Interesting article I read this morning. Made me think back to growing up in the Methodist church, then on to college when I continued on going to outfit Sunday groups for awhile. Later it often came up in "discussions" with people on religion, which was mostly centered on Christianity.
Basically, doubt wasn't allowed. It was frowned upon. Growing up we were taught by my parents to question, but when it came time to go to church, our questions were frowned upon by those in the church that were there to teach us. We were simply expected to believe. I remember several times being told not to ask questions to having the discussion changed or just told I was wrong.
I had learned that having any doubt was wrong. I learned that asking questions must have made me an atheist. I could only perfectly believe, or I just simply wasn't one. On my own, I had also learned, like the author, that I could doubt, that I could question, and that in fact it reinforced my faith in God.
It is something that can also be extended to politics(beliefs in). Are you willing to question the constitution or must you believe in it exactly? Were the founders perfect or can we question their motives?
Thoughts and opinions?
In my view, we start from a position of uncertainty, at which point we should apply doubt to everything. But eventually, you make the call: marry the woman or don't, take the oath or don't, give your life to God or don't. Then, the call is made. Part of making the call in Christianity is to believe what Christ says.
If somebody proved to me Jesus didn't rise from the dead, I'd have to make a change. But I don't live my life looking for challenges.
At the same time, occasionally I run across one, and I go into it. Here's the last time I recall, which I wrote up on another blog, in a post appropriately titled:
OTOH our last priest thought of doubt as a virtue. I'm not sure what he meant. I'm pretty sure it wasn't, "Oh, I know it says thou shalt not kill, but who's to say?" or to stop talking to God. I think it might have just meant, don't stress yourself when you feel uncertain about something -- God's big enough to handle it. But I'm just guessing.
(One more note: fallibility in religious leaders is expected in Christianity, AFAIK, with exceptions for the pope speaking ex cathedra, that is to say, in extremely rare circumstances; and I think LDS don't question their Prophet. The one in Salt Lake, I mean, not just Joseph Smith.)
Very interesting blog, and I think very pertinant. For a long time, I thought that because I didn't believe in Jesus, that it meant that I must not believe in God. I was wrong. To this day, my wife still barely gets it, most people also dont' get it. But I have learned that I can believe in God seperately from Jesus. Even going so far as to say, that my belief in God doesn't need Jesus. Jesus was there to bring us to God, but not to surpass God. But hell, I even doubt that too.
I completely agree with your premiss that you need to question and to question you need a foundation to base those questions on. True of the Bible, true of the Constitution.
The Framers (notice the term here) of the Constitution wrote it in such a way as to make it a living document not a static document. Why did they do it that way? Because they knew of their own fallibility and that history, or time if you will, changes societies and people's perspective on how they should live. They, the Framers, also knew they didn't have all the answers to all the questions or issues that may arise over time nor did they know all the issues that could arise (the issue of slavery for one) over time. Thus they wrote the framework for a Constitution (hence the name Framers). BUT to make changes to the Constitution you need to know and understand the Constitution and the Laws or rules for the changes of the Constitution; which it seems that too many polilticians do not. We have Presidential Decrees (ok he calls them Directives) that, at least at first glance, seem to violate the very Constitution that gives him the power to Direct. We have Congressmen and Representatives looking to enact legislation that goes against the very nature of the Constitution (Trillion Dollar Coin for one), and Supreme Court Judges allowing Fees to be called Taxes to allow the passage of legislation (Obama-Care).
You make those framers seem dim. So they were aware of their fallibility. But more importantly, were they aware of your fallibility, as a nation, as voters? Yeah, the way people think about gov't today is very different; but is it workable? Can you pay for your gov't? Doesn't the on-going debt crisis signal a great constitutional crisis? The Amendment process might be the least abused of the major constitutional features. Maybe it serves a function, & serves it well, & it is a function worth performing. The Framers set up the system; credit ultimately goes to them; mustn't they take some of the blame, too?
