Review: Communication and Conflict Resolution: A Biblical Perspective

The Domain for Truth

Stuart Scott. Communication and Conflict Resolution: A Biblical Perspective. Bemidji, MN: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, July 10th 2005. 36 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Amazon

Need to work on your communication and conflict resolution skill biblically?  This booklet by Stuart Scott a professor of biblical counseling might be what you are looking for.  Don’t let the size of this pamphlet deceive you; there’s a lot of helpful materials found in its pages and I personally took a few weeks of slowly digesting it and taking lots of notes when I read it.

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An argument for freedom of conscience (1661) part 2 (with comments)

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9. Because, to force, is inconsistent with the Belief of the Jews Conversion (and other false worshippers) which is prayed for by the Publick Teachers, and cannot be attained, if Persecution for Conscience be prosecuted.

CommentThe thrust of this argument seems to be as follows: You pray for actual conversion (such as prayer for the Jews to be converted). Yet, by forcing conscience you are not obtaining conversion (which is what you claim) but rather sin (which is what you should avoid). Thus, your conduct contradicts your prayers.

10. Because, they that impose upon men’s Consciences, exercise Dominion over men’s Faith, which the Apostles denied, saying, they had not Dominion over any men’s Faith.

Comment: This is based upon a passage from Paul in his second letter to Corinth: 2 Corinthians 1:24 (AV) “Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.” The argument thus runs, 

You do not have more authority in ecclesiastical matters than Paul.

Paul did not “lord over” the faith of others.

Therefore, you may not lord over the faith of others. 

Again the argument is that you are being the hypocrite in your supposed effort to be a good Christin.

11. Because, Imposition upon mens Consciences necessitates them to sin, in yeelding a Conformity contrary to their own faith: for whatsoever is not of a mans own faith, is sin.

Comment: This is from Paul’s letter to the Romans: Romans 14:23 (AV) “And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.” Paul was writing about those who believed that eating meat would be a sin. Since the matter was an issue upon which there could be a difference of conscience, forcing the conscience of another man would be force that man to sin.

The response to this argument would be, Yes, but you hold opinions upon which there may be no difference of opinion.

12. Because, that Imposition and force wrestles with flesh and blood, and Carnal weapons, which is contrary to the Apostles Doctrine, who said, Our Weapons are not Carnal, but Spiritual, and mighty through God: and we wrestle not with flesh and bloud.

Comment: This argument draws on two separate passages from Paul. The first is from 2 Corinthians 10. In this passage, Paul explains that the resistance to his gospel is ultimately not a matter of other human beings but of spiritual conflict: it is a battle of spiritual matters, a battle of ideas, not a battle of “flesh and blood”:

2 Corinthians 10:1–6 (AV) 

Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ, who in presence am base among you, but being absent am bold toward you: But I beseech you, that I may not be bold when I am present with that confidence, wherewith I think to be bold against some, which think of us as if we walked according to the flesh. For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled.

The second passage is from Ephesians 6 and concerns “spiritual warfare”:

Ephesians 6:10–12 (AV) 

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in highplaces

The argument is thus, you claim to be concerned with a spiritual conflict, a spiritual matter. If this is so, then you are to use “spiritual weapons” (truth, faith, peace, et cetera).

Now the Court of Charles II was remarkably debauched.  The concern was not with true piety but rather political expedience. 

An argument for freedom of conscience, 1661 (part 1, with comments)

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The following is a remarkable document from 1661, which was presented onto Parliament in England and which seeks for religious tolerance for everyone. Moreover, it is supported in points by statements made by the Stuart kings (James & Charles) It was presented within one year of restoration of Charles II in May 1600. The men who published the document were Quakers. 

The document is written in the form of a series of short propositions. Following the propositions, I will provide a brief comment and try to follow the movement of their (often ingenious) argument. 

I have also modernized the spelling in places.

The title page reads:

Liberty of Conscience ASSERTED, And SEVERAL REASONS RENDRED, Why no Outward Force, nor Imposition, ought to be used in Matters of Faith and Religion: With several SAYINGS, Collected from the Speeches and Writings of KING JAMES, And KING CHARLES the First.

John Crook

Samuel Fisher

Francis Howgill

Richard Hubberthorne.


Acts 5. 38, 39.

Now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this Counsel, or this Work, be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, you cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found fighters against God.

This was delivered into the hands of the Members of both Houses of Parliament, the last day of the Third Month, 1661.

London, Printed for Robert Wilson, in Martins Le Grand, 1661.

Liberty of Conscience Asserted, &c.

LIBERTY of CONSCIENCE ought to be allowed in the days of the Gospel in the free Exercise of it to God-ward (without Compulsion) in all things relating to His Worship, for these Reasons following.

