In 1789 the Committee on Style, of the Constitutional Convention for the American Colonies, gave the rest of the gentlemen of the Convention the following preamble for the historic document they were drafting:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
I present this here because next to the Bible, which I have written much about and quoted extensively so far in this blog, the U.S. Constitution is the foundation for what I do and how I think. I think my U.S. lawyer friends would agree on its weight in our lives.
I hear and see a lot of people speaking and writing about this document, some having studied it extensively, even having a Ph.D. in Law, and some having studied it informally, as a person would teach themselves to play a guitar or to cook, and some simply tossing around opinions without the slightest hint of qualifications or credentials. I reside between the two extremes, but closer to the Ph.D. – I am educated on point and I earned a J.D. (Juris Doctor), and have undergone further trainings on constitutional issues, and then argued and applied it in courtrooms for a little over twenty years.
I would respectfully contend that it is entirely possible for someone who is self-taught on a subject to understand and apply the principles of that subject correctly, but it is also unlikely. When people self teach a musical instrument, for example, they often develop bad habits which don’t initially cause problems but end up limiting their progress at some point. While they may gain popularity or have some skill, they are no master, and probably never will be, and should not offer the classically trained musician criticism or correction out of their ignorance. Please understand this is not stated out of arrogance. I am no master of anything. I believe the Ph.D. to have a greater understanding than the J.D. – of their chosen subject – and I believe my local electrician to have a better understanding of wires and the currents that run through them than the one with no real training in electricity.
The short form of all this is that I place some value in formal education, and I think people should have the humility to defer – to some degree – in conversation to those educated in a subject. I defer to seminary trained theologians on theological points, until I simply cannot reconcile their points to what I see with my own eyes. But even then, my eyes lack the training theirs have.
All this should not be taken to suggest that there should be no disagreement on Constitutional or Biblical principles. Reasonable people can disagree on some points in some subjects, and law is certainly one of those subjects. I just think people should have the humility to stay in their leagues. A high school basketball player doesn’t walk onto the court proposing to educate Shaq or LeBron on b-ball technique, and if one was so inclined, the professional would hopefully have the good grace not to engage him. That would not be an act of rudeness on the professional’s part, but an act of charity, even though the high schooler may never recognize that charity. For some reason, people of the social media world today don’t seem to translate this accuracy of self image from the sports and other worlds to the classic professions.
So why do I waste your time with all this drivel? Because I take issue with our national leaders or celebrities who demean or criticize the opinions and rulings of the judiciary, whether state or federal, with little or no qualifications to do so. This not only shows a disrespect for the individual judges, but a lack of respect for the document that established their authority – the Constitution. This, in turn, promotes a national disrespect and general lack of regard for authority. People can couch this disregard for authority in excuses of “democracy” and rule “by the people” all they want, but disrespect, arrogance and lack of decorum is not part of democracy in my book. It fits better into all that democracy opposes. Qualifications still mean something to me. I think people should have reasonable qualifications for an office they propose to hold, and even to be heard on specific subjects. And if they don’t qualify to be heard on a subject, they don’t qualify to hold an office on that subject.
I will be writing more regarding the Constitution, and specifically its nexus with the Bible, in future posts, and I wanted to get this out of the way beforehand. Sorry for the less than interesting post.
I leave you with a draft of what the Preamble is not, but sometimes seems to be what some of these leaders and celebrities would have:
We the people of the United States, in order to form a mediocre union, establish good relations, insure domestic homogeny, provide for the defense of the privileged, promote the welfare of those who are found deserving, and secure the good luck of doing and getting whatever we want, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
— That’s not it. I hope it never is.