In the Empire Strikes Back, “Episode V,” in the six-part Star Wars saga, viewers are introduced to the Cloud City of Bespin and its ruler Lando Calrissian. Cloud City was a man-made satellite community that hovered in the midst of valuable gas reserves. The image of a city floating in the midst of clouds reminds me of the United States Constitution. Without acknowledging an outside authority—a higher law—as the source of right and wrong, the Constitution hangs among the clouds of shifting ethical winds.

This image first was made real to me in 1993 when I read reports of attempts to sanction homosexual marriages in the state of Hawaii based on the premise that a ban on same-sex marriages is “presumed to be unconstitutional.”[1] A strict constitutionalist could make the case that since the Constitution does not define marriage, the members of the Supreme Court cannot define it. Of course, the Constitution does not define what constitutes rape, incest, murder, or theft. Does this mean that it supports moral anarchy?

There is nothing in the Constitution that defines ethics, the parameters of marriage relationships, or what constitutes a family. The ruling by the Hawaii Supreme Court in 1993 claimed that such definitions reside with the people. Thus, ethical absolutes have no greater authority than “We, the people,” a point of contention that was raised by Patrick Henry in his opposition to the Constitution and its democratic Preamble. The rat he smelled more than two centuries ago is giving off an even greater stench today.

The constitutional framers believed there was a law outside the text of the Constitution that settled questions of morality. All of the framers believed in God. They also believed in a natural law that was grounded in God. Even Thomas Jefferson turned to the life of Christ as a guide for moral instruction. His expurgated “Morals of Jesus” is a testimony to his belief that morality is not natural or self-authenticating, independent of a transcendent reference point. No one in the eighteenth century believed that the Constitution was a repository of moral values. There is no way to be a strict constructionist on the Constitution and maintain that homosexual marriage and abortion should be outlawed. Abortionists knew this in 1973 when they claimed to find in the “penumbra”—the shadows—of the Constitution the right to privacy which included the right to kill a preborn baby. Even if it could be shown that such a right was found in the broad daylight of the Constitution, there is no way to argue from a right to privacy to abortion on demand. Most criminal acts (e.g., murder and rape) take place in private. Abortion takes place in a government-sanctioned facility. There’s nothing private about it.

Our Constitution needs a solid foundation upon which to rest. It has hovered for too long among the clouds of gaseous democracy that shifts with each new curriculum change in the public schools. One day the Constitution will run out of the fuel that keeps it afloat (remnants of a Christian worldview), and its fall will crush all those who trust in its ability to maintain our God-given rights.


[1] “Hawaii Opens Door to Same-Sex Marriages,” Virginia-Pilot and Ledger-Star (May 7, 1993), A3.