Comment:  The liberty asserted is liberty of conscience with respect to religious practice. The argument is premised upon specifically Christian considerations.  There is an interesting phrase, “in the days of the Gospel.” It is unclear whether the authors are referencing all of the time after Christ, or whether they mean a specific period within recent history. If so, the reference would be post-reformation, and likely post-Mary with a knowledge of the Marian suppression of Protestantism. 

1. Because the General and Universal Royal Law of Christ Commands it Matt. 7. 12. All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the Law and Prophets. That which every man would have and receive from another, he ought by Christ’s Rule to give and allow it to another. But every man is willing to have the Liberty of his own Conscience, Therefore ought to allow it to another.

Comment: Here they give a ground for freedom of conscience: (1) It is grounded in a command of Christ. They define this command as “general” and “royal”. By general, it is a law which would apply to all persons and all places. By being “royal” it would be supreme. In addition, the phrase “royal law” coupled to “liberty” is used in James 2:

James 2:8–13 (AV) 

If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty. 13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment. 

While the text does deal specifically with the point raised, linguistically the combination of “royal law” and “law of liberty” is suggestive.

(2) This is an argument which goes to the moral weight of being a human being: You must be protected in your freedom of conscience because you are a human being. This remains true even if I believe you are wrong. 

This is remarkable change from what has been the case in much of human history. When it comes to religion, the belief has typically been that the religious coherence of everyone in the group is necessary to protect the group. If you antagonize a god, we all may be in danger. 

Notice also that your practice may be gravely offensive to me. 

2. Because, No man can persuade the Conscience of another, either what God is, or how he should be worshipped, but by the Spirit, which God hath given to instruct man in the ways of Truth.

Comment: The rationale here is again explicitly Christian. This one takes a somewhat different tack: Rather than argue from the dignity of a human being, this one argues from the work of God. Rather than seeing religion as merely the outward working of a rite, or a publicly approved confession, it is a primarily an inward matter. 

3. Because, All Obedience or Service that is obtained by force, is for fear of Wrath, and not from Love, nor for Conscience sake; and therefore will but continue so long as that fear or force abides upon them.

Comment: This again argues to the fact of subjective conversion: You can make someone engage in a behavior or say as word. What is the value of that? You have not really gained their heart or mind. As soon as they can escape the tyranny, they will. 

4. Because, That by forcing, No man can make a Hypocrite to be a true Believer; but on the contrary, many may be made Hypocrites.

Comment: This turns the religious conformity argument on its head. To be a hypocrite is to falsely profess a faith. You do not really believe X, you are mere pretender. Well then, if you goal is coerce conduct in public, you can do so. But, you cannot argue that you giving honor to God because such conduct can only have the effect of creating one is in greater rebellion against God.

This raises the stakes: Are you truly seeking to honor God or to obtain political power? You can get one, but not other by coercion.

5. Because, That in all forced Impositions upon men’s Consciences there is something of the Wrath of man exercised, which works not the Righteousness of God, but rather begets Enmity in the heart one towards another.

Comment: This argument takes up the argument of point 4 and then enlarges the sphere of sin. You not only make the man coerced a worse sinner, you are actually sinning yourself when you coerce another. This argument comes from James 1:20, “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” You are provoking anger in another which is sinful in you. Thus, you cannot coerce religion in the name of God without becoming the enemy of God.

You are also increasing the sum-total of sin by creating enmity between men. 

6. Because, that by forcing any thing upon men’s Consciences, as to matters of Faith and Worship, many are hardened in their hearts against the things imposed; when as otherwise, through Love and gentle Instructionstheir hearts might be persuaded to willing Obedience.

Comment: Continuing in the line of argument that you are actually working against God in your attempt to force religious compliance, he uses the argument that forcing another results in their being unwilling to hear your case. Perhaps you are making a good point, but who will hear when your crushing their liberty?

This creates an interesting move in this overall argument. In point 2 above, he states that true faith will be ultimately a work of God. Therefore, being a work of God, how can someone be persuaded without compromising God’s sovereignty in the work? A resolution of this conflict can be seen by understanding that there are matters upon Christian must agree: those are matters determined by the Spirit of God that God is and is to be worshipped. But, there may be matters which are more open to variation. This will followed upon in point 8, below.

7. Because, That Persecution for Conscience contradicteth Christ’s Charge, Matt. 13. who bids, that the Tares(or false worshippers) be suffered to grow together in the Field(or World) till the Harvest (or End of the World.)

8. Because, Force is contrary to the End for which it is pretended to be used (viz.) the preservation and safety of the Wheat, which End is not answered by Persecution,because the Wheat is in danger to be plucked up thereby, as Christ saith.

Comment: These two points should be seen together. In Matthew 13, Jesus tells a parable of a farmer who planted his field in wheat. In the evening, an enemy also planted seeds of a plant which looked almost identical to wheat. As the plants grow, it can be difficult if not impossible to tell the difference.  The farmer forbids his servants from try to separate the wheat and the weeds so that they don’t accidentally destroy the crop. 

Jesus says this is the nature of the Church: it will contains wheat and weeds. It will be very difficult to tell them apart. Therefore, not until the end will there be a separation of the two. The Church will always involve this confusion. If you, even if you are right, seek to tear out every weed may find that you are also tearing out wheat. 

The argument is again: You cannot coerce another’s conscience as a Christian without contradicting your claim to be a Christian.

Thinking of the World in the Light of the Knowledge of God’s Providence

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In commenting upon Psalm 16:8, “I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken” Calvin writes

We must look to him with other eyes than those of the flesh, for we shall seldom be able to perceive him unless we elevate our minds above the world; and faith prevents us from turning our back upon him. The meaning, therefore, is, that David kept his mind so intently fixed upon the providence of God, as to be fully persuaded, that whenever any difficulty or distress should befall him, God would be always at hand to assist him. He adds, also, continually, to show us how he constantly depended upon the assistance of God, so that, amidst the various conflicts with which he was agitated, no fear of danger could make him turn his eyes to any other quarter than to God in search of succour. And thus we ought so to depend upon God as to continue to be fully persuaded of his being near to us, even when he seems to be removed to the greatest distance from us. When we shall have thus turned our eyes towards him, the masks and the vain illusions of this world will no longer deceive us.

This is an interesting thing: God is the context in which I understand the world and it’s dealings. He is not claiming an esoteric knowledge, because he is looking at world in terms of providence not a prophetic word. It is an interpretative presupposition through which to understand what is taking place.

This makes sense then of how we can continue to believe God is directing events even when God seems absent. If we begin with the presupposition of God’s Providence at all times, we can persist in the confidence even when things do seem lacking in control. It is a sort of mental habit.

This is not to say he is here denying the work of God for it is God who is acting through Providence and God maintains the discipline of the thought and its resulting effect, “he constantly depended upon the assistance of God.”

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton.3

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Footfalls echo in the memory

Down the passage which we did not take

Towards the door we never opened 

Into the rose-garden.

I, lines 11-14.

Having raised the question of “what might have been” (from line 6), Eliot takes us into that “might have been”. In these lines he traces out how we get from “the present.” 

Since we are traveling there, his description of this place here takes on a new depth of meaning. In line 7, it is an “abstraction”; thus it has some substance as an idea. In line 8, it is remaining and “a perpetual possibility.” At first read, it is easy to take “remaining a perpetual possibility” to be 

Thus, there is a reality to the “might have been.”

Here, beginning in line 11, there is a movement from the present to this “abstraction” which is remaining perpetually

We can confirm this is the event which did not happen in verse 12, “Down the passage which we did not take.” This is the thing which did not happen.

The passage creates a hurried movement: It begins with “footfalls echo”. There is a sense of someone walking, but only as heard. That would intimate the walking is taking place nearby but out of sight. 

That place is then defined as “Down the passage”. Next comes “towards the door”. The use of “towards” rather than near, creates the sense of movement. 

The door opens onto a rose-garden. 

The speed is created by the inability to ever see who is walking. We hear the sound and move to the passage. But when we get to the passage, the sound is now moving toward the door. And as soon as we recognize the door, it has opened onto a rose garden. The effect is mesmerizing. 

The place of all of this is the memory: There was a place we did not go, a door we did not open, a garden we had not visited. 

This then makes for a bit of a paradox: If it is a memory it is something which did not happen. But, this never happened. Memory could be, “I remember seeing a passage I did not take.” But the memory cannot hear footfalls which never echoed. 

This would then, (1) this is a memory of a constructed event. There is a place which he has returned more than once: he thought of what would have happened had he opened the door to the rose garden. He is now remembering his “speculation.” (2) 
“Memory” is a trick: he is experiencing this construction as if it were a memory. By constructing what never happened, he is pretending that it did happen in fact. 

                        My words echo

Thus, in your mind.

The plot becomes stranger: The footfalls which echoed are now the words which echo – not in my memory, but your mind. We have now entered into an extraordinarily intimate space: His memory of this door never opened are words – were these words never spoken? Are these words now being spoken? Was there an event which did not happen and of which they both spoke?

Does this mean, “You remember our conversation, when I told you of how I did not go into the rose garden?” For the poet, the memory is of the walking through the door. For “you” (whoever that might be), it is my words about that.

It is unclear what words are issue: Is the poems the words which now echo in memory, but stirring up memory?

Whatever is happening, the rather abstraction discussion of time in the first lines has moved the most intimate of spaces, a shared memory of what did not happen. 

Since this memory of not happening is being rehearsed, it seems to anticipate a regret. 

Burnt Norton.2 (“a perpetual possibility”)

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Burnt Norton.2

The Persistence of Memory, Dali, 1931

The prior post on this poem is found here

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation. 

What might have been and what has been

Point to one end, which is always present.

