Posted Jun 18, 2020 by Michael L. Brown

I remember that sinking feeling as the election results were announced in November 1992. William Jefferson Clinton would be the next president of the United States. George H. W. Bush was out. Yet we were so close to having a conservative majority on the Supreme Court who would overturn Roe v. Wade! At least that’s what I thought.

It was at that moment that another feeling struck me, a realization that has stayed with me over the decades. This realization was powerfully underscored with the Supreme Court’s disastrous decision this past Monday.

I suddenly realized that I was putting too much trust in our system. That I kept thinking that the expected change was just one election away. Or one more SCOTUS appointee away. Yet that magical moment never happened. Not with the Reagan presidency, and not at any time since – at least, not on the level for which I had been hoping.

In short, when it comes to changing the society, we cannot put our trust in the Court. Or in the president. Or in the government. To do so is to invite disappointment.

Certainly, the actions and decisions of our government and its institutions can have massive implications for good or for bad. But real societal change, the kind of change we must have, cannot come by legislation or executive order or ruling. It can only come through the changed hearts of the people, which then changes the will of the people, which then makes its way up to the courts and the White House and the government.

That’s why I wrote in 1993 (yes, this was written 27 years ago), “For years we put our trust in the government. We hoped that the President would hold the line, that the right appoint­ees to the Supreme Court would help stem the flood of un­righteousness, that a politically active church would turn our nation back. But we have been misled! We have put our confidence in the flesh. In our fight for religious rights we have subtly confessed, ‘In man do we trust.’ But govern­ment cannot save! Only Jesus can save. And He must be our message.”

I continued, “Oh yes, we should exercise our rights and vote. We should meet with our children’s educators and write to our elected officials.” But, I explained, the key was changing the hearts and minds of the people. Otherwise, the change we longed for would never come.

But maybe I’m sounding too spiritual. Let’s think about this in simple, concrete terms.

Who was the critical swing vote in the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, redefining marriage? It was none other Anthony Kennedy. And who nominated Kennedy to the Supreme Court? None other than Ronald Reagan. So, one of our greatest conservative presidents nominated the man who played the pivotal role in calling same-sex unions “marriage.”

Of course, Reagan unsuccessfully nominated Robert Bork. And he was successful in nominating the great Antonin Scalia. But we cannot deny that Kennedy was selected by Reagan too. So much for our man in the White House changing SCOTUS.

As for George H. W. Bush, it is true that he nominated Clarence Thomas for the Court, and Thomas has remained consistent through the years. But Bush also nominated David Souter.

Politico tells us the rest: “While Souter voted along generally conservative lines in his first year on the bench, he soon began to drift left. By 1992, he was part of the majority in Planned Parenthood v. Casey that reaffirmed the core holding of Roe v. Wade. On cases ranging from voluntary school prayer to affirmative action, Souter lined up with his liberal colleagues. By 1995, the conservative Weekly Standard labeled him the ‘‘stealth justice’ and called him ‘one of the staunchest liberals on the court—a more reliable champion of liberal causes than Clinton appointees Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.’”

So much for my hope for a second term for President Bush in 1992. Maybe he would have appointed another Souter?

And what of the appointees of George W. Bush? Samuel Alito has stayed the conservative course, writing the withering dissenting opinion in Monday’s ruling. But Bush also appointed Chief Justice John Roberts, the swing vote in Obamacare and one of the two key votes in Monday’s ruling.

That brings us to the present. The first of Trump two appointees, Neil Gorsuch, has stabbed conservatives in the back with his ludicrous redefining of the word “sex.” And as if his was vote was not bad enough, he wrote the opinion for the majority. What in the world happened?

This doesn’t mean that he won’t make other solid rulings in the future. And this doesn’t mean that we would have been better off with Hillary Clinton appointing justices to the Supreme Court and the federal courts. In that respect, Trump has done much good. (See the chapter in my new book, Evangelicals at the Crossroads, which asks the question, “What if Hillary Had Been Elected?”)

