Thursday, July 5, 2018

Some Christian Worldview thoughts on Independence Day 2018

There is much debate today about whether or not the men who assembled at Independence Hall in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776 had the biblical authority to formally enter a state of rebellion against their Romans 13 governing authority who lay across the vast Atlantic Ocean.
Most people never read this part of the Declaration of Independence:

“Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.”

These words reveal to us that these men most certainly did not take what they were doing lightly. Their words indicate that they not only didn’t take it lightly, they reminded us that experience showed that most of the time the people would suffer long and hard before trying to “right things.” History shows us that the founders in this era most certainly did long suffer before arriving at this point and had exhausted every means before them.

Without going into a long discourse of the meaning of the applicable passage in Romans 13 pertaining to civil government, suffice it to say that the command “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities” (Rom 13:1) is no more of an absolute command than is the command for a wife to be subject to her husband (Eph 5:22). It is a general command. Using Romans 13 to prove a tyrants’ claim that Christians must give absolute and total submission to civil government is like using Ephesians 5:22 to prove that a guy can beat his wife into submission.

There is much more that can be said concerning the proper interpretation of the Romans 13 civil government passage but for the purposes of this article/blog/post I’ll leave it with the mention that Romans 13:1-4 ranks among the most misinterpreted and ripped out of context passages in scripture. Verse 4 is hardly ever read when this is taught and is the verse that gives us context. It is the verse that exposes part of God’s design for civil government, the fact that civil government under God’s design is for the good of people. The founders understood this:

“That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…”. (See Deuteronomy 1:13 for God’s design of self-government).

Civil government under our founding charter is designed to perform a very limited and God ordained function.

Today, some of my conservative friends are too quick to repeat the part of the Declaration that explains the need for the founders rebellion:

“whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government…”

Let us remember that these men had exhausted all other recourse. For decades they had petitioned the crown for redress and were met with nothing but more tyranny. They had no recourse under a “rule of law”.

That is not the case today. When the framers of the United States Constitution met in Philadelphia in the hot summer of 1787 to revise America’s first governing document (the Articles of Confederation) they completely understood the tyranny that they had come from under the crown of England. They designed a system of federal civil government that would place all of the government under a “Rule of Law” rather than the Rule of Men. Understanding the biblical doctrine of the depravity of man, they designed a system of separating and dividing powers. They instituted mechanisms of redress for the people and the states to affect change if defects in the governing document were discovered. They gave us an incredible document in our United States Constitution, a system of government closely aligned with biblical precept and truth under which liberty could flourish and potential government tyranny could be checked.

The United States Constitution, although an incredible document, is not perfect. It never has been perfect. It was designed by fallible men. Thank God for the prescience and wisdom of these men to insert a lawful, peaceful mechanism under which to affect change when defects were discovered. Indeed, we fixed the defect a defect in the life and liberty that was to be protected; the 13th Amendment made human enslavement unconstitutional. We fixed another liberty defect with the 18th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

Today, we have all kinds of lawful recourse built into our system of civil government that the founders did not have. They had no recourse under the Rule of Law. We do. How dare we use rhetoric advocating going outside the Rule of Law before exhausting all recourse under the Rule of Law?

Article V of the Constitution directly empowers the people acting through their state legislatures to affect change to the federal government. It’s time we understand and embrace the lawful, peaceful, and constitutional recourse given to us by the framers.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Government Largesse, the Rule of Law, and the Biblical "Governing Authority"

For those who claim Christ that feel drawn to government largesse or a particular social program that they feel their faith mandates, I offer the following expose that I think is crucial for the Christ claimer to grasp.

Our nation is governed under a Constitutional Republic....NOT a Democratic Republic. This is not semantics, there is a big difference between the two. The latter is a set up for mob rule. The former is designed to place and keep men under the Rule of Law. In most other nations around the world, the Romans 13 / 1 Peter 2 governing authority is a human that has been placed into office. Not so in our country. If you claim Christ, it is imperative that you understand this in light of Romans 13/1 Peter 2. The "governing authority" and "human institution" in the United States of America is NOT any person inside the three branches of our government. Because of the United States our nation the Romans 13 / 1 Peter 2 governing authority is the Rule of Law....the United States Constitution.

