Originalism is an innocent-sounding concept: the meanings of laws should be understood, using the language and context in which the authors wrote it. A perfectly sensible proposition, no?
It’s no coincidence that originalists tend to be Christians. The originalist argument is exactly the same that every pastor uses, who gets up behind the lectern to quote out of context from Romans 13. You may have a copy of the Bible on your bookshelf at home, but you can’t merely up and read the thing by yourself; goodness sakes it is a lot of onionskin pages to paw through. So the helpful pastor will tell us what the intent of the chapter was: the Bible commands us to obey the law, and illegal immigration is against the law, so illegal immigration is against God.
There’s always a second, unspoken half of originalism.
First, the spoken bit: we should interpret the Constitution as the Framers intended.
But the authors of said Constitution are dead, just as much as whoever wrote Romans 13; they are all just as dead as Marcus Aurelius said they would be.
Second, the unspoken bit of originalism: we have just the right person to perform said interpretation.
And there’s the crafty little heart of originalism. They are ready — at this very moment no less! — to expose their detailed understanding of the authors’ intents. And only their interpretation of the original text is valid. Because only they truly understand the Second Amendment, or Jesus, or whatever thing must be reanimated from the grave. Only they can provide fair legal representation to the dead.
Do you know how a Ouija board works? You place your hands on the edge of this plastic tray and slide it around a board, to get messages from the other world. You may then proceed to get rich quick, as your beloved dead Granny will send you today’s Mega Millions numbers. Granny was always trustworthy in such matters.
It’s the easiest thing in the world to elect yourself, consciously or no, as the One True Vessel of an entity who isn’t around to fend for themselves.
Most liberals I know, roll their eyes and continue doomscrolling when confronted with a calm-sounding originalist interpretation. But the correct moral and legal response to originalism, which liberal-minded folks are for some reason afraid to do, is to simply yank the reins out of the driver’s hands and yell No! Jesus and the Bible specifically orders you to love all immigrants! The Second Amendment is conditional to a well-regulated militia! Granny was morally opposed to gambling! Ouija is a trademark of the Hasbro Corporation! And only I understand the intent of the original authors, not you!
At this point, the discussion will likely devolve into a musical round of No you don’t understand it no you don’t understand it. But conservative jurists are limited, by definition, to thinking only what others have previously thought. That lack of creativity, will give pause to any conservative, before they consider puppeteering the dead again.
One thought on “What God wants God gets, God help us all”
John…. Forget all the “who is more right, the Originalists, or the “Latter Day Interpreters”..
They are both “chasing rainbows”…
Stick with Tom Lehrer, and his sentiments as found in “The Vatican Rag” et. al.
(I ran across your stuff on Quora, yesterday… (I got to know Harry Lewis in 2013. He was my daughter’s advisor. (Heather Pon-Barry, Ph.D. 2013.),,, moslty, I talked Red Sox, with Harry.
Keep on writing…