Republicans say Obama really wants a European Socialist Democracy. Democrats deny it.
Whatever you believe about economic systems, there really is a distinct difference of how Americans look at freedom and how Europeans do. Our 5 foreign exchange kids and my son who went to Germany for a year noted this divergence. To a European, freedom is the ability to wear a tee shirt with a hand making an obscene gesture. That is, freedom is the result of tolerance of bad behavior. Someone--Ruler, Courts or People--define how far freedom goes. And with a long history of wars between nations, the Europeans are in strong consensus about the need for tolerance, lest there be more devastation.
But when Americans think of freedom, they think in terms of specific rights and they are very defensive about the general principal-- set in stone, so to speak. If they see someone’s freedom violated merely on TV, they rush to the defense. And in USA you are free to become the person you want to be. As Dinesh D’Souza notes, all the world recognizes this uniquely American difference and people everywhere dream of their own version of it. Their world is arranged marriages, social classes, and doing what your father did as an occupation. But in America, you can become the person you want to be. So how did America come up with this freedom that the whole world longs for?
I trace it to the simple proposition: If you have a relationship with God or a mission in life, who am I to stand in your way? Wouldn’t that possibly put me at odds with God? But where did that come from? There began, in 1740, a huge religious event, the Great Awakening, when George Whitefield went on the road preaching from the Carolinas to New Jersey. He preached Basic Christianity, a message of drawing near to God much like evangelist Billy Graham. Crowds were huge, and newspapers reported his tour widely.
And then a funny thing happened. Each colony had a state church. (Only CT and PA had freedom of religion.) Like Europe in miniature, and each colony distrusted the others who held to a different denomination. Whitefield inadvertantly broke that down. Lutherans in Delaware noticed Catholics in Maryland reacted the same way to his sermons. People dedicated themselves to God and lives were changed. The town drunk stopped drinking. The couple who fought so loudly that all the neighbors could hear, began to come to church and became a loving couple. The sly gambler lent money to the guy he had beaten in a card game. Towns were small, all were under 10,000 people except Charleston, Boston, NY and Philly. Stunning changes in people don’t go unnoticed or unreported in small towns. And when that same thing happened in the rival colony across the border, people began to think, “We’re all alike! The same dynamic works there as here!” For the first time people began to write, not about the 13 colonies of America, but The “United States” of America.
Church attendance tripled in 2 years. An overwhelming agreement was that each person should be free to listen to the message of faith and make of it as they would. Freedom of religion was born, not as tolerance, but as an excited sharing of Purpose in Life that each man felt individually.
All the Founding Fathers and most of the adults during the War of Independence had lived through the Great Awakening and so we see it echoed in the stirring words of the Declaration as “the causes that impel the separation” were laid down. That all men were created equal was utterly Christian—Paul: “neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.” “Endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights” is a very telling phrase. It indicates the Creator was the giver and the Creator was active and involved with humans to work a way in making their rights inalienable. Americans didn’t just tolerate someone else who had a mission in life that was strange to them. They reasoned that to try to stop that person puts you in jeopardy of standing against God Himself, Who is working through your own life. With such personal freedom of your deepest held beliefs on the line, you would stand up and defend your brother’s right to his own Walk even if you disagreed with Him. Add to this the obvious, that the enormous land was full of opportunities and boundless hope for people who had been unlanded peasants in Europe. Freedom was interlaced with Hope, Dreams and Faith in God.
In faith, Americans became free, and in faith, they rebelled against the crown. One of the most egregious edicts of the British homeland was in not letting the settlers form Bible societies to print Bibles or in Mission Societies to share the gospel message with the Indians. Not only were Indians respected in many cases, but it was clearly noted that when they became Christians, they suddenly went from threats to friends. Spreading the gospel was both the Great Commission and invaluable service in defense of the community. But the Crown looked upon the instigators of Bible and Mission societies as dangerous cults—Quakers, Presbyterians, Baptists. They asserted their authority with the usual 18th century despotism. Among the freedom-loving colonials, this was tantamount to an evil empire taking away all they possessed. The Declaration has 22 petitions of grievance and the first 11 are all what we would call abuses of power—not recognizing elections, quartering armies and ruining people, taking property, dissolving legislatures, trials without juries, etc. Only #14 speaks about no taxation without representation (modern secular history texts wrongfully teach only taxation as the cause of rebellion), and the culminating petition makes note of the refusal to allow Missions to the Indians, which grated on the teeth of the colonists.
What the mother country had stolen was Life (literally!), Liberty, and Pursuit of happiness (allowing one to become the person they wanted to be, depriving the Dream). Liberty is a old, musty word to our ears, but in the Bible, God claimed a people to set them free to serve Him. Liberty means freedom to use all earthly resources—family, money, property ownership—to serve a Higher Power in our own walk of faith. Consider how important “Liberty” resonated. As the elders and leaders sat in the Virginia House of Commons debating the risk of demanding certain autonomies from Britain, a young guy way up in the gallery yelled out, “Is security so sweet or peace so dear that we must be bought at the price of chains? I know not what others may do but as for me, give me Liberty or give me Death!” No, they didn’t haul Patrick Henry out of that hall as a kook, a troublemaker, a disrupter of the legislature. One by one the old guys stood up and applauded him for saying what they wanted deep in their hearts despite their caution and distress over actions by their mother country.
Yet 4 years after the Independence, it became clear that you can only govern by specific laws, not a concept. A constitution was written that allowed only certain enumerated powers of the federal government. In 1790, a similar Bill of Rights was written that was specific about what rights composed liberty (more could be added by amendment). Freedom of faith was foremost, then association and the right to petition the government. To bear arms, to not quarter the army, to not have to endure unreasonable search and seizure were next. Warrants, indictment and conviction by jury, due process, no excessive punishments, were addressed. And all other unenumerated rights were to remain with the people to decide.
So while Europeans talk of rights as a euphemism, “Oh, everyone has a right to their health and their groceries,” that is all it amounts to—nebulous persuading talk. But an American, when someone decries one of their rights, rolls up his sleeve and balls his fist. Rights are given by the Creator and guaranteed by our government. Rights are non-negotiable and related to the relationship of you and your Creator. Hence America is an ideal as much as it is a territory and a people.
Not so amazingly, where the rest of the world is less free, they notice American Freedom the most. The Jews looked at the American Bill of Rights and vowed to emigrate. Persecuted forever, here was a surprising country where your rights couldn’t be taken away! D’Souza says the same attitude of admiration for America is held by people worldwide despite the elites and influence makers debasing the USA, motivated by their envy of American power.
Comes now the tough question. Is Obama just a leftist Democrat who wants more socialism in our diet? Or is he an anti-American who believes that USA was born of evil premise, got to its present lofty lifestyle by illicit means, and has no right to claim good fortune? If Obama is the former, he can be dealt with. But if he is the later, as his books suggest, as his relatives suggest, he is a tyrant who wants to bring down the very essence of American freedom. Which?
I pray that America will be alert enough, in love with our liberty enough, to tell the difference.