Friday, March 14, 2014

Preamble not secular 6/2/16

Because the preamble does not invoke religion, many people regard it as secular: not connected with religion. The preamble is civic and accommodates all personal thought. Since 70% of Americans are factional Christian and America was founded with a Christian population excluding the natives and slaves, Christians may find it difficult to embrace the preamble without imposing factional Christianity. Perhaps other citizens should not expect theists to give up their gains: inserting “ . . . under God,” into the pledge of allegiance, changing “E Pluribus Unum” to “In God We Trust,” and other forms of dominant opinion. However, the preamble is civic: It defines citizens’ duties to each other. Just citizens do not question other citizens’ inspiration and motivation for private pursuits.  Just as religion is not an issue in negotiating traffic intersections, religion is not an issue in just civic governance.
America’s organization for governance, ordained in the US Constitution dated 1787, was never just. It did not schedule ending slavery, even though many signers expected abolition. Most citizens could not vote: only landed gentry enjoyed suffrage. Men had the advantage in the courts. The Constitutions’ signers assumed that most citizens are not capable of good conduct, so they designed a system with domestic force on two levels: state and Union of states. Each of those governments had horizontally and vertically complicated departments that assured a republican form of governance. Contradicting the idea that most citizen could not behave, the signers created the potential for just civic governance by justly governed citizens if the majority would embrace the preamble. Always, a minority of citizens have trusted in and committed to the preamble, but since its ratification in 1788, the majority has never decided to be of We the People of the United States as defined in the preamble. All this time, the majority, "we, the people," has attempted to impose their will on citizens who could not achieve 50% plus one vote. I am reading and writing and working to change that.
The signers were not responsible for one contradiction that was added to the constitution: the imposition of theism into civic governance. After promises made during ratification, the First Congress added the Bill of Rights. Therein, the First Amendment contains two religion clauses without defining “religion.” The Supreme Court allows the plaintiff to define religion and then addresses the constitutionality of the claim. However, some of the signers held the definition of religion that is recorded in the Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776, authored by George Mason, which I quote:

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.

James Madison repeated Mason’s definition of religion--“duty . . . to our Creator”--in Memorial and Remonstrance,” 1785, and added his own thought:

Because the policy . . . is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.

The imposition of Christianity carried forward and the first Congress hired a minister and assigned chaplains to the military. Thomas Jefferson collaborated in these actions while maintaining that a person’s religion had no impact on his civic neighborliness but clarified his self-contradiction in 1800: “I Have Sworn Upon the Altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." I doubt neither Jefferson’s sincerity nor the expressed contradiction, but would rather commend simplicity: “I oppose tyranny against thought,” or better. Some people select poetry to stand the test of time regardless of verity.
            Jefferson was the poetic author of the Declaration of Independence (1776), with phrases some Christians include in claims to Christian founding. However, the references to higher power are deistic. Perhaps the committee of five who approved the document did not mind the deist influence and liked avoiding reference to the King’s Christian God; they invoked “Nature and Nature’s God” and “Creator” and other deist terms. Colonial soldiers would need a sense that their God exceeded the God of the world's leading empire, so perhaps Jefferson was writing the tacit war claim, "Our god will beat your god."
            Jefferson’s poetic “all men are created equal . . . with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness,” is even more controversial. I discuss that below. The Continental Congress (1774) was mistaken when it did not castigate England for imposing slavery on the colonies. However, the Declaration of Independence succeeded, because it led to the organization of this country for domestic justice and global esteem, faulty as it was, twelve years later.
Including slavery in the original US Constitution took on England’s evil. Correction has begun but is yet to be accomplished. Similarly, imposing religion onto civic governance remains an evil for which correction has barely begun. Citizens: amend the First Amendment to defend thought, a civic duty, instead of religion, an institution! More importantly revolt against the idea that if another citizen is not a Christian, or at least a theist, their citizenship is diminished; currently, there are over 70 million Americans subjected to but intolerant of that Christian tyranny. Believers: join the revolution for just civic governance by just citizens by treating religion as a private object of personal autonomy, which calls for mutual accommodation with non-believers. Both believers and non-believers may choose to be of “We the People of the United States” as defined by the preamble and must do so to achieve domestic peace.
How can non-Christians be anything but intolerant of Christianity’s imposition into civic governance? Christians consider life a penance for original sin--a suffering to gain eternity in heaven—everlasting life for their soul. Some citizens regard life a gift during which a person can pursue happiness. They accept the inevitability of death and trust their afterdeath to whatever caused their birth in innocence: innocence a person may see in any well-nourished infant. At least one thinker, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in “Divinity School Address,” 1838, argues that happiness is defining virtue—not merely being virtuous, but taking the morally excellent action in situations never before faced. Just citizens in just civic governance accommodate both believers and non-believers without imposition of religious doctrine.
The preamble calls for a citizen’s republic—“independence from arbitrary power,” quoting . Here's the preamble paraphrased in such a way as to make that point: Citizens who agree to seven civic goals ordain and maintain the written laws, including means for amendment when injustice is discovered. However, some citizens, citing the Declaration of Independence, argue for liberal democracy: equal rights to liberty and pursuit of happiness. But Thomas Jefferson’s poetry does not hold in human living, which involves personal conduct. For example, thieves are not free to steal. H.A. Overstreet in The Mature Mind, 1949, asserts that humans are born equally ignorant, irresponsible, selfish, sexually diffuse, and inarticulate, to a world of contradictions. Each person has duty to self to 1) understand bad influences and reject them and 2) grow psychological maturity. But some persons neither understand nor grow self-control; most citizens think they are adults when they reach an age, but there are many adolescent adults. Thus, humans are born equal: equally vulnerable, but their psychological achievements are not equal. Not every person would agree with Emerson that happiness is the right to act with moral excellence: Some people just want to have fun and gain advantage.
I do not know but expect my afterdeath to have two elements: dust and my cooperative accomplishments, such as some existing, safe, chemical reactors. As I understand the doctrine, Christians should regard me as neither elect nor antinomian: those are doctrinal ideas having nothing to do with my citizenship. Standing on my citizenship, I require believers to state their civic concerns and civic premises in civic terms; I have considered Christian doctrine and find it wanting. Non-believers expect believers to attend celebrations of Ratification Day each June 21 as citizens who are satisfied with their religious opinion and accept other citizens' satisfactions with their differing religious opinion. Just citizens celebrate freedom of thought, including freedom of arts such as religion. If citizens want to discuss doctrine, we can agree to an art conference, and, granted the opportunity, I would present opinion about the literature such as my essay and fiction in "Abram Decided Not to Murder His Son," at .
Citizens who refuse to face the need for civic terms in civic governance are responsible for the doors they close and their losses, as demonstrated by America's current state of domestic dysfunction. After 227 years of neglect, it is time for Christians, all believers, and non-believers to consider, “What would it take for me to consider myself of ‘We the People of the United States’ as defined in the preamble?"
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 6/2/16)