America’s first “constitution”, the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789), failed because the central (Federal) government was too weak to maintain the union between the states.  A new Constitution to form a more perfect union by providing for stronger central government was proposed in a series of eighty-five newspaper articles (The Federalist Papers).  In the tenth article, James Madison says that the new Constitution addresses the problem of “factions”.  A faction is “a number of citizens…united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”  In short, a faction consolidates power to force its way of thinking or behaving onto others who don’t want to think or behave in that way.

Madison notes two cures for faction:  remove its causes or control its effects.  Its causes, he notes, cannot be removed because the tendency toward faction does not result from sex or race or class, but is universal, “sown in the nature of man” (which sounds more like the Christian view of man’s fallen nature than the positive Enlightenment view to me – but that’s another blog!).  To remove the causes of faction you would need to rob a man of his liberty to differ and “give every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests.”  This is tyranny, destroying rather than protecting and promoting liberty.

Factions flow from human nature and are inevitable.  You can’t remove the causes of faction.  You must, said Madison, control its effects through representative government with its checks and balances.

Why the history lesson?

What Madison dismissed as ridiculous -- “giv[ing] every citizen the same opinions, the same passions, and the same interests” – is now deemed as worthy pursuit of in the working of government.  Madison chose one pole; people today believe the other – removal of causes, forced unity – to be a viable option!

We are now being told what our opinion must be about same-sex marriage, transgender people, and critical race theory, to list just a few examples.  Expressing disagreement may well be treated as a violation of someone’s civil rights.  Express dissent and you might be accused of spreading destructive disinformation.  Or arrested as a potential radicalized “domestic terrorist”.  Or you may be put on a watch list.  (Hard to believe this happens in America; it sounds so much like dissident descriptions of life in the old Soviet Union!)

It is hard to see this as anything but a threat to liberty, a suffocation of dissent, and “giv[ing] every citizen the same opinions” in the name of removing the causes of faction and creating “unity”.  It is tyranny.

With Madison and the founders, I find “giving every citizen the same opinions” contrary to solid reason and America’s foundation of liberty.  More importantly I find it contrary to the biblical teaching about freedom before virtue.  (See my earlier blog “Freedom Before Virtue”)

Liberty means liberty to dissent, to hold and to voice a differing opinion.
I favor liberty – and reasoning and persuasion, not force, to influence opinions.  
Denying the right to believe differently and forcing beliefs using government power is the way of the tyrant – and I oppose it.
My Christian faith leads me down this path.

We cannot be on both sides of this issue.  We must choose.