As a general rule, Supreme Court oral arguments are sober-minded affairs with lots of back-and-forth exchanges and legal jousting between the justices and the attorneys representing the plaintiffs and defendants in the case. But every now and again there are light-hearted moments – including at yesterday’s hearing involving an artistic copyright case.
Andy Warhol Foundation v. Goldsmith is a dispute over whether the pop artist violated the federal copyright of a photograph of the musician Prince by using it as the basis of one of his many silkscreened rock prints.
“Let’s say I was a Prince fan,” asked Justice Clarence Thomas. “Which I was in the ‘80s.”
“No longer?” Justice Elena Kagan cut in, eliciting laughter from the courtroom.
“Only on Thursday nights,” quipped Justice Thomas, a remark that brought the house down.
During the same discussion about art and copyright law, Justice Samuel Alito brought up Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa painting. Justice Amy Coney Barrett referenced J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
It makes sense that justices would ask questions or make points by raising references or sharing illustrations from their corner of the world. It’s human nature – and it’s also an intriguing and sometimes telling peek into someone’s loves and life.
From yesterday’s hour-long argument, in addition to learning that Justice Thomas listened to Prince as a younger man, one could reasonably assume that Justice Alito loves classic art – and Justice Coney-Barrett is a fan of classic Christian literature. Of course, all three of those justices inevitably love many other things, too – when it comes to hobbies, few people are singularly-minded. For example, Justice Alito is also a big baseball fan – and a long-suffering Phillies fan, at that.
“To be really happy and really safe,” Winston Churchill once said, “one ought to have at least two or three hobbies, and they must all be real.”
Recreation is a vital part of being a Christian. The very word is derived from the Latin “recreationem” – which means to “recovery from illness.” In other words, recreation helps us refresh ourselves from the burdens and sicknesses of this world.
While Scripture doesn’t prescribe particular hobbies, the apostle Paul’s words to believers at Colossae do provide us with a helpful and even liberating principle to abide by when choosing our outlets and activities.
“And whatever you do, in word or deed,” he wrote, “do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (3:17).
Not surprisingly, attitudes about recreation and leisure amongst Christians can vary. John Wesley, the famed English cleric, once said pointedly, “Leisure and I have parted company. I am resolved to be busy till I die.” I know Christian leaders who refuse to play golf – not because they don’t like it, but because they think it’s too time consuming. Others find it restorative.
We need to respect people’s personal convictions when it comes to leisure, but truth be told, we all need it in some form or fashion.
But how we spend our time matters. Where we go, what we do and what we expend our resources on is a reflection of our priorities and our passions. As the old adage goes, our actions are a much better reflection of our true beliefs than our words.
What are your hobbies – and do they bring honor and glory to God? Do they refresh and reinvigorate you for His service? How do you spend your free time? Who do you spend it with?
“Our leisure, even our play, is a matter of serious concern,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “There is no neutral ground in the universe: every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counterclaimed by Satan.”