What Ben Carson should have said about the Bible and the Constitution
Ben Carson was asked a “gotcha” question on Sunday, and it got him.
He was asked “a simple question” by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press, “Does the Bible have authority over the Constitution?” By all accounts, Carson’s response satisfied no one. He said he’d need more information before he could answer.
"That is not a simple question. I think probably what you have to do is ask a specific passage of the Bible and a specific portion of the Constitution...I don't think you can answer that question other than out of a very specific context.”
There’s no question in my mind that Dr. Carson believes the answer to Chuck Todd’s question is an unequivocal, “Yes, of course the Bible has more authority than the Constitution. The Bible is the ultimate expression of moral truth. Plus, we’ve had to amend the Constitution 27 times so we know it’s not perfect, but we’ve never had to amend the Bible once.” So if he believes all this, why didn’t he say so?
I believe it is because Dr. Carson has been so badly mauled by the low-information media every time they draw him into a dialogue about social issues that he has become gun-shy. Telling the truth about homosexuality got him days of unending and vitriolic criticism, and he wound up publicly pledging that he’d never talk about the issue again as long as he lives. He’s now trying to play it safe so he doesn’t get blistered again.
Social conservatives develop a version of PTSD, in which any question on social issues has them instinctively flinching, covering their heads, and cowering in the corner hoping to survive the blows that are about to rain down on them. The media knows this, they sense the weakness, and they pounce.
The question that Chuck Todd asked was apropos of nothing in their interview. It was only asked because the mean-spirited Todd figured it would knock Carson off balance and make him look bad on national TV. And he was right.
The truth is that the Founders themselves recognized the ultimate authority of Scripture. Every part of the Constitution is infused with biblical principles and precepts. The Declaration of Independence is saturated with biblical themes, including the unambiguous affirmations that there is a Creator, that man is a created, not an evolved, being, and that every single one of our fundamental human and civil rights comes to us as a gift from God.
Further, the Founders expressed the biblical view that the role of government (Romans 13) is not to grant us rights but to guarantee them, to secure them and protect them. The role of government is to punish those who infringe on our fundamental, God-given rights to life, liberty, and property.
Of the 55 framers of the Constitution, 52 of them signed a solemn and sacred oath affirming belief in what today we would call an evangelical statement of faith. (This was back when solemn and sacred oaths actually meant something.) Contrary to popular belief, just three of the framers were deists.
The Founders frequently cited outside sources and authorities to back up their political assertions. As measured by two university professors over the founding period, a full 34% of the Founders’ external citations were directly from Holy Writ. The next most frequently cited source, at just 8.3 percent, was the French political philosopher Montesquieu, followed by the eminent jurist Blackstone at 7.9 percent.*
So what Dr. Carson could have said, and perhaps should have said, would be something like this:
“Well, Chuck, the Founders believed that the Bible was the ultimate source of truth and morality. And they crafted the Constitution to put biblical themes into practice in our system of government. They wrote the whole thing under the authority and guidance of the Bible. And I happen to agree with the Founders. Your argument, Chuck, is not with me. It’s with the men who wrote the Constitution, and I’ll be happy to stand with them any day of the week. Next?”
I would suggest that every social conservative in the GOP race should be prepared for this question or one like it. I can guarantee you Chuck Todd loves what his question did to Ben Carson, and every other member of the media is now salivating at the prospect of ambushing every unsuspecting social conservative with a similar question. They’d all better be ready, because it’s coming. Maybe even this Thursday night.
* Source: Christianity and the Constitution, John Eidsmoe, pp. 41-53. Baker Book House, 1987.