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Welcome to project Worldview's Worldview Watch
periodic commentary and analysis on news items from a worldview perspective

 previous issue                                          issue #15,  posted 1 /23 / 2011                       archive of all  issues

Guns, the Tea Party and the U.S. Constitution

in the newsTroubled, like all of us, by the mass murder in Tucson, Arizona apparently perpetrated by a mentally ill, semi-automatic toting young man, Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein in his commentary "Arms and the Unbalanced"  asks, "Where does one draw the line between freedom and anarchy in a democratic society?" The tragedy comes in the wake of the growing political clout of the so called Tea Party movement, viewed by some as a rather shaky coalition of libertarians (many venerating Ayn Rand's philosophy) and Christian right wing (many Bible toting) Republicans.  What glue holds this movement together? The headline to a November 5, 2010 NY Times article by Samuel Freedman may provide the answer: "Tea Party Rooted in Religious Fervor for Constitution."  

commentary and analysis (by Stephen P. Cook, founder and manager, project Worldview, www.projectworldview.org)Freedman writes,"...the Constitution is the Tea Party’s bible, and that holy book is embraced as an inerrant text. The denunciations of the Progressive movement, the New Deal and the Great Society by the Tea Party and its de facto televangelist, Glen Beck, recall the religious battles throughout American history between literalists and interpreters of Scripture"  It seems this movement is broader than the Christian Right's Religious Fundamentalism (worldview theme #9A) inspired battles against teaching evolution or praying in public schools, posting the Ten Commandments in county courthouses, abortion, gay marriage, etc. But  the interpretation of supposedly sacred texts is an issue in both movements.  As Freedman puts it, "If anything, the Constitution is especially vulnerable to literalism. “There is a major translation problem for literalism in relation to Christian doctrine,” said Jon Butler, a professor of the history of religion in America at Yale. “And there’s the matter of the age of the texts. But there is no translation issue with the Constitution, and it’s only a couple of centuries old. So that makes it so much more susceptible."  

Consider the following timely example.  The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads "A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." According to Klein, in 1989 conservative judge and right wing darling Robert Bork interpreted this to mean that it guaranteed "the right of states to form militias, not for individuals to bear arms."  While no one would dispute the amendment framers' intent that militias be well-regulated, apparently both the National Rifle Association and many freedom loving libertarians will not tolerate any regulating of an individual's rights to buy or carry firearms.  

One obvious difference between how religious fundamentalists narrowly view the Bible and the trust that Tea Party enthusiasts place in the Constitution is that only the latter is flexible enough to allow amendments. Thus libertarian (see worldview theme #50A) long-time concerns about increasing government debt may  instill new Tea Party energy into reinvigorating the old movement for a  Balanced Budget Amendment.  Might we expect to see those in the Tea Party who value The Sanctity and Dignity of Life (worldview theme #44A) lead a similarly revitalized push for an amendment to outlaw abortion?  The short answer is no.  Allowing Big Brother to restrict a woman's freedom to decide the fate of her unborn fetus is anathema to Tea Party libertarians. Might we expect to see those in the Tea Party who value the Moralistic God worldview theme (#14A) and view homosexual marriage as sinful  lead a similarly revitalized push for an amendment that defines marriage as existing only between a man and a woman?  Again, I'd say any such push would fracture the Tea Party along obvious fault lines: unlike many right wing Christians, libertarians want to keep big government out of bedrooms.  

Should the mentally ill be allowed to buy and own guns?  Surprisingly, more mainstream Libertarians who merely wish to limit government and those extremists among them, Left Anarchists (worldview theme #50B), who seek its abolition, might take opposing sides on this issue. Many  NRA card carrying libertarians would undoubtedly say "Yes!";  many Left Anarchists, valuing both order and the reasonable rules that free associations make, would urge the gun industry to regulate itself with policies that effectively say "No!"  Will their voice be heard? If the USA media is to be believed, unlike the influence of libertarians in the Tea Party, the voice and USA political clout of Left Anarchists, those rare libertarians who don't hold private property as sacrosanct, as what guarantees one's freedom, is virtually non-existent.        

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