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Posts Tagged ‘Declaration of Independence’

Freedom and Equality

“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.”

This is likely the most familiar and oft-quoted statement from the Declaration of Independence.  From this statement, we connect freedom with equality.

If every person is created equal and has inalienable rights, they must also have certain freedoms to exercise those rights.  This profound statement initially separated us from the English monarchy, but over time, it accomplished much more.  It’s the basis for ending slavery and granting women equal suffrage and property rights.  Granted it took a long time for some of these concepts to take root in our culture and society, but it has happened.

Our social and political systems have evolved in a positive manner.  However, I believe there is cultural shift occurring which deviates from what was initially envisioned in the Declaration of Independence.  We seem to be embracing the idea that freedom and equality are determined by the outcome.  The goal has become achieving an equal result, rather than an equal opportunity.  I believe the intent of the Founding Fathers and the strength of our country has been the equality of opportunity, not the guarantee of a specific outcome.

Although there can be difficult obstacles and challenges to surmount, anyone can succeed in America.  You don’t have to be of a particular gender, race, religion or social class.  There aren’t any barriers that categorically deny you advancement, which is not the case in many other countries of the world.

Lately, it appears the equality of opportunity is being undermined.  We seem to be slowly moving away from a free-market capitalistic society and drifting towards a socialistic ideal of uniformity.  We are embracing some nebulous idea of fairness, rather than freedom and equality.  We often think it unfair if someone has more fame or fortune than us, and in order for us to be equal, we must all enjoy a similar lifestyle.

I believe we are all created equal by our Creator, but if you study the Scriptures, it is clear the Creator doesn’t define equality as equal results.  He defines it by equal value and worth.  The mere fact that we all have different gifts and talents precludes us from being able to achieve an identical result.

Furthermore, the role of government and society is to create and fair and equal rules, not guarantee a specific result.  History has proven it’s impossible to guarantee equal results for everyone. Such attempts have only created a different class of “haves” and “have-nots”.   These countries usually have a large majority who suffer while those who chart the course to equality benefit greatly.

America has a unique connection with freedom and equality.  As we celebrate our Independence via the signing of the Declaration of Independence, be thankful for the opportunity we have to be free.   Our freedoms were designed by the Creator, who assures equal value and worth to each person, not a guaranteed end result.

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Sacrifice for a Cause

In honor of the upcoming celebration of the signing the Declaration of Independence, I thought it would be appropriate to honor some of the Founding Fathers by considering the significance of their signature on this historic document.

The part of the Declaration that most of us are familiar with is the first sentence of the Preamble, which states “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.”  What we may be less familiar with is the last sentence which declares, “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”

By the time the Declaration was signed, the Revolutionary War had already started.  The Boston Tea Party and Battles of Lexington and Concord had already occurred.  It’s estimated that 200 copies of the Declaration were printed for publication and public reading.  The message of the Declaration resonated with the colonists and inspired many to join the Revolution against the English crown. 

Who were the 56 men who signed the Declaration?  Twenty-four were lawyers, jurists or studied law; eleven were merchants; ten were farmers and large plantation owners, four were physicians, four were politicians, two were clergy and one was a soldier.  They were highly educated and successful, but when they affixed their signature on the Declaration they were putting it all in jeopardy.  Those 56 men publicly rejected English Parliamentary rule over the colonies and renounced their allegiance to King George III.  Although the colonies were technically already at war, signing the Declaration could have been considered an act of treason punishable by hanging. 

Along with others who supported the fight for independence, many of the signers suffered greatly from the war.  Some had their homes ransacked or burned, witnessed the destruction of their business and lost loved ones in battle.  Their losses were not all directly attributable to their signing the Declaration; some were just the casualties of war.  However, these men had a lot to lose from declaring their independence from England.

Why would men who possessed influence, power and money, take such a risk?  They were willing to sacrifice their lives, fortunes and sacred honor for a cause they believed in – Freedom!  In some respects, I think that they were fighting for the freedom of other people more than for themselves.

These were men of means and influence.  Although they may not have liked all of the laws and taxes being imposed upon them by England, their lives were still very comfortable.  By remaining loyal to the crown, most of them would have retained their influence and enjoyed a great life.  However, they believed the cause was worth the potential sacrifice of everything they had.

Fortunately, most of us will never have to make the choice that those 56 men faced.  Their sacrifice and that of the thousands of other men and women throughout the ages who have fought and defended our freedom, means we don’t have to make that choice.  For that… I am very thankful.

We honor these heroes with an annual holiday, but I think there is more.   Beyond the traditional barbecues, parades and fireworks, we can also honor these men and women by having a cause that we are willing to sacrifice for as well.

We can’t personally thank or repay the Founding Fathers, yet we live every day with the benefits of their sacrifice.  Are you willing to sacrifice for someone who has no viable means to thank or repay you?

What’s the sacrifice?  That’s up to you to determine, but I would start with your two most valuable things… your time and money.  I think you’ll know a sacrifice when you feel it, but if it’s easy, convenient, and doesn’t change your life forever, it’s probably not a sacrifice.

There many great causes and needs that tug at my heart, but there are a couple which top the list.  Curious what they are?  I have a passion for the thousands of children in America who are bouncing around our foster care system with no likelihood of a permanent family to call home; I want to see the scourge of human trafficking, most of which involves children, eradicated from this world (yes… the US is included); and I want to help build water wells in countries where clean drinking water is a luxury. 

That’s me.  So what about you?

Have fun celebrating the Fourth of July weekend.  You may also give some time to honor the sacrifice of our Founding Fathers and to think about the cause to which you are willing to pledge your life, fortune and sacred honor.