That Constitution confers very limited and specific powers to the federal government. Just over 230 years have passed since Philadelphia Convention scribe, Jacob Shallus put quill to parchment. Those years have taken their on the physical properties of the animal skin that holds the ink from Mr. Shallus’ pen, but sadly, a heavier and much more dangerous toll has been inflicted upon what is still today our primary governing document. The toll inflicted by ignorance and wickedness among those governed by it, is threatening our Republic at breakneck pace unlike no other time in history.

I often see well-meaning Christ claimers advocating some trendy social “right” or program that modern believers think is a right everyone must have in order to achieve some sort of perceived need for “equality” …. or to be blunt…to arrive at some notion of utopia amongst the citizenry. A notion which by the way is a completely unbiblical idea.

Permit me to explain a little bit more in depth about this. To do that, we have to start with some basic facts about our Constitution. We are a nation of laws…the United States Constitution sets forth the Rule of Law for our nation. It establishes the parameters under which our federal government can operate, no more, no less. By its very nature, the United States Constitution or Federal Constitution as it is sometimes referred to, is a document of limited powers (ceded up by the states in order to create a limited central government) and a list of "enumerated" individual rights to be retained by all the citizenry.

The framers of the document set forth the premise in Article VI that the United States Constitution is the Supreme Law of the land. From this fact comes the principle that the United States Constitution is the Rule of Law. Article VI states that there is no higher law, the United States Constitution is supreme to all federal law. Consequently, all federal law enacted must be enacted “pursuant” to the Constitution. This means that federal law cannot contravene (violate) the Constitution. Article VI also states that the United States Constitution is supreme above all state Constitutions and state laws. I mention this to remind us that there is NO law, NO office, and NO individual office holder that is above the United States Constitution. Indeed, all Federal Office holders swear an oath to the United States Constitution.

The United States Constitution IS the Romans 13/1 Peter 2 biblical governing authority for those that claim Christ!

Law Above Men...or The Desires of Men

The idea that "we need to have this social program or that social program”, while it may sound moralistic and high minded…reveals very deep lack of understanding of the United States Constitution and how our government works. Our founders set up a system unlike no other in history...we respect law above men. The founders came from a worldview where subjects were required to respect men (a King) above law (Rex Lex), so they implicitly and intentionally set up a system from a biblical worldview wherein we respect law above men (Lex Rex). The United States Constitution is the highest law of the land, again, that’s why officials take an oath to it. Therefore, you are required...and as a is your duty to respect the highest man-made Law (Constitution) above any man or above any desire you might have to provide government largesse (social programs) to the masses, no matter how well intentioned you might be. That means that as a Christian, you must respect the limited powers conferred upon the federal government. You don’t get to have some program i.e. "Universal Healthcare” simply because you have some sense of the need for “justice” or service to your fellow human being.

If you claim Christ, you are called to obey the Romans 13/1 Peter 2"governing authority" over your well-intentioned desire to provide government largesse. You don’t get to advocate for violating the rule of law (limited federal power) out of your own sense of social equality or justice.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Playing Fast and Loose with History

The September 13th edition of the Summerville Journal Scene (Local Newsprint) carried a Letter to the Editor by a local opponent of the Convention of States Project. The author of this LTE happens to be the co-chair of The Summervlle 9-12 Project, which bills itself as a "public education group founded upon nine principles and 12 values of America’s founding".

As a Constitutional historian, I'm staggered by the quantity of historical error in this article and lack of basic understanding of historical facts. It's one thing to be opposed to something and have an opinion. It's an entirely different matter to write an article strong on emotion and devoid of Constitutional and historical accuracy in almost every respect. Should we not hold those that claim to be Constitutionalists to the same standard that we hold the left? To do otherwise is utter hypocrisy. And the group this author co chairs bills itself as a "public education group". The Irony.

