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Factions and fractions.


Reading The Federalist Papers by Publius, the pen name Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay used in their 85 pro-Constitution articles written in 1788 was laborious. These men wrote eloquently, using language and penmanship far above my lint-head orientation. Beyond seeking approval of the proposed Constitution, their articles gave warning of human tendencies that could pose threats to the new kind of government outlined in the Constitution. Today, people who monitor such things note that Federalist 9 and 10, written by Hamilton and Madison respectively, are the most referenced of the 85. They address the complication of factions in the representative republic government of the Constitution. They speak of realities we are facing today in our political and social unrest. Hamilton and Madison warned of the danger of factions when the faction dictates policy rather than the majority, or the factions trample the rights of minority citizens.


Madison wrote "By a faction, I understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are 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" (Federalist 10. If you would like to read it, click here). Madison indicated that factions are an element of human nature, the way people form alliances as weight behind a particular agenda. Of course, political parties are easily viewed as factious, as well as many special interest groups with voting and media power. Which introduces the fear that elected representatives would favor their chosen faction over the needs of the people. In the language of this week, Madison challenged his readers to favor the common good over a faction. Isn't it amazing right now that a faction like Black Lives Matter, a decentralized network of 30 chapters and no hierarchy, with a noble stated mission, could be in such control of our Congress and judicial systems and popular opinion? That such a non-violent purposed group could produce violence, property destruction, killing, and disruptive behavior under the approval of elected officials is perhaps proof of their thoughts so long ago.


Which brings me to the fractions part of this thing. Factions can become so feared and powerful that the needs of a majority of the citizenry are overlooked and deemed insignificant. A small fraction of the American population is actually driving the national agenda. Hamilton and Madison thought factions could be good in keeping the ship of state moving as long as they didn't form a majority. Today, however, many factions partner to raise the numbers and gain control. The fractions become larger and more significant. When five or six factions can discover agreement they can become larger than the majority. Somewhere in this mess the common good is misplaced. What is best for an aggregate faction majority becomes the most common good. A sad commentary about factions. Mr.'s Hamilton and Madison were on to something.


Strong biblical principles formed the essentials of our government. Equality, justice, unalienable rights, the value of every life, were viewed by the founders as qualities guaranteed by God. They would have also agreed with biblical virtues like unity, harmony, peace, freedom, prosperity, and kindness. Scripture portrayed division, contention, argument, anger, envy, jealousy, and more negative emotional responses as hindrances to the spirit of community.

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.

Romans 13: 19, ESV


I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree,

and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and

the same judgment.

1 Corinthians 1: 10, ESV


Finally, brothers,[a] rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one

another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

2 Corinthians 13: 11, ESV


Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord

and of one mind.

Philippians 2: 2, ESV


You mean to tell me that our government is supposed to be like a church. Not hardly. There is the freedom of religion thing at the root of our national perspective. But, just the same, these biblical qualities were meant to be lived in every area of human life, not just at Sunday church. They are guarantees of right human relationships, the absence of which produces factions and fractions which can be dangers in a representative republic.


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