Politics and Equivocation: Or, Why Nothing Gets Done in Congress

I recevied an official petition (my very first, huzzah!) in the mail to reverse Roe v. Wade. On it is listed several premises which are supposed to support their conclusion. If it is supposed to be an argument, that would seem like a good place to start. However, the fourth premise is followed by a fifth premise (surprise!) that equivocates on an idea rather than a specific term. That probably means it’s not equivocation but something else (a term for which I cannot think of at the moment). Anyways. here are the fourth and fifth premises.

Whereas: In Roe, the Supreme Court admitted: “If…personhood [for the unborn] is established, the appelant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life is then guaranteed specifically by the [Fourteenth] Amdendment…” (Roe v. Wade [410 US 113 at 156-7]); and

Whereas: Science is clear that human life begins at conception when a new human being is formed;

Note to politicians: there is a difference between life and personhood! Either you don’t know how to make distinctions or your purposefully being deceptive. I hope it is the former (though, then you probably shouldn’t be in office).

The Right Kind of Patriotism?

I wont summarize it, but there is an interesting excerpt from the Wall Street Journal from a new book called Loyalty: The Vexing Virtue by Eric Felten. I probably will never read the book, but this little excerpt gave me something to think about in regards to a proper sense of patriotism. As a Christian, I would probably only add that there will always be a line in the sand when it comes to choosing between the State and the Church (hint: it’s not the former). But, he does mention G. K. Chesterton and C. S. Lewis, so that helps, too.

Surprised by the Intolerant Locke

Reading Locke’s A Letter Concerning Toleration has been an interesting experience. At times I find myself agreeing with him, though probably because his thinking was so influential upon Jefferson, et al. and has been embedded into my thinking since I was a child that I find it to be common sense. At other times, I find him extremely frustrating, especially when he confines religion only to the “inward” person. Yet, Locke has surprised me. Not in what he says, but in how his thinking explains the American experience; my own experience.

Some may wonder why America has always struggled with Roman Catholics, Muslims, and Atheists. Indeed, growing up, it seemed nonsense that the Puritans and Pilgrims would travel to American to escape religious persecution, and yet in turn offer no religious liberty to anyone else. This was mostly resolved by the time of the Constitution amongst various Protestant denominations. However, with the emigration of Irish Catholics, there was a severe reaction to all things Catholicism (note: PBS recently did a series called God in America which deals with this and other questions about the American religious experience and is worth checking out). Well, reading Locke has answered this (i.e., Catholicism) and other questions (i.e., Muslims and Atheists).

The reason why Locke offers no toleration for Catholics and Muslims is conflict of interest. They (according to Locke) have allegiances elsewhere that threaten the public good (note: keep in mind Locke’s Social Contract view of government). The reason why he doesn’t tolerate Atheists is not as clear to me. It would be reasonable, then, to quote him:

Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God. Promises, Covenants, and Oaths, which are the Bonds of Humane Society, can have no hold upon an Atheist. The taking away of God, tho but even in thought, dissolves all. Besides also, those that by their Atheism undermine and destroy all Religion, can have no pretence of Religion whereupon to challenge the Privilege of a Toleration. As for other Practical Opinions, tho not absolutely free from all Error, if they do not tend to establish Domination over others, or Civil Impunity to the Church in which they are taught, there can be no Reason why they should not be tolerated.

-John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 1983), 51.

It seems that he is afraid that 1) there is no divine threat by which they (i.e., Atheists) can be persuaded to follow through on their oaths and 2) because it is not a religion per se, it does not fall under the jurisdiction of those things which ought to be tolerated. This second point is still unclear to me (and I feel my explanation is lacking), so any thoughts are welcomed.

Nonetheless, the point is this: seeing as it is generally agreed that Locke had a formative influence upon American ideology, then might not his (political) intolerance of Roman Catholics, Muslims, and Atheists explain why those three groups have struggled in their birthing experiences into the American political scene? Granted, this is all rather speculative, but it seems to tentatively explain the evidence.

The American Constitution Is Not Good

Okay, maybe the title of this post is a little deceiving. What I mean is that the American Constitution is not the Good. I find it interesting that many Conservative American Protestants treat the Constitution in the same way as the Bible. Or, actually, they treat the Constitution as an axiomatic foundation of all American political thought. But, true political thought begins and ends with a concept of the Good and to treat the Constitution as that Good is to make a dangerous confusion that causes negative repercussions for any policies founded upon such a principle. What must be done, instead, is to judge the worth of the Constitution upon an objective understanding of the good. This is why there are Amendments; this is why women and African American’s can vote; this is why there is no slavery. The value of the Constitution is not that it is the founding document, but that it in rectitude with the Good. If the priority of the Good is not kept, then the Constitution becomes something it was never intended to be: an idol.

Political Thinking Done Right

I’m new to the issues of politics. I was reared to be suspicious of all politicians as they care only for one thing: money. However, I have come to learn politicians are not just concerned with money. There are many other things which harness their attention: sex, power, not being (insert political party you don’t like here), etc… Needless to say, I tend to avoid politics when I can. However, I recently re-listened to a lecture by Phillip Blond which I found absolutely splendid. Politics begun and thought out philosophically, not just pragmatically. So, here is the video of his speech (you can also download the audio or video from Villanova’s iTunesU page).