Thursday, September 17, 2015

17 September — Constitution Day — James Cowles

Appropriately enough James Cowles, a contributor at the Beguine Again website, has posted a reminder that today, September 17, is Constitution Day (see here). Here's a taste:
...  Irrespective of one’s personal theology, religion revolves around the axis of the relationship between God and human beings, and how each relates to the other. Even under this broader and more realistic definition of “religion”, the place of religion in the American Constitution is still deeply “recessed” and implicit. The Constitution is, in a very radical and fundamental sense, a “horizontal” Document, a Document for human beings, not gods, with basically no “vertical” component. But even this lack of “verticality” carries within it an implicit view of God, of religion, and of the place of both in the Nation whose government the Framers were in the process of designing when they wrote the Constitution. At least in the Constitution “proper,” the absence of explicit references to God, religion, and faith tells us as much as any explicit reference ever could.
And later on:
 The “horizontal” nature of the US Constitution is glaringly evident from the first three words of the Preamble (boldface added, but in the original the first three words are written in a much larger script):
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.
 With those first three words, the entire world, the conceptual cosmos, the moral universe of pre-Enlightenment Western civilization is left far behind. In a recent non-credit course on constitutional law, Prof. Akhil Reed Amar of Yale Law School compared the Preamble of the Constitution to the Big Bang.  That comparison is no exaggeration. The government being formed does not originate from the Hand of God. It is not Divinely ordained. It is not specified in or by the Bible. This is evident, not only in the words, but in words that occur elsewhere in the Constitution and in the way those words were acted out, where “made flesh”, were “incarnate,” if you will. First of all, the Framers, in Article VII, were careful to specify in very explicit terms not open to ambiguity the means whereby the Constitution would be ratified by the Colonies – which would only become States when the Document was ratified.

1 comment:

Tom Van Dyke said...

The Constitution is, in a very radical and fundamental sense, a “horizontal” Document, a Document for human beings, not gods, with basically no “vertical” component.

Of course, there used to be a concept called "federalism," where the Constitution gave limited and unenumerated powers to the central government, and retained all others.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

As we all know, God appears in one form or another in all 50 state constitutions.

Unfortunately, although Moore and Kramnik acknowledge that fact infra, most people never get very far past their the title of their polemic, The Godless Constitution.