Eli Mystal from The nationa leftist magazine, recently announcement
to View that the U.S. Constitution is “kind of a garbage can”, adding: “It was written by slaveholders, settlers and white people who were willing to make deals with slaveholders and settlers. They didn’t ask anyone who resembles me what they thought of the Constitution.
Unserious comments are a daily occurrence on the ABC talk show, and on their own, such comments generally don’t merit a response. But unfortunately, portraying the Constitution as trash is increasingly popular in our often self-righteous and ignorant times. The contemporary mindset assumes that enlightened people living today sit at the pinnacle of wisdom and justice and can – indeed must – condemn earlier generations as morally inferior. Or, in an even more vulgar form, the people who lived before us were “trash cans” whose ideas and accomplishments should be scorned.
This arrogant presentism, which judges the past by today’s standards, theologically contravenes the Christian understanding of human nature, history and eschatology. We who live today are not morally superior to past generations. We are by nature as fallen as they are. To the extent that our modern ethical standards are higher, such as our near-universal rejection of slavery and our expectation of legal equality for all, we can only thank previous generations who struggled to achieve these understandings through the advancing Bible-inspired principles.
For thousands of years mankind has practiced slavery, and on a nearly universal basis. For thousands of years, humanity assumed that some people were largely relegated to the status or caste of life into which they were born. For thousands of years, mankind has favored its own tribe over other tribes. For thousands of years, mankind mostly assumed that the strong were more important than the people who served them. Literature from the ancient world, outside of the Bible, largely ignores stories of slaves, servants, laborers, and other minions. Why not? History is written by emperors, great generals, conquerors, the very rich, the very talented, the very beautiful. Ordinary people don’t matter much. They are footnotes to the history of great people, it has been claimed.
The Bible, on the other hand, affirms that God uses the humble to humble the powerful. He claims that God works through slaves, shepherds, fishermen, nomads, housewives, young girls, eunuchs and even prostitutes. He even claims that God revealed himself most definitively by becoming the son of a carpenter. This Son never owns property or has earthly wealth or power or holds any public office, but He is Lord of all creation and reigns over all emperors forever. This Son submits to become sin on the cross to atone for the sins of all mankind and justifies himself by rising from the dead. This is the craziest story ever told, and yet this story continues to subvert all the most natural assumptions of fallen humanity.
No culture that has not been influenced by this history has ever decided to write a Constitution that implied, much less claimed, some real equality for all people – much less that the rulers be servants of the ruled. Even over 1,700 AD, the United States Constitution, preceded by the Declaration of Independence, made startling claims that were truly unique up to that point in history. Even now, these principles are not affirmed by many other nations and cultures on Earth. The editors themselves were surprised by the sweeping assertion of common humanity in their statement and wondered if it could last. As fallen humans themselves, they did not respect his spirit.
The Constitution does not prohibit slavery or guarantee equal rights to all people regardless of race or ethnicity, nor does it grant legal equality to women. But it was truly revolutionary, rejecting hereditary monarchs and aristocracy, creating a republic ruled by laws and not by capricious men. It set America and much of the world on a path to an almost universal expectation that all people should be treated equally and that government should exist by consent of the governed.
After the ratification of the Constitution, the logic spread to many parts of the globe. A growing expectation of universal suffrage, and not just for a small number of wealthy people, began to prevail. Most states abolished slavery during the lifetime of the founders. In one lifetime, all slavery was abolished. In 61 years, the women’s rights assembly in Seneca Falls, NY has taken place. Shortly after the death of the last Revolutionary War veteran, constitutional amendments granted citizenship and voting rights to former slaves.
It took another century to secure those promises, and America is not now and never will be, this side of the eschaton, fully aligned with divine justice. But see what God has accomplished in just a few lifetimes after the Constitution. Billions of people now live under or aspire to similar constitutions. Ukrainians, presumably, do not think the US Constitution is trash. And no one who knows human history and human nature or appreciates human freedom either.
Eli Mystal, before he appeared again on View, should reflect on these truths. The same goes for the rest of us.