Tradition or Revision?

By Julie Roys
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By Julie Roys

“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.” So wrote G.K. Chesterton, one of the most influential English writers of the 20th Century. He added that “tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who happen to be walking about.”

I agree. Those of us who are alive represent only a fraction of the whole of mankind. And, why should we think that we know more than those whose wisdom has stood the test of time? Yet President Obama last week declared he’s begun “remaking America.”

And remake he has. His historic, nearly 780-billion-dollar government intervention in our economy appears just the beginning. Now, Obama wants to be able to fire the heads of car companies, control the health care system, and manage our banks. These are powers the Constitution simply does not give a president. But never mind.

Obama apparently has a “broader vision of what the Constitution is about.” At least, that’s what he told a group of Planned Parenthood activists about a year ago. He also advocated appointing Supreme Court justices with “empathy” for particular groups. Forget that the statue of Justice wears a blindfold and that courts aren’t supposed to recognize one’s race, ethnicity, or economic status when making judgments.

Recently, some media reported that Obama’s frontrunner for the open Supreme Court Justice seat is Judge Diane Wood. Wood believes the Constitution must “grow with the times.” In other words, the Constitution should be interpreted according to what justices deem is best for society now; its original intent is irrelevant.

Some may view this as a positive development. America is broken, they argue. And tradition has not always served us well. Just this week I was speaking with an African-American pastor who explained to me his mixed feelings about our Constitution. After all, it originally defined blacks as only three-fifths of a person and it took an amendment to correct the injustice.

I see his point. However, women have suffered a similar injustice. In fact, voting wasn’t extended to us until 50 years after it was extended to blacks. But, this hasn’t shaken my belief in our constitution. It’s bolstered it. The document’s beauty is that it provides a method for its correction. That method, however, is amendment – not activist judges. A few activist judges can change the law in a day. But, the amendment process requires the approval of two-thirds of both the House and Senate. This safeguards our nation from poorly conceived and hasty change.

Plus, the alternative to rule by law is rule by a powerful few or a particular party. Our Founding Fathers rightly understood that Lex Rex – the law is king – is far better than Rex Lex – the king is law. Sure, if we discard this tradition and interpret the Constitution according to our political ideology, some groups may benefit. But remember, those the government prefers, it just as easily can oppress. And Christians, especially, should see the writing on the wall. Standing for sexual morality, for the unborn, and for one way to God is not popular. We likely will be the targets of a government that doesn’t respect the right to life, liberty, and property.

The American tradition contains significant flaws. But, it’s also produced one of the most prosperous and just societies the world has ever known. It’s a tradition, I believe, is worth protecting.

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