August 19, 2022

Deep Trouble

Spectator
By Stephen Tuttle | Aug. 6, 2022

There are elected representatives and others determined to change the very nature of our country and not in a good way. We should be far more concerned than we appear to be.

Out in Colorado, U.S. Representative Lauren Boebert is Example One of this incredibly dangerous trend. As reported by several news organizations, back in June Boebert was at a church service/campaign event when she waxed ineloquently about our constitution and how it’s been interpreted for more than two centuries.

According to Boebert, “The church is supposed to direct the government; the government is not supposed to direct the church… I’m sick of this separation of church and state junk… this is not in the Constitution; it was in a stinking letter.”

This “junk” has protected religions from government intrusion and protected the government from being controlled by any specific religious belief for 202 years. Before the U.S. was even a country, religious intolerance was rampant, and what passed for a government was led and controlled by church leaders. They weren’t exactly benevolent when it came to alternate viewpoints. As a little bonus, they also believed in witches, and in 1692 and 1693, hundreds were accused of practicing witchcraft. Of those, 19 (most of whom were women) were hanged and one man was “pressed” to death—crushed under heavy stones. So much for the church directing the government.

The “stinking letter” to which Boebert refers was written by Thomas Jefferson and sent in 1802 to the Danbury Baptist Association and was to the point: “The First Amendment built a wall of separation between church and state.” Though Jefferson was in France at the time and could not attend our first Constitutional Convention, most of his ideas were included in the document, so it’s just possible he knew more about it than Boebert.

The groundwork for that separation was clear even earlier. In 1796, we created the Treaty of Tripoli with governments in the Middle East in hopes of creating an alliance to end or reduce piracy at sea in the region. The treaty was ultimately passed unanimously by the U.S. Senate and signed by president John Adams, and Article 11 says, “The government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion…”

That seems clear enough, but, unfortunately, Boebert is not the only member of Congress whose grasp of history is a little weak.

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, for example, recently declared herself to be a “Christian nationalist.” The kindest interpretation of that is Ms. Greene has confused nationalism with patriotism.

Nationalism is a national identity based on shared characteristics like culture, religion, language, and politics, and assumes superiority, sometimes violently, over those who do not share those characteristics. We have ample 20th century examples.

In the 1930s, Germany had the National Socialist German Worker’s Party, also known as the Nazis. They were nationalist through and through, and millions died as a result. In Italy, it was the Republican Fascist Party led by dictator Benito Mussolini and his squads of thugs and murderers.

Nationalism in Japan was intentionally created in the 1930s. They called it Kokutai, an attempt to establish a “national essence” which included their belief in their own superiority and the inferiority of others. World War II proved all of them wrong.

We already have white nationalists, groups of overt racists determined to bleach the country of any color. It’s a safe bet Rep. Greene and those who share her narrow and destructive “Christian nationalism” philosophy will be less than tolerant of the nearly 30 percent of the U.S. who do not self-identify as Christians.

Alas, it gets even worse. While speaking at the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) Policy Summit last December, former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum once again called for a constitutional convention to make our foundational document more “conservative.” Good grief.

This is not just a suggested amendment but a complete rewrite of our Constitution. Not possible, you say? Afraid it is very possible. It would require 34 states, two-thirds of them, to request a constitutional convention. It seems unlikely until you realize 17 states, half the total needed, have already made such a request, and others controlled by Republican legislatures seem to be favorably inclined.

Separation of church and state “junk?” Christian nationalism? A constitutional convention to give us a more “conservative” constitution?

We are in deep trouble if we have leaders whose grasp of our history, and that of the rest of the world, is so limited they don’t even understand the inherent dangers in the nonsense they spew. Nationalism is a societal evil, not something to which we should aspire. Countries controlled by sectarian governments have a remarkably unsuccessful and oppressive history. And we don’t need a new constitution—just leaders who understand the document we already have.

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