By P. Andrew Sandlin
Published May 1, 2008
FREEDOM AND GOVERNMENT
All government-civil or otherwise-is a limitation on freedom; and while an absolutely free society may be merely utopian, absolute freedom under government is a misnomer-government means a limitation on absolute freedom. In the restraint and punishment of evil, and in the protection of virtuous citizens, civil government must establish certain clearly marked-out boundaries: If you are not going to crash into and kill people riding in automobiles, then you must obey certain traffic laws; you’re not free to drive as fast as you can wherever you want to. You’re not free to walk into any building you want, even if your intention is perfectly legitimate. You are not free to help yourself to someone else’s food even though you may be very hungry, as you may in fact be perfectly justified in doing if you lived in society in which all men are virtuous.
America has enjoyed a reputation as a freedom-loving country. It has been known almost equally as a stronghold of human equality: in Jefferson’s immortal words, all men are created equal. In the latter half of this century in particular, however, these two ideas have explosively collided. The meaning and manifestation of both freedom and equality have expanded greatly beyond the intention of the founders; as a result, in the name of equality Americans are willing to sacrifice the freedom of others and in the name of freedom, many are denied equality.
EQUALITY AND FREEDOM
As used by theologians, philosophers, and politicians to describe human social arrangements, the term equality can have two very distinct meanings. It can mean equality of condition, that is, that society and government are arranged in such a way as to allow all citizens to live and operate under the same rules; or it can mean equality of results, that is, the arrangement of government and society in such a way that individual citizens receive equal benefits for their actions. The two definitions one may assign to the term issue in two quite different sets of results.
Two forms of human rights violations. About a year ago my wife and I visited the “chamber of horrors” at one of the many Niagara Falls museums. Among the ghastly instruments of murder and torture I saw there, two things stand out in my mind. On display was a huge hook employed during the medieval period for “hanging” people outside for days on end. People were actually impaled with this huge fishhook and suspended from the window of a building.
The only political leader “honored” in the “chamber of horrors” was Adolph Hitler, a wax figure of whose head was propped up behind a small glass window. Underneath it appeared a brief explanation of the atrocities he committed against the Jews.
The human rights violations of Hitler, the medieval church, and past monarchies which the giant hook represented are repugnant. On mere caprice literally millions of individuals have been murdered and tortured because of their failure to adhere to the prevailing political or religious orthodoxy.
But this type of human rights violation is certainly not the only type, and what is most striking is that in the West repugnance toward human rights violations is almost entirely reserved for the type I have just described-human rights violations from the right. In the Niagara Falls “chamber of horrors,” why were wax heads of Mao and Stalin not on display as perpetrators of human horror? Why did we not see South African “necklaces” by which rightist-or supposed rightist-dissenters are burned to death? The reason is that human rights violations on the right emanate from a strong view of tradition, order, and continuity, three presently unpopular ideas in the West, while human rights violations on the left issue from a strong belief in equality and humanism, two very popular notions of the West. For this reason, Communist atrocities somehow escape the notice of good American democrats, while the latter concurrently scourge right-wing governments for atrocities committed against their citizens. Their concern for human rights is so selective simply because they agree with the presuppositions underlying the policy producing violations of human rights on the left, without necessarily endorsing those violations.
Modern American radicals-supporters of equality-don’t want to risk appearing “reactionary” by siding with conservative critics of liberal egalitarianism and the human dignity it tends to efface. Proponents of conservatism are sometimes guilty of not speaking out strongly enough against human rights violations of right-wing governments; but what makes leftists so hypocritical is that they are so professedly in favor of the defense of human rights while simultaneously closing their eyes to violations of human rights committed by governments that share with them a basic political/ideological premise: equality.
Freedom VERSUS Equality
The Old South Man of Roanoke, John Randolph, a stalwart figure in American history, once uttered the famous line, “I love liberty; I hate equality.” That disjunctive sounds strange to the ears of good ol’ American democrats, for whom liberty or freedom is just one aspect of equality, being to them the great hallmark of the American tradition and, especially, of a truly “progressive” government. Randolph, however, was more perceptive, and he recognized the incompatibility of liberty and equality-at least the equality modern defenders of democracy support, an equality of results rather than opportunity.
Disciples of equality envision a society of bland uniformity, economic parity, and benevolent brotherhood. They are insanely passionate in their attempt to fashion that society. Holding (intentionally or unintentionally) to the Marxist dogma that the basic concerns of this life are economic, they seem convinced that economic inequality is the greatest injustice mankind can suffer-and more dangerously, they are willing to permit other injustices (human rights violations, for example) just as long as the truly “just” society of economic egalitarianism follows.
Defenders of freedom, by contrast, love that quality so fiercely that they are perfectly willing to allow the various social inequalities inherent in a free society. They view men as differing greatly among themselves in natural wealth, talent, and virtue (both actually and potentially); and they know that the greatest injustice is not economic inequality (which can never be totally eradicated anyway) but coerced social equality, which subordinates human freedom (a universal human aspiration) for a bland equality (an artificial and contrived ideology).