Prosody

It appears he is structuring the lines around beat and alliteration. I may be off here, but there is not a regular meter like iambs. The basic line seems to be built off the Old English alliterative four beat line.

TIME PREsent and TIME PAST

Four beats, the T and P repeated

are both PERhaps PREsent in TIME FUTure

The T and F from the first line as well as the P.

This scheme is not cared with perfect fidelity to the alliteration. For instance line 8:

ONly in WORLD of SPECulAtion. 

We can get four accents but no alliteration in the line. It would be possible to read this instead as a third beat line. 

Notes:

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Only in a world of speculation. 

“What might have been” is the item under consideration. He then defines it by three characteristics:

First, it is an “abstraction”. It is an abstraction in both senses: It is abstracted,that is set apart from all else It has no connection with the tangible world. Second, it is an idea without tangible substance. 

Second, it remains always and only a “possibility.” It had an opportunity to have come into existence, but it did not. It never matures from that place. 

What might have been is an abstraction

Remaining a perpetual possibility

Third, it remains in “a world of speculation.” Access to this “might have been” is available only through speculative thought. It has a real existence, but only as a speculation. I can gain access to this “might have been” by thinking it; but it never moves from that space.

What might have been and what has been 

Point to one end, which is always present.

This takes some consideration: Why the addition of “might have been” to what has been? Here he says that might have been and what has been point together to this one point: the present. 

The actual past makes sense as pushing a direction to the present. But how does the might of have been participate in this? 

Since there is an abstract, speculative existence for might have been, we can’t say that it has no existence; only, no tangible existence. 

He is going to develop this “might have been” more as the poem develops, but let’s consider here what it could be. The “might have been” while not have a historical effect outside of my thinking has a profound effect upon me.

Might have been can be the source of enormous regret and loss. But it can also be a ground for thankfulness on tragedy avoided. The might have been is “remaining a perpetual possibility”. When we think of how a might have been actually effects us, that line “remaining a perpetual possibility” grows larger. I am constantly being affected by this perpetual possibility. It is always there.

And this potential acting upon me, and all that has actually occurred have conspired and I am here at this one point, in the present. 

A Draft Brief on the Importance of the Court Protecting Freedom of Speech and Religion

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I am currently working on a brief in a federal case involving the Virginia Values Act. This is a law whose effect is to require some to photograph a same sex wedding or sell book which advocates a particular sexual morality even when it conflicts with their religion to do so. Since the refusal in this instance is certainly the unpopular position (the law was made by the elected officials, which makes this the majority position), and since it would be surprising that some (or all) of the judges or their clerks would think a religious objection to bigoted if not immoral, it is necessary first to explain the importance of protecting these people and their opinions, even if the majority of the public and even if the judge (or clerk) believes otherwise. The First Amendment is put in place specifically to protect that which “we” find abhorrent.

We should also remember that freedom of speech and freedom of religion function when it is protected for all of us. If the government, at my request, has the power to shut down your speech, tomorrow the government will have the power to shut down my speech.

(This is a draft, so there will typos, missing words, and such. If anyone is kind enough to offer criticism, such as I don’t understand this sentence, please do. This also is not the entire argument. It is merely a preface.)

IT IS THE DUTY OF THIS COURT TO PROTECT THE INTERESTS OF AMICI PRECISELY BECAUSE THEIR BELIEFS ARE NOT THE MAJORITY POSITION

         When any two human beings come together in any sort of society, there will be things upon which they disagree[1]. When those disagreements are trivial, a preference for chartreuse over forest green, the disagreement is tolerated if it is noted at all. 

         The trivial warrants no response and thus causes no conflict nor needs any protection. 

         However, when we move to matters of greater concern, matters of religion, of politics, those matters which make us human by which we define ourselves[2], we find the grace of overlooking a distinction or even civil toleration difficult.

         In matter of impiety, Socrates must be sentenced to death. When one’s dignity is assaulted, Hamilton must die at Burr’s gun. When tribes differ in religion, war erupts. When politics clash, the entire world can plunged into war on all sides. And should political distinctions arise within a country, dissidents are “disappeared.” 

         Matters of human sexuality touch upon all these points at once[3]. It is undisputed by anyone that human sexual plays a fundamental point in religions. Buddhist monks are monks[4]. A man in Mali may have multiple wives[5], and a Roman Catholic priest in Italy may have none. The male priests of Cybele in the Roman Empire castrated themselves and dressed as women[6]. The ancient Hebrews were forbidden to dress as the opposite sex[7]. Shakers lived in a communal life; but also lived celibate lives[8]

         That human beings choose among these variations and far more is undisputed. It is also undisputed that the human beings who make these determinations do so honestly and in good faith. They believe that their personal good and the good of the society in which they live in part depends upon their moral decisions in the matter of sexuality[9]

         Moreover, the belief held by various people seem to be undisputable and matters of common sense. Even matters upon which we all hold to abhorrent and criminal are matters upon which others have disagreed. Pedophilia was tolerated among the Roman aristocracy. Moreover, the glorious history of the city of Rome included the kidnap and rape of the Sabine women. In our recent history, the members of Isis under the guise religion approved kidnap, rape, and slavery of women. Slavery was shamefully tolerated in the United States for nearly 100 years of nation (and longer when we count it in the colonies). Aztecs worshipped their god by murdering parents before children so that they could murder the child while the child was weeping. 

