Justice Scalia recently gave some remarks at the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, Texas, remarks that have been reported and commented on in several places. Ostensibly the speech was about whether capitalism or socialism is more consistent with Christian virtue.
But I was there and heard the lecture in its entirety; and it sounded to me like Justice Scalia lavished praise on the separation of church and state. One consistent theme repeated several times by the Justice–at both the beginning and the end of the talk–was the patent unimportance of the titular subject. For the Christian, Justice Scalia said, the choice of one’s political ideology (the choice between capitalism and socialism, for example) is about as consequential as the choice of one’s toothpaste. One does not choose a political ideology either to become a better Christian or to inspire greater Christian virtue in others, and certainly not to inspire Christian virtue in government. Christ was not interested in government or its machinations. These are all issues that ought to be small beer for the Christian.
The lecture was cleverly keyed to sound pleasingly evangelical notes. When you’re in Texas, after all, you’d better swear you hate the Redskins, and Justice Scalia knew well enough to say so. The Justice emphasized a familiar and important set of ideas that has long supported one hoary strain of the American separation of church and state with deep Christian roots: that the cities of God and man are and forever will remain apart.
After which, in response to an audience question about the area of law done greatest disservice by the Supreme Court, he thought for a moment, and replied, “The Establishment Clause.” Christian law and politics watchers, take note.