Tag Archives: liberty

Discussing the Bill of Rights is not an Argument about Politics

In a recent Facebook discussion I was admonished by someone for bringing up politics. The discussion was about the Second Amendment to the US Constitution. The Bill of Rights, like many other elements in the Constitution, is not a political subject; the Bill of Rights is a moral statement.

The statement certainly was crafted in the body of a political discussion. The political issue arose, because citizens of the nation defined by the Constitution were understandably concerned about the way the new government would treat them. They looked at the Constitution and asked, “What restrains the government defined here from stepping outside the defined limitations and wreaking havoc with human rights?” The answer from the men who wrote the document was that their intention was for the government to receive only the powers specifically listed in the Constitution. The writers of that document expected its limits to be the limits of the government.

The Bill of Rights is a moral statement.

Many people, very thoughtful people, considered human history and believed that it would be difficult to restrain government by saying, “If it isn’t in the powers enumerated in the Constitution, it is not part of the federal government.” History has proved them to be correct. In fact, the federal government can scarcely restrain itself when exercising an enumerated power; it always wants “just a little bit more,” and always “for the good of the people.”

People who foresaw that very problem were adamant about establishing serious, powerful limits on the exercise of power by the central government defined in the Constitution of the USA. Those people who were vocal during the process of ratifying the Constitution. They complained long and loudly. They exacted promises from those who promoted ratification, promises to protect the rights God had given people at the moment of creation.

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Freedom–What is it?

Samuel West, in a sermon delivered to the Massachusetts legislature in 1776, the same year that we declared our independence by appealing to our God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness:

The most perfect freedom consists in obeying the dictates of right reason, and submitting to natural law. When a man goes beyond or contrary to the law of nature and reason, he becomes the slave of base passions and vile lusts; he introduces confusion and disorder into society, and brings misery and destruction upon himself. This, therefore, cannot be called a state of freedom, but a state of the vilest slavery and the most dreadful bondage. The servants of sin and corruption are subjected to the worst kind of tyranny in the universe. Hence we conclude that where licentiousness begins, liberty ends.

When it comes to declaring that a same-sex union is a marriage, that is a prime example of appealing to the concept of liberty as permission for licentiousness.

Is Evil God’s Fault?

Every time there is a violent event like the bombing at the Boston Marathon, there are people who cry out, “How can you tell me that there is a God when things like this can happen?” Interestingly, when someone like the Shoe Bomber is prevented from destroying an airplane full of people over a densely populated area, you do not hear someone cry out, “How can you doubt that God exists when things like this can happen?” People do not jump to the conclusion that God has micro-managed the people involved when evil is prevented, but they quickly and vocally jump to the conclusion that God was either powerless to act when evil succeeds, or else he simply does not exist. Why?

Secularists reject the existence of both God and Satan, calling them ghost stories. Secularists also believe that humans are evolving into morally superior beings, despite evidence that evil is just as prevalent in human society today was it was at the dawn of time.  What’s more, secular thinkers believe that it is possible to write laws against murder that will ultimately prevent murder. They believe that society can design laws which constrain behavior so tightly that murder cannot happen. It is interesting to compare God’s law against murder – Do not murder! – with the bill that recently died in the Senate – a law that required three days to read at any normal speed, a law that constrained all people severely and deprived all people of rights not abused by most people in an attempt to prevent a few people from acquiring a weapon. Secular thinkers fear disorder so much that ending freedom is an acceptable price to suppress evil, yet secular thinkers cannot produce any evidence that any law has ever prevented any person from thinking he could outsmart the people who enforce the law.

Law does not prevent crime.

If law prevented crime, the murder rate in the USA would be zero. There is no place in the world, for that matter, where murder is not a crime. Neither better laws nor better police nor better jails will ever prevent crime. Secular thinkers claim to operate on the basis of reason and the revelations of science. If that is so, why would they believe that the human race is evolving into morally superior beings? If that is so, why is there still murder and mayhem like the bombing at the Boston Marathon?

