June 18th, 2007 11:09 AM
4th of July article
Here's an article I wrote for the local paper about Independence day.
Independence Day is a Faith-Based Initiative
By Pastor Ken Baumgarten
Thomas Jefferson understood that our rights are God-given, and not the inventions of mankind. Our Declaration of Independence shows that quite clearly and eloquently. Look at the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Declaration:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These unalienable rights are given equally to all mankind by our Creator, and this is by virtue of our creation and not because of our virtues. What this implies, especially in the context of the thirteen colonies' break from the British Empire, is that since governments did not grant these rights, governments cannot take them away, or arbitrarily restrict them. Human beings enter the world with a God-given right to live, to live freely, and to pursue a life fulfilling to the individual without interference by, or permission from any government.
Look at the next part of the Declaration:
“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,”
Brother Jefferson, and his fellows, saw an inspired vision of government accountable to, and empowered by the governed. Had our august founders believed that any government was able to actually grant rights to citizens, the above quote could not have been included in the declaration. If the people's power came from the government, the government could not derive its powers from the people.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans that government is instituted by God to serve the governed by safeguarding against those whose “pursuit of happiness” is detrimental to the rights of others. The God-instituted government is to “punish the wrongdoer,” thereby preserving the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of everyone else (See Romans 13:1-5). God-instituted government is to secure God-given rights.
In light of their experience with King George III, the colonists included the following in the Declaration:
“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”
The founders not only recognized the God-given rights of human beings, but another aspect of human nature as well; our sinfulness. They understood Lord Acton's insight that “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and that governments populated by sinful human beings were susceptible to corruption. Why is this so important? Because governments that are not subject to review by the governed are at best, nations of kings, not laws; and at worst, are tyrannical dictatorships.
So why is a Christian pastor writing this article? Because our Independence Day was and is a “Faith-Based Initiative!” Our blessed freedom was and is rooted in our acknowledgment that we are created beings, “endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” In the absence of such an understanding, we would have to see our rights as being granted by the benevolence of our elected officials, to whom we then owe our lives, liberties, and pursuits. With all due respect to the dedicated servants who toil in the halls of government, no leader worth following would promote or accept that view.
For people to be truly free, they must be free to believe as they will, without coercion. The genius of Jefferson and company was that they put no name to the Creator (not the Christian God, or Jewish God, or Muslim or Hindu God), but acknowledged the God-given freedom of the individual to believe as he or she would. If they believed that “all men are created equal,” and that “they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” then they had no choice! The minute they dictated a particular faith, they would have undermined the very basis of their declared independence.
I cherish my freedom, and I have to assume you do too. As a person of faith, who cherishes freedom, I believe it is crucial to contemplate the source of this richest of blessings. For when its source is forgotten, or taken for granted, its security is surely in jeopardy.
As you prepare to celebrate Independence Day on July 4th, 2007, I encourage you to re-read Mr. Jefferson's masterpiece, our Declaration of Independence. I encourage you to contemplate the “self-evident” truths shared by the founding fathers. I encourage you to be thankful for your life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; the unalienable rights with which you were endowed by your Creator.
June 18th, 2007 02:48 PM
June 18th, 2007 04:14 PM
The only thing that stops bad guys with guns is good guys with guns. SgtD
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