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    Greg and Beth

    the political and personal musings of two
    mountaineers living in west-central Florida
     
    Originalists and Protestants Comment
    Gregory Morris, 8/30/07 9:55:41 pm
    Am I the only one who sees a "quote of the day/week/hour/whatever" and starts thinking about it so much that I have to blog my thoughts? Ah well.

    This quote got me thinking.

    I've always seen the historical background of the constitution as the primary sources for interpretation. The founders wrote it like they did so that it could be dynamic and beautifully handle anything that the future might throw at it. Their method for this was adding the ability to create amendments. They made it hard enough that it wouldn't happen often, but easy enough that it could if need be. However, the original, unamended parts must be read with a historical context, otherwise it can be re-interpreted every time a new judge is appointed. The Constitution was not meant to be a moving goal line, it was meant to be a set of rules for the federal government to abide by.

    Now, the reason I'm writing this post isn't to spew constitutional theory... something which I am hardly qualified to do anyway. I got to thinking about why I find the historical context to be so important. As I've mentioned in previous blogs, I am an Orthodox Christian. Part of the doctrine of the Church is that the Bible does not exist on its own, in a vacuum. There is a deep history in the church which determines how we interpret the Bible.

    The Church is, in a sense, the manifestation of that historical interpretation. For those of you who don't know, the Orthodox Church has a history dating back to about 25 or 30 years after Jesus was born. That's right. My Church wasn't founded by a man who didn't like the Catholic Church and decided to start his own. We've never dropped parts of the story we didn't like. We've never added strange and almost capricious dogma, like the Catholics. The Orthodox Church has been a single, unified, and whole entity from the time when Jesus said to Peter, "..upon this rock I will build my church." The doctrine of the church has remained relatively unchanged since the best minds of the time got together in Nicea. Whenever a priest or a bishop seeks better understanding of the faith, they will first look to our Church's fathers, in much the same way that I believe we should look to our founding fathers for an understanding of their intent when they wrote the Constitution.

    I won't say the Founding Fathers were infallible. But there is an important reason to base our government on what they intended, rather than just changing our minds willy-nilly every time there is a major cultural shift. During the Reformation, the protestants decided they didn't like how the church was run. They didn't like the corruption. They had a problem with the Pope making universally binding decisions. The mistake they made, though, was not to ONLY discard the parts of catholicism that left a bitter taste in their mouths.

    Instead, they cast off everything that wasn't in the Bible. This sounded like a fantastic idea, because "I don't need a man in a tall hat standing between me and God." Their view was and is that we can read the bible, and have a full understanding of what it contains, without a historical perspective. It makes sense at first glance, but when you look at the actual outcome you'll see that instead of providing freedom from Papal rule, you've only managed to splinter the faith into tens of thousands of sub-churches. They may share some core beliefs, but there are huge incompatibilities that arise from everyone pretty much interpreting the Bible however they want. This leads to incorrect interpretations. This leads to blasphemy. This leads to extremism. Within Christianity (or Islam for that matter) lack of communion allows a single man to interpret the holy text in whatever way suits him politically. Every single church building becomes its own entity. The protestant explosion caused the loss of unity and communion that binds the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church together.

    The moral of the story is, you lose a lot when you forget the time, place and history of the Constitution. If you allow the interpretation to change from year to year, then you end up with "a distorted, bastardized form of illegitimate government."

    [Comments are closed after a month.]

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