Time Magazine, June 23, 2011, issue had a painful cover article entitled One Document, Under Siege by Richard Stengel. The cover showed a shredded American constitution.
The author wondered if the U.S. Constitution is still relevant after all these years. There are so many things today that the Founding Fathers never even thought of. The author states, “Here are a few things the framers did not know about: World War II, DNA, Airplanes, the atom, television, Medicare, derivatives, the germ theory of disease, miniskirts, the internal combustion engine, computers, antibiotics.” [We might add fifty states and one third billion people.] “There has been so much change and growth; how can that old parchment have relevance today?” is his query.
In order to answer this question, it is helpful to analyze it from our presuppositions.
The author is speaking from his government presupposition that the purpose of civil government is to control the people and that ultimate sovereignty rests in the state. The thinking is that there was little to control at the time of America’s founding, so the document worked. But things have changed radically since then and the document is no longer able to control everything, yielding dysfunctional government.
This idea that the purpose of civil government is to control everything is the socialist or European view of government, from which we departed almost 250 years ago.
But, is complexity the reason for dysfunctional government, or is there something else?
CONTROL OR PROTECTION
The American view is that the purpose of civil government is not to control everything, but to provide the individual with protection. The idea that came out of the Reformation and was embraced by the founding generation is that ultimately God is sovereign, and that He gave mankind civil government. The individual is to control his own life under God in every area. The proper purpose of civil government from the Bible is to protect his liberty, along with his life and his property.
This view says that far from the civil government being the focus of everything, it is actually only a small part of life with specific proper purposes and functions – to protect and serve – not to educate, not to provide, not to direct, not to take care of the poor, not to decide what the people should buy, not to control the people.
The constitution still is more than adequate to accomplish its proper purpose of protection.
The condition for it to work properly, however, is that individuals throughout the society must control themselves to do what is right on their own in every area of life, i.e. they must govern themselves under God. This arrangement takes a high general level of individual character, which has been diminishing over the years in America. As a people, we are now looking for someone to rule and control us rather than protect us and stay out of our lives.
This is the result of the people in America drifting away from being ruled and controlled by God and His word – a voluntary condition. We are therefore asking, “Who is in charge?” and concluding that the civil government must be the top authority, since we don’t recognize God’s presence. As the character level of the people increases in dependence – we are seeking a king to take care of us. In our hearts, we are trading back the rule of law for the rule of man.
From this view, as we look at the constitution we are listening to people who say it is antiquated and insufficient to control so vast a people in modern times. But the purpose of the American constitution and civil government is not control.
The constitution is still accomplishing its proper functions and purposes. The problem is the declining character of the people of America, and therefore the representatives we choose. Representatives reflect the character of the people in general. Dependent individual character in society opens the door to external tyranny as we seek someone to control things for us. Socialism begins in the heart.
THIRD GREAT AWAKENING
Therefore, we must pray for a new third Great Awakening to strengthen individual character to be able to handle freedom properly in America. This character includes such qualities as honesty and love, righteousness and justice, responsibility and initiative, generosity and unselfishness.
The constitution is the law that governs the government. It is not being shredded by the advances of today’s society, but is being diminished by those whose philosophy of government tells them that old parchment is no longer relevant to control everything. The people elect representatives who feel the same way – that they do not need to obey or uphold the constitution anymore in these complex modern times, even though that is what they vow to do in their oath of office.
THEREFORE WE MUST VOTE
We must vote for representatives who recognize the real purpose of American civil government, and want to uphold it and strengthen it.
We must vote intelligently, Biblically and always. Doing so is the first step in governing ourselves under God in the area of civil government.
For a full treatment of the American philosophy of government and how to rebuild the United States of America from the inside out:
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