Guest Post By Brian Sauvé
As our forefather John Adams said, “If ye would know a people, know their Facebook memes.”
I mean, he probably would have said that.
There’s a meme multiplying through the internet that caught my eye the other day. It says something to the effect of, “Huh, that’s weird. All my Facebook friends who were infectious disease specialists last week are now constitutional scholars.”
The grain of truth to the meme is, of course, valid. Social media is a microphone for pride, and pride loves nothing more than to vent its own half-baked hot takes. As with most things worth saying, Solomon had it right a few millennia ago: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion” (Proverbs 18:2).
Yes, we’re all prone to reading one article online—preferably one that restates what we already suspected—christen ourselves experts, and then publish our confident assertions to the world as if our thoughts were the product of a long and careful study.
However, don’t miss the play that’s being run in this particular meme. The subtext is that anyone who objects to the actions of his government on Constitutional grounds must have fallen in the ditch described above. Such a one must be some bubba out in his backwoods trailer, tinfoil hat on head, plug of chaw in his lip, wildly and ignorantly decrying “that dadgum gub’ment,” who is “at it again!”
The subtext is that we should leave the law to the experts, go home, and fire up our Netflix to watch another of our kinsman, Joe Exotic, doing questionable things for our entertainment. The subtext is that the Constitution is written in some kind of lawyerese, intelligible only to the elect few, and that any questions of Constitutionality that we, the normies, might raise, are by default ridiculous.
But slow down a moment. What Constitutional grounds might one raise in a time like this? Oh I don’t know, maybe this sentence:
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
Here’s my question: Is that sentence unclear? Is it difficult to understand? How many PhDs would one need to parse the grammar and draw some conclusions about authorial intent?
No PhDs required—and that by design. The Constitution is framed as a document of the people, for the people, by the people. It’s the bones of our civic body. And for the most part, very good bones, I might add, bones built on the words of Moses and Christ and Paul, tested and tried and put onto parchment through the Christian commonwealths of Western Civilization.
The Constitution is not meant to be a document for experts to use to shut the people up, pat them on the head, and send them to bed with no dinner. No, it’s meant to be a scourge to the backs of tyrants and a .45 caliber hollow point to the 10-ring of anyone who tries to do what the above sentence prohibits, metaphorically speaking, of course.
So when Mr. Average Joe, Esquire sits down at his trailer-park-judges-bench, slams his bottle down like a gavel, and pronounces the tyrannical decrees of governors everywhere as “Unconstitutional, dadgummit!”—he is the one who gets the Constitution, not the PhD’d elite scoffing at him. And don’t let anyone embarrass you into thinking otherwise. He’s right, because the Constitution is his, not just theirs.
What do you call an elected official who tells you that you have to do something the Constitution says he can’t tell you to do? A lawbreaker. Decreeing unlawfully is no less unlawful than behaving unlawfully. In point of fact, more damage has been done in the last century or so by those issuing unlawful, unjust decrees than by those merely breaking the laws already written down.
What I’m emphatically not saying is that Christians everywhere should embrace recklessness and flaunt lawful, God-ordained authority. What I emphatically am saying is that part of our obedience to those God-ordained authorities includes demanding that they, too, obey the law. If we don’t, those of us who read history know what happens next—even those of us who read history without the aid of a flock of PhDs. What happens next is more of the same, just cranked a few clicks towards the authoritarian side of the dial.
The free grace of our King has freed men to be free men. Some of those free men wrote some things down for us in this thing we call The Constitution—and they did so in order that their sons and grandsons on down the line might also be free men who love freedom… If we can keep it.
Brian Sauvé serves as the pastor of preaching and liturgy at Refuge Church in Ogden, Utah. He is married to Lexy, and together they have four little ones (and counting). He writes regularly at briansauve.com.