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External freedom requires internal constraints

December 17, 2012

We have extraordinary freedoms in the United States, and we will not have them taken away by others. With all this freedom, however, comes risks. What assurance do you have that I will not harm you for my own gain, and vice versa? There can be no absolute guarantees, but we should be able to have some confidence in each other.

For this to work, there must be shared, internalized standards of right and wrong. Furthermore, these standards must be transcendent, not open to change and manipulation by people in power. What happens if such standards are gone?

Read what John Adams said in his letter “To The Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts”:

While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

If people do not have internalized, transcendent moral standards, they have to have external constraints. Not to be insulting to the adult readers of this note, think about how things work in a classroom at a school. If the children can be trusted to behave properly, they can be given more freedoms. If they cannot be so trusted, the teacher has to control them more closely. Are adults any different? If we “misbehave”, we will have our freedoms taken away.

I don’t pretend to be a prophet, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that should our nation continue on its course of the rejection of God and the morality stemming from His nature and will, such that higher moral standards are not recognized and internalized, we will have no other choice than to abandon our freedoms to people in power. And if those people don’t observe such higher standards, what will they require of us?

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