by Diane Rufino, June 6, 2022
I’ve been asking this fundamental question for many years now: Is too much individual freedom ultimately destructive of the greater prize – liberty?
Our Founding Fathers expressed their vision for an independent united States when they drafted and signed their names as delegates to the Declaration of Independence. In that grand document, Thomas Jefferson articulated the sovereignty of the individual according to God’s law and Nature’s law. Our rights come from our Creator; they are inalienable and can never be deprived, violated, or burdened by government. Such declarations are included in the Constitution and Bill of Rights and were included for a reason. They were meant to emphasize that the federal government was intended to be limited (limited to an articulated list of express powers and responsibilities) with its primary purpose to secure and respect the rights of the People.
“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.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –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.”
Abraham Lincoln once said: “Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties.” (Of course, as president, he egregiously ignored the Constitution and violated the protections granted to the People).
Individual freedom and liberty can only truly exist when government is limited and when love of country and love for one another is more important than political ambition and social agenda. Individual freedom and liberty are maximized when government is restricted in its ability to over-regulate, is limited in its ability to intrude on and impact our lives and our livelihood ( our ability to work to support ourselves and our families), is limited in its ability to regulate, burden, and limit what we can do with our property (our ability to develop it to its best potential), and is respective and diligent in adhering to the Constitution.
But government can only remain limited to the extent that We the People can successfully and effectively govern ourselves. The more we can govern ourselves, the better we can conduct ourselves with self-respect and To respect others, the less we need government to enact laws to restrain us in our exercise of freedom. That is where religion and morality come in. Religion and morality (virtue) are two critical foundations of self-government. Without them, we can’t really know right from wrong. We act in such a way as to only serve ourselves and to put ourselves above others, to disregard community and to care little about the health and welfare of our country.
And that is exactly what is going on in our country today and has been going on for too many years. We see too many people who are one-issue activists who make too much noise and are ultimately taking our country down the wrong path. As the issues of abortion (extreme pro-abortion), gender identity, and the LGBTQ agenda specifically demonstrate, we are becoming a degenerate society which is becoming increasingly divorced from the foundations required for personal responsibility and successful self-government. We are becoming more and more distant and disrespectful of one another and this is threatening our collective love and support for our republic and threatening our collective appreciation and support of the Constitution, and ultimately, it will undermine the integrity and longevity of our country. Our freedom and our liberties exist only as long as the Constitution is adhered to and only as long as the federal government, a creation of the States through the Constitution, remains limited.
Our founding values, although expressed beautifully and clearly in the Declaration of Independence, are based on certain “uncontested truths.” Since the early days of our founding and up until the mid-twentieth century, we all understood there are such uncontested truths, like religion and morality and virtue. Sadly, what we are seeing today is a progressive agenda that requires that these truths be contested, ignored, and rejected. It began with Margaret Sanger’s policy of ethnic cleansing and eugenics, then Supreme Court decisions taking prayer out of schools and out of the public square, then a judicial ruling acknowledging a constitutional right of a woman to an abortion (Roe v. Wade, hopefully to be over-ruled soon), and now to a regime embracing hostility to religion, to free speech, and in general, to conservatives. The hatred is palpable. The degeneracy is palpable.
Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, acclaimed author and speaker and president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, has been talking about such “highly-contested truths.” According to Anderson, “highly-contested truths” are “the most important civilizational truths that shouldn’t be contested but are “things that we can’t afford not to get right.”
As he asserts, the first truth is that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Taking stock of our current American culture, we can see how this “truth” has become highly contested. Specifically, with the dehumanization of the unborn since the 1960’s and 1970’s and the articulation of a so-called constitutional right to have an abortion, 65 million unborn Americans have been unjustly killed in the 49 and a half years since Roe v. Wade was handed down. The contesting of this essential truth has become a moral and ethical stain on our nation and causes most of us, as Americans, to violate our collective conscience.
Dr. Anderson believes that “Abortion has corrupted everything it’s touched. It has corrupted our Constitution. It’s corrupted our courts and it’s corrupted the rule of law.”
The second highly-contested truth is that God asks very little of us in return, other than to accept the divinity of his son, Jesus Christ and to be faithful to Him, the Father. (This is not one of the “highly-contested” truths that Dr. Anderson talks about but it is one that I believe needs to be included).
In the gospel of Mark, chapter 12:28, the disciple recounts an account: “A scribe came to Jesus and asked, ‘Of all the commandments, which is the most important?’ It sounds like a fair question. After all, first-century Jews counted 613 regulations, 248 commands, and 365 prohibitions in the Law handed down by God. They ranged from the foundational (“You shall have no other gods before me.” Ex. 20:3) to the peripheral (“Do not cook a young goat in its mother’s milk.” Ex. 23:19). All of God’s laws are important of course, but surely some are more equal than others.
