humility and authority--over and out
Daniel G. Gibbens
dgibbens at UOKNOR.EDU
Sun Feb 9 17:34:35 PST 1997
On Sat, 8 Feb 1997, Fred Gedicks wrote, in part:
> There has been an oddness to this entire exchange. I have agreed from
> the beginning with Mark's doctrinal prescriptions ....
> What I disagreed with was the tone of his posts, his
> supreme confidence that he is absolutely right on this point, even to the
> point of labelling Christian Scientists systematic child-killers, as if CS
> parents somehow intentionally kill their children. ...
> As a member of a religious minority that has come in for its share of
> persecution in American history, few things frighten me more than this
> sense of majoritarian moral infallibility combined with the coercive power
> of government and deployed against religious minorities. That Mark and
> others so strenuously object to suggestions of caution and humility in
> determining whether violating the faith of such minorities is really
> necessary does nothing to allay my fears.
As we seek to improve the quality of our conversation across conflicting
epistemologies, I suspect tone makes significant difference. Fred
Gedicks' reference to religious persecution, as real in our American
history as was human slavery, is a powerful footnote for that insightful
Brandeis phrase, "the occasional tyranny of governing majorities."
I doubt that we are immune from such tyrannies in our day. Could efforts
to improve conversational quality reduce the incidence of such tyrannies?
Reverting once more to truisms, if there is any purpose in the Bill of
Rights in our day, it is in protecting minorities. So happily the
Article III arbiters of religious freedoms are removed one step from the
political majority. But history, e.g., Dred Scott, demonstrates that
Article III cannot be relied on to provide all the protection needed.
Although improving conversational tone, in the cross-epistemology
context, is obviously no panecea either, perhaps it is worth trying and
even evangelizing about. Particularly among law-trained people?
University of Oklahoma College of Law
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