Not dim but yes fallible in a manner not of their foreseeing. I believe they assumed that we would study the Constitution and the political process in our schools so we understood it or at least our politicians would have a decent understanding. But, we've failed them in that. Or, alternatively, so-to-speak, it may be that the current politicians are very astute and therefore able to corrupt the process and pull the wool over the population's eyes. That would be simple to do as too many citizens don't understand the Constitution, have never read it, and haven't had any or much education about it, or don't care enough. That latter is what I think the Framers did not take into account when they wrote the Declaration of Independence, fought the War of Independence, or wrote the Constitution. If we don't care enough about our system then it is very easy for individuals to corrupt it to their own purposes.
The debt crisis is not a Constitutional crisis although either can lead to the other. The debt is, in large part, due to overspending on wasteful, wealth re-distribution projects and programs. These programs are not, necessarily un-Constitutional in that they do not take any rights away from anyone.
I think Americans are far less uneducated today than in 1776. If you could run a country in the way of a constitutional republic then, I'm sure democracy could work now. But I am not sure democracy is working. Occasionally, I become afraid that it cannot work anymore. That's just conservatism, I guess...
American politicians were traitors to their country from the beginning. Your Benedict Arnolds & Aaron Burrs--you know the type. Of course, at a remove from that sort of treason, there were lesser critters who knew that certain crimes are just a necessary part of life, & so long as you do not browbeat the laws about it, & the law does not annoy you, well, things can go on as they always have... Then there were the ambitious ones--tribe of the eagle, family of the lion sort of thing--who did not mind breaking any rules they thought had to be broken for great things to become possible. Then there were the moralists who decided God or science or both required lying to the masses of Americans for the greatest good to come in the future--you know, progress is a great excuse for demagogy...
I do believe you have failed your Founders & I do not blame your politicians, happy as I am that traitors are far less influential in these latter days. But is that your fault? You were given the best country in the world. You just get the keys to the house--you did not have to build the house--your forefathers for two centuries did that. What are houses for except to protect softness from the hardness of nature?
You know, one of your Founders, Adams said once that he & his kind did politics & war so that future generations would have it good--his great grandkids, he says, would labor at china. Very precious stuff--exquisite; but also weak, unmanly. His assumption about the progress of the arts & crafts is obviously wrong: Americans today are vulgar & they like it: Torturing themselves to be exquisite is out of the question. But the progress of science & commerce has massively compensated for everything.
If your kids had to live like Washington, they'd be comparably tough, whatever other virtues they might have or have not. But they do not & who would choose to toughen their children on purpose, when life is soft & easy, & none of you ever have to see your hometowns withering in war or tyranny?
Down, good sir.
Enough of the semi-arrogant preaching about the inferiority of Americans. At first, you need to pull back to the context of the persons you mention. Burr was rather more of a politcal operator than a traitor. He lived in a time when his personal honor demanded putting his life on the line, and his dishonorable misreading of how to satisfy "personal honor" led to his politcal estrangement and exile that led to his treason. Arnold was a man who made a couple of disasterously wrong decisions, and he achieved the distinction of being a traitor to BOTH sides. As to Adams, the context of his remark, was that as an attorney, he'd had to learn war in order that his sons and grandsons might not have to learn war in order to pursue their eventual dreams.
As to the "vulgarity" of modern Americans, that is a legacy of the early 20th century American "Society" slavishly aping European sophistication, for example abandoning American Arts and Crafts design in favor of the "sophisticated" European modern and eventually brutalist architecture of the Bauhaus.
I assume you have some knowledge of what goes on in church & such. By some comparison--mine above was preaching? What's semi-arrogant? Better not to ask, maybe. But I think you misunderstand my point about Americans. Better that I at least do not misunderstand you. So, inferior to whom do you think I meant to say Americans were or are?
I agree with you about the disaster that has come of learning European nihilism. It is very sophisticated stuff, but essentially vulgar--consider merely it's egalitarianism, which is slavish, to say the least. & do those who are not vulgar imitate in the way the Progressives turned the education of the country into an imitation?
