For the second consecutive summer, the US Senate is holding confirmation hearings on the nomination of a woman to the US Supreme Court. As women are poised to hold more seats than ever on the court, it highlights the question of whether a justice’s gender may, or should, influence his or her decisions.
Jurisprudence thrives on precedents. And as a Christian Scientist and a former lawyer, I love to look for “spiritual precedents” when considering questions like this. I found what I consider a very good one in the famous Old Testament case of the judgment of Solomon.
As the Bible tells it, God appeared to Solomon in a dream and offered him a gift. In deepest humility, the young king asked simply for “an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and bad.” Pleased that Solomon had not asked for long life, riches, or victory in battle, God granted him wisdom and discernment in addition to greatness.
Shortly thereafter, two prostitutes brought a dispute before the king. They lived in the same house, and each had given birth. During the night, one woman had accidentally rolled over in bed on her own child. Then, she surreptitiously removed the other woman’s child from her arms and replaced it with the dead one. But the other woman was not fooled when she woke up.
Solomon faced two women, each claiming the living child as her own. His solution? He called for a sword and said, “Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other.” One can imagine the gasps this elicited in his court. Yet the threat exposed the deceiver. She said, “Divide it.” But the real mother was willing to give up her child in order to save him. From this, Solomon discerned that she was indeed the mother and restored the child to her.
The founder of the Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote in “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” “Let Truth uncover and destroy error in God’s own way, and let human justice pattern the divine” (p. 542). To me, Solomon’s solution is a practical illustration of this statement; Truth exposed and uncovered the lie.
From a human perspective, Solomon’s method of judging seems barbaric, although it’s doubtful he intended to use his sword. Of course, he had no experience as a mother. Yet he didn’t need that to discern the power of a mother’s love. It was the divine influence that showed him how to reveal it.
Solomon’s wisdom is available to each of us today. Wisdom is an attribute of God, divine Mind. His wisdom is not limited. All of God’s children reflect and express it. Because wisdom’s source is God, its exercise is not dependent on gender, life experience, age, education, or even personal opinion.
As citizens, we can pray to see human justice pattern the divine – for divine wisdom to guide and govern the decisions of judges, magistrates, and all who are called upon to decide disputes. When they act on this wisdom, their decisions can only be just.