The Two Critical Components of Freedom
by Andy Joppa
We have staked the future of all our political institutions upon the capacity of each and all of us, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God.
James Madison (Author of The Constitution)
There are two major manuscripts that were built on a premise that humanity is flawed and imperfect. One of these tried to improve the nature of mankind by offering guides to conduct, while trying to minimize the willingness of any person to do damage to others. The second document tried to create a system in which the structure of their civilization was such, that it’s laws would protect us from our leaders and gave us legal protection from being damaged by our neighbors. It made the individual the supreme measurement of our success.
The premise of each was the same; a fallible humanity could not be entrusted with the well-being of others or the civilizations in which they functioned. The earlier writing, without identifying this by name, knew that our animal nature would always interfere with our rational decision-making process; especially under stress. It understood that there had to be moral base that did not mutate as panic driven “necessity”, as it was seen, corrupted the moral action that should be taken. The latter did all that it could to ensure that America could avoid the pitfalls of all prior nations…it tried to eliminate the potential for human, power driven, excess.
Neither writing presumed that humanity was evil or inherently immoral. Both presumed, however, that guidance was necessary if the sanctity of the individual was to be preserved and allowed to flourish. Both also presumed that anarchistic chaos in morality, or in political/economic systems, would inevitably lead to disastrous ends. As events unfolded within the great American experiment, it was the interdependence of these two great areas of thought that lead to the creation of the greatest nation the world has ever seen.
Unfortunately, at this time in our history, both of these essential precepts, necessary for our success, are under attack and there is potential that both will be pushed aside as but the debris of an older humanity; a humanity that no longer, within their view, has pertinence for their “modern” world. These attacks are from exterior forces but, all too often, are derived from those supposed adherents to the wisdom that was offered; adherents who seem to totally disregard the essential elements of a fully functioning and healthy society.
I am presuming, at this point, many of you would have identified the two manuscripts that are under discussion. One is the Christian New Testament, representing classical Christianity, and the other, The Constitution of the United States of America. As a non-Christian, with no religious affiliation, I feel comfortable suggesting that the latter was, to a large extent, derived from philosophies and attitudes inherent in that New Testament. It must also be acknowledged that much of Christian morality had its origins in the Old Testament. We are truly a Judaic/Christian culture.
I believe it is important for you to recognize, that as a secularist, I can appreciate the vital contribution of Christianity. While I know many of you will disagree with me, I believe ideas must be evaluated by only one standard…their impact. I haven’t the slightest concern with the origin of an idea…it is either good or bad by that standard. It is on that basis that I have become a strong advocate for classical Christianity. If you cannot accept me as a friend within that standard that is your very un-Christian burden. I say the same to my secular friends. The fate of America may rest on the willingness of both to make this accommodation.
It is my hope that my personally revealing statement can demonstrate how the great divide between the religious world and the secular world can be crossed. The Constitution is a secular document; as it should be. It creates the marriage between the secular world of politics and economics, and the world of moral insights. It is dangerous when Christianity wants “Caesar” to be their agent of fulfillment. Government must only be what it should be.
With the advent of the American Constitution we had the perfect meshing of a people who clearly understood the immoral foibles of humanity, with a political/economic system that enshrined that awareness into law. Our founders, being Christian, clearly recognized that everyone had to be protected from a tyrant and from the mob… the latter being what we euphemistically define as democracy. If you are secularist and disagree with this, you have no way of documenting your challenge. You have no basis for understanding America, or yourself, without a Christian overlay.
What we see happening in today’s America is the dismantling of this remarkable edifice. An edifice where every person belongs to themselves, and they were not left to the immoral whims of their neighbors…no matter how many declared them to be wrong. Christianity knew there would be many that would be in error. It historically tried to give counsel that would serve as a rudder through the darkest times in human history. Through the dark ages and the centuries of the middle ages, when men tended toward violent excess, the church provided a “backbone” even when many, even within its own ranks, were perpetrators of the crimes to which humanity is capable.
It wasn’t a perfect navigator but provided the anchor in which western civilization could come into being and flourish. Now, all too often, internal units of Christianity advocate for Socialism which demands the control of men by others. All too often there is an antagonism for capitalism which is better called the free market system, once again they are antagonistic to the rights of the individual and favor the control of men by other men.
We see this most prominently with the Vicar of Christ, a man who is wrong about almost everything, Pope Francis; a man deeply contaminated by his advocacy of Marxist political and economic positions. I offer this while reinforcing that I believe that Catholicism, for 1500 years, was all that stood between us and total chaos.
Classic Christianity now struggles to maintain an impact on a society that has more and more turned to hedonism as the answer to achieving happiness. Marriages dissolve or are never brought to actual legal union. Rampant uncommitted sexuality permeates our youth. Births out of wedlock become more and more the norm. Abortion on demand is now little more in their minds than a pedicure. The influence of classic Christianity is becoming all but invisible. My world becomes diminished as it takes on the appearance of Rome just prior to its fall; empty and void of any notion of the characteristics of a great and moral society.
This decline is matched with an assault on the Constitution and for the same reasons. Men want to rule other men. It was this document that provided the barriers protecting us from tyrants and… from each other. This founding charter, in many cases, is being dismantled by those who have sworn to protect and defend it. Its provisions, like those of Christianity, are now often seen as archaic and not appropriate for the citizens of a “modern” digital world; their “stability” being drawn from favorability ratings on social media. Within this model, anything that the mob thought was good became their notion of morality; it was little more than the whim of the moment…moralistic chaos.
The Constitution, which created the balance of power, preventing a concentration of force strong enough to dominate them, is now disappearing. This new world they wanted to build, void of morality, void of constraining law, was not one of design but the absence of design. It was not progressive by regressive, pushing us back to a world before the nation state, before the moral pressures of a higher power, before tyrants were rejected and when a human life belonged to its neighbor’s whims.
It is retuning us to a primitivism which will lead to the dissolution of the constraints of civilization. A world that, absent the resources produced by those of better, earlier minds, will wither and die. It will die in chaos and the horrors of physical deprivations. The majority in today’s America are dedicated to conspicuous consumption and not the sacrifices necessary to build anew. Technology will give these hedonists a temporary reprieve but, in the long run, technology will not tolerate the chaos of human reality…why should it? The machine may be the future, our future…if there is to be any at all.
Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people; it is wholly inadequate for any other.