As I read Hewitt’s post of yesterday and heard him replay Justice Breyer’s comments from the 2011 interview this morning that “I don’t think George Washington knew about the internet. I think our basic job there is to take the values in the Constitution, which don’t change. They’re virtually the same now as they were in the 18th Century. They’re the values of the enlightenment, and apply them to today’s world which changes every five minutes. I mean, yes, George Washington didn’t know the internet, nor did James Madison know about television, et cetera. And this world keeps changing,” I could not help but think about what the Founders did know. They knew human nature, which does not change.
Nor are the Constitution’s values fundamentally those of the enlightenment. Yes, the enlightenment contributed to the Founders thinking, but the French Revolution was steeped in enlightenment thinking – and it failed. No, our Constitution counterbalances the enlightenment, which presumed man to be inherently altruistic and good, with Christian thought which understands that man is flawed and grossly self-centered.
Our Constitution attempts to harness (not dictate!) human nature, with all of its foibles, to bring about the best collective outcome. Hewitt’s response to the Justice, “They knew liberty. That’s what they knew. They knew liberty,” illustrates, to use a metaphor, that while you can put a horse in harness and get useful work from it, if you try and make it act like an ox all you are going to get is problems.
One of the things we Christians need to consider as we battle this election cycle for the issues that matter most to us, from abortion through same-sex marriage into transgenderism, is that if we attempt to force those who disagree with us into being like us, we are creating as many problems as we are solving. Human nature does not like to be forced into anything – or forced out of anything for that matter, even if that thing is really, really bad for them and the greater culture.
If one may speak of God as learning through time (I know, not really, but let’s go with it for a minute), then one can say that such is the lesson God learned through the Old Testament period. No force of law could produce the result God wanted from His chosen race. (Perhaps it was we that had to learn this lesson and not He?)
God’s next step was incarnation and sacrifice. The American experiment has succeeded to date because the church, in so many different expressions, was given free reign to incarnate the Spirit of God in the nation built on the Constitution. The counter to Justice Breyer’s assertion of enlightenment values is not just more conservative justices, it is incarnation and sacrifice.
We must take seriously, as the church, that we are the body of Christ; we are the incarnation – and we must sacrifice. I do not know with certainty what this election cycle will bring. But I do know that regardless, if we are truly the Body of Christ, what comes will have the counter that it needs. We need to worry about more than our vote.