Friday, January 25, 2008

A ‘Holy’ constitution: Part one

This is a follow up on a previous post that presented Mike Huckabee’s idea for a ‘Bible-inspired’ constitution for the US. A comment from ‘anonymous’ agreed with Huckabee suggesting that the US is a Christian Nation.

Is America a Christian nation?

A nation with Christian majority: yes; a Christian Nation: NO.

The notion of the US being a Christian Nation is just an illusion in the minds of hyper-religious individuals, living in a circle of like-minded people, who are totally oblivious to the real world, and how diverse it is.

Most Americans are part of a religious group for predominantly social and cultural purposes. Religion forms only a minor part of the daily drive and behavior of a large number of Americans. Recite the Ten Commandments, and the Sermon on the Mount, then take a good look around you. Does this look like a society that makes God’s words a part of its everyday life?

Within American Christians there is a lot of diversity, and beyond few core theological ideas (e.g., Divinity of Christ and Trinity) there are not many governance and legal concepts that a majority of Christians agree upon. Abortion, gay rights, war, social justice, immigration, definition of marriage, right to end life, welfare, healthcare, education, tax code, etc, are all issues that testify to the political diversity of American Christians. I know that some hard-core Christian conservatives will say all these divisions and social problems are modern, and are probably caused by ‘liberals and their godless agendas’, but one need only to remind them that deeply religious American Christians fought on both sides of the battles over ending slavery, suffrage movement and racial civil right. One each side were devoted Christians who believed that God’s words were in total agreement of what they were fighting for.

Is a ‘Holy’ Constitution even a viable idea?

Adherence to one ‘political’ interpretation of the Bible puts anyone at odds with as many American Christians as it would with non-Christians. Most American Christians may not even be comfortable having their own faith ‘codified and integrated in a political framework’. They believe because this is what they want to do, not because it is the law of the land. From a personal experience, and regardless of their religious affiliation, the majority of people would rather live in a ‘godless’ society that gives them the freedom to believe in God their own way, than to live in a Holy-book ruled society that forces them to believe in God in a way that is even slightly different from what they are personally comfortable with.

Our founding fathers lived at a time when less religious diversity existed in America, and there could have been less resistance to including some faith-based articles in the constitution, but they did not go that route. They appreciated that, in the long run, a faith-based constitution would end up more divisive than having full separation between church and state. Practically, I think they probably would not have been able to agree on any single faith-base constitutional article either.

If we were stuck with a religious constitution, that constitution would have been like a yoyo, swinging from one extreme to another every 20-30 years. Could you imagine the people of fifties and sixties abiding by the constitution that the Prohibitionists lived by? Can the ‘Huckabees’ of our time honor and respect the constitution that the hippies lived by?

The constitution would have lost the ‘semi-sacred’ status that binds Americans around it today. Constitutional disputes would have not been settled in the Supreme Court but in bloody battle fields all over this country. A holy constitution would have repeatedly split Americans into two nations, one believing in ‘the Biblical constitution de jour’, and another nation that has a constitution like our current one. Bloodshed would have been inevitable. And as we have learned from the Crusades, the Inquisitions, and from modern day fundamentalist fanatics here and overseas, defending the word of God gets ‘the soldiers of God’ a little bit too excited. After all, they are always at peace with what they inflict on us because they only want us to see the light; they only want to save our souls. The arrogance that comes from thinking that only you know what God wants, leads one to believe they know what is good for every body else.

If we did not have the wise founding father we had, we would have had a couple more centuries of bloody fighting and suffering and, finally, we would have had ended up exactly where we are today, with a great constitution that separates church and state. A religion-based constitution will self-destruct no matter what religion or holy book becomes the basis for that constitution.

Please spare us the suffering. God’s place is not in the Constitution. It is in our hearts. God gently steers us in the right direction, not coerce us on it. The path to salvation is a personal choice, not a national policy.

Khaled

2 comments:

  1. Is America a Christian nation? I certainly hope not; if it is, I'm in a world of trouble. Far from being Christian, I'm not even as close to Christianity as a Muslim is. Usually, I define myself as an agnostic; occasionally, if I'm feeling particularly introspective, I may define myself as a metaphorical pagan pantheist. (What this means is that I recognize that there is a pantheon of ideals that I consider worthy of worship, ranging from love to honor to knowledge and beyond, and I recognize that it can make for an easy shorthand to define each of them as a "god", and attach the old pagan names for those gods to them, so I might say that I worship Aphrodite. That doesn't mean that I believe that there is an actual anthropomorphic entity who I am worshiping.) As you can see, I'm even forther out of a Christian mainstream than a Muslim is.

    But beyond the fact that it would be particularly bad for me, I oppose the idea that this is a Christian nation for the simple reason that it would be bad for EVERYONE, even the Christian majority. Because once you establish the principle that the country can have an official religion, it won't stop at "Christianity"; you will then have to decide which BRANCH of Christianity is the official religion, and soon our country will look like Europe during the reformation: sects fighting for control and whichever sect is currently on top persecuting all of the other sects in order to keep them from having the chance to gain enough strength to reverse the situation. And even whichever sect wins out in the end will be so weakened by the fight that our country will not have the strength to defend itself from OUTSIDE enemies.

    This is NOT a good idea.

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  2. lloyd ("the sloan ranger")January 26, 2008 at 8:55 PM

    Khaled,
    I am in total agreement.

    Frankly, a "bible-based constitution" is a betrayal of BOTH the constitution AND the bible.

    Let me first quote the constitution:
    Article VI "no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

    Mike Huckabee's sentiments may be well-intended, but they are profoundly ignorant and misguided.
    Has he even read the constitution? What does he think Article VI means?

    America's founders were christians, and they believed religious freedom was a duty to God.
    To them, Article VI is an affirmation of God.

    Don't take it from me. Take it from Thomas Jefferson.

    "Whereas Almighty God hath created the mind free;
    that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burdens, or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to do; . . .
    that to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions which he disbelieves, is sinful and tyrannical; . . .
    that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry;
    that, therefore, the proscribing any citizen as unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to the offices of trust and emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving him injuriously of those privileges and advantages to which in common with his fellow citizens he has a natural right; . . .
    Section 2.
    Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

    The Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom, enacted 1786
    originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1777

    I'm with Jefferson,
    --lloyd ("the sloan ranger")

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