An observation by Baylor's Alan Jacobs, in Atlantic (of all places?!) will reward careful study, if for different reasons. He begins, "Even if the secular left has no intention of playing fair in the culture wars, that doesn’t erase the Christian imperatives of civility and decency." After a brief review of the theological disputes, he writes, "Today’s secular left has no intention of playing fair, and if Christians and conservatives—if people who follow 'David French–ism'—insist on playing by the discarded rules, they’re just setting themselves to be played for suckers."
He notes, though, that a similar argument, with a different protagonist, appeared nearly a quarter century ago, in First Things, perhaps not the first place you'd look for an essay by Stanley Fish!
If you persuade liberalism that its dismissive marginalizing of religious discourse is a violation of its own chief principle, all you will gain is the right to sit down at liberalism’s table where before you were denied an invitation; but it will still be liberalism’s table that you are sitting at, and the etiquette of the conversation will still be hers. That is, someone will now turn and ask, “Well, what does religion have to say about this question?” And when, as often will be the case, religion’s answer is doctrinaire (what else could it be?), the moderator (a title deeply revealing) will nod politely and turn to someone who is presumed to be more reasonable. To put the matter baldly, a person of religious conviction should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas but to shut it down, at least insofar as it presumes to determine matters that he believes have been determined by God and faith. The religious person should not seek an accommodation with liberalism; he should seek to rout it from the field, to extirpate it, root and branch.That reads enough like Critique of Pure Tolerance, but with the person of religious conviction taking the place of the Vanguardist on the Side of Liberation, that is, until the True Believers, whether they worship God or the Dialectic, turn on each other.
In the congregation, No Final Say is a valid epistemological principle.
This respect and love require a commitment to conversation, and “conversation requires civility”—even when people do not reciprocate that civility. After all, it is Jesus himself who tells us that when we are struck on one cheek, we should turn the other toward our attacker. Civility should not be our religion, but “there are religiously imperative reasons for being civil that do not entail turning civility into a religion.”First Things editor, Rev. R. J. Neuhaus, wrote a response to Professor Fish that might set a record for exceeding the length of an essay by a literary type in a rebuttal. There's a lot more for the careful reader to digest: the point I wish to emphasize circles back toward repressive tolerance.
Intellectuals who “rephrase” their language in order to enter the liberal conversation are accused of betraying their own “interests” as Christians. They should not want to enter the marketplace of ideas, it is said, but to shut it down. To which these intellectuals might respond that it is their interest and their duty to try to transform the marketplace, but before transforming it they must gain entry, and to gain entry they must demonstrate that they understand the existing liberal rules that need to be changed. This is a tricky game, and, unless one is exceedingly careful, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of being coopted by the very liberalism one set out to transform.God forbid that a feel-good argument contrary to the faith position, whether it is the Church of Rome or the Church of Intersectionality, should gain purchase. Read on: Father notes, "The pitting of freedom against truth is the original sin of the liberalism that we must oppose. The truth about freedom is that there is no freedom apart from truth. The truth claims I have proposed do not stop the conversation but provide the firmest foundation for sustaining it."
Perhaps so. Reality is biased toward social conservatism. Deconstruct that at your peril.