To be clear, I have no problem with the authors opposition to the Convention of States Project. I disagree with her, but she is free to opine on her opposition. What I take issue with is playing fast and loose with Constitutional history and facts. When someone is specifically referencing Constitutional history as part of their argument, and claims to be a Constitutionalist, they have a responsibility to exercise care to use the historical record rather than simply to emote and throw spaghetti on the wall so to speak with baseless charges about Constitutional history. I will deal with the issues raised or implied by the author concerning the Constitution that are totally inaccurate.

First, I want to address the authors assertion that somehow the Constitution that was produced at the Philadelphia Convention was illegitimate. The author states “Our own Founding Fathers threw out the Articles of Confederation at their Constitutional Convention. They also reduced the number of states needed to ratify. Yes. America’s first Convention of States was a run-away convention.”

This is worth spending time explaining because the “runaway convention” argument is at the core of most opposition to an Article V Convention today. Before I even address that statement, honest readers would have to ask wouldn’t this assertion then make the document we revere today illegal? If those men did disobey their charge at Philadelphia, wouldn’t that make them less than honorable? The author doesn’t explain those inconsistencies because the “runaway convention” myth of 1787 is nothing more than the biggest historical lie ever told in our nation’s history. The truth of the matter for anyone wanting to do just a little historical research is that those men completely OBEYED their charge and amended the Articles of Confederation to meet what they called the “exigencies” of the union (their word), or the emergency in the union to use modern day vernacular. I cannot tell you how many times I have had someone tell me that “they were just supposed to amend the Articles of Confederation”. Then I ask them where they got that from…and they tell me someone else told them that.

Honest historians and Constitutionalists do not have to wonder what the framers were charged to do at Philadelphia with the Articles of Confederation in 1787. James Madison dedicated an entire essay (known today as Federalist #40) to explaining in painstaking detail what happened at that convention. In Federalist #40 the primary source writer of the Constitution tells us exactly what the commissioners to Philadelphia were charged to do. They were charged to “devise such further provisions as shall appear to them necessary to render the Constitution [Articles of Confederation] of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union”. The fact of the matter is that they were given broad latitude to save a young nation that was in grave danger do to the failure of the Articles of Confederation. And by the way, logic tells us that if you make one amendment or 500 amendments, you still amended the document.

This is probably the root of most of the error in understanding about an Article V Convention. This erroneous viewpoint has absolutely zero basis in fact when the actual historical record is looked at. And to be honest, it is a sad state of affairs for someone that claims to be a Constitutionalist to be that ill informed. The historical record on what occurred at Philadelphia and even at Annapolis the year before is voluminous. It baffles me how anyone can spend time defending the Constitution and the 10th Amendment, but then at the same time absolutely disparage the work of the framers in Philadelphia. If the framers went “rogue” at Philadelphia as asserted, then we have a completely illegal document today. You cannot have it both ways, you cannot purport to love and defend a document….and at the same time declare it to be illegal. Saying that the author is disparaging the framers is not overstated, the position that the framers “threw out the Articles” reveals that the author has either not been introduced to Federalist 40, or believes Mr. James Madison to be a liar. Both are bad options by the way for someone writing and opining about Constitutional history. In Federalist 40 Madison point by point explains every step of the Philadelphia Convention beginning with the call from the previous meeting in Annapolis. There is so much misinformation out there about this, it is truly sad, we live in an age where accurate historical data is available literally at our fingertips.