         How then will we resolve these matters? Our options range between (enforced) conformity of opinion and conduct or civil toleration. All decisions will entail a combination of both: conformity here, toleration there.

         We in America demand conformity among everyone in agreeing that pedophilia, kidnapping, rape, slavery, murder are utterly abhorrent and not to be tolerated under any circumstances. (And rightly so.) Our civil tolerance turns upon the concept of consent: a child does not consent; the victim of rape does not consent. 

         And while consent is the moral boundary which marks our degree of civil toleration when it comes to conduct; there is no need for consent when it comes to opinion. Indeed we hold that one may advocate for these matters provided they do not result in the conduct.[10]

         When it comes to what I think, believe, hold dear, or despise; I do not need your consent, nor do you need mine. I will make my decision about such things; you will make yours. The government will not become involved unless you infringe upon my conduct and either coerce or prevent me from making my own decision in such matters. 

         Only where your belief results in violence to my body or property will the government will the government impose itself. As Thomas Jefferson stated the principle, which has been repeatedly found in the law:

The error seems not sufficiently eradicated, that the operations of the mind, as well as the acts of the body, are subjects to the coercion of the laws. But our rulers can have authority over such natural rights only as we have submitted to them. The rights of conscience we never submitted, we could not submit. We are answerable for them to our God. The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.

(Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of VirginiaQuery XVII, “Religion”)

         It is the resolution which we have reached in matters of religion and politics. The European wars between Roman Catholics and Protestants during the Colonial Period of America and the religious wars which are taking place in our time in many places do not have a place in America. In some other country, the people may take up weapons over opinion and religion. In our country, these things cannot be matters of war. It the job of the government is to keep the peace and permit both sides to hold vigorously disputed and contradictory position. 

         This toleration does not mean that each individual feels happy about that toleration. We each, confirmed in the commonsense and moral goodness of our own position, think those who disagree to be either mad or immoral. Thus, the temptation always arises to seek an imposition of conformity to our position. 

         That desire for conformity and the rejection of that conformity is made in good faith; it is made honestly. Should you and I disagree, we will seek to rescue the other from error (and from the concomitant danger to our society)[11]. If enough agree with me or with you, we will go to the legislature and demand a law prohibiting the exhibition of this dangerous, offensive position. 

         That is the nature of the world. Laws prohibiting blasphemy and lese majeste are not uncommon in history. The State Department has published advisements about current laws prohibiting blasphemy[12] and lèse majesté[13] around the world. The laws are always popular: A majority constituency is always pleased[14].

         And if it were not for the independence of the judiciary, such laws would be promulgated and enforced throughout this country. But there are courts: these courts were put into place precisely because the temptation to maximize conformity to the general will always be the most popular to reach a psychological state of comfort for the greatest number of people. 

         This is not to deny that the psychological state is a good. The distress that an honest adherent feels by those who disagree may be profound. It does feel degrading to hear and see those who disagree do so publicly.[15]

         But, however important that psychological well-being, even the psychological well-being of the greatest number, and however much the individual judge in personal life sympathizes with one-side in the debate, the duty remains that the individual having donned a robe and taken an oath has the obligation to protect the speech and religion of those whom the judge personally finds repellant. 

         As Justice Stevens wrote, “[T]he federal courts — and particularly this Court — have a primary obligation to protect the rights of the individual that are embodied in the Federal Constitution.” ( Harris v. Reed, 489 U.S. 255, 267 (1989), Stevens, J., concurring; Cobell v. Norton 212 F.R.D. 14, 20, (D.D.C. 2002) [“ the Court is mindful of its obligation to protect the free speech rights of defendants.”])

         Moreover, “The Constitution promises liberty to all within its reach, a liberty that includes certain specific rights that allow persons, within a lawful realm, to define and express their identity.” (Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2593) That is not a liberty which ends merely because you do not like or approve my identity, or because you find my identity, my opinions, or beliefs wrong. And where the political process will not act to protect fundamental rights to speech, to religion, it is the duty of the court to protect those rights even for those whose beliefs and opinions do repel the majority:

The dynamic of our constitutional system is that individuals need not await legislative action before asserting a fundamental right. The Nation’s courts are open to injured individuals who come to them to vindicate their own direct, personal stake in our basic charter. An individual can invoke a right to constitutional protection when he or she is harmed, even if the broader public disagrees and even if the legislature refuses to act.

(Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2605.). The issues raised by the Virginia Values Act (the “VVA”) concern not merely speech and religion, but speech and religion which touches upon the most fundamental values as human beings and fundamental rights as those within the protection of the Constitution. As Justice Kennedy explained in arguing that same-sex marriage was protected by the constitution:

[T]he right to personal choice regarding marriage is inherent in the concept of individual autonomy. This abiding connection between marriage and liberty is why Loving invalidated interracial marriage bans under the Due Process Clause. See 388 U.S., at 12, 87 S.Ct. 1817 ; see also Zablocki, supra, at 384, 98 S.Ct. 673 (observing Loving held “the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals”). Like choices concerning contraception, family relationships, procreation, and childrearing, all of which are protected by the Constitution, decisions concerning marriage are among the most intimate that an individual can make. See Lawrence, supra, at 574, 123 S.Ct. 2472. Indeed, the Court has noted it would be contradictory “to recognize a right of privacy with respect to other matters of family life and not with respect to the decision to enter the relationship that is the foundation of the family in our society.” Zablocki, supra, at 386, 98 S.Ct. 673.

(Obergefell v. Hodges, 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2599 (2015).) The VVA (as applied to Amici) seeks not merely to give space to one opinion but to foreclose all others. The constitutional privileges and obligations of the courts which led to Obergefell establishing a right to same-sex marriage, likewise give protection to those who disagree with the decision, whose religious beliefs or conscience conclude differently. Indeed, the very importance and sensitivity of the subject and the importance to all involved is precisely why this Court must protect those interests:

As Stromberg and Lovell demonstrate, there are some purported interests — such as a desire to suppress support for a minority party or an unpopular cause, or to exclude the expression of certain points of view from the marketplace of ideas — that are so plainly illegitimate that they would immediately invalidate the rule. The general principle that has emerged from this line of cases is that the First Amendment forbids the government to regulate speech in ways that favor some viewpoints or ideas at the expense of others. See Bolger v. Youngs Drug Products Corp., 463 U.S. 60, 65, 72 (1983); Consolidated Edison Co. v. Public Service Comm’n, 447 U.S. 530, 535-536 (1980); Carey v. Brown, 447 U.S. 455, 462-463 (1980); Young v. American Mini Theatres, Inc., 427 U.S. 50, 63-65, 67-68 (1976) (plurality opinion); Police Department of Chicago v. Mosley, 408 U.S. 92, 95-96 (1972).

(City Council v. Taxpayers for Vincent, 466 U.S. 789, 804 (1984)) In the act of protecting the minority position, the Court protects the dignity of those persons as human beings:  “our basic concept of the essential dignity and worth of every human being — a concept at the root of any decent system of ordered liberty. ” (Dun & Bradstreet, Inc. v. Greenmoss Builders, Inc. (1985) 472 U.S. 749, 769 [citation and internal quotation marks removed])

         This dignity is upheld by means of the Court prohibiting the political branches from forbidding certain opinions and dictating others. In fact, by forbidding restrictions on speech – even unpopular speech — the Court upholds the legitimacy of the political branches by maintaining the democratic and republican ideals. 

         First, where citizens conclude that they cannot speak, that they cannot influence, they will begin to conceive of the government not as representative of them but as a tyranny that rules over them. 

         Second, the presupposition of a democratic system is that you have the same moral value as me: we are “created equal” and have equal merit to voice our opinions and give our vote. To the extent we have the power to shut-up or shut-down our fellow citizens using the power of the government, we undermine the legitimacy of the government. 

         Third, it protects the right to hear ideas with which I currently disagree:

The constitutional guarantee of free speech “serves significant societal interests” wholly apart from the speaker’s interest in self-expression. F irst National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti, 435 U.S. 765, 776 (1978). By protecting those who wish to enter the marketplace of ideas from government attack, the First Amendment protects the public’s interest in receiving information. See Thornhill v. Alabama, 310 U.S. 88, 102 (1940); Saxbe v. Washington Post Co., 417 U.S. 843, 863-864 (1974) (POWELL, J., dissenting).

Pacific Gas Elec. Co. v. Public Util. Comm’n (1986) 475 U.S. 1, 8. It is because the issues raised by this appeal are of such importance to the people on all sides that the Court’s obligation is to make room for speech and religion (even if we will hear things which distress us):

If the topic of debate is, for example, racism, then exclusion of several views on that problem is just as offensive to the First Amendment as exclusion of only one. It is as objectionable to exclude both a theistic and an atheistic perspective on the debate as it is to exclude one, the other, or yet another political, economic, or social viewpoint

Rosenberger v. Rector & Visitors of University of Virginia (1995) 515 U.S. 819, 831. The First Amendment is offended when anyone is kept from “marketplace”.

         It is that public marketplace, unregulated by the government (in almost all circumstances) that provides the response to those who readily support the law in question. Rather than obtaining government power to forbid my opponent to speak, the sides are to go to their fellow citizens (however much they think the other wrong) and persuade them. Likewise, they can both go to the public and persuade them: Do not patronize that photographer, do not buy books from that publisher, do not hire that painter, because they advocate things which should offend us all. 

