Decision 2016: Do We Still Hold These Truths?
In 1776, Thomas Jefferson, the chief architect of the Declaration of Independence, penned one of the most iconic sentences in our country’s history:
“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.”
This election asks one chief question: Do we still hold these truths to be self-evident? Do we still believe that the Creator, not the government, gives us the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? We must choose not between two candidates but between two ideas: Do we believe that an “all-knowing” government should manage our freedoms or that an all-knowing God has granted us our freedoms in the first place?
Some today say that they cannot vote because it would force them to choose between “the lesser of two evils.” Perhaps we should instead ask the questions posed by my friend Jerry Johnson, Ph.D., President and CEO of the National Religious Broadcasters: “Which candidate has the hope for the greater good? Which candidate has the right platform, the right promises and can make the right appointments?” Which choice has the hope of more religious liberty, more economic freedom and more international and domestic security? Which choice gives us a higher view of the rule of law?
Sometimes the hardest part of a decision can be asking the right questions. If we could but answer this larger question of “what,” the smaller question of “who” easily falls into place. We must first ask the “what” questions. “Do we believe that religious liberty should be upheld, that the lives of babies should be protected, that our businesses should be respected and that the security for our citizens should be a priority?”
If we answer “yes” to this first set of questions, we must then ask the “who” question. Mathematically, this is a binary choice in which only two options exist: Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. We must ask, “Which person will protect and uphold those values more, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?” When we ask the right questions, the choice of Mr. Trump becomes obvious. Not because of the “who,” but because of the “what.”
Still, many voters feel that the personalities of Clinton and Trump have entrapped them in a “moral dilemma.” They believe that not voting, writing in a person who mathematically cannot win, or writing in a bogus option like “Mickey Mouse” is the morally neutral or even “righteous” choice. Yet, in actuality, this choice avoids reality. If completely honest with themselves, those who choose this self-righteous path may do so because the only qualified person they “believe in” is themselves.
To illustrate the concept of moral neutrality from inaction, let us turn the pages of history back to Ancient Rome. During the Roman Empire, the practice of “exposure” took place as parents placed unwanted babies upon cliffs or rocks in order for “fate” to decide the baby’s destiny. More than likely, “fate” would bring an animal to consume the child or severe weather would cause the child’s death through heat, cold or starvation.
Exposure in their eyes served as a way to both release oneself from the moral responsibility of being a parent as well as to absolve oneself of the guilt of neglect. It helped to justify one’s actions as simply “inaction” rather than neglect or dereliction of duty.
In a similar way, many today see that not voting serves as a morally neutral position. Leaving the election on the cliffs to die and allowing “fate to take its course” or to “let God decide” seems like a way to wash one’s hands of the whole dirty business of politics. (We wouldn’t want to sully our souls with having to make an unrighteous choice.) Yet, even Pilate’s hand-washing ceremony did not render him guiltless.
Like exposure, not voting seems to absolve oneself of the moral responsibility required by a free society as well as the guilt incurred by dereliction of duty. Yet, like this historical analogy, leaving the election to “fate” does not absolve a person of the moral responsibility for the outcome.
Let us remember the courage of our ancestors whose belief in moral responsibility for freedom compelled them to action and who believed leaving freedom to “fate” to be a cowardly, irresponsible stance.
When the British monarchy sought to suppress religious freedom, early American patriots did not leave their freedoms to chance and “let fate decide.” They fought.
When the evils of Nazism spread its tentacles through Europe, seizing countries and exterminating Jews and other people groups, the United States did not simply “let fate decide.” They fought.
And now when our freedoms, the rule of law, our lives, our livelihoods, our faith and our beliefs are on the line; when the security of our country and our sovereignty as a nation, the rights of little babies and our rights to build our businesses through freedom, innovation and ingenuity without being punished for success stand in jeopardy; let us not shrink back in cowardice and inaction. Let us fight as our forebearers have fought. Let us remember why this country, why we as a people, exist in the first place – to be that shining city on a hill of freedom built on these foundational freedoms:
Freedom of worship.
Freedom of speech.
Freedom to defend oneself with a firearm.
Freedom to own property.
Freedom of the press.
Freedom to have one’s rights protected through the rule of law.
Freedom to do something about our leadership through the election process.
The brave men and women of the past did not fight and die so that we could vote on a particular person, personality or a cartoon character. They bled and died so that we could have the ability to vote for freedom! They bled and died because when they asked the right questions, they “still held these truths.” Let us examine ourselves and ask, “Do we still hold these truths?” May we be courageous enough to ask the right questions and morally responsible enough to answer them with our vote.