The Philadelphia Convention was given the solemn charge from the Annapolis Convention to “render the federal Constitution ADEQUATE TO THE EXIGENCIES OF GOVERNMENT AND THE PRESERVATION OF THE UNION.” In other words, there was an emergency in the Union. History of the period after the ratification of the Articles and post-Revolutionary war reveals to any person wanting to look at the record that the failure of the Articles to address things like Commerce had reduced the 13 States to economic warfare and the union was coming apart at the seams. The British were eying their former colonies from across the Atlantic ready to retake them. Hence the word “exegencies” and “preservation” in the call. The framers were given the charge to basically do whatever it took to preserve the union. However, this did not mean that they just did whatever they wanted. They took steps to insure that the Articles were followed, even down to the ratification process.

The authors statement about the framers going rogue and reducing the amount of states to ratify is also not only misleading but flat out false. The author fails to mention after that slanderous charge either unknowingly or intentionally that the exact language in Article XIII of the Articles of Confederation require that the any changes be “confirmed by the legislatures of every State”. This provision was absolutely followed to the letter. When the draft Constitution was sent out to the 13 states under the new ratification procedure outlined in Article VII of the Constitution, it was sent to every single state. Article VII of the Constitution states that “The Ratification of the Conventions of nine States shall be sufficient for the Establishment of this Constitution between the States so ratifying the same. While it is true that there was a process change between the Articles of Confederation and the United States Constitution, a look at the historical record clearly reveals that the process was followed to the letter. Since the process changed from “13 legislatures” to “9 conventions”….every state had to approve of the change in order to get sent into convention. All 13 states approved as evidenced by the fact that all 13 sent the Constitution into state conventions. Even Rhode Island and North Carolina, who initially held off on ratification….approved of the change as evidenced by the fact that their legislature sent it into Convention. At any step of way, there were any number of ways for the states to reject the process change….but all complied. None of them refused to send it to Convention. If the states or the Continental Congress had felt that the process was violated, the record would show that…there is no such record of any state or the Continental Congress doing that.

It is ok for people today to fear the Article V process; honest people can disagree on its use. But it is not ok to make up or revise history to support that fear.

Don’t take my word for any of this, research it for yourself. Don’t only read Madison’s Federalist #40, read Madison’s letter to Edward Everett dated August 28, 1830 where he details the fact that the Article V process is THE way for the states to defend the Constitution. He clearly explains that the ultimate way for the states to protect their 10th Amendment rights is to come together in convention and reset the language that has been perverted.

The author goes on to state: "Advocates for an Article V Convention merely switched words. What was an Article V Constitutional Convention, they now label a “Convention of States.”

This is another statement devoid of truth and historical perspective either through lack of knowledge of history, lazyness to conduct adequate research, or an attempt to smear the proponents of the Convention of States Project by implying that the terminology "Convention of States" is somehow a newly made up phrase to mask some nefarious agenda.

Again, just a smidgen of scholarly research would reveal that "Convention of States is the historically accurate terminology for a state led amendment proposing convention. The very first application under the new Article V of the newly ratified United States Constitution was filed by the state of Virginia in May of 1789 to propose a Bill of Rights. Madison being true to his word and promise conversely proposed those amendments in the 1st Congress in June of 1789 and an amendments convention became unnecessary. Virginia not waiting for this filed the very first application for the states to do it in May...and in that application, the very first application under Article V they specifically referred to such a convention as a "Convention of the States, they never used the term "Constitutional Convention because everyone at that time knew the difference.

It is interesting to discover that the root of the “runaway convention” actually has its genesis with the far left in the early 60’s.

The author of the article also states: “Unfortunately, the Left and the Right have been working together for an Article V convention for the first time in history.”

