If one listens, Lent reveals much. We are reminded, for example, that
God is a deus absconditus, a hidden God.
In the liturgical readings leading up to Easter, the Lord repeatedly “hides
himself” from or “escapes from the power” of those
seeking to kill him, because his hour has not yet come. The reason
they seek to kill him, of course, is that they do not believe him when
he claims to be God’s son, that, as he puts it, when Abraham
came to be, “I AM.”
We have thus revealed to us that God places a premium on faith. In
another context, Jesus stated that those who made a show of their piety “already
have their reward.” Just so, we, too, would already have our
reward if we had the satisfaction of knowing for sure that God exists,
or that Jesus is truly divine, or that our prayers are always heard.
This is not the state of affairs as God has it. God will remain hidden,
utterly beyond our empirical certitudes. The only certainty is that
he will continue to demand we believe.
In our secular doings, we have comparable inexactitudes. In the sphere
of constitutional interpretation, for instance, the argument between
advocates of original intent and those who propound a living constitution
is as predictable as cherry blossoms in the Tidal Basin.
Some might say the tension between the two sides yields a beneficial
dynamic of progress and continuity, allowing our basic law to adapt
to changing conditions without slaying its spirit. Others — myself
among them — would maintain that, without deference to the intent
of the Founders, the Constitution cannot long remain basic, adaptable
only through the amendment process it itself prescribes.
The camp I am in, unfortunately, has suffered some of its most serious
reverses as the result of sloppy thinking by some of its zealots.
The Philadelphia Convention’s inspired contrivances mean little,
for instance, without the emphasis on checks and balances and the separation
of powers — not only among the branches of government at the federal
level but also between the central government and the sovereign states.
Our constitutional arrangements will have no power to protect us from
abusive power if the central government is forever aggrandizing itself
at the expense of its constituent sovereignties.
Despite the centrality and obviousness of this truth, the chief advocates
of “states’ rights” have allowed their constitutional
cause to be sullied by association with the moral low ground in the
nation’s long struggle over slavery and racial segregation. Had
the Civil War somehow been avoided, had Jim Crow laws and racist lynchings
not been chosen as popular responses to the humiliations of Reconstruction,
had churches and schools been opened to all God’s children —
it would be a lot easier to defend states’ rights, original intent,
and the “federal laboratory.”
It fell to Earl Warren’s Supreme Court to desegregate the schools
because families, schools, churches, cities, towns, states and the
U.S. Congress, in that order, all failed in their responsibilities
toward their fellow citizens. Bad law (and almost all federal statutes
in the area of “police powers” reserved by the Constitution
to the states are bad laws) is invariably the result of personal or
political failure at lower levels.
The problem is on full display at the moment. Congress is trying
to give the District of Columbia voting representation, even though
the Constitution quite clearly provides such representation only to
states. It also very clearly describes the seat of government of the
United States as a “district,” a choice of words obviously
made to separate it from the states.
On the other side, opponents of the bill are using the District’s
severe gun laws as an excuse to delay or prevent enactment. Gun owners
in the District have long claimed those laws were unconstitutional.
Recently, the Supreme Court partly agreed with them.
Both sides, the advocates of voter representation for the District
and the opponents of the District’s gun laws, are in error. Yes,
the Supreme Court is also in error.
Back to original intent. The intent of the Framers for the District
of Columbia has already been made clear. With respect to the Second
Amendment, the language of the Framers, and thus their intent, could
hardly be more clear: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary
to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and
bear Arms, shall not be infringed” (italics added). The first
phrase in italics makes clear that the entity being prohibited from
infringement is the lawmaking body of the government being constituted
by the document, i.e., the United States Congress. The second phrase
shows that the prohibition is absolute.
Therefore, all federal statutes related to possession of weapons
are constitutionally illegitimate. The Supreme Court has been wrong
to tolerate them.
The corollary, unsavory to sloppy thinkers like the National Rifle
Association (NRA), is that the Second Amendment does not apply at all
to cities and states, which are free to outlaw any and every lethal
weapon. This is especially true of the District of Columbia, with receives
all its legislative authority directly from Congress, as the Constitution
Anyone truly devoted to the Constitution our Founders gave us must
begin with the recognition that the greatest injury to its spirit was
the Supreme Court’s “doctrine of incorporation” under
the patina of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under that doctrine, the Bill
of Rights (intended by the Founders as the bulwark of the sovereign
states and of the people against federal encroachments) was transformed
into a bludgeon against the states and their citizens. It is under
the pernicious influence of that doctrine that the rights of pre-born
citizens have been obliterated, that prayer in the schools has been
outlawed, that pornography is protected, that marriage is undermined,
and that assaults on the Second Amendment will continue until Judgment
The NRA has been validating the doctrine of incorporation for more
than 30 years, ever since its lawsuit against the Morton Grove ordinances.
It continues doing so today with its ill-advised palpitations over
District gun laws.
Pea-shooters in the states and localities are no real threat to American
liberties. The Founders, writing the Second Amendment, took no note
of them. They were aiming at the central government they were cautiously
We are throwing caution to the winds. The federal government, especially
under this president, it itself something of a deus
our complete fealty and unquestioning faith.
But it is a false god. And the NRA is a false prophet.
The Unrepentant Traditionalist is copyright (c) 2009 by Frank
Creel and the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation.
All rights reserved.
Frank Creel, Ph.D., has been a columnist for the Potomac
Virginia. His op-ed articles have been published in the Northern
Virginia Journal, the Washington Examiner,
Times, and the New York City Tribune. In 1992, his A
Trilogy of Sonnets was published pseudonymously by Christendom
See a complete biographical sketch.
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