This is the first part in a series of articles where I take you, the reader, with me to reflect on a journey of discovery. I believe it will be just as enlightening for you as it was for me. This adventure became very personal as I dealt with opposition from neighbors, friends and family alike. But I also gained new friends in the process that believed the same as me, thus confirming as truth the foundation that was being laid. The resounding result is this: the truth I now hold is self-evident; that no Civil Right, Liberty or label ever supersedes my Natural Rights.
“What are Natural Rights?”
Natural rights are those rights endowed by our Sovereign Creator. ‘Natural’ meaning that these rights, unmodified, represent the natural equality we are born into – unaffected, unmodified by wealth, status or power – and agnostic of physiological differences which cannot be chosen at birth: gender, skin color or disability.
For all intents and purposes, I use the term Natural Rights synonymously with inalienable, or unalienable, rights. So, without further ado, let’s start with our Declaration of Independence…
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
As Americans we have heard these words on numerous occasions. If one were to ask, “what are your rights?” the answer may often be some form of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Some may answer, “the right to vote, to protest, to keep and bear arms.” But when we ask about rights, there are two contexts from which we can draw answers. But there is only one context from which the Declaration of Independence draws from to conclude that we are endowed with rights by our Creator.
Enumerating such things as voting and protest are civil in nature and are not part of the context. No, the Declaration of Independence is referring to our Natural Rights in a divine context. To understand the context, we must find answers to several questions. But if we really want to wrap our heads around the idea of separate contexts and the providence or domain of each – Natural and Civil – then we have to start at the beginning of the statement.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident,”
Truth, in and of itself is not always self evident. It is up to the receiver of information to make the distinction between fact and fiction, truth and deception. What the Founders believed to be self-evident is that truth does exist and, given a foundation in truth, one can find evidence and bring to bear all manner of knowledge and wisdom to reason against falsehoods.
As a matter for consideration, one must understand that the Founders recognized that truth does not change. Albert Einstein once commented on the fact that mathematics enjoys a particular place in the sciences because it is based purely on truth. No other science – biology, astronomy, chemistry, etc. – enjoys such a foundation in truth that math does. The sciences, as we know them, are only as accurate and as good as the knowledge we have today. With some breakthrough tomorrow, everything we know about any given science could change overnight. Mathematics simply does not change.
“that all men are created equal,”
First, I hope that no one is taking offense to the fact that the masculine is used. Given the vernacular of the day (and throughout biblical writings), this was common and did not necessarily refer only to men. The point of the statement is two-fold: 1) all persons are created beings, and 2) all persons are equal. “Okay,” you say, “I know we are equal. What’s your point?”
The point is, given that we are ‘created equal’, there must be some form or framework by which we can measure that equality. This is where it starts to get interesting, though. If I ask, “what is equality?”, most actually have a difficult time explaining in a few words what it means that ‘all persons are created equal’. We can look at a math equation – e.g. 3 + 4 = 2 + 5 – and see that the ‘=’ is there to state a factual balance between the left and right. In effect the equation states a truth: 3 plus 4 was, is and always will be equal to 2 plus 5.
When it comes to people, though, answers get a lot fuzzier. Ideology of gender, skin color, disability, religion and other characteristics are undoubtedly discussed. In reality, we need to be able to discover a framework that is completely agnostic and independent of those features. This ‘equality framework’ must be able to supply all persons with exactly the same tools regardless of physiological differences – those characteristics that a person cannot choose at birth.
“that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,”
This phrase could be broken up even further to drive home certain points. But we have discussed enough to understand that if people are created, then there is a Creator – One who is above all and exists outside of time, space and matter; a Sovereign source of Wisdom and intelligent design. Aside from that, the truly complex part of the phrase is regarding unalienable rights. What does that mean?
Because these ‘certain rights’ are endowed by a Power higher than man, no man has the power to remove, restrict or modify them. We cannot be separated from these rights. No Civil Right, Liberty or label has the power to restrict or override any of our Natural Rights. And because these rights are endowed by a never-changing Creator, the Natural Rights are never changing.
“that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
When I began studying to find out what our Natural Rights actually are, this phrase gave little help. We say, “of course, I have the right to live.” But then what does it mean to have the right of liberty? And exactly how does this mean I have the right to pursue happiness? Seems somewhat open and ambiguous, especially given the context of what many consider to be ‘happiness’ today.
The Founders hit the nail on the head in one regard with the word ‘Life’. This is what being human is all about – having an abundant, free and happy life. While we are challenged at times with financial issues, physical ailments, difficulty finding work or other hurdles, we can still find happiness through the assertion of our Natural Rights, or liberties. But an ‘equality framework’ could not exist just to provide for happiness and it certainly isn’t there so we can compare ourselves to others.
Our Natural Rights exist for two purposes: 1) to provide a framework within which all persons are equally empowered, and 2) to protect and preserve life. When any right is claimed, it must measure up to these two principles. For any equality framework to exist, it must do so in such a way that it is unchangeable regardless of physiological differences.