Journal of Law and Religion
When Marie Failinger and I began to play with metaphors as we talked about the scroll to honor Tom Shaffer, we did consider and discard some. From that heap of castoffs, I want to begin big and tell you the clearest discard, the biggest miss: Tom as a peach of a man. The positive side of the image is roundness as an indicator of wholeness, of even feminine circularity, of integrity. The down side of roundness need not be spelled out in detail (and we certainly do not want to suggest fuzziness). . . but there is that one lingering wild hare, the peach's suggestion of the Southern gentleman, that Atticus Finch or Walker Percy who never quite migrates into the contemporary scene. That Southern gentry anomaly is central to Tom, and the struggle with how he can almost redeem the notion of lawyer as gentleman is for me the story of Tom as round in the finest sense, like a magic circle cast by the best of the Spirit, gentle, true, deceptively radical, quietly if slowly revolutionary, and only just a little repetitious. (Consider the list of 274 of his publications we got in the conference materials--274! I certainly have not read all 274, but even within the ones I have, there is stuff I've seen more than once). Even that repetition becomes the mark of fidelity, however. For Tom is unwilling to leave even the anachronism, the gentleman lawyer, out of the circle into which he has invited a persistently motley crew of clients and friends and students and invisible rabbits (ask him about Elwood Dowd sometime).
He still tells and retells wonderful stories, about crazy and drunken priests and lawyers, even if his lexicon is disproportionately male. In fact, that's key to Tom's fidelity for me. He will not leave behind white males as he discovers the depth of difference. And he is the last of that breed that I would want to leave behind. So he will keep me engaged with his sense of the particular gathered people he has converted to and I have returned to, and I will continue to invite him to challenge its ignorance. I may even begin to invite him to come to Quaker Meeting sometimes, to mix as I do Mass and Meeting, so that he may be one of those anabaptist sort he lauds (though his faithfulness to the Hebraic suggests itself here as a parallel). The “anabaptists”, too, have their deep limitations, reminding me that no one church is sufficient, in my view. Thank God S/He gathers us in all sorts and times and spaces of community, very much including this particular one, drawn together to ponder Word and Law and the gift who is Tom Shaffer.
Emily Albrink Hartigan, The Gentleman Who Was Thursday, 10 J. L. & Religion 311 (1994).