I had often wondered, when I read the Declaration of Independence, how to interpret the language. The vernacular is a couple hundred years old and can prove challenging. Even in the 1st and 2nd Amendments to the Constitution, the wording has been argued, interpreted and reinterpreted many times over the past decades. So, I sought to understand exactly what Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Religion and the right to keep and bear arms really meant.
In a previous article, I reviewed the 2nd paragraph of the Declaration of Independence wherein our inalienable rights are referenced. It had occurred to me that, regardless of vernacular, the Founding Fathers had at least one ideology upon which they agreed: that we are equally created beings. It followed then that they agreed on the fact that a Sovereign Creator had done the work and our design wasn’t simply left to the whims of Mother Nature, rather to Nature’s Creator.
Even Benjamin Franklin, a notorious womanizer and alleged Atheist, was well aware of, and respected, the believer’s need for God (though he did not see the purpose). I may even argue that, given Mr. Franklin’s analysis of God’s characteristics, he had an Agnostic-leaning view. Regardless, Benjamin Franklin agreed with the Declaration of Independence at least on the principles of its existence and certainly with the indictments laid against King George III.
What became obvious to me as I studied the Declaration of Independence, U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights is that if any one of the documents were taken away, the others would lose a great deal of substance.
All three documents were and are necessary to: 1) give hope and purpose, 2) give structure to our nation and form of governance, and 3) ensure life and liberty would be safely guarded within these borders. But, I was still seeking the answer to, “what are our inalienable rights?” Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is simply too vague and I had yet to understand the purpose having rights in the first place.
I began to reconcile the Founding Documents with biblical principal. This was not an easy task either since I was looking for more than surface value. What is found in the Declaration of Independence and Bill of Rights is not taken verbatim from the Bible. Nowhere in the Bible are we told, “You are granted these rights…”
It is a foregone conclusion that God would not have endowed different rights to certain individuals. I believe it would not be in His nature to create mankind with varying degrees of inequality. Since mankind is made in His image, I concluded there must be an inherent, created equality. The goal of my journey then was twofold:
- Enumerate a list of Natural Rights
- Discover the framework of equality
Back in January, 2015, I attended a Tea Party meeting. The agenda that night was a teaching on the Founding Documents with topics covering Separation of Church and State, Freedom of Religion, etc. Specifically, I recall the speaker mention that we could use the Ten Commandments to derive a list of rights. That made sense to some extent but left me with more questions than answers. And if I simply use “Thou shalt not steal” to derive the right to own property, then it becomes too easy for Atheists to call foul.
That said, and by now, the Ten Commandments are all but etched into my psyche. While all of the Commandments don’t directly equate to specific rights, they do provide clues. I went through a series of prayer, reading and research with each of the commandments. Whenever I had questions, the answers were scarce. It was almost as if I had questions that had never been asked, or those who answered tried to fake it. This mission was far too important to me to accept just any answer. Consequently, I often had only one source I could trust. Every time I sought God’s answer He would lead me onto another path of learning and discovery. Through every step, new knowledge built on top of previous knowledge.
In March, 2016, everything seemed to come together. All of the study, all of the research, it all came into focus. I had begun this journey knowing very little about rights, incapable of a definition or explaining what truly makes us equal, to understanding exactly what these Natural Rights are, why we have them and how we are equal. I remember asking in prayer, “What are our rights?” As usual, I was answered with a question, “Why do you have rights?” It was almost as if to say, “You need to know this first.”
So I asked. But before I could even finish uttering the words the answer was given, this time, straightforward and emphatic: “to protect and preserve life.” That’s it? So simple yet profound: We have been equally empowered by God with Natural Rights for the primary function of protecting and preserving life.
As it slowly sunk in, I saw the element of restraint God placed on Himself not to interfere with free will. In all honesty, I began to marvel at the elegance of simplicity as well as the ability to navigate very complex scenarios. There are 7 Natural Rights endowed to us. Within these rights we find the framework of equality and we find Life, Liberty and the ability to pursue Happiness. The Natural Rights empower every individual equally with the right to:
- Pursue the worship of God.
- A life unharmed by another.
- A livelihood.
- Own property.
- Convey thoughts, beliefs, ideals and motivations.
- Know truth.
- Choose not to assert any of the above.
After writing the Natural Rights down, it occurred to me that this list is agnostic to those differences that cannot be chosen at birth. This list works for everyone regardless of family, nationality, wealth or status. Instinctively, the biggest hurdle for non-Christians is the first, the right to pursue the worship of God. However, the Natural Rights insist that individuals who choose not to pursue the worship of God can do so without affecting any of the other rights or altering the inherent equality afforded by the framework.
The all important right is the last one. Essentially it is the Right of Free Will. If you choose to assert the 7th to choose not to pursue the worship of God, you are not outside this framework of equality. It is only when individuals take it upon themselves to lay claim to a ‘right’ where none exists that inequality begins creeping in. Equality insists that an equal and identical set of Natural Rights exist for all people.
Because we have been empowered by the Natural Rights to protect and preserve life, it then becomes our duty to do so. And, through the power of the 2nd Amendment, we have equal footing against tyrants, both foreign and domestic, to defend these Rights equally, righteously and justly, for all individuals regardless of religious affiliation. Only one so-called religion exists that, nearly point-for-point, denies the Natural Rights. Because of its doctrine, Islam is at complete odds with the Natural Rights. Fundamentally, this explains why Islamic doctrine is completely incompatible with the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.