The summer of 1976 my husband and I arrived in Ethiopia to teach at the Good Shepherd School for missionary children. Not only was that year the two hundredth anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence; it was also a time of major political upheaval in Ethiopia. Emperor Haile Selassie had been deposed in 1974. The new government was a militaristic version of Marxism ruled by “the Derg,” or committee. Three coups occurred the year we were there. The last brought Lt. Col. Mongistu Haile Mariam to sole power. His government patterned itself after early Chinese Communism.
It was in Ethiopia that I learned most about the sovereignty of God. I don’t know how many times that year, I would hear of something happening, and my immediate reaction was, “They can’t do that! That’s uncon...” “Unconstitutional” I was starting to say, only to realize that my American constitution had no impact on the lives of my Ethiopian neighbors.
We Americans tend to take our rights and freedoms for granted. We assume that newscasters can criticize the government, that the police will not search our homes or make us “disappear,” that politicians represent the people and are not in office to get rich. The rest of the world does not have those assurances.
Juliette Turner’s book Our Constitution Rocks (Zondervan 2012) is designed to plunge young Americans into the workings of our constitution, but it can be a wake up call for all ages.
Warning: This book is addictive! All those little sidebars of fascinating information make it hard to put down. Juliette Turner (who is fourteen years old, BTW!) looks at each article and section of the American Constitution, puts it in simpler words we can understand and points out what difference it makes to twenty-first-century American democracy. She’s comparing us to eighteenth-century Europe and the failures of the short-lived Articles of Confederation, not to 1970s and 80s Ethiopia, but the book makes me grateful for a system of checks and balances that has stood for 225 years! Turner often features direct quotes from the Founding Fathers, showing their debates. I was amazed at how many of their concerns reflect issues that are still with us today.
Turner defines terms, explains what the Framers were thinking and why I should care today. I was amused at her suggestion that C-span fills the role of the original Congressional Record put out by privately-owned transcript businesses, while the official record allowed (allows?) members to “edit” and “clarify” what they said before it went to print. The “How Can I Make a Difference?” section with its follow-up activities for research is a trove of potential assignments for teachers and homeschooling families.
Frankly, I expected a right-wing agenda to this book. For the most part, the author tries to keep a non-partisan point-of-view, showing us the issues and how they work out in modern life. Only occasionally are personal opinions expressed, but the tone of the book invites investigation and coming to your own conclusions.
We left Ethiopia in 1977 when Good Shepherd School closed at the end of that school year. The country suffered under Mongistu for seventeen more years. Even today they struggle with major political, spiritual and economic issues. I still believe in the sovereignty of God. I’m still grateful to be protected by the American constitution.
[I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.]
LeAnne Hardy has lived in six countries on four continents. Her books come out of her cross-cultural experiences and her passion to use story to convey spiritual truths in a form that will permeate lives.
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