The modern Procrustean socialistic state is banal and colorless; it penalizes genius and rewards mediocrity; economically, it murders the goose that lays the golden egg; it dehumanizes humanity and sometimes causes it to suffer indescribable pain.
Disciples of freedom, conversely, are content to live in a society dotted with both slums and mansions, poverty and great wealth. They do not in any sense exult in economic inequalities; rather, they are not willing to erase those inequalities at the cost of personal freedom. They would rather be free in poverty than chained in opulence.
While disciples of freedom hate tyranny, disciples of democracy hate a natural aristocracy-and are perfectly willing to use tyranny, if necessary, as means to effect the leveling of society. They are constantly operating at cross-purposes to themselves. For example, while they constantly pout about not having enough money for education, when they do get the funds they want, educational standards decline; and while they advocate elaborate and expensive programs for “reforming” criminals, violent crime soars; moreover, while they claim so vociferously to defend the dignity of the individual, they increasingly rape him of his dignity and individuality by transferring to government responsibilities he as a human should himself fulfill.
Equality and populist aversion to aristocracy. The main reason the founders introduced the democratic process into the Constitution and American way of life was so it would serve as a check on tyranny. They knew first hand from “Mother England” how easy it is for unchecked royalty (or oligarchy or aristocracy, for that matter) to develop into despotism. Therefore, they established a system of government that would more widely distribute the social and political decision-making processes.
Unfortunately, however, democratic processes which were originally seen as impediments to tyranny are now seen as instruments for furthering the democratic ideal that all individuals in society are perfectly capable of selecting the most capable as their leaders and of getting what they want. The founding fathers would have regarded this transformation as abhorrent, as should we.
It is this leveling populism which penalizes diligence, wealth, intelligence, and merit that progressively rots democracies to the core. The democratic mentality does not recognize genuine, inherent differences in individuals and tells citizens that they are in fact truly equal; and when citizens discover that their conditions are not equal to their fellows, they become envious and usually want to enlist government as Big Brother to coerce equality, that is, to bring everybody down to their more mediocre level. I cannot resist pointing out the great inconsistency at the democratic mentality along these lines: democrats are forever encouraging people to “better themselves” and to “vote for the best man” while the leveling effects of the ideology they support punishes merit.
In a chapter titled “The Kind of Tyranny Democracies Have to Fear” of his classic book Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville defines that tyranny as “the tyranny of the majority,” a bland uniformity that hangs a pale, inhibiting cloud over men, penalizing or neutralizing ingenuity, erudition, wealth, and diligence. It is a tyranny no less tyrannical than that by members of medieval royalty; for while the common people suffer under the tyranny of high-minded and insensitive royalty, aristocrats and scholars suffer under the tyranny of a democracy. But to the modern democratic ideal, any tyranny may be suffered except the tyranny of inequality.
Forerunner - Home » The Puritan Storm
Your comments are welcome!
Foundations in Biblical Eschatology
By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.
All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?
These and many more questions are dealt with by four authors as they present the four views on the millennium. Each view is then critiqued by the other three authors.
$12.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?
Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!
“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l
Running Time: 40 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
Just what is Calvinism?
Does this teaching make man a deterministic robot and God the author of sin? What about free will? If the church accepts Calvinism, won’t evangelism be stifled, perhaps even extinguished? How can we balance God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility? What are the differences between historic Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism? Why did men like Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards and a host of renowned Protestant evangelists embrace the teaching of predestination and election and deny free will theology?
This is the first video documentary that answers these and other related questions. Hosted by Eric Holmberg, this fascinating three-part, four-hour presentation is detailed enough so as to not gloss over the controversy. At the same time, it is broken up into ten “Sunday-school-sized” sections to make the rich content manageable and accessible for the average viewer.
Running Time: 257 minutes
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.
The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).
Welcome to the Second American Revolution!
This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.
$14.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)
Download the Free Study Guide!
God’s Law and Society powerfully presents a comprehensive worldview based upon the ethical system found in the Law of God.
Speakers include: R.J. Rushdoony, George Grant, Howard Phillips, R.C. Sproul Jr., Ken Gentry, Gary DeMar, Jay Grimstead, Steven Schlissel, Andrew Sandlin, Eric Holmberg, and more!
Sixteen Christian leaders and scholars answer some of the most common questions and misconceptions related to this volatile issue:
1. Are we under Law or under Grace?
2. Does the Old Testament Law apply today?
3. Can we legislate morality?
4. What are the biblical foundations of government?
5. Was America founded as a Christian nation?
6. What about the separation of Church and State?
7. Is neutrality a myth?
8. What about non-Christians and the Law of God?
9. Would there be “freedom” in a Christian republic?
10. What would a “Christian America” look like?
Perfect for group instruction as well as personal Bible study.
Ten parts, over four hours of instruction!
Running Time: 240 minutes
Watch over 60 on-line video interviews from God’s Law and Society.
$19.95 — ORDER NOW!(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)