Today, at 10:30 am (Eastern), the Constitution of the United States, excluding those portions that have been superseded such as the the 18th amendment, will be read aloud on the floor of the House of Representatives. As far as historians can tell, this will be the first time in our history that this will occur. This is in preface to a new House rule that requires every Bill to cite its basis in the Constitution.
Like all things our elected officials do, this is being dissected by pundits, political science academia, folks around the water coolers, and by the politicians themselves. Is reading the constitution aloud “long overdue” as Rep. Robert Goodlatte, who originally proposed this idea, proclaims? Is it “a presumptuous and self-righteous act” by the new GOP majority as the New York Times contends? I don’t see why it couldn’t be both. This is Washington we are talking about, after all.
More interesting than the usual polarizing viewpoints – us good, them bad – is the discussion taking place about how we, as a nation, feel about the Constitution. Take a look at these comments: (Bold emphasis is mine)
“They are reading it like a sacred text,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, and characterized the reading as “ritualistic.” “You read the Torah, you read the Bible, you build a worship service around it. You are not supposed to worship your constitution,” said Nadler, who went on to say that the Founders were not “demigods” and the document’s additional amendments to abolish slavery and other injustices showed it was “highly imperfect.”
On MSNBC, Dahlia Lithwick said: “The way some people rub Buddha and they think the magic will come off, I think there’s a longstanding tradition in this country. We’re awfully religious about the Constitution,” she said. “I think there is this sort of fetishization that is of a piece with the sort of need for a religious document that’s immutable and perfect in every way.”
Both of these statements posit that the Constitution of the United States is not a sacred document, that in order for a text to be sacred it must be unchangeable in nature, and that we grant it an irrational reverence that should be reserved for texts like the Bible and the Torah.
I find myself in total disagreement with Representative Nadler and Ms. Lithwick.
The idea that sacred texts must be unchangeable to be perfect is a uniquely Christian view. Even Christians who are not bible literalists, see the most well known of Christian sacred texts, the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments, as something that is unchangeable and therefor perfect. Even though there are different versions of the Commandments in the bible, the ones God wrote and the ones Moses re-scribed. The very word of God handed down to man and you don’t screw with that, right?
Other religions, like Buddhism, Judaism and Paganism, look at sacred texts in a different light. They are words of wisdom that can change and be added to because they are alive. Some come directly from the divine, some divinely inspired, and others are wise saying of learned humans. The texts are used as a learning tool, are open to interpretation, and are studied. Students of sacred texts look not only to connect to the divine, they ‘divine’ a blueprint for how to live their life in harmony with a higher power or consciousness.
That’s how I see the Constitution. It is a sacred text inspired by the Patron Goddess of this country, Columbia Eleutheria. I’m not alone in the belief that a divine hand, whether you call Her Columbia or Providence or God, assisted in the creation of our Constitution. Those where were there when the Constitution was created, whom some Pagans offer (or are considering offering) cultus to as a Hero, had this to say:
“I have so much faith in the general government of the world by Providence that I can hardly conceive a transaction of such momentous importance to the welfare of millions now existing, and to exist in the posterity of a great nation, should be suffered to pass without being in some degree influenced, guided, and governed by that omnipotent, omnipresent, and beneficent Ruler in whom all inferior spirits live and move and have their being.” Benjamin Franklin
“When the great work was done and published, I was … struck with amazement. Nothing less than that superintending hand of Providence, that so miraculously carried us through the war, … could have brought it about so complete, upon the whole .” Charles Pinckney
“For my part, I sincerely esteem [The Constitution] a system which, without the finger of God, never could have been suggested and agreed upon by such a diversity of interests.” Alexander Hamilton
“No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the invisible hand which conducts the affairs of men more than the people of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.” George Washington
Although the mainstream sees the Constitution as a product of a Christian nation and attempt to whitewash the Founding Fathers as firmly Christian in their faith, the Constitution is purely Pagan. Franklin, Jefferson, Adams, Madison, and Washington were all men of the Enlightenment - a time when the ‘lost’ knowledge of the classical world resurfaced in art, literature, and philosophy. They consciously and deliberately set out to use the best of Pagan Athenian and Roman law, philosophy, and political science as the foundation of a new nation, not the Christian bible. The Framers made Rome our body and Athens our soul. Republican Rome offered the example of a Tripartite government consisting of three branches: the executive which was run by two consuls , the legislative which was run by the Roman senate , and the judicial which was run by the assembly. But it was Athenian Democracy, as exercised by the Demos (the People), that became the American ideal of liberty.
Glucksmann writes: “It is liberty understood in doubt and anxiety about the fate of man. Tragic freedom works in uncertainty, sailing toward no glorious destiny. Man is free, yes—free to learn from his mistakes. Or not.”
Our Constitution is a document containing sacred wisdom gained from our Goddess, a blueprint of how the USA can live in harmony if we devote ourselves to its study and gain the wisdom to interpret it. That the constitution can be amended demonstrates its perfection. We have the freedom to learn from our mistakes and correct them. Or not.
Oh – Representative Nadler, I do not see a “ritualistic” reading of the Constitution as meaningless or wrong. Ritual is a positive and effective way to ask for Divine guidance and aid. So I close with this prayer: May Columbia Eleutheria guide our Representatives – especially our newly elected House Speaker John Boehner – and grant Her blessing to our country.