Monday, March 24, 2014

Civic Exclusivity rev

                Born of Southern Baptist dad who was a Mason and mom who was an Eastern Star, it would seem that I strained against my roots, and some neighbors perceive it that way. In fact, one said, “Phil, you don’t hear my words; so I depart, shaking the dust off my feet.” I felt the sting of his ideological exclusivity. The statement seemed violent. I responded, “Are we no longer neighbors?” Violence bothers me, but until now, I have been comforted by the discovery, thanks to cooperative autonomy with my Louisiana-French-Catholic bride, that from youth, my faith was in the objective truth of which much is undiscovered and some if understood, even thought articulation took seventy years. Recently, I am empowered by the discovery that the preamble to the constitution for the USA is a civic sentence: It declares bases for justice between citizens. Many citizens have not accepted the preamble; they erroneously try to impose their theism, a private obligation, into the civic relationship. Citizens who trust and are committed to the preamble have a just claim to civic exclusivity; they represent a transcendental culture--a civic people.
                In the essay “The Preamble Is Not Secular,” I argued that the preamble is civic. However, when I wrote that, I had not realized the power of “civic”:  The preamble specifies goals shared among citizens who “ordain and establish” the laws and institutions for governance and thereby establish a citizen’s republic for the United States of America. Such citizens appreciate each other’s opinions, because history shows that opinion often motivates reform. Citizens who refuse the seven goals separate themselves from “We the People of the United States,” joining “the people” who risk subjugation to the law—the citizens’ republic, whether they appreciate the law or not. Citizens who promote social democracy, liberal democracy, or democracy rebel against the citizen’s republic. Citizens who run red lights are unjust and suffer when exposed. Similarly, citizens who do not honor the preamble are unjust. Citizens who honor the preamble offer just civic governance. They are a civic people.
                One of the just citizens’ goals is, “insure domestic Tranquility,” which discourages harmful conduct. Among the most sincere opinions citizens hold is peaceful religious hope. Despite pride in “freedom of religion,” Americans don’t appreciate differing religious hopes which nonetheless assure public safety: religious hopes often define neighbors. When a religious hope inspires a citizen to good conduct, as most religious hopes do, there is no reason for just citizens to depreciate those hopes. When just citizens appreciate each other, they can each hope that their differing personal dreams will be fulfilled, whether in life or in afterdeath. However, because no one knows that their religious hopes will be fulfilled, it is unjust to try to impose those hopes on another citizen or even to question that citizen’s hopes. A person who is living for the salvation of his/her soul is unjust to try to impose that motivation into civic governance of someone who does not expect an afterlife. Theism suppresses the preamble’s potential for domestic justice.  
                Recognizing this aspect of civic governance is a life-significant triumph. For the first time in my life, I am empowered to tell a fellow citizen who would impose a religious hope on my governance that their conduct is unjust, based on the tranquility goal in the preamble. I would have the same confidence in rebuking a neighbor for running a red light. Among just citizens, exclusivity is based on the preamble, not on private pursuits such as religion.

Ideological exclusivity
                Ideological exclusivity ruins the opportunity for just civic governance, by suppressing personal opinion and enabling institutional ruin exemplified by Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Idelolgoical exclusivity thrives in many social concerns, including religion, economics, politics, and heritage. Civic justice is such an attractive goal: one is constrained to ask why citizens who were presented that gift 226 years ago have not activated it. I think theism has distracted America from the preamble: The majority has recognized that the preamble threatens their theism’s exclusivity and therefore the majority has not accepted the preamble.
                In twenty years study to try to understand the significance of the citizenship I was born into, citizenship I could not deny without extensive burdens, and citizenship I cherish, I have never read the idea that some citizens neglect the preamble because it threatens religion but bet the thought is not new. Roger Williams wrote against the imposition of religious doctrine into civic governance in 1644. In 1692, magistrates in Salem, Massachusetts executed twenty “witches.” The Declaration of Independence invokes “Nature’s God,” to authorize revolution against the king and his Protestant God. Weeks earlier, the Virginia Declaration of Rights asserted the following:
                That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the manner of discharging it,                 can be directed by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore, all men                 are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience;                 and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity                 towards each other.
Thus, theism defined “religion” and enjoyed freedom but needed to be Christian. In 1785, in “Memorial and Remonstrance,” James Madison quoted the above definition of religion-- what “we owe to our Creator,” and added,
                It is unalienable also, because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the                 Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage and such only as                 he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent, both in order of time and in                 degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as                 a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the                 Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the                 Universal Sovereign.
The emphasis is mine, and that sentence asserts that if you are a non-theist, you cannot be accepted to participate in civic governance. It was a further restriction on suffrage, reserved only for men who owned land.
                James Madison was the principle author of the US Constitution in 1787, and his Christian favoritism went with him and others into the First Congress of the USA: The predominance of Christian theism in US governance remains to this day. However, because each citizen holds a unique God, no God can provide just civic governance. Just citizens recognize that just citizens alone can provide just civic governance, and the preamble, perhaps with the seven goals updated by just citizens, is an adequate regulator of moral excellence. Only citizens with collaborative autonomy and mutual accommodation can provide the moral excellence that just civic governance requires.
                Theisms not only exclude non-theists but stymie cultural evolution. Three influences: 1) memes--packets of information passed on from generation to generation, 2) political and religious cooperation in governments, and 3) elitist competition to explain their god---distract citizens from the objective truth. To avoid unwarranted attention to these three influences, just citizens, without compromising their personal hopes and dreams, strive to understand each:  the inherited memes, Machiavelli’s irony in The Prince's Chapter XI, and the study of their  god. Mom and Dad had religious hopes of their own; state supporting church hopes to control citizens; and philosophers’ fame comes from speculating about their god. With these three understandings, each individual is empowered to make a personal choice as to what to do about theism and can confidently discuss personal hopes with other citizens, knowing whether the other citizen offers justice in the dialogue. Because their god/not is not knowable, a citizen may never feel comfortable with that question, but may be civilly confident as “We the People of the United States” as defined by the preamble. If the other party is unjust, saying so will seem just.
                The US Constitution’s provision for just civic governance seems simple, and it is. The challenge is to accept the preamble for the civic regulator no god can be, because gods differ from citizen to citizen and from just citizen to just citizen. It seems a paradox:  gods are exclusive but the preamble is inclusive, so the only advantageous exclusivity for just citizens rests with the preamble (or a revision with goals that the majority of citizens can trust in and commit to).

“We the People of the United States” as defined by the preamble is a civic, exclusive, obligatory association of citizens who also have other interests[1], such as a religion or none. Paradoxically, membership is voluntary.

[1] Revised on March 26, 2014 after Josh Riley criticized redundant use of “association.”

Copyright©2014 by Phillip R. Beaver. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby granted for the publication of all or portions of this paper as long as this complete copyright notice is included. Revised September 6, 2015