As I flit from task to task preparing for relatives to arrive this week, it’s hard to focus much on the Fourth of July and the history of our country’s declaration of independence. But in this of all times, it’s essential to do so. America is at a crossroads as never before, rent not across state lines or over a single overwhelming issue, but right through our families and workplaces, our houses of worship and our communities. Our division is over the most fundamental things: what men are before God, what we are before the state, and how we shall then live.
An epochal decision is looming in our hearts. I’m not speaking of “revolution” here, but of which future we choose, the blessing or the curse. Those familiar with the Law of Moses will recognize the construct here, set forth in Deuteronomy 11:26-28 (NIV):
See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse – the blessing if you obey the commands of the LORD your God that I am giving you today; the curse if you disobey the commands of the LORD your God and turn from the way that I command you today by following other gods, which you have not known.
Whether you believe in this passage or not, it outlines a stark truth most Americans would agree with, which is that the choices we make, what we subject and commit ourselves to, and how we live set the courses of our lives, both individually and corporately.
There is a choice before us today, one that no people has ever made successfully in favor of the blessing. All other peoples have chosen the curse. They have chosen to cling not to guns and religion, but to “benefits” distributed by the state, and a sense of entitlement by which they make demands on their fellow men. Using government to raid the savings of the provident is as old as using government to get rich and gain sinecures at the expense of the productive poor and middle-class.
The choice we have today is between facing up to what we and our government have become, and saying “no more,” or continuing on the path we are on. There are days when the obstacles seem insurmountable. But on those days, we should remember this lesson from America’s founding: that proclaiming liberty throughout the land, and to all the inhabitants thereof, has never been easy.
In fact, in 1776, it was terribly hard. As this marvelous speech – given often by Rush Limbaugh’s father – outlines, the signers of the Declaration of Independence suffered tremendous losses to win liberty for us. A number lost wives and children; more lost all their property; some were imprisoned under dreadful conditions, others died in mid-life – and all these things happened to them because they signed the Declaration.
Human nature and our historic tendencies conspire against proclaiming liberty and living it. Our Founders could only have done what they did because they believed that the outcome they sought was worth the incredible difficulty of procuring it. We forget today that they took a risk on a project no one had attempted before. There was no example or analogy to measure their effort against; when they themselves tried to, they referred to Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt.
I mean more here than that “freedom isn’t free.” Freedom is more than not free, it’s not normal. It’s the condition humans thrive in best, but are least likely to automatically prefer as life presents its endless series of small choices to us. Preferring freedom requires keeping a steady strain on the lines and adjusting course alertly. There can be no sleeping on watch in the preservation of freedom. Events and tendencies are always acting against it.
Yet against all odds, our Founders achieved it. Are we capable of acting with the clarity and belief that they did? I believe they didn’t know the answer to that themselves until they made the choice. Many of us today are in mid-life, and we have what the Founders had: lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. We know – we know – what it would mean to commit them to a cause. We know what so many of the Founders lost; we know it viscerally and apprehensively.
But we have before us today a blessing and a curse. We have an advantage the Founders didn’t have: they knew the curse they wanted to avoid, but we know the blessing too. Will we sell our birthright for a little more ease and enjoyment?
Never has a people made a choice with as much knowledge of what lies down each path. The risk here is not that preserving liberty won’t be worth it to us. We know what the blessing is. Here is Deuteronomy again (30:19):
This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.