Archetypes of Faith: How Americans See, and Believe in, Their Constitution
In this Article, I offer a new framework to illuminate how American faith in the Constitution is sustained over time. I build upon the evocative Passover story of the Four Sons—one of whom is wise, one wicked, one simple, and one who does not know how to ask—and argue that these archetypes resonate deeply in the constitutional context. I identify the “wise sons” of the American constitutional community—the legal elites who maintain the vitality of the constitutional faith through a fastidious, intergenerational, yet somewhat detached analysis of the intricacies of law; the “simple sons”—the People writ large, who relate to the Constitution through deep yet nontechnical faith in its overarching principles and symbolic significance; the “wicked sons”—those who have been historically excluded from the constitutional community and those whose faith is tempered by doubt; and the “sons who do not know how to ask”— the young and those marginalized into silence. Although its primary function is explanatory rather than predictive, this Four Sons framework reveals new insights into why and how the Constitution has retained its symbolic significance as Higher Law. And while most judicial opinions will not—and need not— consciously engage with these multiple constitutional audiences, this framework illuminates why certain opinions such as Brown v. Board of Education attain canonical status by deliberately and successfully speaking to each of the Four Sons.