But that’s where the reality check comes in. The Supreme Court will disappoint us again, and we can only expect the president or Congress to do so much. As for those who voted for Trump primarily with the courts in mind, the Gorsuch ruling is both a slap in the face and a stark reminder of the point I have been trying to make. We must be careful where we put your trust

So, while we continue to vote and lobby, we remember this simple truth: we must put our trust in God and the gospel, not government.

The Lord and His message will never fail us. Our government and its institutions, sooner or later, most certainly will.


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pastorjoe posted a comment · Jun 23, 2020
I certainly agree with the idea that we cannot place our trust in the Supreme Court, or in a president for that matter. We will surely be disappointed. But as an American, as a pastor, and as Christian, I am struggling to see that disaster in this "disastrous ruling." The court has left the religious organization ruling intact so that churches. That exemption for hiring in ministries will almost certainly be challenged in the future, but it wasn't here. So, I'm left with simply wondering where the Scriptures forbid us from employing gay or transgender people. If the scriptures do not forbid employing LGBTQ people, then this shouldn't be considered a religious liberty issue, at least in terms of Biblical Christianity, right? Aren't we overreacting? From a slippery slope argument, I could buy "concerning," but "disastrous"? I'm sorry, I don't see it. Also, on a related but I think much more important note, I was hoping to get your help with something else. I have recently read a book called Walking the Bridgeless Canyon. I'm sure you are familiar with it. I was already familiar with the arguments the author used to arrive at affirming interpretations to Scripture. I am also familiar with arguments that address those, including your own book "Can I be Gay and Christian." However, in Bridgeless Canyon, I have been deeply affected and moved by her telling of the history of the gay movement and the opposition to it. She did not, in her writing, sound to me heavy-handed or pressing an agenda. It seemed to me she was more just relating a factual history that appears to be well-researched and documented. Frankly, if her telling of history is accurate, I feel betrayed - not by those who raised me and taught me, but by the alleged manipulation that led to us all believing the way we do anyway. However, I know that sometimes things can be misrepresented by withholding parts of the story, even if all the parts that you tell are true. I am someone who wants to get all of the arguments from all sides when thinking about these things, especially on something this big. The stakes are too high - as a pastor, I could either be unnecessarily and unjustly sending people to hell by chasing them away from a relationship with Christ that was available to them all along, or else I could be sending people to hell by allowing unrepentant sinners to happily live their lives all the while assuring them in a false conversion. It doesn't seem like either way of being wrong is safer than the other. The only option is to do my very best to discern what is right. All that to ask, do you know of a resource that would rebut the history portions of Walking the Bridgeless Canyon (or would prove that it is deceptive because of its being too selective about which parts of history to tell)? Again, I am aware of plenty of resources that address the Bible from a conservative position, but do you know of a resource that would provide any correction to her accounts of cultural, religious, and political history as it relates to gay, transgender and intersex people? Thank you.
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neptune posted a comment · Jun 20, 2020
Mike Huckabee has an interesting article that explains why the Supreme Court justices always seem to disappoint: Excerpt: "ALL of our Supreme Court Justices attended the same handful of Northeastern Ivy League colleges (every one of them spent time at either Harvard or Yale) and were taught by the same liberal professors. While a few were able to resist the indoctrination, there is no real 'diversity' on the Court. . . . Since the judiciary is the only branch of government that requires members to attain elite schooling, it’s dominated by people from upper middle class, elite backgrounds. Once they’re on the bench, they tend to favor things that people of their class embrace (abortion, gay rights, birth control, open borders, etc.) and even invent new “rights” to promote them, while marginalizing the real rights that working class Americans care about."
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Pickle posted a comment · Jun 19, 2020
Roosevelt couldn't, as hard as he tried.
Swkh310 posted a comment · Jun 18, 2020
You mean, you CAN’T stack the courts?