A Christian Perspective on Constitution Day



By Bernard J. Mauser, Ph.D.
Many of us recognize that the Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Even so, few have actually read what it says. Surveys indicate a terrible lack of knowledge that the general public has about what is actually in the Constitution. Recognizing that many college students also have a severe ignorance of basic American history (including who won the war between the states), I guess this shouldn’t surprise us. The Annenberg Public Policy Center found, for example,

  • While little more than a third of respondents (36 percent) could name all three branches of the U.S. government, just as many (35 percent) could not name a single one.
  • Just over a quarter of Americans (27 percent) know it takes a two-thirds vote of the House and Senate to override a presidential veto.
  • One in five Americans (21 percent) incorrectly thinks that a 5-4 Supreme Court decision is sent back to Congress for reconsideration.

The call for basic civics education can help us to regain some of that which has been lost.   The study of civics should include more than is currently taught.

Government – where one person or group rules over another – is an ethical activity. This may come as a surprise when looking at our current government. Over a century ago Mark Twain quipped, “It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.”  When teaching government, I start with asking students what improvements our nation has experienced since its founding.  Overwhelmingly students recognize our technology is better. There is, however, a sense that certain practices in our society are worse (even if some are better).

Thomas Jefferson appeals to natural law in the Declaration of Independence in reference to inalienable rights that were violated. Natural law is the universal moral law that gives a grid through which to evaluate whether a law is good or not. Note that this law was cited when condemning the evil of the Nazis after WWII. The Apostle Paul refers to this in Romans 2 as the moral law written on the hearts of all people. Given its importance, both instructors and politicians should be very familiar with natural law in order to judge whether a law is good or evil.

There are other aspects to the Constitution a Christian worldview shapes.  If these aren’t grasped, it undermines the context for understanding this founding work. It is also why so many disregard the Constitution and in effect destroy the limits of government.

One belief of the founders was that man is inherently sinful. This explained the structure of the government they devised. James Madison famously wrote in The Federalist 51:  But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

Note that human nature (in contrast to angels) is given as the reason for the separation of powers. This was so no single branch gains power over the others. Due to the desire men have to dominate others, dividing powers keeps the other branches of government in check (establishing the system of checks and balances).

The founders provide something that counters sinful tendencies of mankind.  Given that men seek power, the Constitution does several things. First, it keeps the federal government from accumulating more power over its citizens. Second, it keeps the other branches of federal government in check. Third, it delineates what powers the federal government actually has. And, fourth, it gives all other powers to the states. The primary author of the Constitution, James Madison, explains in the Federalist 45, “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”

The Constitution not only delineates the expressed powers of each branch of government, it also is given to protect citizens from the federal government. Those familiar with history know that the Federalists and Anti-Federalists debated this very topic and the result is seen in the ‘Bill of Rights’ added to the Constitution. Note that these rights restrain the Federal government. Perhaps the most neglected, and arguably the most important, the tenth amendment is a robust statement defending state’s rights against an encroaching federal government. It says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” The significance of this amendment is huge. States can use this amendment to stand against federal regulations that have gone far beyond what is allowed in the Constitution.

The founders also did not view the Federal government as superior to the government of States. Federalism is the view that there are two levels of government having authority over the same group and yet are independent of each other. This was a unique contribution of our nation’s founders. It was an idea that had never been heard of before 1787.
Government exists not only to restrain evil, but to promote good. Politics and government is NOT a neutral activity, but is by its very nature daily engaging in debate and enforcement of laws that are taken to be good in order to oppose evil. The founders all agreed that government has a vested interest in inculcating virtue in its citizens.  Moral guidance and promoting virtue is essential to a nation that values freedom and desires to maximize human flourishing.

The natural law explains why people have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To guarantee its citizens these things required protection from not only foreigners, but also from domestic powers. The primary domestic power that created concern was in fact the Federal government itself and the Constitution served to keep this power in check. In order to have liberty AND the ability to pursue happiness, the Federal government needed to minimize their intrusion into the lives of its citizens while protecting them from foreign powers.

In sum, every course that teaches American government or civics should provide a study of ethics rooted in natural law, the proper understanding of Federalism, and delve into how the founder’s view of human nature influenced the structure of government. These three areas were developed from a Christian worldview and provided a unique answer that was unheard of before this time in world history. Until the time when the Lord returns as our judge, lawgiver, and king – our American government as it was originally conceived may be the best human government we can have. Understanding the Constitution and returning to its restrictions on the Federal government is perhaps the greatest hope we will have for mankind to flourish as one nation under God.

At WCA, students study the different types and foundations of government along with the Constitution as part of their 10th grade Civics class.

A Priority of Play

by Jim Whiteman

Here is a quiz for you. Just how much time at school do you think your young child should spend in outdoor free play? Twenty minutes? An hour? None at all? Adults often do not ask this question thoughtfully. When I asked a few children what playShotWebschool would be like if they had no recess, the responses included the words sad and torture. This reaction is no commentary on their classroom adventures, only their fundamental understanding that free time and outdoor play is essential.

Increasingly, schools around the country are ignoring research and sound developmental practice by reducing (and in some cases eliminating) recess, free time and play in the elementary grades. Reasons? To spend more time on math, to prepare for state-mandated testing, or to reduce conflicts, bullying and injuries that most often occur on the playground. “A central factor contributing to the growing disappearance of children’s spontaneous outdoor play and to the standardization of playgrounds is the prevailing view, even among many professional groups, that free, wild, spontaneous play is frivolous, inconsequential, and irrelevant in the educational program of schools.” (Frost; The Developmental Benefits of Playgrounds, p. 27.)

