A year ago I posted the complete text of the Declaration of Independence on my blog. It seemed fitting, and I thought to simply post in once again this year. Then I read an opinion piece on a website… Ms. Baim decided to put a new spin on an excerpt of the Declaration and wrote this:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people, regardless of race, gender, religion, immigration or economic status, sexual orientation or gender identity, are created equal, that they are endowed by their government with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. This liberty and happiness shall extend to all laws that give rights and responsibilities to adult people in a committed relationship.”
The writer has her own agenda of course, but that’s not what concerns me the most with her post. The most puzzling thing to me is: how rights could possibly be unalienable if they are granted by a government?
Since the term “unalienable” is not often used today, let’s first define it. I’m using Webster’s 1828 dictionary for these definitions in order to more accurately reflect what the accepted meaning would have been in 1776.
“unalienable: UNA’LIENABLE, a. Not alienable; that cannot be alienated; that may not be transferred; as unalienable rights.”
To clarify, let’s take a look at the meaning of alienable.
“alienable: A’LIENABLE, a. That may be sold, or transferred to another; as, land is alienable according to the laws of the State.”
If a right is unalienable, then it is an inherent right. No man may change it. If that is the case, then unalienable rights cannot be granted by man. If certain rights were given to us by the government, then the government could, at any time, take those same rights away. Rights granted by a government would not be unalienable! Where does that leave us? Where do rights come from? For the answer, let’s first look to the actual text of the 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.”
“…their Creator…” That says it all doesn’t it? The only One with authority to grant such rights is God. Genesis 2:7 tells us, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” It makes sense that the only One with sovereignty over our life, is the only One who may grant us the right to life. No government can grant the right to life, because no government is the creator of life. Only God, as our Creator, can grant us certain inherent rights. He is the highest Authority, thus, mere governments of men may not in any way infringe upon rights granted by Him. To do so is a grave sin.
What then is the purpose of government? If a government may not grant us unalienable rights, then what may it do? Let’s look again to the scriptures for the answer to that.
Romans 13:1 states, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.” Every one of us is subject to a higher authority. God is that higher power! Even governments are subject to Him. Any authority that a government has is granted by God. They are to act on His behalf under His authority. What are they to do on His behalf though? Romans 13:4 answers that question, “For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” The real purpose for government is quite simple. They are to punish the evildoer who would violate God’s laws.
That is why American law was based firmly upon the ten commandments. That is also why the next line in the Declaration of Independence reads, “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…” We’ve established that rights given to us by God may not be infringed upon by men. This is why governments are to secure, or safeguard, those rights. They act under God’s authority in this. When governments themselves become agents of evil and begin to infringe upon God-given rights then they are acting contrary to the purpose for them established by God Himself. At that point they act outside of His authority.
So, what would lead Ms. Baim to make such a gross error in her writing by asserting that we our endowed by our government with unalieanable rights when it is apparent that they cannot grant us such rights? The answer is found in the title of her post, “A Declaration of Gay Independence”. She seeks to assert that a behavior which God has told us is sinful is actually an unalienable right. This is impossible, as God is the only one with the authority to grant such rights. When He has established laws against a thing, then it is certainly not a right. In fact, for a government to insist that sin is a right is outside the scope of their authority. Worse, they are acting contrary to God’s law and are a party to sin. This is the reason why Ms. Baim left out the phrase “endowed by their Creator” and replaced it with “endowed by their government”. God has granted us certain rights, but not the right to sin!
Perhaps our most fundamental right is our right to life. We’ve already established that God alone is sovereign over life, and that that right comes from Him. Capital punishment is just when the government is acting under God’s authority to punish a crime that He has declared carries the death penalty. While we are seeing less and less of this legitimate exercise of authority, we see more of the abuse of it. Namely, the practice of abortion and the attempt by the government, both legislative and judicial, to “legalize” abortion. The murder of a child before birth is not the act of punishing a crime according to God’s law. It’s simply an act of murder.
Once again, sin is cloaked under a perceived “right”. I Peter 2:16 cautions us against that, “As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.” Tragically, this has become common practice in America today. We hide our sin among talk of “rights” and “liberty”. We insist that it’s only fair that we be allowed to continue in our iniquity. And rather than punishing the evildoers as commanded by God, our government passes so-called “laws” to cloak our sins in the appearance of right. Thomas Jefferson, credited as the primary author of the Declaration of Independence once wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.” What kind of judgment will God visit upon us for this?
America began 235 years ago with the phrase, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” They lived under a government that had become a Godless tyranny. It was a government that, rather than acting in accordance with God’s law, sought to suppress the God-given, unalienable rights of the people. The government had ceased to be a “minister of God” as directed in Romans. It had become the evildoer that it was established to punish.
It was a weighty decision that those 56 men made nearly two and a half centuries ago when they put pen to paper and signed their names. They cited in that very document that such action should not be taken for “light and transient causes”. Some argue that they should have simply continued under the tyranny of the British government. They argue that it was wrong for them to declare independence rather than submitting to the government as commanded in Romans 13:1. But even governments are subject to God. If God uses government to punish evil men, then could He not also use men to abolish an evil government? Did He not do such many times as recorded in the Old Testament?
I’ll close with one final verse for us to reflect upon today.
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” – Galatians 5:1