Friday, April 08, 2005

StopActivistJudges on CSPAN:

Ed Feser, in responding to my piece that I sent him, writes in an email that he didn't mean to defend "mere appeals to Leviticus and the like (and I know of no one at all influential who defends policy by such appeals anyway)."

Well I guess it all depends on what "influential" means. Or perhaps I should ask, "influential to whom?" The academy absolutely scoffs at such notions. But it seems to me that these elite secularists are exactly whom Feser criticizes for their religious intolerance.

CSPAN yesterday featured for a number of hours, a conference put on by, which featured Alan Keyes, Phyllis Schlafly, Tony Perkins, Mike Farris, Howard Phillips, Bill Dannemeyer, Morton Blackwell, Bill Federer, Rick Scarborough, Don Feder, Kay Daly, Janet Folger, Jan LaRue, Tim Lee and Patrick Reilly. Tom Delay was supposed to speak but got called away to Rome; so instead he sent in a videotaped remark.

I would call this conference "mainstream religious right." And this conference featured a number of Christian Reconstructionist types who absolutely held to the notion that it is perfectly legitimate, indeed required by our Constitution, that Revelation alone be written into public policy. Previously on CSPAN, I've seen Phillips, obviously informed by the Old Testament, refer to "sodomy" and "incest" as prototypical "capital crimes."

These are the folks to whom I refer when I speak of those who want to write Leviticus into public policy. I don't know if I would call them "influential." But they certainly are influential in the religious right. And the religious right is, in turn, influential in the Republican Party (Indeed, they claim to be its base).

Some of their critiques of judicial activism were valid; it's doubtful that our Framers would have anticipated the way in which their norms and principles are applied by today's courts. And courts today totally ignore rights (the 2nd Amendment, economic liberties, property rights) which certainly concerned our framers. But then again, our framers weren't "futurists" who told us exactly how the Constitution should be understood two-hundred and some years later.

But those at this conference also perpetuated a Constitutional "ideal" that was every bit as revisionist and fraudulent, if not more so than what they were attacking. In their fantasy world, our Constitution was taken right out of the pages of the Bible. References to Christianity in the Constitution that are so nominal as the customary way of stating the date (In the Year of our Lord) transform that document into one where Jesus is seen as central (even though the document is otherwise "Godless" and speaks of religion in a prohibitory or negative sense only).

They did the same rewrite with the Declaration. At one point Herb Titus, former Dean of Pat Robertson's Regent University Law School, explained exactly why the God of the Declaration is the Biblical one, by citing verses and chapters of Scripture. It would have helped his case if Jefferson, the Declaration's drafter (and his committee) referred to the Declaration's God as Jehovah and cited those same verses and chapters of Scripture; but of course, he didn't.

They criticize Leftists for reading things into our founding documents that aren't supported by their texts or original understanding. But that's exactly what they did. Neither the Constitution nor the Declaration claim to be "Christian" documents and they cite no verses and chapters of Scripture to indicate otherwise.

One thing that I've learned in my long study of the Founding is the centrality that Man's Reason played in the public/political sphere, hence our Enlightenment Founding. Our founding was a more conservative Enlightenment project than say, the French Revolution. But it was an Enlightenment Founding, nonetheless.

To understand this, it would help to familiarize oneself with the proper understanding of the term "nature." "Nature" was referred to in many key founding documents and writings: "Natural Rights", "the laws of Nature and Nature's God," etc. To demonstrate this point, let me cite someone who is thought of as one of the foremost (if not the foremost) conservative historians of America's Founding, Forrest McDonald. In the preface to Novus Ordo Seclorum, McDonald explains that some oft-used terms of that era had a different understanding as they do today. Regarding "nature," he writes, "natural had many of its present meanings, but it also meant discoverable by reason as opposed to revealed by God...." p. xi.

It would follow then that "Nature's God" is God, not as He is Revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures, but as His attributes can be understood by Man's Reason. The two concepts may be one and the same...or not (for instance, to Jefferson, Adams, and Franklin, and arguably Washington, Madison and many other key founders, "Nature" revealed God to be unitarian, not Trinitarian). So while God does have a place in the political theory that founds this nation, Man's Reason remains the ultimate arbiter of Public Truth. Truth as it is Revealed by Scripture is inherently private or a matter of "opinion." And such private opinion is absolutely protected under the public norms of freedom and equality of conscience. But private, Revealed Truth is not on what we based our public order.

1 comment:

Tim said...

Some of these guys have juice (most notably Keyes and Perkins), but most of them don't. The real king-makers of the religious right are people like James Dobson, Grover Norquist and most importantly, Karl Rove. They weren't there.