Jesus’ response was illuminating. It was simple and straightforward. He answered: “The most important one is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’” (Mark 12:29–30). So here we have the “most important” commandment: Love the Lord.
But that was not the end of his reply. Rather than stopping after his apparently straight answer, Jesus continued: “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no greater commandments than these” (12:31). In Matthew’s version, he explains that the second commandment is just as important as the first, adding that “all of God’s Law hangs on these two commandments” (22:39–40). The most important commandment, then, is twofold: Love the Lord and love your neighbor.
With these simple commandments, we have the foundations of religion – to love someone more than oneself – and the basis of the Golden Rule.
The third highly-contested truth is that we are created according to a biological scheme – as only two distinct genders, male and female. The push of transgender ideology, questionable gender identity, gender fluidity, and gender wokeness in our culture is something that is touching every segment of America. This new and progressive political agenda is not something that you can kind of opt out of, that you could hide from. It’s in all of our schools, all of our colleges and universities, all of our churches, all of our communities, in all of our movies (including Disney), and apparently, in almost every aspect of our current national discourse.
The victims of this counter-productive and scientifically-unsound ideology are diverse and wide-spread, from middle school girls who have been sexually assaulted in bathrooms by biological males identifying as female, to Catholic hospitals being sued for not performing sex reassignment procedures, to female college athletes not only losing chances to medal but also being forced to share a locker room with a biological male, and now to the innocent, vulnerable, and mentally-underdeveloped school-age children. As Anderson says: “It’s permeated everywhere in our culture, and we need people willing to stand up to tell the truth.”
The fourth highly-contested truth, according to Dr. Anderson, is that not only are we created male and female, but male and female are created for each other in marriage. Just because the US Supreme Court got it wrong in the Obergefell case (upholding gay marriage), Anderson argues, that “doesn’t change the truth about marriage, nor does it change the importance of marriage.”
Marriage has always been both a natural institution and a supernatural institution. It plays both a civic and a sacred function. Because of this, Anderson explains, even though we’ve temporarily experienced a setback with Obergefell, that doesn’t mean that we should stop advocating either for the truth about what marriage is, or simultaneously just trying to promote family and marriage.
The fifth and final truth is that all of us are created equal and all are created for God. It’s the corollary of being made in the image and likeness of God. This means it’s to our disadvantage to think or believe that we can organize our public life as if God doesn’t exist.
Dr. Anderson argues that this truth comes into play with the role of religion in the public square and the importance of religious liberty. “What we’ve tried to do now for two generations is to conduct our public life as if God doesn’t exist,” he says, “as if religion and morality have nothing to do with law and justice. And look where it’s gotten us.”
He continues: “The duties we have to God are the most important duties that we have, period. We need someone bringing that faith perspective to bear in our laws. We need a moral foundation to our laws.”
A virtuous people will courageously defend the rights endowed by the Creator and restored by the blood of patriots. But a fearful people, ignorant and without virtue and without a sense of a higher purpose, would readily cede these rights in exchange for a fleeting sense of security. They would gladly surrender their rights and their liberty in exchange for the protection and the management of their lives from the government. Princeton University’s Robbie George explains, “People lacking in virtue could be counted on to trade liberty for protection, for financial or personal security, for comfort … for having their problems solved quickly. And there will always be people occupying or standing for public office who will be happy to offer the deal.”
Our Constitution was designed and drafted to create a common government of limited responsibilities. Again, a limited government guarantees maximum individual liberty. Our country, comprised at the time of 13 individual sovereign states, fought for its collective independence based on the premise and promise of liberty. Upon winning that revolutionary war, governments were designed and tasked with protecting the rights and liberties of the People. Liberty first.
So the answer to my initial question is this: If we keep on our current course, if we continue to reject religion, morality, and the “uncontested truths,” and if we continue to allow the federal government to grow and to intrude into our lives and allow the federal government and the federal courts to make rulings that limit the rights that were once held as “inalienable,” then yes, individual freedom will ultimately jeopardize our liberty.
Let us never forget what John Adams said: ““We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge or gallantry would break the strongest cords of our Constitution just as a whale easily goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious People. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
We want to leave our country in better shape for future generations. We may just have different ideas about how to do it, and that’s alright. Like our Founding Fathers, I will continue to seek to build consensus, uphold the rights of American citizens as outlined in the Constitution and work to pass legislation that preserves the greatness of our nation for years to come.
As President Ronald Reagan once advised: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
Dr. Ryan T. Anderson, “The 4 Most Contested Truths in America,” Truth Network, May 23, 2022. Podcast referenced at: https://www.truthnetwork.com/show/family-policy-matters-nc-family-policy/41908/
Andrew Wilson, ”All God’s Laws Are Equal. Are Some More Equal Than Others?,” Christianity Today, November 22, 2019. Referenced at: https://www.christianitytod