Friday, November 14, 2008

Congress, churches and legislation

Let me open by saying: I am not an historian nor am I pretending to be one (my Ph.D. studies are in another field), but this is how I make sense of things. Any historians (or anyone else for that matter) reading this-- if you think anything here is inaccurate, stupid, awe-inspiring (:) please feel free to post a comment.

A VERY brief summary:

On March 2, 1789, a mere two years after the drafting of our US Constitution, came the death of a mechanism by which our Constitution could have remained up-to-date throughout the course of American history. Yes, we have amendments, but the Continental Congress was so much more than that. Certain political groups have maintained this meeting, such as the DAR, but the original national congress died that day in March, 1789.

There is one notable accomplishment of the second continental congress: our constitution. Another less well known is the Ordinance of 1787, which established the means by which territories gained statehood. Some historians argue that the Continental Congress would have been (in addition to the Federal Congress) a means by which states would convene OUTSIDE the capitol to discuss matters of civic importance. Caucuses would have been held to bring legal matters to public discussion. It's important to remember that during the time of the Revolutionary War and the immediate years following it, many people had deeply held fears of a strong central government. I can sympathize.

Why do I think this is important now? Two reasons: limitless terms for our congressional and senate representatives and religious influence on our laws.

First, I think the last eight years provide ample reasons. It has taken almost 30 years for "new" blood to leak into the Congress. Some congressmen have been in office for most of their lives, pushing the same agendas, etc.

Issue one for a Continental Congress: term limits for state senators and representatives. Can you see why a CONTINENTAL Congress would be the only way such a measure would get passed? It's like raises or health care for our congresspeople; of course they are going to vote for those things in their own self-interest and against those that would threaten their monopoly on the legislative power in our country. Perhaps that is why things are so slow to change.

Issue two: State referendums. The current referendum system is a remnant of the concept of a national congress; it is now the means by which individual states can make legislative decisions. However, with the power of the "Moral" majority, our politics has become rife with religious influence in our legislative process. Prop 8 in California is an example of this. Seventy percent of the funding for pro-prop 8 advertising on Californian airwaves came from MORMANS.

Pause for a moment to think about this.

A religious group, with TAX EXEMPT status, was injecting their 'moral' agenda into a political issue on a BALLOT. A Catholic priest in Maryland has been telling his congregation that anyone who voted for Barack Obama (the pro-abortionist, not pro-choice, mind you) are not eligible to receive communion until they perform a confession. If that doesn't sound like a strong reason to revoke their tax exempt status I don't know what is. People are using Biblical Morality (while popular for Christians of all denominations), as the foundation for our Modern CIVIC laws. Hmm, let me put it another way:

Biblical Law and Civic Law. (Church and State, anyone?)

The Bible is a text written ABOUT (stories) an isolated period in civilization's history (Pharaohs, Philistines and Philippians--any of those around today?) maintained throughout history by, guess who? Those who had power.

My panties get in a bunch when it comes to power and literacy. The Bible (pretty much the only universally recognizable tome in the history of western civilization for hundreds of years) was copied in Latin for centuries. Why? Because only wealthy, educated people (usually of the governing class) could afford to own one and afford the education needed to know how to read it. Gutenberg's invention in 1455 began the literacy revolt. (An excellent source is Orality and Literacy by Walter J. Ong, a Jesuit priest.)

There's one easy way to fix our national debt issue and get money flowing back into our system: REVOKE the tax exempt status for religious groups that mix politics and preaching. Legislation needs to come from where our forefather's intended: the legislative branch not the pulpit.

PS: To all who read this post, please keep a good thought for us and our cat Emma (see picture to the right). I'm taking her to the vet today (she was diagnosed with CRF last year and has been doing okay until last weekend)-- she's losing weight, is dizzy and wobbly. Tom's at the lab and is teaching this afternoon, too, so I'm going by myself. Scared to death that my best furry friend is not going to be okay.


Seeing Eye Chick November 14, 2008 at 1:17 PM  

Here are organizations that you can support that still believe in the separation of church and state, and still uphold that there is both freedom of religion as well as freedom from religion:

I have great things to say about all three of these organizations. I have known great people who worked with them and work for them and their causes.

Great Blog Post!

We need another Literacy rebellion. Or perhaps a critical thought rebellion. I believe that in part, the Internet and the Blogosphere is helping to cultivate just such an explosion. Thats why its so important to keep the internet Free, and Open.

Seeing Eye Chick November 14, 2008 at 1:32 PM  

Sorry to double Post, but you have to look at this page,_1932

Who says History Doesnt Repeat itself.

Do you think that Prohibition would be the equivalent Religious lightning rod to Abortion?

True Blue Texan November 14, 2008 at 1:49 PM  

I think you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to the reason why things are so slow to change in DC. The reintroduction of the Continental Congress is a great idea. Though in all fairness, it would be extremely difficult in this partisan age to get it started again.

That's where I think seeing eye chick has it right. The internet and the blogosphere had an enormous influence on this election. We used to be an educated and articulate nation that read, wrote letters to the editor and so on. It's time that we renewed our commitment to the idea of an educated, informed electorate that knows how to look critically at information in order to make a decision.

skyewriter November 14, 2008 at 1:59 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
skyewriter November 14, 2008 at 2:02 PM  

Wow, good question Seeing eye Chick(I hope I understand it correctly; let me know if I don't).

I suppose I think in our current social and cultural atmosphere, feminists (female and male alike) have enough political clout to prevent an overturn of Roe V Wade. Maybe I live in a bubble, (college town, you know) but most pro-choicers I know are WAY more politically active than their religious counterparts. I think lots of pro-lifers are good at talking the talk, but not necessarily walking the walk.

It seems like abortion is the last great holdout for the Moral majority. I have a feeling the debate is going to be with us a long time. Mix in sex-ed in schools, or the distribution of condoms and it becomes apparent to most folks that the abortion issue isn't only about abortion. It's a complex system of intertwining issues that will sustain the debate and make it necessary for those in support of Roe V Wade stay active so that churches' ideas and agendas stay within the walls of the church and don't stray out into the public, civic streets.

Thanks to you, too, true blue texan for visiting.

Seeing Eye Chick November 14, 2008 at 2:26 PM  

We now have a president who was the editor of the Harvard Law Review, who has a lexicon larger than a parrot.

I already see signs of literacy, like delicate green shoots emerging from our blackened vitrious crust, that has surrounded the country, obfuscating the intelligencia out of vile stubborness.

YEA! Just that Change alone means so much to me.

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