Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Strict Interpretations Guarantee Eventually Failure


Today's conservatives often like to see themselves as strict Constitutionalists.  That is, they claim to follow the exact letter of the law.  That’s how this country ended up arming everyone and not just the militia, which is what the second Amendment to the Constitution refers to. 

They claim for strict interpretation comes from the obvious source – religious feelings.  You know the line: The Bible says so, and I believe it. 

All that portends is their own demise.

For starters, the Bible is a weak base.  It contains myriads of laws.  One of my high school projects was to count canonical laws that are still relevant.  I ended up with dozens of note cards with laws from the Old and New Testaments, and the Koran.  Many such laws still have meaning today despite being written as much as 3,000 years ago.  However, many do not.

For example, the dietary laws are commonly ignored today.  People eat tons of products from pigs as well as shellfish.   Both are banned:  Leviticus 11:4 “Nevertheless these shall ye not eat of them that chew the cud, or of them that divide the hoof: as the camel, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you.” Leviticus 11:10 “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you.”

Non-Bible fashion statement
Fast food restaurants would have trouble with another law: Leviticus 3:17 “It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.”  Forget rare steaks, too.

Forget torn clothing, which goes in and out of fashion: Leviticus 10:6 “Uncover not your heads, neither rend your clothes; lest ye die, and lest wrath come upon all the people.”

Obvious lawbreaking
Like tattoos?  Get rid of them, too.  Leviticus 19:28 Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the Lord.”

Communion is a no-no, too.  Leviticus 10:9 “Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die.”

You get the idea.  There are many more to choose from. 
 
Jewish sages realized the problem immediately.  To remedy it, they identified laws that were eternal, such as the 10 Commandments, and those that belong to a particular time and place.  They built flexibility into the texts, which has enabled both them and their religion to survive.

The Founding Fathers of this country followed that lead.  They wrote general rules that, as they noted in their debates, could be altered as society changed.   Just as the authors of the Bible knew nothing about science or modern technology, the men who created this country could not foresee what changes would occur and left room for later Americans to accommodate whatever happens.

Ignoring that logic by insisting on strict interpretation guarantees a couple of things:

          1) Any such argument will eventually run into a brick wall of public opinion, which slowly changes to accommodate new realities.  We’re seeing that now with gay marriage court rulings in the face of defiant outrage by those trying to strictly interpret biblical teachings.

Society doesn’t care and rendered such arguments meaningless.  Those still complaining now look prejudiced and out of date.

Those arguing for the end of gun controls fall into the same category.  They are increasingly being seen as bedfellows of criminals and insane murders.  Not the best company when trying to win a debate.
 
     2) Eventually, strict followers of outmoded rules will find themselves consigned to the footnotes of history.  They will become increasing shrill and meaningless voices, slowly fading into nothingness. 

That’s already happening to those who object for biblically based reasons to evolution or Global Warming.  Historically, that’s what happened to those who objected to the idea the earth orbited the sun and a host of enthusiastically and faithfully supported but erroneous beliefs.

    3)  The religions and the political parties based on such rigid concepts will vanish, too.

Know-Nothing Millard Fillmore
There are no Puritans today, for example.  The strict Anglicans set on purifying their faith slowly lost control of society and, folded into the Congregationalist Church, a more flexible sect.  There are multiple other examples.

The Know-Nothings, Mugwumps and a host of other political entities that once tried to hold on to rigid principles are gone, too.

That’s one reason why there's no reason to be concerned with the bleating of either Bible thumpers or those insisting on strict interpretation of the Constitution.  Their loud cries represent only the dying spasms of a fading opinion.  Eventually, they, too, will be crushed under the ever-moving wheel of time.

Long-time religious historian Bill Lazarus regularly writes about religion and religious history.  He also speaks at various religious organizations throughout Florida.  You can reach him at www.williamplazarus.net.  He is the author of the famed Unauthorized Biography of Nostradamus; The Last Testament of Simon Peter; The Gospel Truth: Where Did the Gospel Writers Get Their Information; Noel: The Lore and Tradition of Christmas Carols; and Dummies Guide to Comparative Religion.  His books are available on Amazon.com, Kindle, bookstores and via various publishers.  He can also be followed on Twitter.

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