The Opportunity That Shines Through the Darkening Shadows
Nov 1, 2019 by David Fowler
As I worked on the abortion legislation heard this summer by the state Senate’s Judiciary Committee and worked on the God-Given Marriage initiative, responses to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on abortion (Roe v. Wade) and marriage (Obergefell v. Hodges), respectively, I realized how little I really knew about law and our form of government, despite being a lawyer.
But I found I was not alone. Many lawyers were just as uneducated as I was. Fortunately, the average person who did not study law does not need to overcome the godless view of law conjoined to an attitude of servile obeisance to the judicial system that is taught in most law schools. However, because of the paucity of civics education provided by most schools, he or she does not have enough information about law and the judicial system to know how to challenge the status quo or fix things.
Thinking about that made me think of what Alexis De Tocqueville wrote in his Democracy in America, because it really captures the state of our current culture:
What I have begun to realize is that the lights of representative government are dimming fast, as the federal judiciary and the U.S. Supreme Court, in particular, strike down popularly enacted laws and even state constitutional provisions that violate their particular moral sensibilities. For the many who believe we are sliding into a moral abyss, it seems to be getting darker and darker.
If the lights that guide us ever go out, they will fade little by little, as if of their own accord. Confining ourselves to practice, we may lose sight of basic principles, and when these have been entirely forgotten we may apply the methods derived from them badly; we might be left without the capacity to invent new methods and only able to make a clumsy and an unintelligent use of wise procedures no longer understood.
But it is in the dark that even the smallest light becomes most visible and can point a way forward. That is why the organization I lead has started a podcast—to turn up the light. And, who knows, maybe that light will generate a little political heat, too!
Over the next several months, I will be dialoguing with Gary Humble, FACT’s new CEO, about the things I’ve seen and learned since I started law school 39 years ago. The podcast’s title explains its thrust, God, Law & Liberty.
I hope Christian and non-Christian alike will listen. This won’t be like other “political” podcasts. We will be routinely covering and weaving into our podcasts the interrelationship between God, law, and liberty, putting that interrelationship into an historical context, and connecting those three things and that history to our form of government and how it was designed to work. And we’ll put all that in the context of current issues, starting with abortion and same-sex “marriage.”
The other thing I realized over the last few months was just how spot-on Alexander Solzhenitsyn was in the observation he made about America in his 1978 speech to Harvard University, “A World Split Apart:”
Solzhenitsyn’s words might sound a bit gloomy to some, because, if Solzhenitsyn thought courage was noticeably lacking in 1978, he may, if alive, think it now at its very end. Everyone’s a victim and everyone’s an oppressor, so we now have to have “safe places” on college campuses.
The Western world has lost its civil courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party and of course in the United Nations. Such a decline in courage is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elite, causing an impression of loss of courage by the entire society. . . Should one point out that from ancient times decline in courage has been considered the beginning of the end?
But, to me, it means we are coming to the end of this latest version of pagan darkness, and perhaps those sensitive to their sense of lostness in the enveloping darkness and honestly groping for solutions might find the light we hope to shine.
So, to borrow a line of thinking from a motel chain, we’ll keep a light on. Drop by and listen in.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006.