Today, more than any Independence Day in my lifetime, is a day for thinking about what it will take for us to restore our freedoms in America.
Freedom for some is being able to do what one wants. Better thinkers — including America’s Founders — have seen it rather as the freedom to do what is right, to do good, to practice virtue, to follow conscience. This is my view of freedom, yet for this Independence Day post I’m thinking more about the freedom for a people to govern themselves. In practice it’s hardly different from the other view, as you’ll see as you read on.
Two days ago when I committed to creating a list of “25 Truths Essential to Securing Our Freedoms,” I had no idea how hard it would be to distill it down to 25. I had to select out many important matters that just wouldn’t fit. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them, or that I consider them unimportant.
25 truths to guide us toward restoring our freedoms
A free people is a people free to govern themselves.
Americans in the mid-18th century — those of English descent, at least — were under a central government in London they could legitimately call their own — yet they were not free.
Similarly America today stands under a government we can call our own, but that does not in itself make us a free or even self-governing people.
America’s Founders rightly recognized the human tendency to accumulate and exercise power over others.
To the extent that power accumulates and is exercised by a small number of individuals, to that same extent the rest are not free.
America’s Constitution is the world’s most brilliant definition of the legitimate use of power and the best defense yet conceived against the tendency to abuse it.
Freedom has been and is practically non-existent for some Americans. The fundamental problem wasn’t in our Constitution but in our tragic tendency to dehumanize some people. (This demands further discussion — see below.)
The exercise of power at the federal level in the U.S. has grown far beyond what was written or intended in the Constitution.
Americans are therefore no longer free as the Founders saw freedom to be.
For the people to govern themselves as a civil society requires first of all that they govern themselves individually.
To govern oneself well is to pursue a good and virtuous life under the direction of a well-formed conscience.
Human nature tends to drift away from virtue and toward self-centeredness and self-satisfaction.
History shows that the best corrective to that drift is a healthy belief in a good, transcendent moral law and Law-giver: God.
A society of self-governing people is thus (generally) a society that recognizes the reality of God and God’s moral standards.
Individual exceptions are possible: in a society with a generally strong conscience, individuals tend to have strong consciences, too, regardless of their belief in God.
But a society that loses its overall awareness of God will also see its overall conscience drift away from the pursuit of virtue.
No society can force belief in God, but it can encourage belief to flourish through freedom of religion and conscience.
Freedom of religion and conscience necessarily imply freedom to act accordingly, publicly as well as privately; to keep religion strictly private actually denies the beliefs of most religions.
Freedom of speech is of the essence of freedom of conscience and religion.
Freedom of speech, religion, and conscience have become severely imperiled through recent social movements and court actions.
To secure our freedoms therefore requires earnestly repenting of our apathy toward God, turning toward Him in prayer for help, guidance, and direction, and following His direction, not our own.
It also requires standing firm against governments’ and society’s efforts to deny Americans full freedom of speech, religion, and conscience.
Standing for those freedoms wasn’t easy in the years following July 4, 1776. (Thank God for all who have sacrificed so much to preserve our freedoms ever since our founding!)
The fight in America today is mostly for the truths of freedom. This battle won’t be easy, either.
We must do it anyway. No matter the cost, we must.
Dehumanization and Freedom Denied (#7)
There is one dark truth regarding America’s freedom that overshadows the rest. I couldn’t include it as one among many; it’s too huge for that. Freedom has never been equally available to all persons in our country, especially to slaves and to a disturbing extent their descendants as well.
America’s error was not in our view of freedom, but in our view of people. Euro-Americans failed (and often continue to fail) to view Native Americans, Americans of African descent, and other minority members as fellow human beings, fully equal in worth, entitled to the same God-given rights Jefferson wrote about in the Declaration of Independence.
Dehumanizing groups this way has been America’s greatest mistake by far. We’re committing it anew these days against the unborn.
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