The Sotomayor nomination has put the strangest ideas into circulation. The latest rallying cry is that — brace yourself — she is a judge who might have empathy. Oh, no! This is apparently a very bad thing.
Which raises the question: How would Jesus judge?
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.
He shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
14 Therefore, my son, see that you are merciful unto your brethren; deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually; and if ye do all these things then shall ye receive your reward; yea, ye shall have mercy restored unto you again; ye shall have justice restored unto you again; ye shall have a righteous judgment restored unto you again; and ye shall have good rewarded unto you again.
I think it’s a pretty good bet that Jesus would judge with empathy. What do you think?
President Obama said, in the statement that helped launch the discussion,
I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.
Well, at least one politician is looking for someone who might judge like Jesus would.
Nevertheless, let us appoint judges, to judge this people according to our law; and we will newly arrange the affairs of this people, for we will appoint wise men [ed: or wise Latina women?] to be judges, that will judge this people according to the commandments of God.
Now, I realize that judges have an important job, and that deciding who is best qualified for the job involves some balancing of values. A candidate may be very strong in one area but not strong in another; I don’t mean to suggest that empathy is a trump card. Obviously there are other important considerations.
But let’s not lose track of the basics. Empathy is a very good thing. Full stop.
Ceteris paribis, a judge with empathy is always better than one without. And a person with empathy is better than one without. Empathy is a great, wonderful, strongly positive, Christlike value, and we could all stand to have more of it. Even judges.
Let us speak up, loudly, against the profoundly unChristian idea that empathy is somehow a bad thing.
And shame on you, Orrin Hatch, for your own remarks disparaging the idea of empathy in a judge.