Advisory: Regardless of contemporary belief in the secular humanist notion of separation of Church and State (Everson vs Board of Education ~1947) as well as a separation between economics and the State (Ayn Rand's idea from her book Atlas Shrugged and a Libertarian belief), the Forefathers designed the United States 100% from the Judeo-Christian Bible. They promoted the Judeo-Christian ethic. This prose discusses the Original Intent and the Forefathers' reasoning that deeply draws on the timeless principles and structures of the Judeo-Christian worldview as sourced from the Bible. This is not an attempt at proselytization, evangelization, or apostilization. This is an academic discussion. Please do not kill the messenger. Nonetheless, should you be moved spiritually, then pursue your inspiration.
Also, this topic is very extensive. I cannot touch on all the detail in one blog posting. Thus, this will point in the general direction. There may be some repetition and surface grazing on some of the detail.
JT Bogden - Freedom is a common theme in music and movies. Janice Joplin, not a philosopher by any stretch of the imagination, sang in her song Me and Bobby McGee, "Freedom is just another word for nothin' left to lose." Captain Kirk uttered in the Star Trek TOS episode The Omega Glory that freedom and liberty are more than mere words or statements. The US Declaration of Independence even declares:
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, and that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. -- That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .
John Quincy Adams said, “The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity” (Federer, 1996, p 18 ),
Christianity's core principles are natural rights written into the founding documents. Many of these natural rights from Nature's God, the creator, are major Biblical themes of liberty and freedom. Running through the 66 books are commandments and demands for freedom, such as when Moses told the Pharaoh, "Let my people go!"; Exo 5:1. The American Forefathers built the US society, freedoms, and liberties based on Biblical underpinnings. This is why so many national buildings have Biblical verses about freedom and liberty set in stone.
Understanding Liberty and Freedom's Relationship
In general, liberty is to be free of tyranny over one's way of life, views, and behaviors. Meanwhile, freedom is the Right to act, think, and speak as one's conscience permits. Thus, liberty is opposed to oppression and bondage. In comparison, freedom is opposed to censorship and control. The forefathers saw the concepts of liberty and freedom in more specific detail.
The pursuit of liberty was drawn from the Judeo-Christian Bible by the forefathers who advanced individual freedom and viewed slavery as a form of tyranny. In the Biblical law, "Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death", Exo 21:16 NIV. Another perspective on freedom is that Jesus Christ died on the cross and fulfilled the law for the rebellion of each individual. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm and not let yourselves be burdened again by the yoke of slavery [to the mosaic law]"; Galatians 5:1 NIV. Thus, freeing each man from the yoke of the law and to conduct himself by not only the Ten Commandments but all the commandments. "Now the Lord is the spirit, and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom", 2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV. This again presents the notion that each man should conduct himself by the commandments and live by principles, not the law.
“We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of Government, but upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments” - James Madison (Federaer, 1996, p 411).
Mosaic Law or Biblical Law
Biblical law is organized in the books: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Joshua, Deuteronomy, Ruth, and Judges. Early human law began with Hammurabi’s Code circa 1750 BC from Exodus 21:24; “Eye for Eye, Tooth for Tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”. This law was a collection that consisted of 44 columns of cuneiform writings having 282 laws. However, this human law did not deal with theological principles of spiritual equality as penalties varied based on social class, and immense value was placed on material effects. Circa 1325 BC, Moses architected the judicial system centering on the rule of law and the Ten Commandments, which are rights given by God and irrevocable by humans. The commandments begin in Exodus 20, having the first four commandments as God's rights while the last six protect the society from the individual. The Ten Commandments, also known as the Decalogue, are written with a negative connotation. When the Commandments are viewed in terms of community rights, a modern language equivalent, and written in a positive context as completed by theological scholars during the early 1900s, the Ten Commandments become the World’s first Bill of Rights, setting forth principles with duties and responsibilities. Here are the pertinent commandments.
God’s Right to proper representation by his people. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain; Exodus 20:7 (This is not referring to vulgar language. Instead, ‘taking the Lord’s name in vain’ biblically means not doing what you are commanded or supposed to do.) There is a duty to do as God directs and a responsibility to seek accurate Biblical discernment.
God’s Right to his people’s time. For in six days, the LORD made heaven and the Earth, the sea, and all that are in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore, the LORD blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it.; Exodus 20:11 A household Right to human treatment; Deut 5:8-10. There is a duty to perform to cultivate God's creation and a responsibility to rest taking the sabbath.
