Over mankind's long history, there have been numerous successful attempts by some men to sell despotism as if they were offering the people liberty. These surprisingly successful moments have been a part of emotional appeals to populations more anxious for the comfort of a promised solution than a people diligent in the honest introspection and self examination required to maintain a truly free society. The We the People Stimulus Package video has been one of those moments.
Bob Basso's plan for the Great American Tea Party, where we the people are supposed to mail bags of tea to their “unrepresentative Representatives” has some merit. My purpose here is to challenge our thinking as to what a free nation really looks like, and what should and can be done to move in that direction.
I believe the message Bob hopes to send would be better exemplified if the people first were to make a cup of hot tea, thoroughly squeeze out the bag, hang it out to dry, and then send that used up, dried out, shriveled bag of useless tea to their “unrepresentative Representatives” to accurately express the true feelings of many Americans today.
Bob's emotional portrayal of Thomas Paine gives the audience a charged performance filled with patriotism, but when he suggests a course of action that is both far from - and in opposition to - the thinking of Mr. Paine, I feel compelled to sound an alarm.
While there are several points made which I would love to counter or discuss with you and Bob, the most disturbing is his call to “Bring Back Universal Service”, which he described as 2 years of military service or 2 years in community involvement for everyone.
While I am absolutely in favor of every man and women offering their service to their community and nation, I am not sure that mandatory service is found anywhere on the road map to liberty. It would seem to be in direct opposition to the spirit of liberty referenced in Thomas Paine's Common Sense.
Paine, the pamphleteer of freedom and liberty, published Common Sense in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, on February 14, 1776. He quotes the Bible extensively, including Samuel, Proverbs, and Gideon.
Gideon was able to raise a massive all-volunteer army to defend the nation. The volunteers were so numerous he sent the vast majority of them back home. Even after the victory Gideon continued to say “I will not rule over you, neither shall my son rule over you: the LORD shall rule over you.”
History and the Bible have both defined the ability of government to force people to labor for its interest as bondage and slavery. Mr. Paine would not want to “be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away.” “Society in every state is a blessing, but a government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
For the first four hundred years, ancient Israel provided all government and military service at the personal discretion of the heads of individual families, and maintained free courts where the people decided both the fact and the application of the law. In such a system the people are the fountainhead of justice within society. But then the people did something really stupid which changed the nature of their government, altered the character of their society, and eventually, the people themselves.
Throughout our long history, many nations were able to function without kings, presidents, prime ministers, any lawmakers who had the authority to conscript the people into public service. “...[O]ur modern reliance on government to make law and establish order is not the historical norm.”
Freedom of the people is dependent, not upon collective rights and privileges granted by governments, but upon the common exercise of virtue diligently practiced by the people. The virtue of a free nation can only remain viable if the people exercise them daily. “Is there no virtue among us? If there be not, we are in a wretched situation. No theoretical checks, no form of government can render us secure.” “All who have ever written on government are unanimous, that among people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist.”
The growth of virtue in society requires free choice in the hands of the individual.
While some ministers of the church hesitated, Paine quoted the detailed prophetic warnings found in 1 Samuel chapter 8. Samuel had been approached by the people and asked to help elect a leader who could exercise authority over everyone. Samuel eventually hearkened to the “voice of the people” but only after explaining what would result from this evil error by the people.
The election of Saul by the people to be a combination commander in chief and chief executive officer over their nation was considered a “rejection” of God by Samuel, Thomas Paine, and God Himself, but Samuel was told to “…hearken unto their voice… yet protest solemnly…” in hopes of awakening the people to their foolish folly - and the curse to follow.
