Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not so much into the bible study or the Founding Father study

I am not so much a fan of the first couple of weeks of law school. It's a little hard to get back into my routines and all, but mostly, I blame the Founding Fathers. Like 2/3 of my law school classes begin with the history of the subject I'm learning about, often with what the Founding Fathers thought about what the law should be. I realize there are often important clues to how we got where we are legally there, but I find the topic dull and am always itching to get to the part where we study cases about real people who had real disputes with one another.

I like the concepts. I'm just more interested in what happens when the concepts are applied in actual religious discrimination cases. This is as opposed to the similarities and differences between what George Mason and James Madison and Thomas Jefferson thought about the ideal wording for a religious discrimination statute.
In a week or so, we will be on to studying cases (that will reference the Founding Fathers' opinions at times--this stuff is important) and I won't have to exclusively study the Founding Fathers for another semester.

I like the theoretical aspects of law very much, as long as they are solving actual problems. When it is entirely theory vs. theory, though, I get kinda bored.

On the way home the other night, I started thinking about UUism and how some people want principles to cling to and interpret. Yet a lot of us are focused on our religion in the here and now. Living an unambiguous life in an ambiguous world is the focus here rather than the philisophical musings of an ancient text.

For me, it's a good fit.


Ps. Criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.


Bill Baar said...

I like to think we're a pragmatic faith. My Churches covenant begins with the words, "Being desirous of promoting practical goodness in the world..." I think it would be helpful if we took actual day-to-day problems and asked ourselves how they get resolved in light of some of our past Statements of Concience or some of the other commonly voiced UU concerns and positions to the extent we widely share them.

Michael Hogue taught a class on Pragmatism at M/L and it would be nice to hear more about that because I think Pragmatism and the thoughts you've expressed in this post are a common shared view in UU thinking.

The problem with it though is people are so focused on the next outcome to validate the theory de jure, we fail to look back and appreciate our own Pragmatic past because after all, what's done is done, and it's only tomorrow as validation (or disproof) on what's asserted today that counts for much.

The sad result of that is we lose sight of the pragmatism that unites us.

Anonymous said...

It’s probably a good thing I’m not in law school—I’d make a terrible lawyer. But I would probably revel in all of that Founder stuff. I wallow in crap like that and then like to see how the various trains of thought spin out—often in surprising ways—over time. But then, I think I am hard wired to do my analytical thinking in a historical context.

Bill Baar said...

@Pat You find yourself an exception thinking like that at Church though? I like the historical bent too, and like to see the evolution of ideas over time.

But I think that's not a majority viewpoint among UUs.

Our ex-Associate Minister did a sermon once on Universalist preaching from the 50s and I mentioned afterwords I really enjoyed hearing what was preached in the not so distant past, and he told me alot don't. He can put 'em to sleep with UU history.

kimc said...

I think you are wrong that we are a pragmatic faith. I think we are idealists, unrealistic idealists (myself included). That's why we keep talking about things rather than doing them. That's why we have so many who vote for third party candidates -- because the one with a chance to win isn't good enough.
As Andy Schmookler says, "all shades of gray are black." We hate to accept anything less than exactly what we want.

Chalicechick said...


The distinction I was making was not between realists and idealists, it was between theory and practice. Both realists and idealists exist among the Founding Fathers, and both realists and idealists exist among the judges who write the opinions I read.

As far as I can see, UUism also has both realists and idealists and I wouldn't have it any other way as I think both types of people are useful to have around. What pleases me is that among UUs, both realists and idealists are working on the problems that face us today using their own knowledge and abilities rather than searching the texts of the past for answers. (Which is not to say that also can't be a valuable activity, everything in moderation.)

As for the third-party candidates, if the bumper stickers in the parking lot are any sign, Washingtonian DC UUs are not that into them.


Bill Baar said...

@Kim Practical goodness opens my Church's covenant. Whether the source moving us to goodness our ideas, or our realism, the test of both is practical outcomes. It's why our History of less interest to many than the results. I think we need to balance that a bit with some History.