set the standard for carrying on with your duty despite the circumstances around you.  Well done, Ruth, well done!

  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Thu, 09/24/2020 12:05 am

    Sam, you seem to forget one of her legacies was abortion. Are you going to praise her abortion legacy?

  • SamIamHis
    Posted: Fri, 09/25/2020 09:44 am

    Dear Cyborg3, 

    Saying "well done" to Ruth was limited to her unknowingly giving permission to President Trump to move forward by her setting the standard of carrying on despite the dreadful circumstances you may find yourself in.  President Trump has done this in an extraordinary manner for the last 4 years. Hopefullly he will not be disuaded from appointing a Supreme Court justice in a timely manner despite the circumstances that continue to swirl around him. 

    Never did I, nor would I agree with or give praise to many of her decisions through the years.