"Davis proposes a monument to secularism, in opposition to the
Judeo-Christian principles that are displayed on the Ten Commandments monument -- which he has said publicly he would prefer to see removed from the courthouse lawn."
Glenn Riffey (“Constitution a product of Christian influence,” April 14) presents an informed argument for honoring Christian influence in the construction of the U.S. Constitution, in response to Jeffrey Davis (“Why shouldn’t we honor the Constitution,” April 8).
Surely, your savvy readers appreciate historical facts; and they desire to understand the reality of Christianity’s essence and the impact of the Judeo-Christian experience in our forebears’ formation of the Constitution; and they believe in the Constitution’s purpose to protect and guide a civil society.
We may add to Mr. Riffey’s list of founding fathers John Witherspoon, the only active clergyman and college president (College of New Jersey, now Princeton University) to help form the Declaration of Independence and to sign it.
A native of Scotland and a minister of the national Presbyterian Church, Witherspoon, like others involved in forming our nation, was wary of the power of the British crown.
In 1774, Witherspoon joined the American Revolution as a member of the Committee of Correspondence, which interpreted British actions among the colonies and disseminated information. This committee brought the colonies into political union, and many of its members were daring Sons of Liberty.
In June 1776, Witherspoon was elected to the Continental Congress as a member of the New Jersey delegation. He became one of the Congress’s most influential members, serving on more than 100 committees, among them the board of war and the committee on secret correspondence.
Witherspoon helped draft the Articles of Confederation, and he argued to adopt the Constitution during the New Jersey ratification debates. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Presbyterian pastor and evangelical Christian philosopher Francis Schaeffer writes in his 1981 book, A Christian Manifesto, that the “linkage of (Witherspoon’s) Christian thinking and the concepts of government were not incidental but fundamental” to form and establish the American civil society.
Now, what is disconcerting about Jeffrey Davis’ indignation in pressuring the county to put up a monument to the Constitution is that what he really wants is not a monument to the Constitution at all.
Davis proposes a monument to secularism, in opposition to the Judeo-Christian principles that are displayed on the Ten Commandments monument -- which he has said publicly he would prefer to see removed from the courthouse lawn. In fact, Davis has had limited success in attempts to do just that.
Davis wants a monument to his viewpoint, which he believes is the only one possible. This attitude misses the mark.
“The meaning conveyed by a monument is generally not a simple one like ‘Beef. It’s What’s for Dinner,’” writes Justice Samuel Alito in the unanimous Supreme Court opinion in Pleasant Grove City, Utah v. Summum.
“Even when a monument features the written word,” writes Justice Alito, “the monument…may in fact be interpreted by different observers, in a variety of ways.”
A monument is a sort of fine art object. It inspires us and brings us to pause and reflect, in a personal and communal way, on matters that have individual and social significance.
A monument to the Constitution, especially if it includes words, should represent the Constitution, not Jeffrey Davis.
We should see, on a monument to the Constitution, the Preamble, which sums up the Constitution’s reason for being. Then let us pray that the document, so carefully crafted by our courageous and faithful forefathers, remains up to the task to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” for all.
by Nancy E. Thoerig 05.13.09