In the days of our founding, it was presumed that only kings had divine rights. Our fathers instead declared, in light of self-evident truths, that all men are created equal and therefore all men have divine unalienable rights — among them, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Hence, they declared that no government had the authority to infringe on inviolate personal liberties including the freedom of speech, religion, self-defense, private property, etc.. For the first time in history, the people were declared the sovereigns, and the only legitimate purpose of government was to protect these divine rights via the consent of the governed.
One of these revolutionary precepts, the “pursuit of happiness,” is key to understanding the secret of our success and longevity. However, the concept does not translate well in these days of materialism, hedonism, narcissism and, especially, nihilism, and that could prove fatal to the American experiment. Specifically, the meaning of the phrase had to do with the liberty to live with a clear conscience before God.
That begs the question: Whatever happened to the concept and primacy of conscience and can America survive, thrive, and function without it?
To wit, John Adam authored the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which was written before the U.S. Constitution and served as a model for it. It enunciates this principle of happiness in Article 3, “… The happiness of a people and the good order and preservation of civil government essentially depend upon piety, religion, and morality, and as these cannot be generally diffused through a community but by the institution of the public worship of God and of the public instructions in piety, religion, and morality …”.
John Adam also stated: “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 is designed only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for any other.”
To paraphrase De Tocqueville, America was great because America was good, by virtue of religion, morals and common regard for the truth. Such concepts and confidence are peculiarly lost today with respect to our society in general, including by way of various pathologies emanating from the rejection of self-evident truths, endowed rights and traditional values.
Sans an inspired collective conscience, we find ourselves governed by secular humanists who put their trust in situational ethics instead of God. They believe mankind is evolving as society progresses. This is made possible by a government that subsumes our individual independence, freedom, liberty and sovereignty, along with our income, for some ethereal vision of the collective good. All the while, they categorically reject truths and values ensconced in eternity.
America devolved as young people were no longer taught to value our unique history. Moreover, the inculcation of traditional faith and values was also rejected, hence the aforementioned internalized propensities for materialism, hedonism, narcissism, and nihilism filled the vacuum.
In other words, the influence of God has been abandoned for all practical purposes, and as such, our divided society is no longer personally, individually or corporately anchored and united by way of common respect for endowed divine rights, precepts and values. Hence, we have lost our collective conscience, which is foundational to our unity, freedom, and independence.
America is losing its way via this blind subjugation to an ideology that demands its soul by way of nullifying our traditions.
Thomas Jefferson charged Britain for their “long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism.”
Unfortunately, today such despotism is personified, internal, and organic to our body politic, the American psyche and our relatively dead conscience.
Andy Caldwell is the COLAB executive director and host of “The Andy Caldwell Show,” airing 3 to 5 p.m. weekdays on KZSB AM 1290, the News-Press radio station.