A staple segment for late night shows and cable news programs is the man on the street interviews that test a random citizen’s basic knowledge of basic subjects. It’s a simple premise: the host asks a basic question like “What’s the capital of Florida?” and then shoves a microphone into the face of a random passerby. The audience laughs at the foolish answers. (“No, the capital of Florida isn’t Florida City.”)
But what if one day you found yourself with a microphone in your face, posed with a question slightly more difficult than elementary geography—perhaps about the United States Constitution? Perhaps this seems like a topic you left behind in grade school. Presidential candidates and news pundits often throw around terms like “Constitutional rights,” but how familiar are you with what those rights actually are or what the Constitution says? Knowing the Constitution is not just the stuff of game shows and history buffs.
Fortunately, the Constitution is not a hard document with which to get acquainted says Dr. Carl Abrams, a professor of social sciences at BJU. He recommends that students begin by reading through the document for themselves. At only 7,591 words (including amendments) the document would take about 45 minutes to read, and Abrams suspects students may be surprised by what they find.
Abrams believes students would be struck by the parallels between the Constitution and the Bible. One parallel between the two is the brevity of each document. Rather than being lists of commands, both employ more principles than specific mandates. Rather than quickly being antiquated by attempting to be exhaustive, the Bible and the Constitution have achieved longevity (the Bible considerably more so) by setting forth timeless principles, Abrams said. Although the Constitution has been amended 27 times, that’s still an impressive amount of stability for a non-divinely inspired work. In fact, the U.S. Constitution is widely considered the world’s oldest ruling document at 226 years and counting.
Another parallel Abrams pointed out was the freedom allowed by both documents. The un-amended body of the Constitution makes no reference to God. With the Bill of Rights came the addition of religious freedom, and elsewhere the document and the Declaration of Independence contain Christian ideals. But the founders, many of whom were religious, did not set out to create a Christian utopia. In a similar fashion, God’s Word invites, but does not force belief. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil allowed mankind to choose God freely, just as American citizens are allowed to choose their religious beliefs freely.
Not only does the Bible parallel the Constitution, but the Scripture also speaks to the role of government in the lives of Christians.
Dr. Roger Bradley, also a professor in the Division of Social Studies, says Christians have a biblical responsibility to obey the government. This obligation, Bradley believes, can be upheld only if Christians have a good knowledge of the document upon which the U.S. government was built. It’s much easier, Bradley proposes, to obey a government you understand.
Both Abrams and Bradley discussed the necessity of Christians familiarizing themselves with our nation’s ruling document. While people are often impressed by how long the Constitution has lasted, Bradley said, they neglect to remember that the document hasn’t simply propelled itself forward all these years: many individuals have poured their lives into enforcing and sustaining the founding fathers’ vision contained in the Constitution. If Americans reject their responsibility to continue that work, the Constitution will be little more than an ineffectual fragment of old parchment, Bradley and Abrams believe.
“If you don’t treasure something that is valuable to you, it will go away,” Bradley said.
Several students also echoed the sentiments of both professors.
“One of our responsibilities as Christians is to hold our government accountable for their actions,” said Nikki Arnold, a senior communication major who participates in South Carolina Student Legislature.
The government will be held accountable, Arnold said, when Christian voters are familiar with the Constitution and vote responsibly for candidates who demonstrate a respect for both the Constitution and the Bible.
Aaron Ferrari, a sophomore accounting major, gained a new respect for the Constitution after working on forming policies for the new campus Accounting Club.
“It’s strange to think that future generations will use the rules we create, and that’s just for a small campus organization. I can’t imagine making something as expansive and enduring as the Constitution.” Ferrari said.