Sunday, August 21, 2011

Is America a Christian Nation, Part II

In the first installment in this series, I introduced a discussion and asked a question, whether the United States of America is a 'Christian Nation.'  While I didn't fully define such a term, in that discussion I cited certain evidence offered within the terms of the Treaty of Paris of 1783, which terms indicate that both of the nations who entered into that agreement, stated in plain terms that each were subject to the authority of the Holy Trinity.  I offered that that treaty was ratified by the sitting authorized bodies at the time. In America's case, that body is the one the treaty refers as, 'American Congress of the Confederation.'  And so, at least in that respect, I finished by concluding that the two nations who signed that treaty, as agreed between each other, and among their respective peoples, were 'Christian nations.'

But that was then, and this is now. At the former time, operating under a governing agreement, the United States of America had agreed unanimously to abide with a confederation government, much different than the government of today, which today's government did not come into existence until the Constitution would be written and ratified unanimously, which task did not complete for another six years.

Now the Constitution, proposed for ratification in 1787, and not ratified until 1789, cites no direct reference to God, certainly not the Holy Trinity.  And therefore, the Law of the Land of the United States offers no direct evidence that such a nation is under any authority other than that which can be understood conveyed to it by, "We the people of the United States of America."  And because that is true, those who purport that America is NOT a Christian nation, or even a "nation under God," cite the Constitution as the primary evidence supporting their claim.  On a certain surface, that claim may seem sustainable...yes, on the surface.

But to truly understand the nature of the American sovereignty, one must understand what 'sovereignty' is in the first place.  So let's look at that.  A nation is sovereign, only if it possesses 'the right' to make its own decisions, and without obtaining permission from any other authority.  That 'right' is a nation's sovereign authority.  Clearly, in 1787, as the authors of the Constitution convened to begin discussion of a new government, the terms of which would be detailed under our present constitutional document, the representatives of the 13 states who gathered were authorized to be there.  Without authority to act, any product of their deliberations would have been unauthorized, and therefore null and void.  So some agreement, in place at the time, conveyed authority to each participant to act for the people of the state he represented.  That authority, in place prior to the discussions, and also remaining after the discussions, and indeed which authorized the sitting congress that would subsequently consider the product of the constitutional convention, was the only authority those men had, or would have.  So let's discover where that authority came from prior to the constitutional convention, and the path it took to get there, on its way to us today.

At the time of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the government in place was that government described under the document entitled, Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union. That document began its journey toward authorization, ultimately becoming the law of the land, shortly after the Declaration of Independence was signed. But that document did not become unanimously ratified, as its terms required, until 1781, the state of Maryland being the last to formerly agree to abide under its authority.  So by agreement of all 13 states, under that document each state ceded certain authority over to a common government.

Under the Articles of Confederation, one authorized principle ceded by each state to this common government was that certain authority could be used to change its original terms, which principle in the most extreme case could even allow a complete rewrite of those terms.  But according to the AoC, for any change or rewrite to carry authority, certain conditions had to be met.  Article X of that document imposes the condition that before a change could even be proposed, 9 of 13 states had to agree to do so.  But article XIII requires that for any proposed change to carry authority, that  change had to carry the unanimous approval of the 13 state legislatures!  So as the representatives of the states came together at the Constitutional convention, common in their understanding was that the Articles of Confederation carried authority; that those articles conveyed authority to the proceedings, and that the existing agreement among the 13 states would remain authorized and in place until some trigger within its terms, previously agreed at it's ratification, allowed certain or all aspects of that agreement to change.  But whatever change or changes might occur, those changes had to be proposed, and authorized, according to the principles already agreed in that document.  Stated another way, each representative to the constitutional convention understood that, because the AoC was 'authorized' by American sovereign authority, and was indeed the only operating agreement among the states represented, then for any change to carry authority, that change had to be proposed and agreed according to the terms that were already authorized and in place.

By now, it might be apparent that authority has a certain flow to it.  Authority can flow from one authorized document to another, from one person or group of people to another; it can be limited in scope, and can also be conditional.  By that  I mean that, just because I might authorize someone to represent me in certain dealings, that does not mean that this person is authorized in all dealings.  So the authority I convey to another only extends subject to the conditions that I agree to, and it never extends to conditions to which I do not agree.

So concluding this juncture of the discussion, we know that the representatives who convened in 1787, and who would subsequently draft a constitution, were at least authorized to sit and discuss its terms.  That authority came to them under the terms of each state constitution which resulted in their authority for them to act for the people of the respective states, and also from the terms of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which terms as we have noted, were the operating agreed principles in place as the constitutional convention gavel went down.

Next time, we will delve further into this subject, discover the results of the constitutional convention, and then begin our look backward toward the conditions imposed upon American sovereign authority under the terms of its founding document, the Declaration of Independence.  Thank you for participating.


1 comment:

  1. Fascinating as always! I appreciate your thoughtful and thorough exploration of this topic, Hank, and am looking forward to the next installment.



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