From the list custodian
aebrownstein at UCDAVIS.EDU
Mon Oct 29 11:21:44 PST 2001
I agree with Eugene that we need to control the way we express ourselves on
the list. I also think Eric's point is a valid and valuable one -- dialogue
between people who strongly disagree and fear each other is important for
I see some utility in people expressing clearly what they fear about their
opponent's position. But I would like to suggest that effective dialogue
may require more than authentically expressing what each of us feels and
fears about the other, although that may be an important first step. I
think it also demands some attempt to stand in the other person's shoes for
a while and then speak to them in ways that are likely to be heard and
understood by the other and to be persuasive to their concerns.
With all respect, and a preemptive apology if this comment is heard as
offensive (since that is certainly not its intent), I do not think Steve or
Eric or Rick's earlier posts about tolerance speak to the other side in
language that is likely to be accepted or persuasive or creating of trust.
They are hardly alone in this regard. I'm sure it is true for more of my
posts than I really want to admit. Nonetheless, I know that if I want to
have a meaningful dialogue with Rick, for example, I have to think a lot
about his world view as well as my own in choosing my words.
Ultimately, I think, distrust only gets dissipated and our expressed
tolerance for others only achieves credibility, when we act in ways that
demonstrate we will incur costs to protect people who believe differently
than we do. For me, that means that if I want people who hold religious
beliefs differently than my own to trust me, I can't only protect their
free exercise rights when they conflict with things I don't really care
about. I have to struggle with the hard cases when the other guy's religion
and other things I care about are in conflict and sometimes I have to be
willing to sacrifice something of value to protect religious liberty.
Similarly, if someone wants me to trust them on issues of religious
tolerance, I need to see some willingness to engage in similar struggles
and accept similar sacrifices of values that are important to them. If my
tolerance of evangelicals or Catholics ends as soon as their religions
conflict with anything I care about, I should not be surprised if they
don't place much reliance on it. Similarly, if evangelical or Catholic
tolerance for Jews or nonbelievers ends whenever there is a conflict with
their beliefs and interests, no one should be surprised when claims of
tolerance are ignored.
This doesn't mean that any of us pledge to sacrifice everything we care
about to promote tolerance of others. It simply means that if we won't
sacrifice anything we value in the name of tolerance, this is too cheap a
virtue to assuage anyone's fears.
At 11:40 AM 10/29/2001 -0600, you wrote:
> I want to express how important this dialogue is. There is a
> deep mutual
>distrust between evangelicals and ACLJ-types and the ACLU-types. Just read
>their fund-raising literature. Both claim that the other side is out to
>thwart their side's cherished liberties. I have never before seen an honest
>dialogue between partisans of the two sides about the nature of this
> It is the underlying distrust, never discussed, never confronted,
>resolved, that generates far more heat than any dialogue we may have here
>over it. I believe that the biggest thing that shapes, drives, and inspires
>the activism of many of us who try to shape the law of religion and
>government (on all sides of the issue) is the underlying distrust we have of
>those of different mindsets. Why not bring those underlying suspicions out
>into the open? I appreciate Prof. Jamar for doing so. Much better for him
>to air his feelings than for him to conceal that which, I suppose, drives
>much of his scholarship. I, like Jamar, want to understand the "other"
> What better way for persons such as Jamar & I to moderate our
> feelings of
>mutal distrust than for us to air it in an open forum?
> Perhaps Eugene, in the role of a counselor, can suggest some
> guidelines for
>turning down the heat (like saying "When you say/advocate this, I feel/fear
>this" rather than positively exaggerating the other side's position) so that
>we can get to some light.
>From: Law & Religion issues for Law Academics
>[mailto:RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu]On Behalf Of Eugene Volokh
>Sent: Monday, October 29, 2001 11:13 AM
>To: RELIGIONLAW at listserv.ucla.edu
>Subject: From the list custodian
> Folks, please, please, please keep things as calm and mellow as
>even when -- especially when -- provoked. It's just much better for
>everyone on the list. I know we all slip from this aspiration; I certainly
>have done so on many occasions; but it is still worth remembering that the
>more we can turn down the heat, the more we're likely to get some light.
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