Thursday, March 30, 2017

“Self-Evident Truths” and “Inalienable Rights”

Sunday, December 4, 2016, 16:43
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We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they
are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness

                                          -Thomas Jefferson, Author, Declaration of Independence, 1776

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American civil rights, per the Declaration of Independence, are consistent with the sanctity of life, and with the character of the Creator, the Author of Life.  Foundational to an American’s civil rights is an acknowledged relationship to the Creator.  

Can it be that homosexual unions (incapable of producing life), government sponsored  “healthcare” (lacking regard for the sanctity of life), and elective abortion (the intentional destruction of human life), have now become the twenty-first century’s version of “self-evident truths” and “inalienable rights” bestowed upon “all men” by their Creator?

Following Jefferson’s Declaration, America’s Founding Fathers understood civil “rights” as (1) “self-evident truths,” (2) related to the proposition “that all men are created equal,” (3) being an endowment upon men by the Creator of all men (embracing of women and children), and (4) including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  When inconsistent with the character of the Creator, a purported civil right is invalid.  Only the Creator is worthy to be Lawgiver, King, and Judge (Isaiah 33:22).  In keeping with this biblical wisdom, and in order to prevent tyranny, the Founding Fathers determined that these three governmental spheres–legislative, executive, and judicial–should be three separate and distinct branches of government. 

The founders intended that the churches would serve as the conscience of the republic, and in the First Amendment they made constitutional provision for their protection, continuance, and influence.  Consistent with the fact that the newly elected President takes his oath of office to uphold the Constitution of 1789 with his hand upon the Bible, and that the Founding Fathers, at a most critical impasse, began opening their meetings by seeking the wisdom of their Maker, the first amendment prohibits an establishment of religion by Congress while preserving the people’s right to free exercise of religion.  The expression “separation of church and state” does not occur in the Constitution but is found in a personal letter written by Thomas Jefferson to a church leader worried about government intrusion. 

In 1740 Benjamin Franklin invited English evangelist George Whitefield to preach in Philadelphia and even had a building constructed for his preaching which later became the first building of the University of Pennsylvania.  The religion which the Founding Fathers envisioned was that which could be found within the pages of the Bible.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 set aside land for the establishment of schools acknowledging the importance of “religion, morality, and knowledge” to “good government.”  Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address was replete with references drawn from the Bible. 

In the initial draft of the Declaration of Independence, consistent with the Creator’s creating all men equal and endowing them with certain “inalienable rights,” including “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Thomas Jefferson included the abolition of slavery.  Political prudence in a divided body, however, prevailed even over the objections of Benjamin Franklin who would release his own slaves in 1790- the year of George Whitefield’s death, and take up the abolitionist cause.  The writing of such notables as Harriet Beecher Stowe and Frederick Douglas; civil disobedience by John Brown’s family; and a southern perception of states’ rights which included secession from the Union set the stage for President Lincoln’s Proclamation of Emancipation (initially limited to slaves within the Confederacy) and the Thirteenth Amendment.  The violent struggle, variously designated “War of Rebellion” and “War of Northern Aggression,” claimed more American lives than all the subsequent wars put together, and was immortalized in Lincoln’s Gettysburg and Second Inaugural Addresses.  The grim failure of the signers of the Declaration of Independence to abolish slavery resulted in the abolition of slavery written in an appalling amount of America’s blood.  Grievously, civil rights for all races is as yet unfinished. 

The renowned champion of civil rights, Christian Pastor Dr. Martin Luther King, was well in keeping with sanctity of life principles and the endowment of the Creator when he quoted from the Old Testament prophet: “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).

King, no less than the Founding Fathers, knew that all men are created equal– they all bear the image and likeness of God.  Accordingly they are to be treated with the degree of honor and respect befitting such a dignified status.  It is evident that all men are not necessarily equal intellectually or physically.  And certainly all men do not always behave equally in a moral sense; rebellion against God has marred the image and likeness of God in man, and it shows. Consequently, “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” requires a system of justice that punishes the wrong-doer and rewards those who do right.    

To equate the Supreme Court’s ruling to establish marital rights for same-sex couples with the civil rights of descendants of African slaves, however, is an affront to the Creator Himself.  For this ruling (1) contradicts the Creator’s decree that marriage is the union of male and female (Gen. 1:27; 2:20-25; Rom. 1:24-27), and (2) rules out the life-giving that defines the Creator (Acts 17:25). 

Government-sponsored universal health care could only be considered a civil right in America when that healthcare is consistent with the character of the Creator.  The character of the Creator, as understood by the Founding Fathers, was revealed in the Bible–the authoritative book upon which presidents would take their oath of office.  In the Bible true happiness is peace with God and obedience to God’s precepts.  His precepts include healthful lifestyle choices–everything from worship to marriage and family, work ethic, citizenship, financial responsibility, relationship to civil authority, and personal habits.  Certainly the Creator calls us to be compassionate in caring for the needs of others.

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About the Author:

David C. Brand served as the Director of ADVOCATE Enterprise
<www.advocateenterprise.org>, an educational enterprise in Ohio, and is the
author of Profile of the Last Puritan: Jonathan Edwards, Self-Love, and the Dawn
of the Beatific published by Scholars Press as part of the
Academy Series of the American Academy of Religion, 1991. He and his wife, Marilyn, have four grown
children and eight grandchildren.

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