Bundy, The Federal Government, and States’ Rights (continued)
Let’s begin with a definition. The doctrine of states’ rights refers to the manner in which the rights of the individual states in the American nation are protected against interference and control by the federal government except in instances specifically covered by the Constitution of the United States. It is defined in the constitution in this manner: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” (The 10th amendment to the constitution, being part of what we ordinarily call the Bill of Rights).
I see roughly three distinct periods in American history in which state’s rights issues have been front and center. (Please remember that this is an informal view from MY perspective and does not necessarily represent any historian’s considered opinion).
- The Framing of the US Constitution
- The Civil War
- The Present
In between these periods the states’ rights struggle (for it has always been a struggle for power) made stops along the way for economic issues and the Civil Rights movement.
The very beginning of the nation featured a skirmish over “who’s in charge, here.” At the Constitutional Convention some representatives of the states feared overarching control by the federal government. In December of 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified and became part of the Constitution . The doctrine of states’ rights is codified in amendment 10. The state in which I was born, Rhode Island, was not represented at the Constitutional Convention, yet its state constitution affirms, in its preamble
Section 24. Rights not enumerated — State rights not dependent on federal rights. — The enumeration of the foregoing rights shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people. The rights guaranteed by this Constitution are not dpendent on those guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States
Historians learn that it is not easy to pinpoint exact causes for such events as wars. It’s too easy, for instance, to state that the American Civil War was all about slavery. It’s more complicated than that. That being said, however, I feel safe in stating that the Civil War was largely about states’ rights. The institution of the Confederate States, which was ratified by the founding states in 1860, begins with the words, “We, the people of the Confederate States, each state acting in its soveregn and independent character….” Though the issue of slavery was largely decided by the outcome of this war between brothers, the struggle over the sovereignty of the individual states continues.
Since the 1930s, the size and scope of the federal government has been increasing. Franklin Delano Roosevelt introduced the “New Deal,” a strategy by which the federal government took control of much of the economic activity of the nation through a series of quickly-approved legislation. Lasting legacies of the New Deal include federal agricultural subsidy programs, the Social Security Administration, collective bargaining through unions, the abandonment of the gold standard for currency, and the generally increasing power of the federal government. The ideals of the New Deal became so entrenched in the American political soul that even Dwight D. Eisenhower, the first Republican president after WWII wrote,
Should any party attempt to abolish social security and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group of course, that believes you can do these things … Their number is negligible and they are stupid.” (Mayer, Michael S. (2009). The Eisenhower Years. p. xii.)
There are more questions than answers in this situation. For instance:Are the workings of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) legitimately constitutional? I leave that to the scholars.
- Did Cliven Bundy miss many payments to the federal government? It would seem so, but what’s being questioned is whether those are legal fees or taxes.
- Should thefederal government own and manage (or mismanage, as some claim) the massive amount of land under its control?I don’t know the answers to many of the questions being asked. I do know this: it is legitimate for citizens of the United States to question government policy. It is also constitutional for states to seek to control those areas which are not “delegated to the United States by the Constitution.”
It’s a more complicated situation than it may seem. Law, history, emotion, money, and firearms are all involved. I pray that a peaceful solution is reached. I also pray that something resembling a just conclusion results.
The Apostle Paul pleaded with members of the church in Corinth that they “may learn by us not to go beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthian 4:6). It would seem that states right advocates are asking just that. “Stick to the Constitution,” they exhort. The Federal government, on the other hand, claims to be involved in nothing more or less than this. Who’s right?
The struggle for control continues. It began at the dawn of this nation. It’s unlikely to go away soon.
If you are a parent or grandparent seeking insight into contributing to the memory of your little one; if you are a pastor or church volunteer wanting perspective and practical help for the faith formation of the next generation of the Church, you will find both in Curt and Sandra Lovelace’s ministry to the one’s for whom Jesus had a special regard. This book is an investment in future believer testimonies celebrating that “my earliest memories are of my time in God’s house, with God’s people, under the teaching of God’s Word, knowing God’s presence in my life.”
Children in Church balances biblical rationale for inter-generational worship with practical tools for assisting families in the vital task of rearing children in “the fear and admonition of the Lord.” The Lovelaces demonstrate compassionate sensitivity to a thorny issue in congregational life: “What about the children?” The forthrightly acknowledge the challenge of responding to the need for “doing all things decently and in order” while fulfilling covenant responsibilities to “forbid them not.” This work’s credibility is founded on Scripture and the Lovelaces’ actually having negotiated the terrain in their own parenting and life in faith communities around the world. Their perspectives have been well-honed in multiple geographical settings and congregational configurations. The reader will find in them anything but “the blind leading the blind.’
Most appreciative for this reader was the encouraging tone devoid of a preachy crusader attitude. They simply offer their lived experiences as burden-bearers for those who feel the weighty responsibilities when the Lord places a child in a family and congregation. They have no theological ax to grind but simply set out the practical aspects of living out a covenantal life. They urge us to see children not as interruptions or distractions. At the same time they avoid the current trend toward “child-focused” families where parents abdicate their biblical authority enroute to “trophy kids.” This is not a book about that kind of idolatry.
Curt and Sandra provide pastors and ministry leaders both a blueprint and toolbox for forging healthy partnerships between family and congregation in the adventure of seeing children know the fullness of God’s character, disposition and purposes in age-appropriate, generationally-connected and heart-changing ways. Children in Worship belongs in every family devotional and church resource library for regular and frequent consultation.
Gary K. Sexton
Chaplain (Colonel, U.S. Army), Retired