In a speech given in 1964, then-Governor Ronald Reagan said, “If we lose freedom here, there is nowhere to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.” In that same speech, he also stated: “We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind from his long climb from the swamp to the stars; and it’s been said that if we lose that war and in so doing lose this way freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I am the least political of anyone. Hearing the endless rantings on Cable TV, who’s right, who’s wrong, and what rationale, if any they have for holding their position, it makes my head spin and my skin crawl. Yet, we in the United States have come so far from our God-centered foundations that I seriously wonder if George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or the first U.S. Chief Justice John Jay would even recognize the country they founded if they were ever to return.
Reagan had asked if we still know the freedoms that were intended by those founding fathers. I doubt if we do. Freedom to many has become license, the autonomy to do whatever it is I want to do, and if that goes against morality, or virtue, or even reason or common sense, then I have the power to redefine that morality, that virtue, and even reality.
By the cast of a ballot, the Supreme Court of these United States has deemed that marriage is the union of any two people who “love each other,” particularly of the same gender, without the least regard for what marriage, or love or even freedom, really is. This ruling comes with no protection for those with deeply held beliefs about the nature and purpose of marriage. And these redefinitions will not end with this “fiat”.
Will we as a nation be reduced to a totalitarian state, in which not only interactions between teachers and students will be monitored, but also the relationships between parents and their children – within their own homes? Will the state deem, by its own misguided criteria, who is and who is not fit to be a parent? The government already is in a position to put a gag order on preachers of the True Gospel through the possible revocation of the tax-exempt status of churches. Will we someday find ourselves in a place in which to disagree with the state’s mandates – particularly on matters related to marriage – is to find one’s self arrested and subjected to “re-education” programs and “sensitivity training”? Suppose that does not work. Will those same people simply “disappear” from the ranks of society, never to be heard of again?
Did we not fight a war over two hundred years ago against this sort of coercive and intrusive government control? The war that Reagan spoke of could be the ongoing war to defend freedom, and the enemy he mentions could be the “dictatorship of relativism” Pope Benedict had warned us about. It is a battle for the right, especially of people of faith, not only to be heard, but also to engage in public debate, the right to disagree, and to give reasoned arguments against prevailing opinions – and unjust laws when they arise. This is the very freedom we are fighting for: the freedom to disagree, the freedom to express our dismay at the degeneration of the culture, and most of all, the freedom to teach the next generation the values that have sustained us for millennia.
For over two hundred years, the words of the First Amendment of the Constitution has, in theory, preserved the freedom of citizens to exercise religion, to speak as they see fit, to assemble peaceably and the right to petition. Is this decision of the Supreme Court the first nail in the coffin of these freedoms? The Declaration of Independence assures us that there are rights that have been given to us by God, and if God has given these rights – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – then no one else can take them away.
Yet, in our post-modern world, God has been taken out of the picture. Once that happens, something has to fill the void. Once God, who has given us absolute values, who has fashioned us as human beings in a particular way, who has given us our existence – Once God has been removed from consideration, then values are redefined, human dignity is cheapened, and truth becomes relative. Who is to say whose truth is right? Not reasoned argument, not an appeal to a transcendent authority. Only might makes right. Whoever has power and is willing to make their authority felt over their subjects.
This very language of authority figures and subjects smacks of just the situation the Colonists fought a war to overcome, those two hundred years ago. That Constitution, that Declaration of Independence – these documents are not simply words on paper. I’ll go as far as to say they were, in a sense, written in the blood of those who gave their lives to secure the rights and freedoms guaranteed therein.
Dear readers, it is for the preservation of our most precious freedoms: the free exercise of religion and speech – that I offer this plea. As Reagan had warned, are we going to be the ones with the most to lose to do the least to ensure the preservation of freedom? Or will my writing these words, and expressing my beliefs result in my incarceration one day?
The stakes for our future have never been higher. Join with me in prayer. This issue is far from over. It is not a done deal! Let us not consider it thus. Let us continue to strive for the sake of our future, for the future of freedom in this country.
For an excellent summary of the situation we as faithful Catholics are in and how we can respond, please read Archbishop Alexander Sample’s response, “Simply Wrong”.