Pulpit Reflections

We Americans need these days to engage in some serious reflection about "liberty." This is because the idea of liberty is much changed from that of the Founders of our nation, and we need to ask, "What kind of liberty do we really want?"

For the Founders of the United States "liberty" was seen as freedom from oppression, that is freedom from having government or other powerful entities interfere with or rule our daily lives. In other words, liberty was seen as freedom from having other people, no matter how powerful, do bad stuff to us. And the Founders had a list of things that they knew was bad stuff to do to other people. Their formula in the Declaration of Independence was "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," which were listed as the natural God-given rights of every human being of whatever station in life. It didn't matter whether I was rich or poor, highly respected or very common, educated or not, these rights were mine, were not to be taken away, and indeed were to be guaranteed to me by the government. Government's whole job, in fact, was "securing these rights to the people."

Again, liberty for our nation's Founders was freedom from having others do bad stuff to me. Now somehow, over the past 60 years and in many subtle ways, "liberty" for our generation today, and our government as well, has morphed into the right to do bad stuff under the pretence that as long as it is "private," it won't hurt anyone else. Liberty, from being free from having bad stuff done to us, has turned into license for us to do bad stuff.

Now, behind this change in the definition of liberty stands the large question of "what is right and what is wrong?" On this issue, the Founders of the United States were definitely Ten Commandments folks. For them, adultery, murder, lying, stealing and disobedience to parents were morally wrong. These things are sins. They went so far as to hold that not resting from our daily labor on Sunday is a sin, and 48 of the original 48 states had "blue laws" against working on Sunday. Our Founders did not think that being rich was bad or that being poor was bad, they just did not want people rich or poor stealing from each other. They realized that no two people would have the same kind of life with respect to possessions, health and length of days, but they were absolutely dead set against one person taking the life of another, even if that other was a baby inside his/her mother's womb. Every state had very strict laws against abortion.

Today we have a whole new set of rights and wrongs, with things that are simply wrong, often protected by government. Today it is not good to be rich, so we tax the rich. On the other hand it is not good to be poor either, so we try to help the poor with money we take from our taxpayers, rich and not so rich. Today it is not good to be a child conceived by two people who engage in sex freely but do not want to have a child. So the Supreme Court allows us to kill (in fact murder) such a child, not because it has done evil, but for the convenience of its parents.

I think the picture is clear. The United States became a great nation by declaring and protecting its citizens from bad stuff done by government and other powers. Today we have become a nation of individuals licensed to sin, and where government itself often robs people of their rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness by violating the very lists of bad things that our Founders rejected. These things include very high taxes, forced compliance with foolish rules for business and farming, and forced toleration of sinful practices around us, including expensive education systems that are often virtually useless when it comes to helping people use their true abilities. By rejecting God and His moral code for mankind, we are be coming a ship of fools, rather than the great nation our fathers gave us.

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