We humans do need law, and enforcement, and punishment. Laws actually stop some people from doing bad things, because some people fear they will be caught. However, plenty of people believe they are smart enough to elude capture, and those people commit evil deeds with complete confidence that nobody will be able to do anything about it. The same human ego that leads secularists to believe that a better law will stop crime also leads people to believe they are more clever than the enforcers.

Christians do not reject the need for law and enforcement and punishment. Christians do not believe that fear of punishment makes people better moral beings. Christians do believe that there is a force that makes people better moral beings. That force has demonstrably changed the lives of many people. Society is not that force. Law is not that force. Punishment is not that force. The one force that fundamentally transforms human beings is the Holy Spirit. People who receive Christ receive the Holy Spirit, and that power changes them forever.

We all know very well, however, that Christians are both sinful saints and saintly sinners. The story in Acts that describes how two new Christians conspired to pretend to make a sacrificial gift to the church provides evidence that Christians are not perfect. A society made up entirely of Christians still needs a mechanism for administering justice when Satan’s temptations triumph in a Christian’s life.

Christians agree with secular thinkers that human society needs law in order to have any justice or peace in the community. They disagree with secular thinkers that the suppression of God-given human rights is the necessary price for the prevention or cure of evil. Christians look at God’s law in simple words, plain language, and respect for human liberty as a model for human law. Christians advocate for good laws, but object to oppressive laws that pretend to be able to shape society in a way that prevents evil. Society cannot take on a role even God does not assume by trying to create such oppressive societal barriers that evil would be impossible. Everybody, Christian and secularist alike, grieves at something like the Sandy Hook shooting or the bombing at the Boston Marathon, but Christians do not believe that human beings oppressed by more restrictive laws and regulations are any less likely to perpetrate evil than people governed by laws written in plain language that shows respect for the responsible way most people manage freedom.  

Murder is illegal, no matter what weapon is used. When someone commits murder, he should be punished, no matter what weapon is used. Jesus set an even higher standard. He said we should all love our neighbors and love our enemies. That covers pretty much everybody. Jesus’ law is all-inclusive, but it oppresses nobody. We can all be thankful that we have good laws and good law enforcement and even-handed justice. We can also be thankful that our US Constitution prevents the government from following secular thinking to its logical conclusion – a police state where evil is theoretically impossible.

Liberty? or freedom from all evil? Which do you choose?

 

Liberty or Equality?

Liberty. Equality. In our American way of life, which is more important? Last Friday, Mark Levin opened his program with this question. Before you read further, please stop and consider these terms. Think about what our way of life is all about. Think about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Think about our Revolutionary War. What were our ancestors fighting for? Liberty? or Equality?

 

When the French, much inspired by the American Revolution and particularly by Benjamin Franklin, set out to topple their king, they marched to the rhythms of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” Their revolution never brought to France the stability, the tranquility and the prosperity enjoyed by the USA. Why? What was more important? Liberty? Or Equality?

 

When Russian peasants inspired by the ideas of Marx and under the cunning leadership of V I Lenin threw down the Czar and his empire, what did they want? Liberty? Or Equality?

 

What did they get? To work backwards, the Russian peasants took charge of themselves and created communes. They gave up their land and quite a bit of liberty in order to become equal. They all became equally poor, equally privileged to stand in line for simple necessities such as toilet paper and bread. They gave up the liberty to work for anybody they wished in order to have a guaranteed job in the commune. Everybody ultimately worked for the government, because nobody was allowed to be an employer, except the government. They all had equality in their choice of employer. The government ran the factories that made the tractors, which were all alike. The tractors were all equal, and they all equally fell apart and failed to run. The peasants of Russia obtained equality, but they were all so equally oppressed that they all equally desired to leave. Russia did not have an immigration problem; Russia had an emigration problem.

