In the ancient order of things, our ancestors viewed the world through the lens of religion. Whether it was the Romans who worshiped dumb idols made of stone and fancy, or the Europeans who worshiped Christ the Savior, the end result was similar.
In a religious world view, there is another actor beyond nature and man, that of God. According to religious thought, God is the Creator, the Law-giver, the Life-giver. Some people view God’s commandments as restrictions, but honestly, if there is a God who gave us life, isn’t it clear that the laws are given to help sustain it?
The concept of a right is something founded exclusively in religion. There can be no rights without some God commanding them to be. The European Renaissance brought with it a new question of what the role of men and governments should be, and the conclusion was that everyone was given rights. What they do with them are up to them, of course, but as long as those rights were respected, all would be well.
What is a right? In our society, we think of rights as “freedoms”. Just like a particle of matter in an ideal gas are free to move one way or another, or spin about the various axes, we view our rights as a mechanical thing. That is, anything we can do is a right.
This definition of rights is entirely foreign to the word and to every understanding of rights as they were originally described. To understand, let’s think of the kings who claimed they had a right to rule over a particular patch of dirt or a group of people. What gave them that right? Was it their freedom? Did the people choose him to be their king? These ideas are contrary to how our ancestors understood them. No, what gave the king the right to rule was God. That is, God himself, they believed, gave a particular individual the right to rule God’s children. It was this force, this religious force, that kept kings in power (for who can stand up to God’s will?) but also, at the same time, limited their freedom to do as they please as king.
It was God, after all, who required an accounting from the kings for how they behaved. If God was displeased with a king, he would strike him down and put someone else in his place. But if the king reigned according to God’s will, then God would reward king and kingdom with blessings innumerable.
This sounds like a uniquely Christian concept, but we see it repeated all over the world. To the Chinese, they call it a Mandate from Heaven. To the Greeks and Romans, the right to rule was a gift of the gods. I am sure you can find this idea repeated no matter which culture you look at.
In our American culture, we tried to do away with that. We did it through sleight of hand, per se, and we were successful, at least for a short time.
The first trick was to change the “right to rule” into the “right to do certain things”. We looked at God and saw that he commanded us, as individuals, to speak our minds on certain subjects, particularly religious ones. So we saw a “right to speak”. We saw a right to move around, to preach the Word, and so we saw a right to liberty of movement. We also saw a God who gave strict commandments regarding property ownership, so we saw a right to own property and receive profits from it. Some of our ancestors saw a right to rule slaves, it is true, but others saw that it should not be so but was contrary to how the kingdom of God should be organized.
The second trick was the responsibility associated with these rights. That is, even if you have the right to speak your mind, there are certain things you can’t say. You can’t lie under oath (that would be the bearing of false witness). You can’t deceive or cheat. You can’t let your mouth run off. So when our Founding Fathers saw the right to free speech, they knew that it had certain limits.
And so it was. That is, until something changed. Somewhere along the line, the idea of rights being connected to an all-powerful, all-seeing Judge in heaven were lost. Rights became mere freedoms. Freedoms meant we could do anything we wished, **** the consequences.
And that is how you enslave a people who think they are free. They become subjects not of God but of the devil, thrown about in his whirlwinds, ensnared by every deception and trap. And in this state, they look up to heaven and curse God and wish to die because of the miserable lives they lead.
Folks, if you are not happy, you are not free. Freedom does not lead to freedom. No, that is not how it worked, and it never was. The king who sat on his throne and did whatever he wanted quickly found out his throne was under someone else’s rear end. Yes, he might have had a right to rule, but God be judge and he is just.
We may have had, at some point, the rights we so eloquently defend. But they are with us no longer. Go ahead, and see for yourselves, and see if you are truly free or if we are closer to servitude and bondage. We are told we are free, but which one of us is free to do as he truly pleases?
The way to liberty is obedience to God. There is no other way. We have no right to do wrong. We never did. When you do wrong with your rights, they are taken away by the same Power that gave them to you. And only He can restore them.