Biblical Literalism Breeds the Mythology of Constitutional Originalism

JANK
8 min readJun 11, 2023

Ever feel like you’re drowning in a sea of jargon and ideology, trying to make sense of the curious dance between religion and politics? Well, you’re not alone. It’s time we take a hard look at an unholy alliance wreaking havoc on our social and political landscape. A toxic brew that mixes right-wing, fundamentalist Christianity and hierarchical essentialism with the flimsy, if not mythological, doctrine of Constitutional originalism.

Let’s start by decoding some hype words that’ve been buzzing around like angry hornets, stinging anyone who dares to question their ineffable authority. First up, right-wing fundamentalist Christianity. A faith that’s built around itself an ideological fortress, where obedience to ancient authority is more important than compassion, reason, or even the basic love of their Christ-god. They cling to literal biblical interpretations as if the salvation of their souls depends on it because they actually believe their eternal souls depend on it. They actually believe their god is so petty that it will throw a temper-tantrum and send them to Hell for having wrong believes about the nature of unknowable things. How’s that for circular logic?

Another equally important and rigid concept in the world of conservative political theory is Constitutional Originalism, the jewel in the conservative crown. This is the belief that the Constitution is set in stone, only to be interpreted in the strictest context of the “original intent of the Founding Fathers.” The idea is as fossilized as the men who first penned those silly words.

Are we truly supposed to be ahistorical enough to believe there was ever any kind of monolithic and agreed upon intent, wholly without qualification? Are we really supposed to buy into this idea that the “founding fathers” ever wholly elucidated their “intent.” Some of them did, sure. I mean we do have the federalist papers. But those were written by a handful of the so-called “founding fathers.” What of all the others? Did those who wrote for the Federalist Papers speak for all, even among their own supporters? Were there really no disagreements or differences of opinion? Hardly, and we know that’s because history records widespread disagreements among them, rendering this idea of “original intent” nothing more than a convenient way to keep the status quo intact.

Sounds accurate, wouldn’t you say? Well, it’s time to pull the curtains back on this unholy alliance.

Dissecting the Beast: Unveiling Right-Wing Fundamentalist Christianity

Right-wing fundamentalist Christianity didn’t sprout overnight. No, it crept up on us, starting as a faint whisper and then turning into a roaring ensemble. The roots of this political religion lie in a humble beginning, a desperate clutch at straws against the tides of change and modernity. Fast forward to the present, and it’s morphed into a formidable powerhouse, dictating terms to both the pulpit and the podium.

Take a closer look and you’ll find the marrow of this behemoth: the submissive and unquestioning stance of obedience to ancient and unfounded authority. It’s like being handcuffed to the past with the key tossed over your shoulder. The believer is asked to kneel, not just before God, but before interpretations of His word that are as old as the hills and often as craggy and treacherous.

Ah, the Bible! Now there’s a book with a leash. A literal interpretation that leaves no room for nuances or context. It’s a chokehold on believers, a straightjacket that limits thinking, discourages questions and fuels a myopic worldview.

And the ripples of this biblical literalism? They reach far and wide, beyond the church doors, seeping into homes and halls of power. Society is subtly but surely contorted to fit this ancient mold, politics becomes a puppet show with dogma pulling the strings. The waves of this influence crash against the shores of progress, leaving a mess that we’re left to clean up. You thought we were done? Not by a long shot. It’s about to get more interesting, so hold on tight.

The Conservatism Cult and Constitutional Originalism

Now, take a deep breath, and let’s descend into the labyrinth of conservative political theory. Here, change is frowned upon, progress is a dirty word, and nostalgia for a golden age that never truly existed is the order of the day. It’s a world that clings to the past like a life raft, refusing to acknowledge the rushing current of ever changing world. Within this rigid mold of thought, everything is black and white with little room for shades of gray, everything is neatly ordered according a mythological, sexist, racist, heteronormative and essentialist hierarchy of power and privilege.

At the heart of this cult lies constitutional originalism, a concept that’s less a beacon of democratic principles and more a stubborn anchor to the past stuck in a cracked fault line deep within the ocean. Picture it as a time capsule filled with 18th-century ideas, principles, values, and prejudices. Except, in this case, the capsule is not meant for future generations to discover and learn from. Instead, it is meant to be the perpetual norm, no matter how outdated or inappropriate or irrelevant it becomes.

Ah, the infamous “original intent” smokescreen! A phrase they wield like a sword against anyone who dares to challenge the status quo. They would have you believe that the Founding Fathers were infallible demigods, whose every word in the Constitution should be taken as divine commandment. This shouldn’t surprise, given the fact that we’re talking about people who believe that every contradictory word of a 2,000 year old book of mythology is literal and historical “gospel truth.” The two seem to go hand-in-hand.