 

The French were pretty concerned with equality, too. In fact, anyone who reads deeply into the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution quickly discerns a number of common threads. Men and women lost their identity as men and women and became neutered fellow revolutionaries. They engaged in committees where their high-minded ideals of a prosperous liberated future fell victim to human egos, and before they knew it, an artful speaker had high-jacked their revolution and run it into the ground in the wicked winter of 1812. They got a lot more equality than liberty. They sold their liberty for a pack of fine words.

 

The British colonists who undertook to become independent in 1776 were accustomed to English Common Law, and in the context of that legal environment, they knew the difference between liberty and equality. In the litany of their complaints against the king of England, they demanded to recover rights they knew are theirs because they were the rights of all English citizens, but the dominant theme is an insistence on their freedom to procure and protect those rights for themselves. In the bloody, frozen battlefields of the Revolution, men did not give their lives in order to have equal rights. They gave their lives in order to obtain the liberty to protect rights they knew God had already given them. They declared their liberty by naming the rights they intended to protect, but it was liberty, the escape from the tyranny of the empire, that they wanted most of all.

They knew something very important, something the French and the Russian and contemporary liberal politicians do not know. (You may call them progressive if you like, The politics don’t change; just the nomenclature.)They could look at ten homesteads on the edge of a wilderness, ten family farms, ten households, and see ten different lifestyles and incomes. Of the ten some would successfully feed, clothe and shelter their growing families. Others would barely make ends meet. Yet all were at liberty to do the best they could imagine or dream with the opportunity before them. The colonists turned American citizens knew that if everyone was free, then everyone had the same shot at success, because the hindrances to success imposed by oppressive laws and the machinations of politics did not matter out there at the edge of civilization. The truth was the same for all locations, but it was most clearly visible at the frontiers. That is where they could most readily see the truth that if a man has liberty, he can make his own way, but he only has equality, he is oppressed.

We know it here in the mooring field where our boat is currently located. There are probably 200 boats in this mooring field. They are all sizes, all sorts of designs. Each is truly unique, as unique as each owner. The boats in the mooring field are not equal by any means. They vary widely from extremely luxurious to extremely utilitarian. They are not equal, but they are all equally at liberty to come and go as they please. Each has the same right to moor as all the others, and nobody owes the others anything but common courtesy. They are not equal, but they are all equally free. That is the root of the real happiness of the cruisers who reside in these boats. They are free, and they don’t really worry much about being equal. They didn’t all want to be the same, and that is why no two boats are ever alike.

The most important element of our national government, the element proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution is our liberty. Our form of government was never intended to procure equality, because that objective so easily leads to tyranny. Just listen to all the scathing words about “the rich.” As soon as everyone is economically equal, somebody squanders his allotment, and then you must redistribute everything. As soon as all the skin-colors have been mollified, those with red hair start feeling picked on. Do you require everyone to have red hair? Or at least wear a red wig in order to achieve equality in hair color? Where does it end? If you start giving everyone equal vehicles, can you manufacture them rapidly enough to give everyone a new one at the same time? If you spread it out, will you have given everyone a new one before the first folks need a replacement? Then is it equal or not? Can you give the first folks something different when you start the new round of distribution?

America is not the land of equality. We have always prided ourselves on assuring equality before the law, which is to say, we pride ourselves that a rich man and a poor man stand before blind Justice and receive the just disposition of their conflict. Being human, we have found that an elusive goal at times. Nevertheless, what we value above equality is liberty. Equality becomes tyranny. The goal of equality has eroded our conversation as we struggle to find just the right word to avoid offending anyone. We want all our words to be completely neutral. The goal of equality is eroding the meaning of family, even the meaning of humanity. America has not been the land of equality, because equality becomes oppression. Who gets to say what equal means? Who gets to distribute the equal gifts? Who is more equal than others? Read 1984 and find out what happens when equality is the goal.

America has always been the land of the free. Above all other things, people came to this country to be free. If you read what immigrants say about us, you will find that they don’t much talk about equality. They want to be free so they can be whatever they dream. Not equal. Better than that.

Liberty? Or Equality? I’ll take liberty any day.