As to Mr. Adams, I believe I saw this. But did not his grandsons have to fight a more horrible war than any he imagined, much less fought? & theirs afterward again? What is it to rule a nation except to protect men from war?
As to treason, I promise you it is never without strong motive. Yet it is treason. That man had great talent & reached the upper perches of American politics & was nevertheless most corrupt. America, thank God, does not know face this kind of predicament.
I agree that we Americans are doing ourselves some great harm in our political choices.
Though none of us built this house and many of us do not even work to maintain this house there are many of us who are working to protect and maintain our house. The problem is those who are not working to maintain the house but still wish to benefit from living in the house are doing far more damage than can be repaired by those who are maintaining the house. Some of those multitudes are actually working dilligently to undermine the very foundation of the house. I believe there are two varieties of this types; those who really have no clue as to the damage they are doing (the more common variety); and those who know full well what damage they are doing but their personal power is much more valuable to them than the common good. There may be some few that are of the latter variety that believe that that damage is for the greater good and they are the only ones who are intelligent enough to understand that fact.
That's more or less what I see, too.
But I do not swear by democracy. I think it's democracy that caused this insanity. Somehow equality has turned out to mean that Americans should grow soft & complacent; litigious; daunted.
Thos people scare me who feel justice requires the destruction of the old American way of life & the creation of a new, more equal way of life. They do not see that the just & the good often clash. I fear the consequences of their victory, should it come to pass. Americans would no longer want to succeed, to thrive--the daring & the openness to beauty would be extirpated in the name of justice, or sameness.
When I was a kid, grownups talked about America as if it were the damned promised land. I know people who, though they may be ashamed, & certainly do not say it, believe that today, with whatever qualifications democracy requires today. Liberalism can wipe this out.
American greatness was simply taken for granted; people loved it or hated it, but life for people was hard to understand without understanding that they looked to America for standards. I am not sure that is the same today. I do not see in people any reflection of the astounding confidence Americans showed until recently. I believe Mr. Bush, Jr had that confidence--people were even afraid that he would resurrect American might--I did not see that in Mr. Obama or even Mr. Clinton, or Mr. Bush, Sr.--they all seemed satisfied to let America languish. Think of the obsession of the last two decades with healthcare: It's the obsession of weak people, not of confident people.
I've read all sorts of very serious writers who lived long years with that very naive opinion. Their learning taught them that it was correct. I'd dare any one of them to stand up for that opinion today.
It is usually very easy for people who are not Americans to take a clear view of the country. Up until this generation, the country seemed to be soaring. Now, all that meets the eye is the rot. Presumably, the idealism causes the disappointment, but the America's political & economic situation is really bad--& Americans do not seem too bothered. Is it because America is that strong, that this current drama does not matter? Is it because Americans are so deluded that they do not see the end coming? It could go either way; I pray it goes well for America, for the sake of civilized life. That & some ridiculous amount of money will buy you coffee at Starbucks, I believe...
I think a lot of Americans believe that equality should extend to all aspects of life, from opportunity to outcomes, unless it (the outcome) comes from their own pocket then they'll bitch to high heaven about how unfair it all is.
Hopefully, Americans recognize inequality in fact--they do not in principle. We live in strange times; so many would joy at the thought of America crumbling, never mind it's their destruction, too. America therefore must make it alone if it does at all. My opinion is that Americans have no idea what other peoples think of them, for good or bad. It helps a people to get a sense of who they are when they see another--they immediately seize on the differences.
The man who knows even a little about political life in a democracy feels first of all a kind of confusion & then embarrassment to look at European peoples.--Everywhere one looks, there is a lack of habit of dealing with political problems, & at the same time a sense that voting is useless in politics, & so no one associates for that purpose. This only emerges gradually, because various facts of private life take up almost the entire mind of the city. There is very little room for public life. & this is true regardless of wealth or other differences between West & East.