Without God, Freedom becomes Slavery
Though the communist governments that sprang up in the 20th Century affected the outward appearance of being constitutional republics, a no-holds barred battle for control of the decision-making apparatus within the ruling communist (or socialist people’s) party actually determined who controlled government power. This conformed to the logic of the communist ideology. For the doctrine of “class struggle” is a pseudo-scientific disguise for the age-old understanding that governmental authority is exclusively a matter of material force. It has no substance but according to the forcible will of the individuals who represent the vector of History, doing whatever it takes to serve and express the ultimate tendency of the material force that determines it.
This primordial preoccupation with force is reflected in the institutionalized purgation of the body politic that is among the most repugnant features of totalitarian socialism, as it was practiced, for instance, in the now defunct Soviet Union. As the battle for control of the communist party’s dictatorship ebbed and flowed, government officials would seize or be forced from positions of power. The purge mentality extended as well to the entire body politic, so that at times everyone’s livelihood, liberty and physical life were all at stake in the power struggle.
Though we Americans too often neglect to remember it, in our society the constitutionally safeguarded existence of a sphere of private and voluntary activity militates against this institutionalization of the purge mentality. Because individuals are protected in their right to form voluntary economic and other associations, it’s harder for government to deprive them of any and all means of material support, and or self-defense. This safeguard against factional persecution ought to be one of the many reasons for Americans to resist de facto government control of health care, education or, for that matter, any other sector of rightly exercised private initiative in our society.
We ought to be particularly careful when those in positions of authority in government pervert the functions of its judicial branch, or seek to impair its independent operation, within its proper sphere. In our free society, the judicial branch is supposed to exercise such governmental power as the Roman tribunes exercised, when ancient Rome’s republican institutions were functional, rather than merely decorative. A tribune could suspend the operation of a government law or edict, so that its unlawful or unjust character might be examined and brought up short or, at least, brought to the attention of the people at large.
Thanks to the constitutional ethos that prevails in the United States, our constitutional tribunals may not only give notice of possible injustice. All of our constitutions also articulate the concepts and logical premises of fundamental right and justice. They do so in provisions (often grouped together in a ‘Bill of Rights’) that safeguard the actions and activities that individuals must be left free to undertake, either because they are inherently right (i.e., right according to “the laws of nature and of nature’s God” that ought to rule all matters subject to human choice); or because they are essential in order to secure the liberty of the people as a whole, which is to say their right, by God endowed, to govern themselves in accordance with that natural law.
These provisions explicitly describe the right actions that must be safeguarded; but the 9th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States also makes it clear that there are others, antecedent to the Constitution, and indeed all human constitutions of government. As the American Declaration of Independence plainly states, these are “unalienable rights”, inherent in all humanity. Even if they are not explicitly enumerated in constitutions or other laws and edicts, they are self-evident, on account of the power of reason, when that power is applied according to the discipline of thought that substantiates its existence. This constitutional recognition of the antecedent rights of individuals, points to the God-endowed standard of right and justice that circumscribes human laws within just boundaries. In the United States, the activities of our governments at all levels are supposedly aimed at securing rights, according to this standard.
For the governments of the United States are not simply a matter of material forces, with authority derived from the human will of those who happen to control them. Our governments are a matter of God-endowed right, deriving their authority from the “laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” This authority is an effect of the will of our Creator, even if and when our nature as human beings exists only in the promise of God’s intention (as at the moment of conception in the womb). On account of this transcendent source of law, our tribunals are sometimes obliged to suspend the execution of laws arising from humanly willful dispositions, in order to interpose, between our laws and their consequences, the consideration that is due, in any particular case, to the logic of God-endowed right (i.e., what is right according to God’s rule).
They are obliged to consider individual appeals that look beyond the will of those who govern, even when they do so according to the will of the people at large. For it is to the judgment of their Creator that the people have appealed to justify their common possession of the sovereign right to govern themselves as a nation. They are therefore bound by reason to observe, in their exercise of sovereignty, that the will of the Creator supersedes their own.
Such was the appeal made by the representative of the American people when they formulated the American Declaration of Independence. Their appeal to God entailed discarding the rule of the British King, even though doing so meant outright war. But we are supposed to have the opportunity to appeal to God’s rule in our courts before the abuse of power becomes an occasion for violence. We are supposed to be able to rouse the conscience of the people, reminding them that their position of sovereignty over themselves does not arise simply from superior force. It depends, rather, on God’s provision of right to all humanity.
The conscientious functioning of our judiciary is vital If we Americans are to avoid the condition of those who live oppressed by forcible dictatorial rule. The independence of the judiciary is vital to preserving its function. But judicial independence serves this end only if and when the members of our tribunals respect the fact that the government power they wield depends on the authority of our Creator, God. In this their power is no different than the sovereignty of the people, whose lawful self-government our legal tribunals are supposed to implement.
Tragically, our life as a free people is, in this respect, now plunging ever more deeply toward the heart of a lawless abyss. We are doing so because our governmental and other public figures are no longer disposed to acknowledge that our right of self-government (liberty) depends on respecting God’s authority. Once declared independent of that authority, all the functions of our government must veer toward licentious abuse, raging in the name of the people, with a spontaneous fury that inexorably consumes all vestiges of their right and rights. Thus, without God, freedom collapses into slavery.
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