The United States is not unique among nations, insofar as it is a sovereign country on the earth. Everyone can agree about that, I think. Yet the United States is at least somewhat unique among nations, insofar as its government is based upon, as our President has described it, a “charter of negative rights.” Other nations have copied the US to various degrees in that regard, but this country was really the first to go all the way with this idea.
What does our President mean by “a charter of negative rights?” He means that our constitution limits the powers of the federal government, protecting the liberties of states and citizens. It forbids any notion that the government has the right to, for example, prohibit the free exercise of religion. While this frustrates our current President and his associates, it should be a comfort for other Americans. It’s what makes the United States a free country.
I’ve had a busy start to the school year, and the busy-ness will continue for a while. We’re starting a series of classes for anyone 10 and older, called “Getting Into God’s Word,” as well as several confirmation classes. Together with other things, I’m left pretty wiped out at the end of many days, without much impetus for addressing other things on my list. Blogging comes about last. But today is my weekend, and I think these observations are rather important for us all to keep in mind as election day draws closer.
Notice how concerned I am about freedom, or liberty. A hundred or more years ago, that might easily earn me the label “liberal,” but today it most likely earns me the label “conservative.” Isn’t that odd? To be “liberal” these days (or at least during this presidential administration) is to oppose the kind of protections our Constitution affords for individual liberty. To put it bluntly: a “liberal” today opposes liberty, while a “conservative” seeks to protect it. Amazingly ironic.
I realize that there are issues, and there are issues. Some “liberals” or “conservatives” may seek to protect certain liberties, while neglecting the protection of others. The free “speech” of sacrilegious art comes to mind. Examples of neglect abound. This presidential administration’s approach to implementing the newly-adopted national health care regime is one of them. The President’s secretary for health and human services responded to an announcement from certain health companies in which they explained to their customers that the new law would increase their costs. Here’s how Michael Barone summarizes this “liberal” neglect of free speech:
“Congress shall make no law,” reads the First Amendment, “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press.”
Sebelius’ approach is different: “zero tolerance” for dissent.
I don’t mean this to be primarily a criticism of our current President’s administration. Instead, I want anyone reading this to realize that even though we may be exceedingly busy, it behooves us as citizens to pay attention to our government and its political process. Yes, it can be very boring, repetitious, and even depressing. Yes, the signal-to-noise ratio can be extremely low. But if nobody pays attention to these things, then whatever remains unique, special, or even comforting about the way the US is governed will surely disappear. Maybe we will enjoy some of those blessings, but we’ll have lost them for our children. The present administration only reminds us that this has always been true.
Labels like “conservative” and “liberal” don’t really matter. They are just labels, and their meanings change over time. Party loyalties only matter as far as your conscience permits you to affiliate with the whole platform of either party. That’s a personal political decision, though it should be based upon objective reality instead of hype or feelings. So if the labels and the parties don’t matter much, then what does matter?
The principles matter. The Christian worldview, based upon the Bible, matters, because it’s not only a matter of opinion. It’s a matter of faith, and a matter of fact. Truth matters. These things matter to Christians because we are Christians.
Don’t get so busy that you neglect the responsibility common to every American citizen: inform yourself, vote, and participate in the peaceful process of governing this republic. There is evil in the world. It’s in our neighbors, including those in public office, and it’s in us. Let’s not neglect to work against it. Especially in busy times.