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The False Promise of Unity

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We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, 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.

— http://constitutionus.com/

One of the first blessings promised to the States in the Preamble of the Constitution of 1787 is a more perfect union.  But the events surrounding Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh prove once again the inability of the Constitution to deliver on its opening promise.  Protestors in favor of various causes of the so-called ‘Left’ were at the hearings in full force to disrupt the proceedings, lest one of their adversaries on the ‘Right’ should be appointed to the Supreme Court and rule in ways they find unjust.  And lately claims and counter-claims as to the moral uprightness of the Judge and his accusers have become very heated as well.

The Constitution’s impotence to unite could not be otherwise, however.  Whether one views it as a compact between sovereign States or a contract between sovereign individuals, the end product of such a document, which has as the overarching goal for the people living under its authority only an ill-defined liberty, will never be unity, but chaos.

The peoples of the States have a hard question in front of them, then: do they really want unity? And if they answer Yes, this leads to a second question: how do they propose to achieve it?

Unity comes ultimately from shared religious beliefs and the shared way of life that flows from them.  But the American boast has always been in the freedom of religion of its various peoples.  With religious pluralism, however, comes different conceptions of God, of right worship, right living, and so on.  Again, this does not lead to unity but to conflict. 

The solution in the States to this impasse has been to downplay the need for dogmatic religious unity and replace it with dogmatic unity of another kind, whether political and/or economic. But this did not lead to the desired result, either, for there was a split right at the start of the new constitutional era between the Jeffersonians and the Hamiltonians:

The Federalist Party, or Hamiltonians, believed in a strong central government, a national banking system, fiat currency, a national debt, protective tariffs and internal taxes, direct aid to corporations, loose construction of the Constitution, the suppression of civil liberties, and an internationalist foreign policy.

The Republican Party, or Jeffersonians (not to be confused with the modern-day Party of Lincoln), by contrast, believed in limited government, federalism, sound money, low taxes and tariffs, no national debt, government separation from banks, no subsidies for business, a strict construction of the Constitution, including the protection of civil liberties held by the people, and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Simply put, the Hamiltonians believed in the merits of an energetic national government; Jeffersonians believed in de-centralization and trusted in the people to govern themselves.

— Ryan Walters, https://www.abbevilleinstitute.org/blog/the-unshaken-rock-the-jeffersonian-tradition-in-america/

So great in fact was the divide between these factions that the great disaster of the War between the States had to sweep through the land before a measure of harmony was restored.  But the War only made the divisions dormant for a time; it didn’t resolve the problem.

This leads one to the disturbing crux of the whole matter of unity in the States: the only thing that has ever brought a measure of oneness has been war, whether with external enemies (the War for Independence with Great Britain, War of 1812, WWII, the Cold War, etc.) or with internal enemies (the War of Northern Aggression against the South). 

This brings forward an inescapable question: are those who want the States to remain united willing to go to war to achieve that end? Unless all adopt the same underlying principles about God, man, and society, there is no other way around it.  But will Tennessee and Oregon, or South Dakota and Connecticut, agree on such principles any time soon? That is doubtful. 

Year after year, therefore, we witness the same thing:  a vote for either the conservatives or the progressives. The adherents of these factions harangue one another before the election and after the election, which engenders a great deal of bitterness amongst them.  The socialists/communists/progressives, of course, always have in mind a ‘re-education’ or even ‘liquidation’ of their opponents and indeed have become more violent of late. Those on the ‘Right’ are less inclined to violence against their political adversaries but are nonetheless vocal about ‘re-fighting 1776’ if they must in order to save America’s experiment in Protestant-derived, constitutional government.

No matter how the Kavanaugh situation is resolved — whether he is seated on the Supreme Court or not - the result will only make these divisions present in the States worse.  Minority vs majority, interest group vs interest group, individual vs society, etc.: The conflicts between them are never resolved and never will be under the present system. 

The Constitution is therefore a contradiction and a failure:  It promises what it cannot grant.  It promises unity, but by establishing a system of centrifugal individual rights, it undermines the very thing promised. 

Self-sacrifice; cutting off our own desires and wills and, yes, even our own rights for the sake of others — this is how Christians achieve unity.  Such is the life of oneness of the Holy Trinity and of the Holy Orthodox Church, but, ironically, it is not the way of ‘Christian America’, which is a house built on the adamant demand for rights.  But, again, such self-centeredness is not the way of Christians, which is illustrated over and over again in the Holy Scriptures and in the lives of the saints. 

By the modern American standard, Samuel’s ‘rights’ were grossly violated by his mother Hannah for dedicating him to the service of the Lord for his whole life without any input of his own:

[9] So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD.

[10] And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore.

[11] And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no rasor come upon his head.

[26] And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the LORD.

[27] For this child I prayed; and the LORD hath given me my petition which I asked of him:

[28] Therefore also I have lent him to the LORD; as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the LORD. And he worshipped the LORD there.

— I Samuel 1:9-11, 26-28, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/k/kjv/kjv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=1134457

The same would be true of the Mother of God as well:

Tradition tells us, and it is confirmed by the holy fathers, by St. John Damascene, that many times they would pray with these words: “God, Adonai, Eloi, Savior! You know the shame of lack of children; you know our sadness and bitterness. If You would only look upon the humility of your servants and grant them a child, we will offer it to You. We shall dedicate it to You.” This is how the Holy Joachim and Anna would pray.

— Protosingel Ieremia, http://orthochristian.com/97267.html

By the same measure the whole life of the Church is a violation of individual rights, for the members must put aside their own desires for the sake of the other members, without any say in the matter:

 . . . whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

—I Cor. 12:26, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/k/kjv/kjv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=5072031

[2] Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

— Galatians 6:2, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/k/kjv/kjv-idx?type=DIV1&byte=5163525

The typical American, then, burning with jealousy for his rights and menacingly wielding the vote to defend them, is but a half man, a deformation.

This is not to say that there is no place for democratic forms in Christianity. There has been and there still is (as when the faithful of a diocese give their assent to a newly selected bishop, or the people of a village gather to resolve some problem that has arisen). And yet, as the foregoing suggests, they are different critters entirely from the post-Schism constitutional systems of the West, of which the modern American system is the most refined form.

And this pre-eminent truth remains regarding it:  The fruit of the American Constitution is a populace that is always angry and always divided. The time has long since passed for the States to separate.

Author: Walt Garlington