So is play so important? Isn’t it beneficial to take it out of the school day by replacing it with something more productive… more adult… something measurable? Our school believes (and research supports) that regular free play, especially outdoors, is vital for a child’s healthy development – socially, emotionally and cognitively. Play is what children do beginning in infancy. There is shear joy on a child’s face as she throws a beach ball, runs after or away from a parent, plays “peek-a-boo” or blows bubbles for the first time. Playing dress up with a friend, “house” with a sibling or “school” with a classmate comes naturally to most children. Even pretending to “work” by being a doctor or talking on a play cell phone or taking an order as if at a fast food restaurant is creative play that a child enjoys. Running free on the playground, playing games with rules, climbing on outdoor structures, digging in the sand, playing soccer without a referee – what’s it all worth? Volumes have been written on this topic, but for those that are looking for the bottom line, here it is.

There are four basic types of outdoor play.  Functional play includes movement for movement’s sake. Examples might include bouncing a ball, running, jumping rope, using the hula hoop, chasing and climbing. Constructive play is when children use objects to build, create cities or forts or paint on the sidewalk. Store-bought kits (such as Legos or K’nex or train sets) are great for this, but often the natural environment is preferred. Our youngest children often play this way in an area protected by trees. The casual bystander may miss the intricate town developed out of small sticks, tiny pebbles, leaves and dirt. Dramatic play provides children the chance to role-play, taking on the persona of another. Pretending to sail on the high seas, using a playhouse as a store, becoming a superhero, marrying one’s 5-year-old classmate, or playing with dolls are examples. Games with rules are another type of play that includes simple or complex rules. Some are created or worked out on the spot, while others are passed down by siblings and friends. I am not including organized sports in this, but instead games like hopscotch, four-square, “spud,” capture the flag or made up games with complex rules that develop over time. (Source: Burris and Boyd, Outdoor Learning and Play.) All four of the types of play are not only natural for children, they are still naturally attractive to many adults.
Play creates a natural environment that aids in a child’s development by:
  • Helping them negotiate change. A child’s outdoor free play changes often due do new opportunities, classmates’ preferences, varying playmates from day to day and environmental changes such as weather. Many eager children flow through change with excitement and ease. Others discover painful disappointment in unpredictability or in a modification in their preconceived agenda. On the playground, children learn to compromise, see change as an opportunity and discover new territory from others. “There is a time for everything, a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes. 3:1)
  • Developing confidence by providing opportunity for risk-taking, developing physical and social skills and providing opportunity for role-playing and decision-making. As children get older we want them to be able to take steps of faith knowing that their confidence is ultimately in the Lord. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
  • Growing in social skills. The social world of children is most important and free play allows and even demands social growth that will transfer to a variety of social settings. In play they need to listen to each other, compromise, invite others in, develop a skill of saying “no thanks” and navigate the difficult waters of conflict. During group play, children interact with others without adults making the rules or playing referee. They figure out that trust is valued and being honest and fair gains the trust of peers and adults alike. “Love your neighbor as yourself…” (Matthew 22:39)
  • Encouraging creativity. Free play involves problem-solving, constructing and analyzing. By its very nature, play encourages the creation of games, rules, roles, drama, expression through art and imagination. As children get older, their play becomes increasingly sophisticated and symbolic. This, along with play’s healthy exercise, produces increased cognitive ability. “In the beginning, God created…” (Genesis 1:1)
  • Embracing joy. At our school, joy is serious business. Learning can be fun (but isn’t always) and school should provide a balance of reality that allows for shear enjoyment. Thus, our teachers will from time to time say things like, “Kids, the sun is finally out! Let’s drop everything and spend fifteen minutes outdoors enjoying God’s provision!” Many years ago I had a father proudly tell me that his 14 year old son had grown up so far without “all that child’s play” and instead focusing on more adult behaviors. A year later the boy attempted suicide. To take away regular free play is to rob a child of balance. “Let us rejoice today and be glad.” (Psalm 118:24)
  • Promoting healthy exercise. According to the Center for Disease Control, childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents in the past thirty years. More than one third of our children and adolescents are overweight or obese! The health issues are enormous and lifestyle habits begin in childhood. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells within you?” (I Corinthians 3:16) “You were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body.” (I Corinthians 6:2

Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in a Tale of Two Cities

By Katie Good, Westside Christian Academy Student, Grade 9


Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities in 1859. This excellent story of a family struggling to stay together during the giant turmoil of the French Revolutionary season is a literary masterpiece featuring a complex plot, creatively incorporated literary devices, and a heartwarming romance. Although there are distortions of Biblical concepts in this book, there are also various elements of truth, goodness, and beauty displayed.

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Parents and Teachers Forge a Unique Partnership in Education

By Kristen Zuccola, Upper School Humanities, Composition and Logic Teacher, Westside Christian Academy

All parents want the very best for their children. My husband and I are no different.  We want the best education possible.  For us, educating our children has been more than just preparing them academically for the purpose of securing good jobs.  For us, education is not neutral. For us, education involves their hearts, minds, and souls.   Indeed, it is our desire for education to support us as parents as we seek to raise our sons and daughters to become well-educated men and women who lead fearlessly, communicate eloquently, and live rightly.  In 2004, we enrolled our oldest child into Westside Christian Academy, a school that partnered with us to help educate the way we envisioned, a school that has far surpassed our expectations. Read More