A parent's Right to Respect. Honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land the LORD your God gives you; Exodus 20:12. There is a duty to respect the family hierarchy and a responsibility to uphold the Biblical construct of the family.
The Right to Life. Thou shall not kill; Exodus 20:13. There is a duty not to kill and a responsibility to uphold the sanctity of life.
The Right to secure marriage. You shall not commit adultery; Exodus 20:14. There is a duty to perform as a noble spouse and a responsibility to uphold the sanctity of marriage and family.
The Right to Property. Thou Shall Not Steal; Exodus 20:15. There is a duty not to take what is not rightfully assigned and a responsibility to uphold other people's Right to property.
The Right to fair treatment. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor; Exodus 20:16. There is a duty to be truthful in all testimony, albeit gossip, civil, or criminal, and a responsibility to uphold honesty.
The Right to secure existence. You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, his manservant, his maidservant, his ox, his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's; Exodus 20:17. There is a duty to respect other people's Right to exist and a responsibility to uphold the underpinnings of society; marriage, family, just rewards, tools of the trade, etc...
Christians consider the Commandments divinely inspired, meaning no human has the authority to change, deny, or constrain natural rights. Originating from God and spiritually inspired in men, these Commandments are natural rights that give levity to the image of God (Genesis 1:27) within man. They generally express the man's rights to security in life, property, treatment, and home.
The United States Bill of Rights
The American Forefathers felt these commandments were self-evident as nature's law. George Mason felt these commandments needed to be codified into a United States Bill of Rights. The Forefathers wrote the Bill of Rights in terms that thwart tyranny and guarantee natural rights protecting individuals from the government.
Amendment 1 states that Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the Right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
In lay terms, this is Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition. This is not a call for separation of church and state. This upholds God's Right to his people's time and proper representation by his people in the public sphere. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville argues that values infuse into government by the seat a person holds. Thus, the church infuses Christian values into government when a Christian is elected to public office. Likewise, when secular humanists or Muslims hold governmental seats, the values of those worldviews are infused into government.
Amendment II states a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the Right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.
Right to keep and bear arms to maintain a well-regulated militia. This stems from the Right to Life, which is also the Right to self-defense and includes the Right to exist.
Amendment III states no soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the owner's consent, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
No quartering of soldiers. This is the Right to a secure home, existence, and property.
Amendment IV states the Right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the persons or things to be seized.
Freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. This is the Right to be secure in your person and the Right to fair treatment.
Amendment V states No person shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
Right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, and double jeopardy. The Right to fair treatment and the Right to exist.
Amendment VI states in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the Right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.
Rights of accused persons, e.g., Right to a speedy and public trial. The Right to fair treatment.
Amendment VII states In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the Right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Right of trial by jury in civil cases. This is the Right to fair treatment.
Amendment IIX states that excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Freedom from excessive bail, cruel, or unusual punishments. This is the Right to fair treatment.
Amendment IX states the enumeration in the Constitution of certain Rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
Other rights of the people. This is the Right to exist and self-determination. ,
Amendment X states the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states, respectively, or to the people.
Powers reserved to the states, the Rights of the people. These rights are for individuals.
Confusion with Collectivism
At times, the appearance of collectivism comes through with statements like 'We the People' or 'Rights of the People.' Collectivism and the American founding on individualism are diametrically opposite constructs. Collectivism empowers the state or nation above the people. The common collectivist axiom is what is good for the many is not necessarily good for the one. The United States is supposed to be a weak government with limited power to protect the individual's natural Rights. The government does this by providing a common defense and strong economy for individuals to flourish and pursue their natural path in life. The forefather saw this as occurring under a Judeo-Christian ethic involving a cycle of Charity Love, stewardship, and work.
Liberty and freedom are not some notion of hedonism or a cute theme for music and movies. Liberty and freedom are real and felt at an individual level. People have fought and died for liberty and freedom. The song Battle Hymn of the Republic has lyrics 'Let us live to set men free.' Defending other people from tyranny sometimes requires belligerent action on the part of the Government. Citizens submit to the Government and are often called to arms. The goal is never to die for the cause but instead to live for the cause.
Federer, W.J. (1996) America's God and Country, Fame Publishing, ISBN: 1-880563-05-3
Tocqueville, A. (1835) Democracy in America.