It is as buttoned down and level headed an argument as you are likely to find in support of the amendment and I'd like everyone who has been so complimentary of my post to give my comrade on the other side of the aisle a little time and read it.
You can find my three part rebuttal at the bottom of his post, or you can read it as a single chunk below, but please do read his blog. These discussions aren't worth dog shit if both sides don't have a legitimate representation.
As the author of the opposing blog I first want to thank you for taking the time to assemble such a cogent, and well-constructed counter. I delight in hearing intelligent arguments on any side of any debate and I think this is the only type of exchange that can truly move the conversation forward.
I'd like to take this opportunity to concede in part (a small part) and clarify on another part. Forgive me if I over-explain. I realize that the concepts I'm introducing will probably not be new to you, but I am thinking about the entire audience on both sides of the issue.
Your point is taken about the self-defeating aspect of my argument. Liberty itself is a concept. So by saying “concepts are not afforded protection under the law” I am inviting the claim that I have invalidated my point right out of the blocks. I think at best this is a semantic snafu.
It perhaps would have been better had I limited my terminology to “institutions of tradition” or some other more specific term that did not include liberty as a fundamental idea.
The fireworks on the 4th of July, Cracker Jacks at baseball games, red fire engines, turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving, inviting the Super Bowl winners to the White House, formal gowns at the prom . . .
Many of these are cherished, traditional “ideas”. It could be reasoned by someone with a very traditional value set that anything that threatens these ideas is a dangerous step toward the breakdown of society. Thankfully I don’t think anyone feels so strongly about these institutions that they would seriously attempt to use the power of law to protect them, but if there were a patent connection between any of them and religion . . . they just might!
Now to clarify one point that, if I may, challenges your argument. You have suggested that my inference about government as the source of our rights is the lynchpin to my position.
It is not my contention that government is the source of rights. I agree that basic human rights are endowed by our Creator, and in a perfect world, would be unquestioned for everyone from Monaco royalty to bottom caste Mumbai orphans. I agree that our government simply recognizes that condition and does not create it.
The more substantive difference between our positions lies in our understanding of government. Some of your statements reflect a familiar, modern, American conservative idea of government as "other".
"If I only have the right to life because the United States arbitrarily decides they want me to have that right, then the US can arbitrarily decide tomorrow that they don't want me to have that right."
"For those that would argue that liberty should be protected, but who see the government as the source of our freedoms, how does that work?"
These statements (or statement and question) depend upon a paradigm where a distant, remote, government "other" simultaneously gives us, and encroaches upon, our freedom. This would be a logically problematic paradigm for sure if I were suggesting it, but I am not.
As indicated, I agree that our freedoms are not derived from the government.
Rather, our government, who's authority to govern is derived from the will of the governed, has a responsibility to the people of the republic to write, execute and rule upon laws that favor our liberty. We don't ask the government for liberty, we have it naturally as a condition of humanity. We assign government the task of protecting it.
It is a government of the people, for the people, by the people, with an obligation to all people, regardless of religious belief or idealogical affiliation. Liberty is unique in that it is a standard that can apply to all people, regardless of said affiliations. We are talking about the difference between a government founded on the divine right of kings and government founded on the concept of natural rights as described by the western philosophers of the enlightenment period (Hobbes, Locke, Hume, Montesqieu, Lafayatte).
The Bible contains no endorsement of democracy, nor republicanism, nor government charged with the task of answering to the electorate.You are probably familiar with John Winthrop, founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony and it's governor from 1629 to 1649. Originator of the "City upon a Hill" sermon (who's theme Reagan borrowed) and obviously an ardent puritanical Christian. He said "a democracy is, amongst most civil nations, accounted the meanest and worst of all forms of government."
His rationale for hating democracy was simple . . . it's not Biblical. He was right! It's not!
Our current government, established by the ratification of the United States Constitution in 1788, is in fact a representative democracy. Our government is supposed to answer to us. It's supposed to do what we want it to do. They work for us. They ARE us. We ARE them.
A government appointed by God would not be a republic. There would be no elections. There would be no debating amendments.
God is the sole source of God's law and He is the sole judge of His law. Our will has no bearing on how He governs us . . . but that governance is distinct from the representative democracy of the American people. This is not my opinion, this is the way our founding fathers set this thing up. Please don't shoot the messenger.
So as I stated, it is our understanding of government that is the real distinction between our positions. Government is absolutely not the source of liberty. Government (in America anyway) is the collection of citizens who've been tapped to carry out the process of administrating a society that values liberty. That's why laws, which are the instruments of government, must extend themselves toward liberty. It's not the gift of a benevolent government. It is the product of a servant government who has been instructed to write, execute and judge according to our will.
The modern, conservative American position holds that government, rather than being an appointed referee, is actually a big, scary, dominant player that seeks to rule over us and keep us in chains. I simply reject this.
I do not reject it because I am delusional about the potential for an ill-motivated government to go wrong, I reject it because by making the government "other", one already concedes defeat! One accepts the idea of a government that does not answer to the will of the governed, and seeks to rectify that condition by making government ineffectual and weak.
This leads only to a lopsided and poorly regulated society, wherein those with a position of power can dominate the rest of us with impunity. This is not the way. . . . But I'm getting off topic.
So once we establish that our government is of the people, for the people, by the people - and that it's responsibility is to pursue liberty; the substance of the amendment debate becomes clearer. Opinions about gay marriage become irrelevant. The singular issue of liberty rises to the surface and the obvious fact that this amendment would impede liberty is displayed as a stark truth in the cold light of day.
Those who recognize liberty as the highest standard of a democratic government have one option. Disagree.
I realize that there are many who in fact don't hold liberty above all. There is a feeling amongst the faithful that they have a responsibility to obstruct sinners, and that this task is assigned by a higher authority than Thomas Jefferson. A "mission from God" if you will.
All I can say to that crowd is: Are you prepared to mount similar political efforts to obstruct wrath, pride, greed, sloth, lust and gluttony?
I am frequently guilty of many of these and if the current stats on obesity and the current occupations of popular culture (including most Christians) are to be taken as indicators, then it appears that we all have considerable sin in our lives.
If you believe you are carrying out your duty in the fight against sin by obstructing the liberty of sinners, are you prepared to have that same force of law enacted against you and your sin?
Are you sure you the law of the land, that is supposed to reflect the will of the governed and pursue liberty, should be used to obstruct liberty based on a standard not supported by the Constitution and not shared by those whose rights are being curtailed?
Are you really prepared to go down that road? Are you sure you believe in this? Will you feel the same when the shoe is on the other foot?
I sincerely hope that you can all recognize that you are not selling out your faith by acknowledging the rights of others to engage God and address their sin on their own terms. I'm pretty sure we would all expect the same from our friends, family and neighbors.
Be good Americans!