First we must understand that 99.9 percent of all governments ever created prior to the signing of the United States Constitution did not respect personal liberties. Essentially, the leader or leaders of nations created rules people were forced to follow. Those who did not comply were punished harshly, sometimes with their lives.
The path to a world where personal liberties were respected began with the birth of Jesus.
Father Oscar Lukefahr, in his 1994 book "The Catechism Handbook," explained that Jesus summoned the 12 apostles as the first teachers, and Peter was their head. Peter's successor is the Pope, and the successor of the apostles are the bishops, so their pastoral office comes from Christ. (1, page 40)
He said the job of the Bishops is to teach the truths taught by Christ in the Christian Bible, and they do so with the help of priests, who share the truth with the laity. (1, pages 40-41)
The laity consists of all the members of the Church who are not committed by vows to religious life. They are the key to spreading the truths taught by the Bible. They, in essence, are the "front line of the Church," said Father Lukefahr. "Their role is to bring Christ to the world -- into social, political, and economic realms of human existence." (1, pages 40-41)
As I explained in my previous post, God gave individual people the right to choose. This is proven in Psalm 1, (or see image) which states that God gives us the right to choose either good or bad, with either choice bringing about its inevitable consequences.
The website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops explains Psalm #1. It says that the Bible usually refers to the right path as "the way," which essentially means a way of living or following a moral code. A good example of a moral code is the 10 commandments, although there are many other moral codes.
Essentially, following a moral code leads to good conduct and a direct path to Heaven. Not following a moral code leads to wickedness and a direct path to Hell. (2)
The bottom line here is that God gives individuals the right to choose. In this regard, it is HE who gave us liberty. God gave the people Natural Rights, or inalienable rights, or those rights or liberties that we are born with and that only governments can take away.
With only a few scattered exceptions, most governments throughout the course of history required people to give up their natural rights for the good of the nation or collective. It was exactly this that British citizens were unhappy with, and why they forced King John to sign the Magna Carta on June 15, 1215.
The founding fathers wrote frequently of natural rights, and how they yearned to create a Constitution that would protect them. It was under this premise Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, which states quite clearly:
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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed...He was essentially saying here that God gives people "natural rights" that can only be taken away by governments.
That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.The United States Constitution was further created in an attempt to protect these natural rights. Just to make sure they were not misinterpreted by future generations, many states insisted they be specifically listed in the document before they would sign it. It was this that inspired James Madison to write the first ten amendments, or the Bill of Rights.
So God gives individuals natural rights. Each individual has the right to choose, and God holds them accountable for the consequences of those choices. The founding fathers created the documents necessary to allow individuals the ability to cherish those natural rights.
They also understood that natural rights are unchanging, and so they created a Constitution, and signed it on June 21, 1788, that was meant to protect natural rights for all time. It was meant to be very difficult to change in order to prevent those in power from abusing the powers given to them.
Various founding fathers, even those who were not true Christians, wrote about the importance of Christianity in government. Stephen McDowell, writing for the Providence Foundation, preferred to use Noah Webster's writings as the best example of the founding father's thoughts on Christianity's influence on the evolution of freedom.
The primary reason civil liberty could be developed in America was because the people understood biblical law and lived according to the principles set forth in the law and the gospel. Their internal self-government and Christian character, and their understanding of important biblical concepts such as covenant and rule of law, allowed them to be able to develop external civil liberty and constitutionalism. (3)He referred to an 1829 letter from Noah Webster to James Madison, where Webster said...
...that the christian religion, in its purity, is the basis or rather the source of all genuine freedom in government.. . . I am persuaded that no civil government of a republican form can exist and be durable, in which the principles of that religion have not a controlling influence. (3)(4)Madison, therefore, according to McDowell, believed that...
...in order for America to be free and prosper, the youth and adults of America must be educated in governmental principles of liberty, which could only be found in the christian religion. (3)So it was through the path of Christianity that lead to the United States, the first nation to protect and defend natural rights from governments. Since the signing of the U.S. Constitution, freedom has spread to over 175 nations.
- Lukefahr, Father Oscar, "The Catechism Handbook," 1994, United States
- "Psalms, Chapter 1," United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, http://www.usccb.org/bible/psalms/1:1, accessed on 12/17/14
- McDowell, Stephen, "Noah Webster, God’s Law, and the United States Constitution:The Influence of the Bible on the Development of American Constitutionalism," Providence Foundation, http://providencefoundation.com/?page_id=1948, accessed 12/17/14
- Webster to James Madison, 16 October 1829, Madison Papers, Series 2, Library of Congress. Quoted in Defining Noah Webster, Mind and Morals in the Early Republic, by K. Alan Snyder, New York: University Press of America, 1990, p. 253.