Legal scholars will tell you that states are not permitted to resist federal laws or authority. The southern states tried first rhetoric, then nullification, then secession, and at last war to resist the federal government from about 1825 to 1865 – forty years of futility, death, and defeat. Why would any state want to go down that path again, even if our Constitution permitted it?
There are at least three problems with that reasoning. First, the south tried to defend an indefensible institution: slavery. Right was not on its side. Second, they used military means to resist, which may not have worked over the long term even if they were stronger than they were. Lastly, they did not have any plan other than a military one. Whether from fear or from hubris, they launched a campaign based on violence that contained no vision of how to gain their ends any other way. They used the principle of might makes right to defend the indefensible.
That set of circumstances makes a sorry precedent. A close reading of our constitutional history from 1776 on indicates that the south’s understanding of states’ rights was grounded in valid, sturdy legal principles that colonists would have recognized a hundred years before the Declaration of Independence. To say that these principles are invalid because the south appealed to them to protect slavery, then lost the war that followed, is absurd.
People often say principles of Christianity are insupportable because – “Look at all the wars they’ve caused.” They want no part of a faith that has spawned wars. The use of principles, legal or religious, to justify wars does not make the principles themselves untrue. War is almost always ill advised no matter what you say to justify it. The principles we use to guide our actions stand or fall independently of war and war’s outcomes.
I wanted to write down these ideas by way of introducing a topic we’ve addressed in The Jeffersonian before. That’s the issue of whether the states, ought to resist the federal government – in 2013, nearly a century and a half after the end of the Civil War. As the federal government’s authority and activism grow, we have seen resistance emerge in five areas over several years:
- Implementation of the Affordable Care Act in the area of health care.
- Drug policy, especially as it affects marijuana.
- Gun control.
- Immigration policy.
- Domestic surveillance and control.
We have not yet seen resistance in these key areas:
- Tax payments, tax collection, and implementation of tax regulations.
- Use of national guard troops overseas.
- Regulation of drugs and narcotics other than marijuana.
- Environmental regulations.
- Revenue sharing – flows of money from Washington to the states.
We can write more about each of these areas in another post.
I am interested in the concept that Christian Principles may still be supportable on the public policy level despite the violence which seems to be caused by the advocates of Christian Principles. The friction occurs when religious ideas are codified into law.
We sat this in the prohibition era. Just like the Anti-Slavery issue which was propelled largely by people who objected to slavery on the basis of “Christian Principles” (and that was a good thing), the Anti-Alcohol campaign was based on the idea that people should not be allowed to destroy themselves and their society based on “Christian Principles”. What we learned fro prohibition is that you cannot legislate morality. This was admitted by the very same people who looking back on the disaster created by prohibition, could see the truth about what happens when you try to force your moral convictions upon people who do not hold your beliefs.
My own thoughts about this is that if followers of Christ would truly take the advise given by Jesus, there would be a profound and positive impact on society.
But then Jesus was not a social activist, instead he led by example.
There is nothing wrong with Christian Principles per se, but I would point out that when it comes to living in a democracy we all must have the utmost respect for people who have different beliefs. This is difficult for all of us because we all think we are right, and this is regardless of our religious beliefs.
It seems to be more particularly difficult (to be respectful) for religious zealots who believe they are on a mission from God.
I suspect that it is not a matter of friction between the religious and the non-religious. The same problem would exist even if every man woman and child in the world were to be of the same religion, professing the same beliefs.
There would still be social friction brought about by differences of opinion about what types of morality should be codified into law.