Christine O’Donnell and the Constitution
First of all, I’ve been forcing myself to stay away from following midterm elections outside of my own city and state, so I’m sure there’s a lot of background I don’t know. Though I’ve gathered through links and status updates posted on Facebook that the Delaware race has been getting a lot of attention, I have literally not seen, read, or heard a thing about either of the candidates. I’m sure there’s more to this story than what I know, so take my comments with a grain of salt. I’m going only based on what I saw in this video, which I watched yesterday, for some reason.
To me, this video represents everything that’s wrong with politics in America. Were I a Delaware resident, there’s no way I could possibly vote for either of these candidates. Let me give just a few reasons why.
I respect Chris Coons for his honesty and consistency. Everything he says in this clip is 100% in line with his political philosophy. He doesn’t seem to have anything to hide. He has thought through the issues, and speaks with clarity on his positions and his interpretation of the Constitution. I just disagree with him on nearly everything, including his Constitutional interpretation. He’s wrong on evolution as an established fact. He’s wrong on abortion as a “right”, and his support for public funding of abortions is particularly unsettling. Also, the simple fact that there are pieces of legislation and judicial decisions “that we’ve lived with and lived under for decades” does not make them right, and does not obligate our politicians to necessarily protect and preserve them. What is a Congressperson’s job if not to represent the people and exercise their right to “alter or abolish” (in the words of the Declaration of Independence) forms of government — including former decisions by earlier generations of that same government — deemed “destructive of these ends”, which are “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? I say this fully understanding that my interpretation of those ends is quite different from Mr. Coons’… but that’s why he could never have my vote.
Ironically, though, I fully agree with Coons on education. While I disagree that evolutionism is an established fact while creationism is (merely) a “religious doctrine”, he’s absolutely correct in that the government has every right to determine what is taught in government schools. Home, private and parochial schools exist so that parents CAN have a choice regarding the education of their children. If learning the doctrine of evolution — not to mention all the other tenets of the government’s religion of secularism — is objectionable to Christians, then maybe our children should not attend public schools. It never ceases to amaze me that Republicans, and, most recently, the current crop of “Tea Party” candidates, are so adamantly opposed to socialism in any form, yet all of their education reforms are geared toward finding solutions within our system of socialized schools. Education, after all, was nationalized long before GM and Fannie Mae…
Christine O’Donnell, on the other hand, shows a complete lack of respect for our system of government. If American-style Democracy is to work, candidates must at least be civil toward one another. Her frequent interruptions of Mr. Coons and the timekeeper display the arrogance of which Tea Party candidates are all-too-often rightly accused. Her ignorance of the Constitution and its amendments is simply embarrassing for a candidate for such high office.
And while I might be willing to give her the benefit of the doubt that she was trying to “trap” Mr. Coons into claiming that Thomas Jefferson’s famous words “separation of church & state” appear explicitly in the Constitution (they don’t), the first amendment’s establishment clause IS there, and, given Coons’ presupposition that “creationism” is a religious doctrine and not science, he was absolutely correct in his application of this clause to the topic at hand. The issue ought to have been this incorrect presupposition (“science” is a method by which truth claims — of which evolution and Creation are two — are investigated, not a group of truth claims in and of itself); questioning whether the first amendment actually says what it says is an error not worthy of the platform Ms. O’Donnell has been given.
I suppose the point I’m actually trying to get at is that the political process in America has devolved into an effort by political parties to find “electable” candidates, rather than for the people to search out the best candidate — one who will represent his or her constituency with integrity, and seek to uphold both the letter and the spirit of the Constitution. Instead of civic-minded statesmen, we end up with elected officials who are merely the winners of popularity contests.
At the risk of painting with too broad a brush, it seems the “Tea Party” is guilty of the exact crime which led to its founding. Two years ago, Barack Obama and Democrats nationwide nearly swept the elections running on a platform of “change”. Rather than lay out a specific plan of action, many candidates seem to have won elections simply by being “Not Bush” or “Not Republican”. Conservatives rightly pointed out the dangers of this, and our country is already reaping the rewards of a willfully, insufficiently-informed electorate choosing likable but unqualified leaders.
But if Christine O’Donnell is any indication (not to mention some of the candidates in our local elections), the Tea Party movement seems to be resulting in the success of candidates essentially running on a platform of “change”, though that word has been avoided. If a person’s greatest electable asset is “Not Obama” or “Not Democrat”, how is this any better for our nation?
Wilberforce and the Blessings of Government
Though my cynicism toward our political process is surely evident in my writing, I want to also make it clear that I do believe that the “American Experiment” of republican government is the best form of human government yet devised. One day, the government of this world will be placed on Christ’s shoulders, and of that government — and of the peace that it brings — there will be no end (Isaiah 9:6-7). Until then, we will be governed imperfectly by corrupt human authorities. All of our leaders are sinners; this is why we must pray for them! (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
Even these imperfect forms of government exist for our good, because of God’s grace toward us. These authorities create and uphold laws which restrain much evil that men would do in the absence of government. Though there are definite biblical limits on the authority of human governors (God always reserves for himself highest authority), we are to submit to and support our leaders as much as possible (Romans 13). Where conflict exists, we must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29), but this country was founded on principles that prevent these conflicts more than anywhere else in the world.
Over 200 years ago, William Wilberforce wrote in A Practical View of Christianity about this very thing, contrasting the merits of an admittedly imperfect British Parliamentary system with the anarchy of the French revolution:
“Consider well the superior light and advantages which we enjoy, and then appreciate the superior obligations which are imposed on us. Consider in how many cases our evil propensities are now kept from breaking forth, by the superior restraints under which vice is laid among us by positive laws, and by the amended standard of public opinion; And we may be assisted in conjecturing what force is to be assigned to these motives, by the dreadful proofs which have been lately exhibited in a neighboring country, that when their influence is withdrawn, the most atrocious crimes can be perpetrated shamelessly and in the face of day.”
I long for the day when I will live in the country of my true citizenship (Philippians 3:20), but until then I am thankful for the blessings which are afforded me by God in the nation of my earthly citizenship. I am awed by the superior advantages that we enjoy in America, and humbled by the superior obligations of government of, by, and for the people.
The greatest political obligation for American Christians continues to be our duty to pray for our leaders, and to support and submit to them in any way our conscience allows. This is something I gladly do, and will continue to do, whether Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, or anyone else holds office in authority over me.