I became a U.S. citizen in May of 2015. At the age of 14, I had immigrated to the U.S. from Canada. In 1965 my family had been granted a permanent resident visa. After 5 years of residency, anyone with such a visa can apply for citizenship. After many years of justifying my procrastination on that issue, I decided it was time to apply. Barak Obama was nearing the end of his second term. I did not totally agree with his political worldview or political agendas, but I did find common ground with him. For me, as a Christian, a leader, and one who had earned a B.A. in sociology, I identified with Barak’s faith, his leadership example, and his previous occupation as a community organizer. This common ground and points of agreement with him were part of my motivation to acquire citizenship.
Becoming a citizen requires an application submitted with the requisite fee. After the application is accepted, there is a necessary interview with a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services staff member and a test on American history and government. I traveled to the Portland office. The staff member who interviewed me also administered the civics test orally. Except for naming Philadelphia as one of the original 13 colonies, I did well on the test. Happily, the gracious staff member did allow me to amend my answer. The next step was to attend the swearing-in ceremony. Unbeknown to me, such a ceremony had been scheduled for later that very afternoon. I was delighted to know that I would not have to make another trip to Portland at a later date for the ceremony.
While awaiting the ceremony, a young man from a former Soviet eastern bloc country engaged me in conversation. I discovered that he was a Christian struggling to express his faith amidst his parents’ generation’s church. I was able to give some counsel and encouragement. When he learned about my ministry, he asked me, “Have you ever seen miracles?” I regaled him with a few testimonies before we were invited to move to the ceremony room.
Joining us in the room were about 30 citizens-to-be from around the globe. Several women were wearing hijabs. Those who were not yet comfortable with English were allowed to have an interpreter accompany them. I could tell it was important to the staff that we potential citizens fully understand the oath we were about to take. The Regional Director for the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services presided over the meeting. Several staff members were present as well.
After watching a well-crafted video that featured many aspects of the U.S. culture and geography, the Regional Director administered this oath:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
Something happened that was totally unexpected for me. As the Director read short phrases from the oath and we candidates for citizenship repeated those phrases out loud, the atmosphere in the room changed. A spiritual presence entered and filled the room. Over the years, I have come to identify that presence as God’s presence. This presence had blind-sided me several times in my life.
Tears are one of the responses to this presence. I have no doubt that others in that room were being impacted by this presence.
The occasion of my citizenship inspired my first blog on this site: https://wp.me/p6JYbd-g
The USA was founded as a nation neutral to religious dogma and ideologies. Our country was based upon self-evident truths about the nature of humanity and healthy communities. Those self-evident truths are reflected in the Ten Commandments, but they are not unique to the Judeo-Christian ethic. Healthy communities hold themselves accountable to a higher authority. Legally our nation holds itself answerable to the rule of the Constitution. Participants in a healthy community protect their personal mental, emotional and physical health. They honor their elders, revere the sanctity of life, and honor marriage vows. Respecting the earth, private property, telling the truth, and exercising a work ethic in earning income and acquiring property are highly regarded. Communities that ignore and violate these norms are destined to disintegrate over time.
I do believe that God’s Spirit inspired the founders of our nation with godly wisdom. This wisdom is seen in the structure of checks and balances built into our governmental system. Three branches of government have been instituted, Legislative, Judicial, and Executive. They are to hold each other accountable. History has demonstrated that human nature is basically good, yet at the same time, human nature is susceptible to corruption. Power, wealth, and lust are the leading potential corrupters of human nature. When acting as a servant of the Constitution, our government protects its citizens from those corrupting powers.
I believe that the Holy Spirit continues to empower our founding documents such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. I have confidence that God maintains His sovereignty over the nations of the earth to accomplish His purposes. I believe that God is involved providentially in the affairs of man, especially when invited to do so by people of faith.
What can I, as a citizen, do to “support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic,” as I vowed to do? Staying informed on current events and corresponding with elected officials are ways to fulfill my vow. Writing this blog and expressing my opinion is another way to stay true to my vow.
The first exercise of my right to vote was in the 2016 election. I voted for Clinton for President. My vote was based on a core value inbred in me in my evangelical roots. When it comes to leadership, character counts. In my estimation of Clinton’s opponent, based on my knowledge of him over three decades, he did not measure up to this standard.
Clinton won the popular vote at 65,853,514 votes. Her opponent lost the popular vote at 62,984,828 votes, 48.2% to 46.1%. However, Trump won in the Electoral College, 304 to 227. As a first-time voter, I was demoralized. Our nation is founded upon the truth that all men are created equal. In this election, I was not regarded as equal. My vote was not valued as much as a minority voter who supported Trump. Our Supreme Court in 1964 upheld the democratic principle of “one person, one vote.” The Electoral College is an archaic institution. In practice, the Electoral College does not honor the ideal that “all men are created equal” and the principle of “one person, one vote.” In the 2016 election, I nor my one vote were not regarded as equal.
I began to acquaint myself more thoroughly with the history surrounding the creation of the Electoral College and its practice. One of the most helpful and insightful texts I discovered along the way is: Let the People Pick the President by Jesse Wegman. (St. Martin’s Publishing Group. Kindle Edition, © 2020)
In our quest to form a more perfect union, the Electoral College needs to be eliminated or tamed. The nation came within a hair’s breadth of abolishing the Electoral College during the Nixon presidency. Wegman writes in detail about that endeavor in his text.
The President should be elected by majority vote, as are all other governmental leaders in our nation. Elimination of the Electoral College advances the cause of democracy. It furthers the continuing purge of systemic racism from the institutions of our government. I had not previously equated systemic racism with the Electoral College. Wegman’s historical research highlighted that relationship for me.
Anther strategy has emerged to tame the Electoral College. It is called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). This compact is intended to be an agreement among U.S. states and the District of Columbia. According to the NPVIC, all electoral votes are awarded to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. NPVIC legislation has been introduced in all 50 states. As of May 2021, the NPVIC has been adopted by fifteen states and the District of Columbia. Wegman presents a detailed account of the development of the NPVIC in his book. You can also check out more information at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Popular_Vote_Interstate_Compact.
In our attempt to form a more perfect union, I pray that we, the people, will eliminate the Electoral College by a Constitutional Amendment or tame the Electoral College through the NPVIC. Such an accomplishment would ensure the ideals of “all men are created equal” and “one person, one vote” and pass those ideals on to succeeding generations.