Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

In Christ there is neither Anglo nor Latino

I wonder if Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, believes this proposition, given what he says here:

"This is the watershed movement -- it’s the moment where either we really forge relationships with the white evangelical church that will last for decades, or there is a possibility of a definitive schism here," said the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which serves 10,700 Hispanic evangelical churches with 15 million members.


"There will be church ramifications to this, and there will be political ramifications," he said.


Mark Krikorian wonders how the numbers claimed for this organization make sense. I wonder whether this is a good way of building bridges.

Here’s a letter from some evangelical leaders to President Bush and members of Congress. Here’s my weekly TAE Online piece, which deals with the politics and political principles of the religious intervention in the immigration debate.

I didn’t put it this way, but probably should have: the language of the religious intervenors is properly pastoral, prophetic, and universalistic, but it can too easily be understood to mask an immediate concern for "our people." Rev. Rodriguez’s statement, quoted above, is simply the most blatant example of this. In the past immigrant churches have been ethnic and pastoral, but have also worked for the integration of parishioners and congregants into the mainstream of American life. This is a fine line that’s hard to tread. Are the churches still committed to trying? Do they have the skills to succeed?

In Christ there is neither Anglo nor Latino...and in America there should only be Americans.

I shouldn’t have to say this, but I will: I don’t mean to define "American" in 19th century WASP terms, but rather in terms of a common commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence, to responsible participation and integration in the community, society, and polity, which ultimately requires learning English, as well as U.S. history. Integration must inevitably change those who join, and it will change the country they join. (I say this as the son of relatively recent immigrants, both of whom are proud Americans, and as one whose first language was not English.)

Discussions - 15 Comments

I don’t mean to define "American" in 19th century WASP terms, but rather in terms of a common commitment to the principles of the Declaration of Independence . . .



You must embrace the notions set forth in the Declaration of Independence to be an American? Hmmm . . .



So, I can disagree with some of Thomas Jefferson’s writings or some of the things Locke writes . . . but definitely not the Declaration? Even if I believe it to be wrong? I mean, these are serious questions. Do you really think that? You think that anyone who has ever rejected portions of the Declaration (like President Wilson) as absolute truth or who have implemented programs contrary to their literal meanings (TR, FDR, etc.) or who have requested a change in the United States to better fit the more complicated times we live it (Ely, Dewey, Bellamy, etc.) are all un-American?



I just want to make sure that I am clear on what you’re saying. I completely agree with the majority of you on illegal immigration . . . I was just perplexed by that statement.

Some have argued that the Declaration of Indepence is meaningless in regards to what it means to be American or meaningless in regards to how our government should operate.

However, that document is powerful and I assert very American. To deny her, in my opinion, is to deny one of the building blocks of our society, our experiment.

The people who left the Union to create the Confederate States of America used the document in support of their secesion and they themselves were claiming to be embodying the very spirit of what it means to be American, of which the document helped create.

What is more American than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Granted, in the legal sense, the Declaration of Indepence means nothing in regards to being a citizen, an American, but I don’t think that was what Mr. Knippenberg was trying to convey.

Also, the Declaration of Independence breaks with Locke’s notion of property (Life, liberty, and property) and I don’t think anyone would even suggest that the document itself is un-American because Jefferson took out the property part.

Matt,

I don’t think you were perplexed at all. You seem to have offered an excellent list of anti-Americans to prove Mr. Knippenberg’s point correct. What is it with you lefties? Can’t see what’s Right in front of you.

One of those principles is the Consent of the Governed. We have, through our representatives, enacted fairly generous immigration laws and citizenship requirements and have the right to expect them to be reasonably enforced.

First to "Moaner" - Har har har.



Secondly, to Mr. Michaud - I’m wondering if denying the "building blocks" of our society truly is un-American. That’s sort of my question. I don’t think anyone would deny that the Declaration was an important document and one that should be studied. It certainly played an integral part (THE most integral part) in establishing our nation. I think, however, that denying the principles in the preamble of it is not necessarily denying its importance or its historic value. In that sense, I think it is definitely American.



And I’m pretty sure most scholars would assert that the right to property is implied in the Declaration . . .

I think it is un-American to deny such principles.

Think of it this way, belief in the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is essential to Catholicism and most of Christianity. If you deny that, you are rejecting the basic notion of the faith. How can you call yourself Catholic if you deny the very basic principle upon which the faith was founded on?

The same holds true for our founding principles. Once we go astray of those, we are not American anymore in my opinion.

Take away the foundation and what do you have?

First, Mr. Michaud: Locke’s property rights are one of the integral parts of "the pursuit of happiness." I think you’re understanding of the Declaration is on the right track but wrong.

Mr. Mingus: the Declaration was the document which explained the American ideal, or what it is to be an American. So, yes, Ely, Dewey, Bellamy, even good old TR have done their part to twist the meaning around. I know you don’t want to hear about the Declaration of Independence being the end and the Constitution being the means, but it is true. People who are truly progressive must necessarily believe that the fundamental principles on which America exists are false (or more correctly, not absolute) in order that they can get the country to "move on" to something better (like Canada or Europe).

