In Defense of the Constitwotion

I’m tired. I spent last week with my students at camp, came home Saturday to some housework that needed to be done, and was the resident staff member at church on Sunday – which meant I preached Sunday morning and was on duty Sunday night. So forgive me if this comes off less eloquent than I hope.

I think it’s time we established that our country is no longer serviced by having only one Constitution. As things seem to swing ever farther to the extremes on both sides of the political spectrum, it would appear reasonable to do away with one central document whose carefully crafted language no longer meets our modern day sensibilities, and instead draft two new documents aimed towards the two dominant ideologies currently in power.

I propose we call them the Constitwotion. One for Red State folks. One for Blue State folks.

You can surmise the basic premises for each – Red State rules would be heavy on specific social behaviors deemed “harmful” and on lack of regulatory control for businesses. It wouldn’t quite be the old call of small government, but it would hew more towards the modern conservative ideal.

Blue State rules would lean towards a more egalitarian model where everyone contributes his or her fair share and everyone gets the exact same treatment. Everyone. Even the ivory tower types who typically get treated better than everyone else but who push for equality even as they surf the free WiFi at Starbucks on their iPads.

It shouldn’t take too long to draft these documents – chances are each party already has something similar in writing as part of the full-contact presidential campaign preparations. Now, instead of having to choose one vision of America or the other for ALL people, we can simply choose to live under one or the other as separate people. When you head into the primaries and you select the party for which you intend to vote, you’ll simultaneously be aligning yourself with the Constitwotion under which you want to live.

Clean. Simple. Neat.

Sure, there’ll be problems – for instance, most of the rich people who like tax breaks and the ability to shelter their income would be hard pressed to sign up for a Blue State Constitwotion that would tax their wealth and redistribute it to fair market systems, which would severely compromise the Blue State system of government (you gotta generate revenue or cut costs somewhere).

And those people who would happily choose to live under the Red State system might find it a little chafing to have their personal liberties closely monitored and “fine tuned” by the prevailing moral crisis of the moment.

But since we obviously can’t work together under one document for all, we need to embrace our destiny and get to work on these two separate but equal documents. Sure, it’s like the Civil War without guns, but hey – if you took away the messing fighting and dying and the whole inhumanity of slavery – the idea of two separate nations with two separate ideologies doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

It must not, because that seems to be what we’re pushing towards anyway.

Just a thought.

People vs. Ideas

Jesus wrote in the dirt before answering a critical question.

So I was scrolling through the old Facebook news feed this morning and saw a provocative post by our hometown Patch: “What do you think of Georgia’s waiver to the No Child Left Behind Law. Will this help our schools or hurt them? Anyone have an opinion I can use in a story on Loganville-Grayson Patch?”

And being an informed citizen, I naturally had no clue what the post was talking about. So I headed over to the local newspaper’s website (oxymoron?) and found an article detailing the latest–that President Obama has used an Executive Order to grant waivers to at least 10 states that allows them to avoid the NCLB law’s 2014 deadline, provided those states submit a comprehensive plan for meeting the law’s standards sometime in the near future. Georgia is one of the ten states receiving such a waiver.

Now, as a parent of a public school kid, I’m kind of torn on this. On the one hand, I want my child to receive a quality education from our public school system. I want teachers who are there to simply collect a check (meager as it may be) gone from the system. I want teachers to be held to high standards. I want kids to be encouraged and challenged in their learning. I want my child to succeed.

But as the spouse of someone who used to be a teacher, and the friend of many who still are teaching, I also know that instead of teaching our kids, our teachers spend a lot of time prepping them to pass tests. That may be generalizing (in fact, I’m pretty sure it is), but when my kid comes home with more homework than I had when I was in the third grade, something seems a bit off.

Regardless of whether you like the No Child Left Behind law or not, education reform is something that we’ve batted around over the last 10-20 years and still not gotten quite right. In fact, if you read the link to the story about the waivers, you’ll consistent read or catch the implication that the current bill is fatally flawed and, though everyone agrees it needs repair, the two parties can’t come to an agreement on how to fix it.

No suprise there.

What’s truly heartbreaking is that our elected officials have no problem coming out and saying, “We’re not gonna get anything done because this is an election year. There’s just no way to get anyone to compromise during an election year.”

On the local website where I blog, the Loganville-Grayson Patch, we’ve gone round and round on the matter of politics lately (just read here, here, here, here, or here) and the general consensus seems to be: things suck. We’re stuck in a quagmire where ideas have primacy; our leaders, and to some degree we as the vox populi, are content to choose our ideas over people. As fellow Patcher Gail Moore wrote about last week, we have sacrificed the common good for pure ideology, and as a result nothing gets done.

I taught my students on this only a couple of weeks ago. There’s a brief passage in the Bible where Jesus was presented with this dilemma; a woman, caught in the midst of adultery (a death-penalty offense in those days), was brought before him by some of the religious leaders. They threw her into the dirt before Jesus and gave him this test: We caught her sinning, and the Law says we should stone her to death. What do you say?

The Bible says that Jesus knelt down and started writing in the dirt. The religious leaders waited for his answer. The woman waited too. Finally Jesus looked up and said, “Let the one without sin cast the first stone.”

The religious leaders, ashamed in their own hearts, quietly slipped away, beginning with the oldest. Finally, they were all gone and Jesus was alone with the woman. He looked at her.

“Do you still have accusers?” he asked.

“No,” she replied.

“Then I won’t accuse you either,” Jesus answered. “Go–but sin no more.”

I love this passage of Scripture because Jesus does what seems impossible: he maintains the Law and Grace. He didn’t declare her innocent, because she wasn’t; she was guilty under the Law and had to be judged accordingly. But he didn’t grab a stone and start chucking because he knew she needed forgiveness, since humanity is incapable of keeping the Law in its own strength. In his wisdom, Christ was able to keep both in balance because he had come to satisfy the Law and its demands within himself thereby offering Grace for our inability to do the same.

It’s the deep mystery of the Christian faith: a Holy God dying for unholy sinners.

And here’s the carryover into real life, where rubber meets road: sometimes, we have to set aside our ideological purity in order to find a real life solution. And other times, we have to set aside our high-minded compassion in order to establish a foundation for change. Lately, it seems, that ideology has won out over people: whether it’s conservative ideology or liberal, doesn’t matter–when you let the law of your ideas drive your compassion out of you, you have lost both the people and the integrity of your ideas.

Life is hard. We are constantly challenged by the decisions we face, and quite often it’s easier to live life on the poles than it is to find balance. Sometimes we need to hold hard and fast to our ideals; sometimes, we need to think more about the people. Circumstances can dictate, but not as much as our own will; what we often blame on circumstance is really just our own failure to choose against our own interests.

The fatal flaw in our system of government rests in the words of Lincoln: “government for the people, by the people”. Do you see the flaw?


Imperfect, occasionally myopic people.

But the flaw is also it’s strength. Here’s hoping that as we move forward this election cycle, we can remember that people matter as much as ideas.