         But the government may not do so. 

         The parties herein before the Court contend that the Virginia Values Act, however well meaning, however good for the greatest number, is also precisely the sort of law – when applied to these parties – which offends against the Constitution and which this Court has no choice but to strike down as applied to appellant and as applied to these amici of the Court. 


[1] The literature upon conflict, tolerance, social organization is immense. Plato and Aristotle, opined on the issue. Hammurabi and the Bible law out rules for what may and may not be done or thought. The issues at stake involve political theory, law, psychology (individual and social), et cetera. To provide an example of some contemporary overview of these issues as involved with legal one could perhaps start here: Pluralism and the Law, ed. Arend Soeteman and editor First Name editor Last Name or author special case (Dordrecht: Springer International Publishing, 2001), 1.

[2] “Finding oneself is a misnomer: a self is not found but made.” Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence(Harper Collins: New York 1972), 785 *****

[3] See, e.g., Carole M. Cusack, ed., Religion, Sexuality, and Spirituality: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies(New York: Routledge, 2016), 1; Mark Jordan, “Spiritual, Sexual—and Religious?,” Harvard Divinity Bulletin (Autumn/Winter 2019), https://bulletin.hds.harvard.edu/spiritual-sexual-and-religious/.

[4] Soko Morinaga, “Celibacy: The View of a Zen Monk from Japan,” Vatican, accessed July 15, 2021, https://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cclergy/documents/rc_con_cclergy_doc_01011993_zen_en.html.

[5] Stephanie Kramer, “Polygamy Is Rare Around the World and Mostly Confined to a Few Regions,” Pew Research, December 7, 2020, https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/12/07/polygamy-is-rare-around-the-world-and-mostly-confined-to-a-few-regions/.

[6] Benedikt Eckhardt, “Meals in the Cults of Cybele and Attis,” in The Eucharist – Its Origins and Contexts, ed. David Hellholm and Dieter Sänger, vol. 3, Near Eastern and Graeco-Roman Traditions, Archeology (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2017), 1779-94.

[7] Deuteronomy 22:5.

[8] Erin Blakemore, “There Are Only Two Shakers Left in the World,” Smithsonian Magazine, January 6, 2017, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/there-are-only-two-shakers-left-world-180961701/.

[9] “Decision” herein means one’s moral valuation of human sexuality. No inference is made that one chooses their sexual desires as one would choose a pair of shoes. Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) 135 S. Ct. 2584, 2596 (“ Only in more recent years have psychiatrists and others recognized that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable.”)

[10] See for example, The Atlantic at least obliquely raised a question about mandatory reporting laws for child pornography (Alice Dreger, “What Can Be Done About Pedophilia?” The Atlantic, August 26, 2013, https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2013/08/what-can-be-done-about-pedophilia/279024/.) And the substance of the article was responded to by The National Review (Wesley Smith, “Normalizing Pedophila 2,” The National Review, August 27, 2013, https://www.nationalreview.com/human-exceptionalism/normalizing-pedophilia-2-wesley-j-smith/) The government permitted speech which would be at troubling to many and perhaps overwhelmingly unthinkable to others. The government then permitted a response. We could provide examples pertaining to slavery and racism.

[11] “We see this in the fact that things which were borne for centuries are now declared to be unbearable ….It is tempting for those out of sympathy with this turn to see it simply in the light of illusions; to see authenticity, or the affirmation of sensuality, as simply egoism and the pursuit of pleasure, for example; or to see the aspiration to self-expression exclusively in the light of consumer choice. It is tempting on the other side for proponents of the turn to affirm the values of the new ideal as though they were unproblematic, cost-free and could never be trivialized. Both see the turn as a move within a stable, perennial game. For the critics, it involves the embracing of vices which were and are the main threats to virtue; for the boosters, we have reversed age-old forms which were and are mode of oppression.” Charles Taylor, A Secular Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2007), 480.

[12] https://www.osac.gov/Content/Report/8a3d7716-5743-4f14-b430-195206ddb577

Security Alert: Peshawar (Pakistan), Online Threats Against Religious Minorities, ‘Blasphemers’

8/2/2020

[13] “Lèse Majesté: Watching what you say (and type) abroad” 8/29/2019 | Report  OSAC Analysis

https://www.osac.gov/Content/Report/e48a9599-9258-483c-9cd4-169f9c8946f5

[14] Rousseau, general will

[15]  It must be noted that such psychological distress is mutual. The sides have each issued an anathema upon the other. Each side sincerely believes the other benighted. And each side can justify the infliction of psychological distress upon the other with the justification that the other “deserves” to feel bad. 

