Granted how much I’ve written about the U.S. Constitution over the years, you could get the idea that I’m a fan. So let me remove all doubt: I am. Unabashedly.
We loudly celebrate July 4 because on that day in 1776, our forebears declared their independence from Great Britain. But it was the ratification of our Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, that dictated what kind of government the recently liberated colonists — and you and I — would live under.
I’m a fan of our Constitution because it’s a compromise document. People with differing concerns came together, debated, struggled and finally drafted a document that gave no one all he or she wanted, yet satisfied enough of what everyone wanted that the document was approved. The Constitution is a tangible symbol of governing by give and take.
I’m a fan of the Constitution because its framers recognized that the document they so struggled to write could — and most likely would — be inadequate in some way at some point in the future. Thus they provided for change. But, wisely, they didn’t make it easy.
I’m a fan of our Constitution because it’s based on the once-radical notion that ordinary humans have the ability — indeed, the right — to govern themselves. But the document’s framers also recognized that unfettered majority rule can impose its own form of tyranny on the minority. Thus our Constitution provides for majority rule while seeking to protect minority concerns.
I’m a fan of our Constitution because it recognizes the need to safeguard individual freedoms while not ignoring the compelling interests of the greater society. The Constitution isn’t so much a document of rules as of rationales. It isn’t the final word so much as the framework into which all final words must fit.
As a member of the clergy, I’m especially a fan of our Constitution because it seeks to remove government from religion by, as much as possible, refusing to restrict conscientiously motivated individual actions and by not taking sides in religion’s marketplace competition.
Because I’m truly a fan of our Constitution, I find a mere 400 words hopelessly inadequate to convey the list of reasons we have to celebrate Sept. 17.
The Rev. Bryan Fulwider is president of the nonprofit Building US and chair of the executive committee of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida.