Freedom Riders

Tonight I watched part of a PBS documentary about the Freedom Riders. They were fanatics, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

But here’s a thought question that occurred to me as I was watching:

We praise the Freedom Riders for their fanaticism; we call it courage and dedication and sacrifice, and we honor them for it. As we should.

But now imagine a minority religion–a “sect,” a “cult”–demonstrating the same level of fanatic commitment in their pursuit of some other action deemed illegal by the authorities. Plural marriage, maybe. Or the ritual use of certain controlled substances. Or disturbing the peace by playing recordings of anti-Catholic sermons on street corners in Catholic neighborhoods. Or animal sacrifice.

Imagine this group insisting they had a constitutional right to these practices in the face of police enforcement, even mob action. Imagine them declaring that their conscience would not allow them to submit to these unjust laws. Imagine them singing cheerfully and defiantly as they were carted off to jail by the dozens or the hundreds.

Would you admire their fanaticism? Why or why not?

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