It’s long past time we called out this ruse for what it is–a desperate attempt to cling to archaic principles and power structures. It’s about time we cast a critical eye on this smokescreen, this doctrine of constitutional originalism, and challenge the blind allegiance it demands.

When Faith and Politics Collide: The Intersection of Fundamentalist Christianity and Constitutional Originalism

Here’s where the plot thickens. Two seemingly disparate entities–the church’s pulpit and the law’s gavel–find common ground. The bridge? A shared love for ancient and mythological authority, a shared disdain for the ambiguity of the modern world.

On one hand, you have the fundamentalist Christians, who place the Bible on a pedestal, regarding it as the final word, the ultimate unerring authority despite its library of contradictions and perversions. On the other, you have the originalists, who treat the Constitution as an inviolable relic, a sacrosanct monument of the Founding Fathers’ wisdom that has but one very narrow road stretching from its decaying pages into the nebulous future. Two different texts, yet bound by the same dogmatic adherence to literal interpretation, by the same believe in an unerring, ultimate and eternal authority. An interpretation that conveniently sidelines historical context, human fallibility, and the inexorable march of change.

So, what do you get when the Bible mirrors the Constitution? A reflection that distorts the reality of a diverse, evolving society. They create a blinkered world view that paints any deviation as evil, perversion, and heresy. These interpretations breed absolutist ideologies, setting the stage for political battles that are more about defending dogma than serving the people and doing what’s best for society. This childish worldview has created a country where culture wars over sex, gay marriage, adults having temper tantrums over men in dresses, and questions about who’s using the toilet are taken seriously as important political debates.

This collision of puritan faith and politics forms a battleground of ideologies, where policy making is held hostage to the superstitions of religious and constitutional literalism. It’s an arena where reason is often tossed aside, where empathy and progress are casualties of a war waged in the name of obedience to ancient and unknowable authority. It’s a murky, complicated mess, and we’re far from sorting it out. The struggle continues, and so must we.

The Fallout: Unraveling the Impact of this Unholy Alliance on Modern Politics

Now, let’s follow the fallout from this devastating ideological blast. The shockwaves have radiated into every corner of our society, pulling the puppet strings of policymaking and manipulating the chess pieces on the judicial board.

When faith and law intertwine, it’s the ordinary folks who bear the brunt. The stranglehold of this alliance becomes evident when we glance at the state of education, where scientific facts are brushed aside in favor of biblical narratives. Where books are banned based on the hurt feelings of parents who want school libraries to carry Bibles and other faith-based books exclusively. It’s a sad spectacle, watching the future generation being force-fed a regressive and abusive agenda.

Take a look at the battleground of rights. From LGBTQ+ rights to abortion and contraception rights, from book bans to separation of church and state, each one is under constant threat, caught in the crossfire between dogmatic faith and archaic constitutional interpretation. Even religious freedom, ironically, is at stake when a specific interpretation of Christianity becomes the measure of all laws and policies. Mark my words, within a few years at most we’re going to see concerted efforts to force teacher-led Christian prayer back into public school classrooms. And the people who push it will throw conniption fits if you even suggest praying to a different religion’s deity.

The Supreme Court, ideally a defender of justice, often becomes a puppet theater under the influence of this unholy alliance. Decisions are swayed not just by law, but by religious doctrine masquerading as original intent. And with the current make up of the court, the so-called justices aren’t even puppets, they’re among the puppeteers.

The aftermath of this alliance is evident, the destruction far-reaching. Yet, the fight isn’t over. There’s always room for the final act. And rest assured, we aren’t going to let regressive royalists drag us back into antiquity without a fight.

So, here’s the bottom line. We’re caught in a grotesque carnival of archaic religious dogma and constitutional originalism, each feeding off the other, playing political puppeteer, dictating societal norms, chaining us to an untenable past, and obliterating the lines between church and state. It’s an insidious dance, where faith and politics blur boundaries, forcing the will and dogma of a select few onto the many.

The future, brace yourself, seems to offer no more rosy a path, for the battlegrounds of near-future politics will be contentious and at least as brutal as the past seven or eight years. Education, civil rights, and social justice will remain under siege, locked in a ceaseless tug-of-war between progress and archaic authoritarianism.

Yet, we can’t afford to step back. Our task is to challenge, to question, and to defy. To untangle the grip of the past and carve out a future that embraces progress, diversity, and compassion. Remember, the fight for a better tomorrow starts today. Keep your gloves on, comrades. The bell for the next round is about to ring.

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JANK

Author, screenwriter, publisher, game maker, musician, & organizer. EIC at Android Press, Solarpunk Mag, Rural Oregon life. Trans and anti-authoritarian.