This morning I saw the following Atonin Scalia quote (with a few missing words) in my Twitter feed:
— Dr. Michael L. Brown (@DrMichaelLBrown) February 20, 2017
Before we get started, we need to confirm this quote. The practice of incorrectly attributing fanciful quotes to public figures — Mark Twain, Yogi Berra, Winston Churchill, etc. — is epidemic. Indeed, it calls to mind the old saying, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” So before we say anything else, we should seek to confirm the source.
After some checking I found respected author Jeffrey Toobin attributing the quotation to Scalia in his book The Oath: The Obama White House and the Supreme Court ((New York: Anchor, 2012), 98). So that’s good enough for me to proceed.
So what’s the problem?
Here it is in brief: there are many reasons a Christian might be counted a fool. So just because a particular Christian happens to be counted a fool, they can’t assume it is for the right reasons. Let’s say, for example, that Jones is considered a fool by his office coworkers. Jones believes his low social status is a clear indication of his faithful discipleship in emulating his Lord and Savior. But is it?
A closer look reveals that his coworkers think he’s a fool because he has been predicting the imminent return of Christ since the late 1980s, with regular revisions to his predictions every time Christ fails to return. And also because he insists the earth was created in 4004 BC. And because he has confidently asserted that dinosaurs were on the ark. And because he believes an embryo has exactly the same right to life as a baby. And because he voted for Donald Trump and insists that Trump is a good Christian who “just wants to keep us safe from the terrorists.”
Bottom line: being counted a fool by your unchurched peers is easy. Being counted a fool by your unchurched peers for good reasons is hard.