Alan started a pretty cool discussion on blogcatalog.com whether or not people would be willing to vote for Ron Paul started today. It was great seeing so many people speak out regarding their hopes and fears regarding the 2008 election.
Personally, after the last six years of failure after failure and irresponsible policy decisions (remember that budget surplus when Clinton left office?) by George "God talks to me" Bush, I got suckered into feeling that people learned their lesson and that moving forward, people of faith and people who do not practice a religion, or have one that they prefer to keep personal and private, will finally realize that we need to focus on the things that affect us all.
One comment really stood out to me and prompted me to write.
I’m considering voting for Ron Paul due to his incredible respect for the Constitution. Time will tell if I’ll vote for him or not.
As for his position on these "hot button" issues people like to throw around I see it very plainly. If you respect the Constitution you’ll respect God’s Word in the Bible, if you respect God’s Word all these other things will fall into place as they should no matter what the issue is. Then perhaps people will stop trying to live each other’s lives for them and let God do what God wills to do.
I do see a lot of parallels between people sharing a fundamental political belief that the Constitution is perfect and should be treated as immutable and people considering the Bible to be the prescribed blueprint for the lives of every person on earth. I’m not sure what bothers me more, the idea that someone is equating respect for the primary religious writings of a single religion with the Constitution (which just baffles me really) or the fatalism that screamed out from the sentiment that if we "respect God’s Words" everything will fall into place. We need to be a nation of action to address the many problems facing us. Sitting back and simply hoping God will take care of us is a sure path to destruction. I prefer to quote Algernon Sidney in Discourses on Government: "God helps those who help themselves." The sentiment goes back much farther but I prefer the simple and succinct expression that Heinlein popularized: TANSTAAFL!
As long as people continue to try create a theocracy here in the USA and the rest of us are willing to fight against that goal, we, as Americans, will be stuck spinning our wheels instead of tackling issues that really matter. Our country was not built as a theocracy, our national culture and institutions are not theocratic. Such a conversion should be treated as an attempt to overthrow the government. I hate sounding extreme, but thats what it comes down to for me. There were Christian framers of the Constitution but they had the decency and the strength of character to accept that people cannot be a little bit free. Many modern Christians could take a lesson from them. Self-determination is not just for nations.
The Preamble to the Constitution says:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
Lets look at that sentence.
- "in Order to form a more perfect Union" - A Union can only be more perfect by its parts growing closer and more supportive of the whole. Using religion as a wedge issue the way it is so commonly used in politics today sabotages that mandate.
- "Insure domestic Tranquility" - This is a direct order to compromise. The original colonies that formed the basis for this nation were founded on very different principles. There were colonies specifically founded for Catholics, for Quakers, and for Protestants. Some colonies, like those in Protestant New England, used religion as a basis for laws and tried to create a heaven on earth by implementing the rules of conduct spelled out in the Bible. Other colonies, like New York, were founded by nations with a strong trading background. The early Dutch settlers, while usually Christian, put trade as a pathway to prosperity high on their governmental agenda. Georgia, as a debtor colony had people from many different sects, as well as deists and humanists who practiced no publicly recognized religion at all. To ensure that domestic tranquility, these diverse peoples had to have a framework for settling differences and exploring ways to live together as one common people and our Constitution and the Bill of Rights were a big step i that direction. Despite the wording, and despite my dislike of the cliche, Freedom of Religion MUST include Freedom from Religion in the political sphere. I see people all over the country lining up on religious and doctrinal lines instead of keeping in mind that our government must work for all of us if we are to truly have domestic tranquility.
- "provide for the common defense" - There isn’t much I want to say about this except to say that when Eisenhower warned of the growing strength of the military-industrial complex we should have listened. Also, the old name for the Department of Defense should be revived. It is truly now, the Department of War.
- "promote the general Welfare" – This is a big one. In 2004, G.W. Bush won the election with 50.73% percent of the votes cast. The total number of votes garnered by his opponent, John Kerry, was more than the total Bush had in 2000. Despite the very close race and the narrow margin of victory, Bush claimed he had "earned capital in this campaign, political capital". The idea that a political figure can interpret the fact that barely half of the people in the United States were happy enough with his performance as president to re-elect him astounds me. In any rational world, that politician would step back for a moment and take stock of the world around him and ask himself what he is doing that is alienating half of the voting public. The statement calls for promoting the "general Welfare". It does not say that our government should be used as tool pander to one’s electoral base. Once elected, a president or congressperson must accept the fact that they are now duty bound to represent their entire constituency and not just the ones who voted for them. The needs and desires of special interests have replaced "general welfare" as an impetus for change in our government.
I get really disappointed when people treat the Constitution as if it is Holy Writ. Even the framers knew it wasn’t perfect and included plans for amending it. It was an excellent document and is something to be proud of, particularly at the time and place it was devised. But we should also remember that section two, clause three of Article 1 legislated alloted seats in the House of Representatives based on the full population of "free" citizens and counted slaves, the backbone of the wealth and economy of much of the South, as two-thirds of a person. I know that was a different time and a different society when that was written, but the fact that times and situations change should be the argument against treating the US Constitution as though it is set in stone.
The framers gave us very clear instructions and guidelines on how to amend the document in light of changes in society. This should be treated not just as our right, but also as our responsibility.