In the fifth and final lesson of her series Be a Superhero to Your Community, Rev. Joanne talks to us about The Power of Challenge. Reminding us that superheroes do not shrink back from challenges, we see that the definition of “superhero” is not a comic book persona with special powers, but real life people who see a job that needs to be done, and does it.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt said that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the assessment that something else is more important than fear. This week, Rev. Joanne offers to us as our real life superhero former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Having passed away on September 18, 2020 her life and work have been in the public awareness this week. Of the three branches of the United States government, the members of the Supreme Court may be those least familiar to the general public. In this brief time following her passing – as people only too quickly forget the “big news” of the day, until the next story – we have the opportunity to learn something about the life and work of this remarkable woman.
Ginsburg was born and grew up in Brooklyn, New York. Her older sister died when she was a baby, and her mother died shortly before Ginsburg graduated from high school. She earned her bachelor's degree at Cornell University and married Martin D. Ginsburg, becoming a mother before starting law school at Harvard, where she was one of the few women in her class. Ginsburg transferred to Columbia Law School, where she graduated joint first in her class. She became a professor at Rutgers Law School and Columbia Law School, teaching civil procedure as one of the few women in her field.1
Rev. Joanne shares with us an incident in Justice Ginsburg’s life that was formative in her resolve to work toward achieving fairness and equality for women. Her mother died when Ruth was just 17 years old. It has been a long held custom in the Jewish faith that when a person dies a minyan2 ceremony is held. By tradition, only males are permitted at such ceremonies. Ruth was not only unhappy at the death of her mother, but also for not being allowed at the ceremony. The seed for working toward equality for women had been planted.
As her professional legal career progressed, she took interest in cases dealing with equal rights. But she was not focused only on fairness for women, but fairness for everyone. In 1970, while a law professor at Rutgers University, Ginsburg took on a case of a plaintiff Stephen Wisenfeld. Wisenfeld was a widower. His wife died leaving him to care for their minor child alone. He applied for survivor’s benefits from the Social Security Administration and was denied, because he was male. At that time survivorship benefits were restricted to widows – to women. The case made it all the way to the Supreme Court where it became known as Wisenfeld v. Weinberger - so named for Caspar Weinberger, then Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare.
Ginsburg’s legal career was most known for her advocacy for women’s rights - in 1972, Ginsburg co-founded the Women's Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and in 1973, she became the Project's general counsel; the Women's Rights Project and related ACLU projects participated in more than 300 gender discrimination cases by 1974. As an attorney, she ultimately argued six gender discrimination cases before the Supreme Court, winning five of them, but her taking on Wisenfeld v. Weinberger demonstrated her commitment to fairness for all.
From the standpoint of Unity philosophy, working for fairness is axiomatic. Our Five Principles state that we are one with God – all of us:
Unity’s Five Principles
1. There is only one Presence and one Power active as the Universe and in my life. God the Good.
2. Our essence is of God; therefore we are inherently good. This God essence was fully expressed in Jesus, the Christ.
3. We are co-creators with God, creating reality through thoughts held in Mind.
4. Through prayer and meditation, we align our heart-mind with God. Denials and affirmations are tools we use.
5. Through thoughts, words, and actions, we live the Truth we know.
Unity also teaches that everyone each of us has 12 creative powers that are fundamental to us. These are aspects of the nature of the Divine. Once again, all of us. If we are have the same qualities of the Divine, and we hold to the Five Principles, fairness can be the only result.
The Twelve Powers3
Faith - The ability to believe, intuit, and perceive.
Strength - The ability to endure, stay the course, persevere.
Wisdom - The blend of knowledge from the head and heart.
Love - The ability to attract, desire, and unify.
Power - Self-mastery and spiritual presence.
Imagination - The ability to conceptualize and envision a different future.
Understanding - The ability to know, perceive, and apprehend.
Will - The ability to choose, lead, and decide.
Order - The intelligence of the Universe expressing through each of us.
Zeal - The inner flame that burns brightly for all to see.
Elimination/Release - The ability to let go.
Life - The ability to energize and animate.
Very few of us will lead a distinguished public life like Justice Ginsburg. But that does not mean that each and every one of us cannot be a superhero to our community. Whether we know it or not, and whether we like it or not, we influence everyone we encounter in our lives – certainly some to a greater degree than others. We have the opportunity to be an influence on our family, friends, co-workers, and people we encounter just once, such as a retail clerk. Let us be aware of this fact, and always try to be have positive interactions. This is certainly a challenge, but with the help of the Twelve Powers we all have, we become able to live into our Five Principles and become love in action, honoring the Divine within all.
Now Go and Be the Light.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4
This week, consider how the challenges you are facing - be they health, financial, relationships, or career – can be an opportunity for growth. Knowing that with God all things are possible, and that “your Father knows what you need before you ask him,” rest assured that Spirit will provide you the strength and wisdom to transcend whatever you are facing, and emerge stronger and wiser as a result.
1Wikipedia - Ruth Bader Ginsburg - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruth_Bader_Ginsburg
2 A service is conducted by the rabbi and begins with the cutting of a black ribbon to symbolize the individual breaking away from loved ones. If you arrive late, it’s wise to wait for an opportune moment to enter, so as not to disturb the service. The rabbi leads the service and reads the eulogy. A “minyan” (at least 10 Jewish adults, traditionally males) is required to recite prayers.