When I hear a call for “Universal Service” or the suggestion that governments should have the power to conscript the services of the we the people I must repeat the warnings of Samuel, as every one claiming to be a servant or minister of God should do:
“ He will take your sons, and appoint them for himself, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and some shall run before his chariots... he will appoint him captains over thousands, and captains over fifties; and … make his instruments of war... he will take your daughters… he will take your fields… even the best of them, and give them to his servants… he will take… and give to his officers, and to his servants... he will take… your goodliest young men… put them to his work... He will take ... and ye shall be his servants. And ye shall cry out… and the LORD will not hear you in that day... Nevertheless the people refused to obey… Samuel said unto the men of Israel, Go ye every man unto his city.” 1 Samuel 8:8-22
These warnings should have remained on the lips of every Christian Minister, Jewish Rabbi, or Muslim Mullah throughout the world. To be concerned about the status of man as free souls under God has been a central theme of the prophets of God from Abraham to Jesus Christ. While we will not attempt to answer the question, “Are men the property of the state? Or are they free souls under God?” in this article, it should remain a fundamental consideration of men and their ministers. The root of what Jesus calls the weightier matters of justice and mercy is often concluded in the relationship of man and God and man and state. The ministers who do not attend to those issues Christ called hypocrites.
To covet the power to be able to demand “Universal Service” of our neighbor in the name of liberty will make merchandise of us all. This is because “Freedom is the Right to Choose, the Right to create for oneself the alternatives of Choice. Without the possibility of Choice, and the exercise of Choice, a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing.”
In the video We the People Stimulus Package, we see the quote “Ask not what your country can do for you...” under the title “Bring Back Universal Service.” But the full quote reads “And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you -- ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: Ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” Kennedy also stated in that same address, “The world is different now... And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forefathers fought are still at issue around the globe — the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.”
Adams wrote in 1765 that, “Liberty must at all hazards be supported. We have a right to it, derived from our Maker.” While Jefferson was adamant in 1774 as to the truth that “A free people [claim] their rights as derived from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their chief magistrate.” Also Franklin, to say nothing of the Declaration of Independence, ratified the source of our liberty and right to choose, writing: “Freedom is not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature.” Is it any wonder that Ron Paul said “Our country's founders cherished liberty, not democracy”?
These were not new ideas, but moral precepts never learned by too many “leaders,” whether they are found in politics or pulpits. Rights come from God, not from governments, nor democracies. Leaders of men should be preaching a purity of spirit and blazing a path of action that maintains those endowed rights and the virtue that sustains them. Bringing back “Universal Service” without allowing the individual the free choice of how, when, where and whom they choose to serve, is not in the spirit of liberty. It is its adversary.
Paine asks “But where, says some, is the king of America? I'll tell you Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind...”
We do not need universal service, we need universal choice. We cannot be free, we will not be free, until we are willing to set our neighbor free from our own democratic despotisms and other dilemmas of our day. If the people really loved freedom under God, and the ministers of Churches were tending to the weightier matters, and others Christ spoke of, and the early Church tended to, then the world would be on a different path today. It is time we turned around and went the other way.
The idea that the majority has the right to decide what, when, and how their neighbor shall serve the community is a tree of tyranny from which a free people should not eat. To force our neighbor or their sons and daughters to labor or serve without the freedom of choice poisons the tea of liberty we should not drink. But if we will come together, governing our own passions and avarice, respecting every man's right to choose, then I would gladly serve at that tea party.
4“Which is better - to be ruled by one tyrant three thousand miles away or by three thousand tyrants one mile away?” Clergyman Byles Mather, nephew of Cotton Mather. Formerly a minister of Hollis St. Congregational Church, 1776.
11Cecil B. DeMille in the 1956 movie, The Ten Commandments:
12Matthew 23:23 “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier [matters] of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.”
13“But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.” 2 Peter 2:1-3
14Archibald MacLeish was an American poet, writer and the Librarian of Congress. (1892 – 1982).
15John F. Kennedy, Inaugural address, January 20, 1961.
16John Adams, A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law, 1765. From The Revolutionary Writings of John Adams, Thompson, ed. 28.
17Thomas Jefferson , Rights of British America, 1774.