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A Season for Justice: Defending the Rights of the Christian Home, Church, and School Paperback – June 1, 2002
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About the Author
David French, a graduate of Harvard Law School, specializes in First Amendment, religion clause litigation. A former teacher at Cornell Law School, he currently practices law in Kentucky and serves as Chief Counsel for InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Religious Freedom Crisis Team. He currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky.
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He consistently toys with straw man constructions in this polemic without admitting his faith is that of one hoping for substance unseen. It is not likely this hope will ever be commonly shared by all of humanity.
It is rather interesting to see him start asserting matters of "proof" when engaging a fellow law school student who is gay. Surely, proof is hard come by and an unlikely companion when making such traditional assertions of faith. Many passages in this book begin with the author being "stunned" or being "shocked" at what he observes. This rightly characterizes the emotional basis for both his convictions and the religious ideas he endorses.
Impressionable children weeping their way into a church auditorium fully reveals how dramatically emotional is so much of the faith he espouses. And yet he attempts to portray liberal opponents as similarly locked in into a faith while not recognizing... much of their profound distrust of what he presents as that faith... is based on antagonism to the widely seen religious emotional extremism that he actually describes. He finds grace in such experiences while others of us recoil at the Old Time Religion that drags sinners down the aisle to the "mourners bench."
Emotion may be natural to the human condition but as the basis of religious zeal it has proven to be dangerous throughout history. Such strong emotional responses usually exclude rational and calm discourse. The author paints emotional palettes to advance his ideas while apparently thinking that emotion validates his arguments. A better understanding is that emotion is the basis and content of the religious ideas he celebrates. Emotion validates little or nothing in this context.
Typically, it crowds out facts. Of course, certitude characterizes such intense emotion. Liberals cannot be demonized just because they lack such emotional certainty and such can hardly be described as a "faith". Learning greatly tempers certainty while emotional intensity fosters rigidity. Neither may rise to a "worldview!" Ambiguity may be the nature of the cosmos and is, of course, no friend to rigid, inflexible belief systems. Much more than "civil rights" seems to be involved here. Neither can the issues be simplified as "secular" liberalism versus straight- arrow religious faith. The presence of emotion excludes problem solving. The greater the emotion the less problem solving will occur.
Religious communities that define faith and practice it in terms of emotion are not likely to problem solve. More importantly their emotional intensity creates barriers with others in the larger community who might be willing to problem solve. This is not a matter of a "liberal" faith standing in hard headed opposition to simple religious folk. It is a matter of understanding the lessons of history where zealotry rages.
A second matter needs mention. Those, the author champions and has great affection for, those who deny or distort what we have come to understand about human beings. One might say that the worldview he espouses is a crippled and inadequate view of humanity. The cultural split he alludes to is truly great. His co-religionists continue to insist their worldview is the only accurate view, as it was authored by divinity. No values outside of this worldview can be recognized nor celebrated. This is the magical thinking that is so often considered to be the remarkable religiosity of Americans.
Supportive of the contention that the faith being discussed here is of extreme emotional intensity is this: the constant conditioning of church members with song, prayer, sermon, testimony is not seen as conditioning. In fact, the very idea, if put to religious folk, would be rejected as offensive. Somehow the well-understood conditioning that occurs to all of us at work, at home and in school never happens at church. This is a denial of the first order that thoughtful people, liberal or not, should not ignore. Such a lack of insight should make every thoughtful person wary of many religious affiliations.
The limitations of the author's views are obvious. What may be less obvious is that some religious people seem bent on turning every courthouse, every stadium, every school, every government facility, even private work spaces, into a church. This "handbook" may well help. Some of his more cautious and carefully weighed thoughts may pass unnoticed. They are worth reading as they reveal some underlying conflicts felt by the author. There are signs here that if Americans don't grant this "right" to "share"... as a civil right... religious people will opt out as many are doing.
Does "share" signal a strategy to make converts of the entire majority? Can a mere 8 percent of the population who are evangelicals accomplish this? Whatever the goals, there is no civil right that can protect us from stupidity whether it be from school administrators in Chelmsford , Massachusetts or town administrators in Georgetown, Kentucky.
There was a time when religious folk, the church, were fully in charge...of everything. Do we wish to return to that time...the Middle Ages? Civil rights posed no problem. Sacred law was the measure, the only measure, for all matters.
Mr. French seems to carefully weigh these considerations in his argument especially as a minority religionist, but when push comes to shove, will he attempt to do more than just "share" his faith? Does he not understand there would be no church today, as we understand it, without the political power of a Constantine and others?
Just maybe, as the foundations of faith continue to quake, with faith-based emotion proving inadequate to cope with the modern age, the author will wish government had picked a faith for the state...his!
The author may well be a master of arms in the "culture wars." The reader will find the subtext of this book is that the good and wise are not just being discriminated against but seriously persecuted. As those of his faith seem to portrayed as without blemish or rancor, only an invalid opposing "faith" of distorted origins can explain such negative treatment. It is just possible that more cases could be added to those discussed by the author here.
Unfortunately, as all members of his faith have not been uniformly kind, charitable and loving to others, the unkind feelings generated in others towards them will not abate. Was it not written, somewhere, that one should be mindful "...of the beam in one's own eye..."? While all citizens should have recourse to the law, one might ask what marks authentic faith? Is government to protect all those "...persecuted for righteousness sake..."? Does this stance reflect the early days of this faith?
One last comment. The author discusses the Middle School and homosexuality on pages 52-53. He hesitates to affirm the incident he cites is wide spread. He says without crisply delineating "secular" the following, "Because the content of the program was 'secular,' it was legally acceptable for government officials to use government funds to promote behavior incompatible with evangelical Christianity."
This assertion is nothing short of incredible. How can a Harvard trained consitutional specialist begin to suggest government test all its actions against what evangelicals, Mormons, Moonies, Jehovah Witnesses, Scientologists or any other "recognized" religion deem "behavior incompatible?" Please Mr. French, let's not go there! Maybe this is evidence that we should shear Samson's locks, in a literary sense, lest he pull the temple down on us all?