THE CONSTITUTION: A GOODLY PARENT
The Constitution of the United States is like a good parent. It provides, first, boundaries for its children, which promote safety to the individuals within the civil society. It establishes a well-planned playground for the healthy exchange of human ideas which allows everyone the opportunity to participate if they so choose. Like a skilled parent, The United States Constitution bases the limitations it places on itself, and the moral boundaries it creates for its children, on a sound philosophy. That philosophy does not derive from a “naturally selected” set of ideas that have survived through a thousand year-old sieve of trial and error. That philosophy derives from the immutable laws of our loving Father in Heaven.
The big mistake that politicians continue to make–which proves disastrous to the republic–is to assume that since the Constitution is a secular document, that it is absent a religious theme. No single religion is responsible for the formulation of the U.S. Constitution. But, it was written conceptually to establish an eternally free country peopled by godly citizens, nevertheless, enumerating processes and limitations that best ensured that the agency of its citizens would be key factor in civil intercourse. It was written specifically to phase out the African slave trade, provide definitive rights and responsibilities to its citizens, and restrain the government from being an arbiter of favoritism or punishment outside of the due processes of its laws. But, like any document, the U.S. Constitution is simply a piece of paper; a representation of the honor and loyalty of the people whom it is meant to govern. As a secular document, the United States Constitution is wholly dependent upon the moral conduct of the people for whom it was conceived.
As any parent knows, there are limits to the power you have to inject your ideas and wisdom into the conduct of your children. The child of the citizenry has to be instructed in the precepts of liberty and responsibility, and in the case of the United States of America, the exceptional and sacred nature of our God-given rights and our role in the world. Without that instruction, the child fails to know and understand the boundaries of what it can do and what it should expect from government. It becomes easy to confuse liberty with license, the general welfare with the welfare state, and the defense of our borders and common good with protection from individual adversity and want.
It is the responsibility of the education system to teach the basics of what it means to be an American living in a Constitutional Republic. Education has, however, failed miserably and unlike the Constitution is like an inept and permissive parent. Public education has taken the path of least resistance, abandoning the lofty principles of the founding for more temporal notions; a curriculum al-a-mode, designed to make children feel comfortable within the popular culture of the time. Civics, properly taught, is ambitious; full of heady ideas like “Natural Rights,” and “Just War.” But the lazy parent of the public education system chooses instead to promote a laissez faire learning atmosphere that emphasizes conformity over exceptionalism, and comfort over responsibility. The public education system envisioned by the Founding Fathers has become a sinister enemy of its former self.
With this in mind, those of us to whom our first loyalty is that symbolic, parchment document, and not the mortals who are supposed to protect and defend it, are perplexed in our assessments of the 2012 GOP presidential candidates. The Republican Party is supposed to be the party of an “invariable” Constitution, whose amendment process is so daunting that in nearly 230 years of its existence, that course of action has only been completed 27 times. Remarkably, each candidate has a very different idea of what it means to defend and protect the goodly parent of our republic. Most perplexing is Congressman Ron Paul who, like a naughty grandfather, allows for very lax boundaries–if any exist at all in him mind–to constrain the behavior of his grandchildren. Morally reprehensible things like drug use and legalized prostitution, to Ron Paul, are permissible simply because the Constitution provides for Americans to be self-determinant. Ron Paul fails completely in his understanding that the Constitution, which he touts regularly, has no muscle to define the Republic, the limitations of government, and the processes of law, without a people of moral conscience to enforce its articles within their own lives.
The Constitution of the United States, though wounded and altered in the minds of many Americans, still survives, not because politicians have succeeded in preserving and defending it, but because most of us still understand the exceptional nature of our country, and because most Americans are still guided by religious beliefs and a desire to be good. The goodly parenting in our homes, the righteous conduct of our lives, and the loyalty and honor within our hearts, will ultimately determine whether or not the Constitution of the United States survives to provide liberty and justice for generations yet unborn.
By Marjorie Haun 1/18/12