Comparing Constitutional Democracies in Egypt and in America
sharia law, all Egyptians will be ruled through force, and it will be much worse for non-Muslims, like the Copts, who are already treated as second-class citizens, discriminated against and persecuted.
On the other hand, the United States government was formed with the understanding that the rule of law would be supreme, that we would be a nation of laws not men. While our constitution is based on this idea, over the years, we have allowed this tremendous protection to be eroded to the point that we are often governed by arbitrary laws and force.
Although it was not the first time, we can see evidence of this erosion at the Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren. The Warren Court was committed to social reform, but at the expense of reason and the Constitution. Robert Bork noted the opinions some scholars held toward the Warren Court in his book, The Tempting of America, as follows: unprincipled activism, disrespect for precedent, tortured reading of statutes, absence of neutrality and objectivity, and a court out of control.
Yet the Warren Court did not go far enough for a little known Illinois state senator in 2001, Barack Obama, who said: "The [Warren Court] never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. . . . It didn't break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the founding fathers in the Constitution. . . ." Obama went on to say that "the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can't do to you, says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf."
President Obama does not like the limitations the Constitution puts on him, and he has attempted to circumvent these limitations throughout his presidency. He swore an oath to uphold the law, then he refused to uphold the Defense of Marriage Act; he gave a small army of czars unprecedented power over the American people; he acted unilaterally on immigration, he attacked our First Amendment right to freedom of religion; and he abused the commerce and tax clause under Obamacare. Now he is threatening to act unilaterally on the debt ceiling and the Second Amendment. The jury is still out these last two.
But when the law was divorced from reason, injustice and violence followed just as Saint Thomas said it would. In the process of all this so-called reform, some of our most fundamental rights were sacrificed. The most obvious was the right to life for the unborn. The right to be "secure in [our] persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" was also sacrificed. This right is assured to the American people in Fourth Amendment, and in many, if not all, state constitutions. Yet, today, law-abiding citizens are routinely arrested in America without regard to objectively verifiable standards, let alone a probable cause.
Both Islam and Postmodernism seem to view the rule of law and a constitutional democratic form of government as nothing more than means to an end. And what is that end? Reilly says that Islam and Postmodernism demand that reality conform to their world view. He also says they both seek earthly utopias in this life through politics and stringent control of the population.
Saint Augustine said something similar to Saint Thomas Aquinas about 800 years earlier, which we can also apply to our present discussion. Saint Augustine said, "an unjust law is no law at all," and "a State which is not governed according to justice would be just a bunch of thieves." What are the Egyptian and American people to do under these circumstances?
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently put out a statement regarding the threat to religious freedom in the United States, "Our First, Most Cherished Liberty: A Statement on Religious Liberty." Perhaps we can use their statement as a general guideline for the current situation in both countries. Part of their statement is included below:
"An unjust law cannot be obeyed. In the face of an unjust law, an accommodation is not to be sought . . . . If we face today the prospect of unjust laws, then Catholics in America, in solidarity with our fellow citizens, must have the courage not to obey them. No American desires this. No Catholic welcomes it. But if it should fall upon us, we must discharge it as a duty of citizenship and an obligation of faith."
Christians are not the problem in the world, they are its hope. The Catholic Church is in many ways the protector of reason, rights, freedom, and people. Judaism gave us the insight that God and creation are rational and good. The book of Genesis says that God created the world and it was good.
As the Church tried to understand Christianity and spread the Gospel message, she engaged in rigorous prayer, study and debate. This prepared the ground for future developments which benefited Western civilization. In a series of videos, The Catholic Church-Builder of Civilization, Thomas Woods discuses some of these developments. One of them is law.
He says that the Church unified law under the principle of natural law. The first modern legal system in Europe was cannon law. Thus, the Church introduced reason into court proceedings. Before this time, court rulings were quite arbitrary, and they often involved magical ordeals to determine a defendant's innocence or guilt. The Church also said that rights were based on human nature and applied to all persons.
Fast forward to 1965 and Vatican II and the document, Gaudium et Spes. "At all times," it states, "the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task." This is the same task Jesus himself gave to his Church, "Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you" (Mat 28:19).
Comparing the constitutional democracies in Egypt and in America, helps us to read the signs of the times. We live in an age of anti-reason. Therefore, it seems that part of our mission as Christians living in the 21st century is to reintroduce reason into our societies, and the idea of government based on the rule of law and the idea of rights grounded in the natural law.
In this way, Christians can lay the groundwork that will help Muslims and Postmodernists accept the God who loved us so much that He gave us his only Son to redeem us by his death on a cross, which, I believe, is the meaning of the refrain, "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me a partridge in a pear tree."
Michael Terheyden was born into a Catholic family, but that is not why he is a Catholic. He is a Catholic because he believes that truth is real, that it is beautiful and good, and that the fullness of truth is in the Catholic Church. However, he knows that God's grace operating throughout his life is the main reason he is a Catholic. He is greatly blessed to share his faith and his life with his beautiful wife, Dorothy. They have four grown children and three grandchildren.
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Egypt, America, United States, Constitution, Democracy, Christian, Copt, Michael Terheyden
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