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Posts Tagged ‘John Witherspoon’

Why Freedom is not Doing What You Want

July 2nd, 2014 3 comments

freedomFreedom for most Americans has dissolved into a license to do whatever you want to do. We often try to make it more noble and palatable by adding the rejoinder, “as long as it is between consenting adults” or “as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.”

When it comes to legislation, especially legislation dealing with those thorny “social issues,” we are told to “stop legislating morality.” For a growing number of Americans, freedom means “stay out of my life and don’t try to tell me what to do” [That is, unless you are going to give me free stuff or pay for my abortions].

Of course this modern conception of freedom is light years away from the understanding held by those who formed our great nation. Freedom was understood as the ability to make virtuous choices. Choice, in and of itself, is not virtuous. We  are capable of choosing  a host of hideous and shameful behaviors [e.g. abortion, adultery, and addiction etc.) in the name of personal liberty. It’s what we choose, and not the act of choosing, that matters.

Of course the only way to “not legislate morality” is to give up legislating altogether. Someone’s morality guides the formation of each and every statute. The question we should be asking is what system of morals leads to maximum human flourishing?

Our Founders recognized that is was God who determined the proper bounds of our liberty. Liberty without responsibility is merely a license for licentiousness. The foolish disregard of God’s clear commands was not a demonstration of personal freedom. Rather, it was, and is,  a fast track to becoming  a slave to your own selfish passions. This is why founding father, John Witherspoon said, “Whoever is an avowed enemy to God, I scruple not to call him an enemy to his country.”

James Madison, the architect of our Constitution, affirmed, “the belief in a God All Powerful, wise and good, is so essential to the moral order of the World and the happiness of man…”

Thomas Jefferson, the inspiration behind our Declaration of Independence reminded us that God was the source of our liberties. He wrote, “Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people, that these liberties are a gift from God? that they are violated but with his wrath?”

John Quincy Adams, our sixth president and an ardent champion of liberty, reminds us of the unbreakable tie between God’s law and human freedom. He writes,

“This principle, that a whole nation has the right to do whatever it pleases, cannot in any sense whatever be admitted as true. The eternal and immutable laws of justice and morality are paramount to all human legislation. The violation of those laws is certainly within the power of a nation, but it is not among the rights of nations.”

For America to be great, Americans must be good. For Americans to be good, we must joyfully submit to God and to His Truth. Even as the whole can be no greater than the sum of its parts, America will only be free when her citizens reject the failed ethic of irresponsible individualism and embrace the responsibilities, both God and others, incumbent upon a free people.