To Reclaim Liberty, We Must Preach God’s Natural Law

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by Dr. Alan Keyes  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 25, 2018   

Without God, rights depend only on force

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Dr. Alan Keyes

Even though President Trump has revoked the policy in most instances, the media continues to foment outrage over the practice of separating children from parents being detained while the U.S. government pursues the processes involved in enforcing our nation's immigration laws. President Trump inherited the policy from Barack Obama's administration. In fact, some of the images used to stoke outrage against it are part of that inheritance. Absent at that time were Nancy Pelosi's crocodile tears of outrage — which I discussed last week. In fact, she emphatically declared that we should not allow the policy to become a political football.

Be that as it may, the whole mess is proof of what is likely to happen because American leaders fail to think through the moral premises for the constitutional self-government of the people of the United States. Had the Trump Administration reviewed the Obama Administration's practices in light of those premises, it would have rejected the separation policy in most cases, regardless of the Obama precedents.

What explains their failure to do so? It has to do with the jurisprudence constructed in Supreme Court decisions that falsely assert that the specious doctrine of "separation of church and state" banishes from our political discourse any arguments that rely on the authority of God. But since the primordial component of the organic law of the United States (the body of laws that inform our identity as a nation) includes the Declaration of Independence, accepting this jurisprudence requires that we discard from all our policy discussions the logic that justifies our independent existence as a people.

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Our distinctive identity as a nation is predicated on upholding the view that right — i.e., the substance and standard of just action — depends on the authority of "the laws of nature and of Nature's God." And that, in respect of human nature, all human beings are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." These rights consist in the properties of human nature — i.e., the distinctive belongings that constitute and preserve humanity, preserving and perpetuating the distinctive material form of its existence (the human body) as well as the distinctive traits and capacities (self-consciousness, intelligence and the capacity for choice, for example) that appear to be especially characteristic of our way of being.

The premises and logic of the American Declaration of Independence entirely depend on this natural law understanding of human nature, including its original (i.e., authoritative) dependence on the creative power, orderly understanding and enforcing the will of God. Without reference to God, the declared independence of the people of the United States has no moral status, no lawmaking authority and no lawful power of self-government. If there is no authority beyond forceful human will, our assertion of self-government is legitimate but what derives from the demonstration of power. It is, as it were, the resultant of all the simultaneous and mutual contest of opposing forces coming to bear upon us at any given moment, in the circumstances that happen, for the moment to exist.

Human beings must be motivated to gather and, even more, motivated to organize and fight against the force or forces that oppress them. 

Put simply, the standard of right is whatever force determines it to be. People oppressed by superior power, therefore, have no basis on which to protest their oppression, unless and until they gather in sufficient force to do so. But human beings must be motivated to gather and, even more, motivated to organize and fight against the force or forces that oppress them. However, they find the motivation this requires only if they all feel and react together against the same forces at the same time and only so long as this shared repugnance endures.

But repugnance is usually only briefly. For human beings are individuals. They tend to be preoccupied with their own condition, not that of others, much less some perception of the condition all have in common. They may briefly act as a mob, but for their joint action to persist requires a focal point to gather and persistently revive their common passion. In a word, the joint and forceful action requires articulate leadership, leadership capable of movingly representing the common condition in which all find themselves, rousing their passionate repugnance and focusing it on some target or objective. Such leadership can overcome the various more immediately preoccupying events that otherwise tend to dilute and disrupt it.

Such an exclusive focus on what is always, to some degree, an abstraction is hardest to maintain when people face the threat of other more immediately damaging events, particularly if it likely includes suffering pain and sudden death. Some few human beings (like, for example, the most outstanding athletes) can summon and sustain their exclusive focus at will. But most people are easily distracted — inevitably so when they face sudden death. But once brought to trust in the protecting or rewarding benevolence of God, as the fruit of their faithful adherence to His commands or example, many people become capable of the extraordinary endurance usually characteristic of relatively few.

Was this why the endurance of democratic self-government benefitted from the effect of Christ's example as it matured in people professing to believe in the power of the Cross? America's founders believed that Christian faith made it more likely that a democratic, republican constitution could be sustained in the United States. So they entrusted the American people at large with a formally decisive share in the most critical decisions of sovereignty, which have more to do placing the right people in key positions of authority and assuring their subsequent good performance.

Christianity empowers democratic institutions because Christ's purpose, instruction and example are especially aimed to inform and inspire the decent, mutual goodwill that God encodes in human nature. That goodwill is the special province of common folk, i.e., those of ordinary ambition who aspire, at best, to do well what the laws of nature's god require all people to do, for the sake of preserving humanity as a whole. There are many people who, at best, prove faithful in the little things. They heed the still, small voice that speaks in chorus with the accessible pleasures and satisfactions of each day, the greatest of which consists in the responsive respect and love of those inclined by God to be especially careful of one another.

Aren't the faithful little things that family life requires the building blocks of a forward-looking discipline the kind of foresight sovereignty requires?

Though they still profess to be followers of Christ, many professing Christians seem to reject the powerful work that faith in Christ's inward present enables the relatively powerless (in other respects) to achieve. Even some high prelates in the Catholic Church pretend that it requires "heroic virtue" to love with no ambition but the joy of caring for another and being cared for in return. They exalt the errant ways of the few whose errant ambition inclines them to neglect or defy God's natural law. They seem to honor such errantry more than the God-instructed predictability of people seek no great battles, but win a thousand smaller ones every day. But Christ promises to these, the faithful contributors of the widow's mite, that their good faith will, in God's time, be like the seed that spawns a mighty cedar, or the Word of God, heard only by His spirit, that summoned the glimmer of light that handed darkness its first setback.

In human terms, isn't the family like that seed of light? Aren't the faithful little things that family life requires the building blocks of a forward-looking discipline the kind of foresight sovereignty requires? Don't they bring the prudent outlook of kings within the scope of ordinary people, in whom the presence of God in Christ can be uncommonly great?

Thus, the observance of the natural law becomes a word of power refitting the human race to be like God, who is the King of Kings and sovereign Lord of all. Think what must happen if the preachment of this word falls silent in a nation where it has, from the beginning, been the key to its self-government? Then ponder what may happen if and when that word is silent no more, but preached from the housetops, no matter what? Perhaps a nation could revive in its time, as all true believers will revive in God's time — their mortality notwithstanding.

Dr. Alan Keyes served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations under President Ronald Reagan, and ran for president in 1996, 2000 and 2008. He holds a Ph.D. in government from Harvard, and writes at his website Loyal to Liberty.

 

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