"Public concern" in Snyder v. Phelps
rs at robertsheridan.com
Thu Mar 3 19:17:56 PST 2011
Dunno how representative it is, but he sure did preach it, for all he was worth, publicly, so I guess he's stuck with it.
There's a biography of him that came out maybe seven or eight years ago that I read at the time with interest because I was interested in the Puritans, what they believed, what made them tick, so to speak, and what became of them. Edwards was portrayed as a family man and head of his local church who got onto the fire and brimstone wagon, perhaps got it started on this side of the Atlantic; attracted a visit from a similarly inclined minister from England. Each of them attracted quite an audience; local preachers weren't so happy because when a visiting fireman comes to town to stir up the folks, it puts the local minister on the back burner for awhile; receipts are down.
What I gathered about Jonathan Edwards was that he was a quintessential man of his time, thoughtful, religious, interested in doing good and seeing that his flock stayed on the straight and narrow; some seemed to stray, so he put the fear of G-d into him to the extent he could by summoning up these verbal pictures of hell and damnation. No problem with that from me, if that's to one's taste.
The movie Elmer Gantry? The ministries sometimes seen on TV, where people come up from the audience to be saved and there are a couple of catchers standing by for the laying on of hands and the resulting collapse of the penitent? That had a start somewhere, and I suspect that Jonathan Edwards helped popularize, if not create, a model followed by others here. They called upstate New York the "burnt over district" because so many fire-and-brimstone preacehers had come through during the Second Great Awakening, early 1800s.
The Scopes "Monkey" Trial? Clarence Darrow vs. Willliam Jennings Bryan? The college-educated, secularist, northeastern elite vs. a deep strain of American fundamental(ist) faith less interested in reason? Evolution v. Creation? This hasn't exactly gone away.
The revival of the religious right post-Goldwater?
Where do you think that came from? This goes waay back.
I'm not saying that Rev. Edwards gets all the credit, but he deserves his fair share.
One of the other interesting things I think I recall accurately is that he was instrumental in either helping to found, or to relocate, the College of New Jersey, from Jersey City (area) to Princeton; his daughter, also if memory serves, married Aaron Burr.
Edwards, in short, was a productive and instrumental part of the weave of his society, not some flaming outlier.
On Mar 3, 2011, at 5:53 PM, Scarberry, Mark wrote:
> That sermon by Jonathan Edwards, though widely reprinted, is not a representative sample of the body of his preaching.
> Mark Scarberry
> From: conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu [mailto:conlawprof-bounces at lists.ucla.edu] On Behalf Of Robert Sheridan
> Sent: Thursday, March 03, 2011 2:08 PM
> To: Marc DeGirolami
> Cc: Volokh, Eugene; ConLawProf
> Subject: Re: "Public concern" in Snyder v. Phelps
> This is exactly the kind of fire and brimstone stuff that the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, noted Puritan minister, reveled in, in sermons to his congregation, calling them doomed sinners; people came from miles around to be held in thrall to the awe of G-d, as a spider held over a fiery pit; the First Great Awakening, I think it's called; there've been others.
> My point is that this was yesterday's mainstream thinking, here, right in the good old pre-USA, which is where FA comes from.
> I wouldn't want to scratch too deep on one of today's supercharged religious folk, not to mention the 72-virgins-in-Paradise folk who issue fatwa's over cartoons.
> Either we put up with a lot of stuff or we don't.
> I think we do.
> It's funny how we don't mind so much when it's someone else's sensibilities that are offended, but we do when it's ours and want to start carving exceptions. Maybe we just have to grin and bear it, or else. And even defend it. I see that the Court noted especially that the signs and pickets were so far from the funeral as to have little, if any, effect. The offense seems to be saying bad things, negative criticism, about America, in the vicinity of a soldier's funeral to maximize exposure for the message. Don't think we're quite there yet in trying to shut that down. Some PR genius has earned his keep with this one.
> On Mar 3, 2011, at 1:27 PM, Marc DeGirolami wrote:
> For me, telling a mother and father (using their own personal names, and addressing them directly) that it’s because of the way that they raised their child that God hates them and their child, that they raised the child for the devil’s uses, that God is now exacting retribution for their own sins, and that their dead child now has flame coming out of his nostrils as a servant of evil, seems rather personal and direct.
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