She has been saying this for almost 4 years. When we started this effort, that was akin to throwing the proverbial spaghetti against a wall to see If something would stick. Today, four years after the Convention of States Project was founded, the actual proof Is exactly the opposite. Just last week Hillary Clinton was railing against the “far right” initiating an Article V convention and railing against it. About 5 months ago, 230 Soros backed groups led by the heavily Soros funded group “Common Cause” signed a statement vehemently opposing an Article V Convention. Here in South Carolina, when the COS resolution came before the full SC Senate Judiciary for a vote in 2015, every single Republican voted for it and every single Democrat voted against it. If the left wants a Convention of States, they have a strange way of achieving it.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

September 15th and The 230 Year Old Message From Col. George Mason

A very important day in United States Constitutional history. The delegates to the Philadelphia Convention (today referred to as the Constitutional Convention) had been going over every section of every article in the final months of the Convention in 1787. 230 years ago, on a Saturday, just two days before the Convention in Philadelphia completed its work, we find a gem in the notes of James Madison, who took extensive notes just about every day of the convention. This item that I refer to as a “gem” is little known and hardly talked about today. On September 15, 1787, George Mason of Virginia (referred to in Madison’s notes as Col Mason), was alarmed that in the text of Article V (the provision for making Amendments to the Constitution), Congress would have sole power to propose amendments; Mason insisted, as he did earlier in June, that the states have authority to call for conventions. Mason explained that an oppressive Congress would never agree to propose amendments necessary to restrain a rogue, tyrannical legislature.

"Col. Mason thought the plan of amending the Constitution exceptionable & dangerous. As the proposing of amendments is in both the modes to depend, in the first immediately, in the second, ultimately, on Congress, no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive, as he verily believed would be the case.” (See Madison’s notes 15 Sep 1787).

To make sense of that, you must understand that earlier in the summer when the issue of even having an Amendment process was first brought up as a provision in the Constitution, many of the delegates thought it unnecessary. Madison’s notes record the following on June 11th: “Col. MASON urged the necessity of such a provision [Amendments]. The plan now to be formed will certainly be defective, as the Confederation has been found on trial to be. Amendments therefore will be necessary, and it will be better to provide for them, in an easy, regular and Constitutional way than to trust to chance and violence. It would be improper to require the consent of the Natl. Legislature, because they may abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account…”.

Then by the time the convention reached its final days in mid September, the Amendment provision had been added as Article V, and the provision had two methods; the national legislature (Congress) could propose Amendments and the states could request that Congress propose specific amendments. However, both methods were left in the hands (power) of the national legislature, that’s what Mason meant when he referred in the first quote above as “both the modes to depend, in the first immediately, in the second, ultimately, on Congress”. Mason had objected to this back in June and now as the convention drew to a close, he rose to his feet to forcefully object with his reasons stated above (“It would be improper to require the consent of the Natl. Legislature, because they may abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account”). Madison’s notes of 15 Sept tell us that Mason’s motion was accepted and the language was changed in order to require [mandate] Congress to call a convention upon application of 2/3 of the states.

It is noteworthy to point out that this process does not call for a Constitutional Convention; the language specifies calling a convention for the purpose of “proposing amendments”…to the existing Constitution…it would still require 3/4ths of the states (38) to ratify any amendment proposed in this convention.

We owe George Mason and the other framers a huge debt for this...they had the foresight to understand first of all, that we needed an orderly process in which to amend our Constitution (“regular and Constitutional way than to trust to chance and violence” – Mason 11 June). Secondly we owe them a huge debt for recognizing and understanding the depravity of man and the extremely intoxicating effects of years of power in the hands of the same people (hence a need for term limits) and that these power intoxicated occupants of the United States Congress would “abuse their power, and refuse their consent” (Mason 11 June) to any amendments that would “injure” themselves and return powers never intended for the national legislature or any of the other branches for that matter, they would never take steps to return that power on their own to the rightful owner, the states/people (“no amendments of the proper kind would ever be obtained by the people, if the Government should become oppressive” – Mason 15 Sep).

The least we can do as citizens of this great nation today, citizens that do not seem to want to be bothered with taking the time to understand the underpinnings of their liberty, the least we can do is take the time to understand what the framers of this amazing document did for us. When the framers agreed on September 15th, 1787 to change the text in Article V, they in effect were telegraphing a message to us in 2017, a message to us showing us the way back inside the fence of the Constitution, a way back to what Thomas Jefferson called the “chains of the Constitution”.