This is the speech I gave at two events during the week America celebrated its 244th birthday on July 4. I’ve been encouraged to share it with my newsletter subscribers.
“Tonight, I will begin my remarks with these words of Jesus from the Gospel of Matthew 22:37-40. To a question about which was the greatest commandment in the Law, “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets hang on these commandments.”
I begin with these fundamental commands of God, our Creator, because our founding fathers drew on the Judeo-Christian principles found in God’s Word on which to base our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution. The words that “all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” are words that recognize that we are created by a higher being, and that that higher being, or God, conferred on us all these basic human rights on which our great nation was founded.
The concept that “all men are created equal” is a grand concept of course. I hope that you recognize how revolutionary this concept was. For all of history, with few exceptions, human societies had been structured as hierarchies, with kings at the top of the political, cultural and social pyramid, ruling over nobles, and then over the commoners. People were born with a certain status that identified them with one of those levels for life. And the people at the top of the pyramid had all the power. The power to tax, the power to enforce, the power to keep the masses in control, the power of the sword.
With the Declaration of Independence, this political and social structure was totally cast aside, and taking its place was a new structure, a structure identified by those three triumphant words that began the 1787 Constitution. These three words are “We the people” ……. people that are not defined by their status at birth, but people that were capable of governing themselves and people that could make of themselves whatever their talents and opportunities allowed. We call that Liberty!
So, we have two dynamics here. We have the dynamic of Power and we have the dynamic of Liberty. But those two dynamics are antagonistic to each other, they oppose each other. When you tell people they are free to do as they wish, to exercise liberty, how do you deal with conflict? How do you settle differences? How does liberty not evolve into anarchy? From where does the power come to manage Liberty?
The answer is this: The power to manage liberty comes from the rule of law. Not the rule of a king or a noble, not the rule of a tyrant or a dictator. But the rule of law. Laws that are created by elected representatives, laws that are enforced by an executive, laws that are judged by the courts. Laws that have their basis in God’s Law, or Nature’s Law, if you prefer. The Rule of Law.
Today, as you all know, the rule of law is being tested at many levels. There are those who have seized the opportunity of the COVID-19 crisis to appropriate more power to themselves than they are entitled to. There are those who have seized the opportunity of the senseless act of a rogue policeman to create violence, theft and anarchy. Our very system of government, our rule of law is being tested in extreme ways today. Ironically, some of those same elected mayors and governors who readily used the levers of power to control people because of the pandemic, showed no interest in enforcing the rule of law against those who would steal and destroy the property of others.
And the history of our great nation is under assault. When he was only 28 years old, Abraham Lincoln was already worried about the nation losing its memory of our Revolutionary founders. In an 1838 speech, only 62 years after the Declaration of Independence, Mr. Lincoln issued this warning: “I do not mean to say that the scenes of the Revolution are now or ever will be entirely forgotten; but like everything else, they must fade upon the memory of the world, and grow more and more dim by the lapse of time.” He goes on to say, and I paraphrase, “It is not unreasonable to expect that some…… men of sufficient talent and ambition will be wanting to seize the opportunity, to strike the blow, and overturn that fair fabric which for the last half century has been the fondest hope of the lovers of freedom around the world.”
If Abraham Lincoln voiced that concern 182 years ago, we do well to be very concerned today! In a 2014 report by the National Assessment of Education Progress showed that only 18% of American eighth graders could be considered proficient in U.S. history. That is sad! And, of course, recent events display a total ignorance our history, and they certainly show no appreciation for our history. I think it’s safe to stay that many if us don’t feel very good about our state of affairs today. We are concerned deeply about the future of our country, and rightfully so. So what do we do about it? How do we respond?
Well, I believe in the wisdom of the old proverb that says “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness”. So what candles can we light? I’ll list a few, and I’m sure you can add to the list.
- If you’re a person of prayer, get on your knees to thank God for this wonderful nation of liberty and opportunity, confess our national sins, and ask God for his continued favor and mercy.
- Send a letter of support to your local police and other law enforcement groups, or thank the cop you see on the street.
- Become involved in our political process.It’s another critical election year, support those candidates that respect our Liberty and respect the power of our rule of law, and by all means, vote for them!
- Teach your children and grandchildren about the wonderful heritage and legacy of the United States of American!
- If you’re a teacher, or parents of a student, insist that the school curriculum includes a strong emphasis on U.S. history!
And finally, to end my remarks tonight, I close where I started with these words, this candle, from Matthew 22. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the law and the prophets hang on these commandments.”
This is the basis of the rule of law. I hope and pray you believe in it, that you respect it, and that you teach it to others! Thank you.”