T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton.1

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T.S. Eliot is a poet who requires slow, careful consideration. His poems in the small volume Four Quartets are fascinating. I have had some realization from this or that part, but I have never taken the time to truly understand the poems. And thus, I will parade my ignorance as I think this through, beginning with the opening lines of Burnt Norton.

The title itself refers to an English Manor. It seems that it got its name “burnt” due to the drunken depression of a former owner. William Keyt married Anne. However, a dalliance with Anne’s maid Molly, resulted in Keyt losing his wife. It seems he built quite a house nearby for Molly. According to a story in the Daily Mail (which includes some fine pictures of the house), “In 1741, abandoned by Molly and after days spent drinking, he set fire to the new house, which was destroyed, killing him with it. The fire was so powerful that one side of the original house was also scorched, hence the property became known as Burnt Norton.”

Mr. Eliot spent time at this property and named this poem after the same. The poem begins:

Time present and time past 

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. 

If all time is eternally present

All time is unredeemable.

He starts here with these abstractions on time as if time were a substantial thing that could segregated: First, there is time present. Now time is a curious thing because it has no existence as just their: rather it denotes a relationship between things. And just like space, I can only occupy one “time” at a time. 

So we have now. 

We also have past, that is what has gone on before. But in what way to do we have past time: as a memory? In its present effects?

And if the past is affecting the present, then it must be true that the present – when we come to the future — will then be past and will then have its effect upon the future (which will then be present). 

Note the use of the word “present” in the second line: It denotes a certain relationship: Object X is present with Object Y: there is a proximity to it. Past and present time are there each in proximity to time future. 

But as soon as they are in proximity to time future, the future is no longer “future”, it is now the “present” and the present we began with is now past. .

And so when present and past are “present” with the future, the future is now present and the present is now past. 

We need also consider, in what way are the past and present “present” with the future? Does he mean that they are somehow substantial entities that can in this or that place, as if there were a box labeled “time present” which was carted to time future? 

But as soon as a moment is past it is unretrievable. 

Or does he mean that the movement of time is the movement of potentialities or causation over time? I drop a ball in the present which then bounces in the “future”: without the present action of dropping there would be future action of bouncing. 

There is also a tentativeness of the whole, “perhaps present”: has not necessarily arrived at his conclusion, just a potentiality. 

Then he turns the analysis around: If the past and present are “present” with the future, is the future already there in some manner in the past? When I drop the ball, the falling and bouncing – both in the future – are already in a manner determined. The future is already contained in the past: it is there present, even though not fully unpacked:

And time future contained in time past.

Then if the future is already there in the past, has there been any movement? There then is no real past or future, since each is present in the other. This leaves us with an eternal present:

If all time is eternally present

This whole movement of thought is ambiguous on a point of the word “present”.  Things may be present, because they are substantial proximity to one-another. My dog is present with me: my dog is in proximity to me. 

These categories of time may be present in one another as a matter of potential and expression: The ball bouncing was already ‘present’ when the ball was dropped. 

He seems to move between these various uses of the word “present” (right now, proximity, potential-expression) which creates the oddness of the language.

But he concludes then with the possible conclusion that there is actual movement of time: there is only a constant “present,” because the future is the outworking of the past and the past contains the future. 

This brings us to our final point:

All time is unredeemable.

Redemption: what could be meant by this. A clue may come from noting that Eliot’s consideration past, present, future seems to be developed from Augustine’s notes on time in Confessions. For instance:

I know it to be time that I measure: and yet do I neither measure the time to come, for that it is not yet: nor time present, because that is not stretched out in any space: nor time past, because that is not still. What then do I measure? Is it the times as they are passing, not as they are past? 

And:

Who therefore can deny, that things to come are not as yet? Yet already there is in the mind an expectation of things to come. And who can deny past things to be now no longer? But yet is there still in the mind a memory of things past. And who can deny that the present time hath no space, because it passeth away in a moment? But yet our attentive marking of it continues so that that which shall be present proceedeth to become absent. The future therefore is not a long time, for it is not: but the long future time is merely a long expectation of the future. Nor is the time past a long time, for it is not; but a long past time is merely a long memory of the past time.

Augustine of Hippo, St. Augustine’s Confessions, Vol. 2, ed. T. E. Page and W. H. D. Rouse, trans. William Watts, The Loeb Classical Library (New York; London: The Macmillan Co.; William Heinemann, 1912), 269 & 277.

The temptation would be to try to explain Eliot by Augustine as if the poem were merely putting the Confessions into verse. But Eliot is not trying to recite Augustine, but rather to think through a problem. He may conclude as Augustine, but will do his own thinking. Note again the “perhaps” line 2: he is stating nothing with certainty. 

He is thinking about a problem raised by Augustine concerning time. What then does Eliot mean by the question of time being redeemable? At the least, there is an issue here of change: to redeem a thing is to change its state. It was in one state and then comes to a new state. 

What precisely Eliot means by redemption in this instance is not yet clear.