Thursday, October 18, 2007

Common Ground - By Raj Verma

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In response to last week’s USINPAC Quick Vote on whether the U.S. Constitution and American form of government was founded on Christian principles, the answer must be undeniably in the affirmative. What is remarkable to observe in our society is the degree of outrage and animosity displayed by some individuals and groups when a public official makes a statement affirming the idea that this country was founded on Christian principles. These groups find this assertion offensive and an affront to their own religious expression. More and more, we see an exaggerated sensitivity among various groups who deny the historical facts of this nation’s heritage. To say that this country was not founded on Christian principles and/or beliefs is tantamount to saying that the Apollo space mission to the moon was actually a bogus plot that was captured on film in the desert of Arizona. While the Constitution and American form of government was forged primarily out of a compromise among competing articulations of an effectively governed society and political expediency, nevertheless it is absolutely true that the Constitution rests on Christian principles. In turn, this is not to state that non-Christians in a democratic society cannot be leaders or stewards of democratic principles, nor does it imply that we are strictly a ‘Christian-nation’. It appears that we all too often are over-sensitive to public statements that simply iterate the historical truth about the nation’s heritage and foundation, which by all measures, has been eminently successful. Many times, we attempt to replace statements about faith, principles and values grounded in Christianity as remarks that condemn and submerge other religious groups. This should not and is not the case. Rather, by affirming the intellectual honest answer that the Constitution and American form of government possesses clear Christian principles, we can still have an ideologically diverse society, reconciled by the fact that universally-acknowledged values, albeit Christian values, drive our nation’s glory and not to the exclusion of other religious or non-religious groups.

The Founding Fathers of the American Constitution fully recognized, not by their own personal desire, but out of necessity, that a peaceful, organized, and enriched democratic society could not withstand the forces of divisiveness and depravity that exists as part of human nature unless a higher authority was invoked. In devising the Constitution, these ‘wise men’ did not simply grasp principles out of thin air. Rather, the Founding Fathers were entrenched in Christian intellectual thought (even though some of the Founding Fathers claimed to be Deists) and others were Christians themselves. The enormous pitfalls and political devastation in Europe prior to 1776 illustrates the perspective and context by which the American form of government and Constitution was crafted. Although the Founding Fathers were fully aware of the harm placed on a society that constructed government as a purely religious institution, unduly indoctrinating their constituents, the key issue that was to be addressed in crafting the document was recognizing the nature of humanity and what kinds of principles and beliefs accurately reflected human behavior. The Christian principles of human depravity and dignity were extracted from the Bible to influence the Constitution and American form of separate but equal government, precisely because these principles accurately reflected what was observed in the human condition. Furthermore, the written statements of James Madison, John Adams, and Daniel Webster, among others, evidence the principles of Christianity in the Constitution (although the term ‘God’ is not displayed in the Constitution itself, rather, the principles of Christianity are firmly exhibited). James Madison, considered the ‘architect of the Constitution,’ noted, “We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all our political institutions on the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves, according to the Ten Commandments of God.”

Whether it be religiously inspired or culturally inscribed, the average and common citizen can agree on universally acknowledged values that the Constitution rests upon. The principles of human depravity and dignity, respect for authority and rule of law, among others, are favorably recognized among many other religious and non-religious citizens. As a result, citizens from any religious or non-religious faith can emerge as leaders of this country, whether it be as board member of the local school district, to President of the United States, as long as that person can be held responsible for safeguarding the democratic and Christian principles and values enshrined in the Constitution.

It is important, as a nation, not to become overly-sensitive to comments made by public officials or private citizens who remark about the foundation of this country’s heritage as ‘Christian-based’. Hindus, Mormons, Muslims, Sikhs, and atheists should not feel alarmed or threatened when a statement is made that ‘this country is founded on Christian principles’. The statement is a recognition of what is (a fact)-good or bad- and in that sense can only be good, because this country has progressed over the course of 200 years to fully accommodate the different views, perspectives, and beliefs of a variety of people, without compromising its foundational elements. Of course, it is entirely appropriate to condemn and exercise outrage when public statements about a particular people and their beliefs are made in condescending fashion, such as the case with political candidate George Allen’s reference to Indian-Americans as ‘Maccaccas’. But to smuggle in the course of discussion legitimate statements made about this country’s Christian heritage into the category of Allen’s reprehensible remarks is misguided and unworthy, because it debases the truth and historical facts to that of lies and half-truths. The interpretation of many non-Christian groups about public statements made about the country’s heritage as an assault on their own beliefs is quite odd, and sadly, unnecessary. In the final analysis, we need only agree that the principles of this country, whether or not one believes are derived from Christianity, are effective and have successfully produced excellent citizens, and that to continue on this positive trend, we need moral and virtuous leaders (Christian or non-Christian) to safeguard these principles and values- the very principles that make this country unique and enriched.

Raj Verma, JD/MPA
Blog Contributor

Raj Verma is the President of the Future Leaders Council for USINPAC. He currently resides in Washington DC.

1 comment:

Dmitry said...

This article is portraying the Christian outlook on the creation of American nation. Wondefully written!