The biggest break between the two schools of thought (in my humble opinion) is the belief by Conservatives (properly understood) that human nature does not change and that the Declaration is a timeless document, and the belief that Progressives hold that there is no human nature and if we could create a society where individuals are taught to be good and virtuous, then bad things like war and poverty can be eliminated. Thus, the Declaration was great when it was created, but now it’s time for America to move on.

Mr. Michaud:



The foundation, as the men that I mentioned above claimed to adhere to, is the Constitution . . . the rule of law, the seperation of powers, and the spelled out legislative/judicial/executive processes seem, to me, to be what MUST be consented to in order to be a good American. The Declaration, in my opinion, contains a theory of government that some believe to be wrong. If that happens in the Constitution, we have the ability to change it. If we disagree with the Declaration, however, we can do nothing about what it states. Perhaps in 1776 the ideas of an extremely limited government, hardcore capitalism, and little taxation seemed like good ones. Now, some would argue, they do not apply so well (and this is for varied reasons . . . we could go into a very lengthy discussion about this) or are not very efficient.



I understand your point, though. You believe that the founding principles, as with (supposedly) Christianity, are unchangeable and absolute. If you believe that, then I would expect you to believe that to reject them would be somewhat un-American. But, frankly, several excellent arguments have been made contrary to them and have, in my opinion, made this country the great nation that it is. In my opinion, then, it is VERY American to modify the founding principles. America has changed and will always be changing. Things have become more complicated. The supposed principles of the back then don’t apply anymore (or, at least, not in the extremes that they once did) to the right now. However, I don’t think anyone would ever say that our nation could have become so great without that period in time when the Declaration was written, and without the Declaration itself. I want to make that, at least, very clear.



Man . . . you guys really bring out the Progressive in me . . . heh . . .

Woah, Andrew. Didn’t see your post before I posted. I think you, uh, hit the nail on the head there, sir.

I think you are all overlooking the hegemony of the West and its culture as important components of being ’American’. Our monogamy, our view of children, our sense of fairplay and equality, etc. -- there are thousands of small cultural characteristics that go into making an ’American’, and these are the ones most in danger from indiscriminant immigration and other public policies (such as pushing religion completely out of the public square). Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution would last a microsecond without that cultural warp and woof (something Washington clearly understood). This is precisely what the Left and Right are fighting about, not whether the ’property’ is a right.

The numbers are absurd on the face of it. Aside from the question of whether about one third of US Hispanics are evangelicals, do those 10700 Hispanic evangelical churches really do have an average of 1400 members each?

Good thread. Matt,


You say: extremely limited government, hardcore capitalism, and little taxation seemed like good ones...America has changed and will always be changing. Things have become more complicated. The supposed principles of the back then don’t apply anymore (or, at least, not in the extremes that they once did) to the right now.


I have a couple of thoughts. First, I think you are missing the significance of what the Declaration does. You think it presents a theory of government, and then list that government’s attributes. Those attributes might be correctly identified, if rhetorically stated. However, what is (sonspicuously?) missing from your comments is any discussion of why those attributes are presented. Look at the document’s form. What is done first? An assertion is made about human nature and the relationhip between man and man as well as man and God (We find these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights...)

Everything else in the theoretical part of the document is according to this understanding, including the first paragraph. Something about self-evidency and being people endowed with inalienable rights (you mean we have no choice but to live with them?... yes... responsibility ...yes) creates a set puposive direction as men live together as political beings (think about Aristotle and men outside the city as beasts or gods but not humans). Is the application of law subject to change according to circumstance in such an established theory of government, yes. Is the form (republican), no. It cannot be because it is the only form which both allows and restricts men to live by the principles they are created with. As you know, the ability to do a thing does not establish its goodness, just as the ability to break a thing does not undermine its goodness.


Short and incomplete I know, but for these reasons it is the foundation. It must be. The Constitution is only creating the applicable form of a republican government in line with these principles. If your standard of "American" is according to a thing’s changeability, and that is your reason for believing the Constitution is the foundation, think to yourself this (though you’ve probably heard it before):


Could America legally create an amendment re-instituting slavery? If your answer is no, then...

Sorry, forgot to close the italics. Should read:

Everything else in the theoretical part of the document is according to this understanding, including the first paragraph. Something about self-evidency and being people endowed with inalienable rights (you mean we have no choice but to live with them?... yes... responsibility ...yes) creates a set puposive direction as men live together as political beings (think about Aristotle and men outside the city as beasts or gods but not humans). Is the application of law subject to change according to circumstance in such an established theory of government, yes. Is the form (republican), no. It cannot be because it is the only form which both allows and restricts men to live by the principles they are created with. As you know, the ability to do a thing does not establish its goodness, just as the ability to break a thing does not undermine its goodness.

Short and incomplete I know, but for these reasons it is the foundation. It must be. The Constitution is only creating the applicable form of a republican government in line with these principles. If your standard of "American" is according to a thing’s changeability, and that is your reason for believing the Constitution is the foundation, think to yourself this (though you’ve probably heard it before):

Could America legally create an amendment re-instituting slavery? If your answer is no, then...

Yes, too, think Andrew hit the nail on the head.

I meant ...

Yes, I also think Andrew hit the nail on the head.

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