in this country is liberty. “…[A]ll men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” That’s where we enshrined it.
And it may be the reason for our defeat.
If, as a culture, the highest value is personal, individual liberty, then the good of the group is less important than the choice of an individual. Liberty is more important than law. (So we are okay with illegal immigrants breaking the law to come here and be free. So we don’t want the government to be able to identify when phone calls are coming into this country from terrorists. So we think it is good for Howard Stern to curse on radio.)
If, as a culture, we value the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of good, then we will never be or have good because we will always be searching for happiness. What is happiness? It is a feeling. Feelings change. They change based on the weather, our diet, the level of vitamins and minerals we’ve been ingesting… We can’t be happy when we’re asleep (though we could be good), so we’re always out chasing the illusive dream and thus we have not only enshrined the pursuit of happiness, but we have made it our life’s goal. That’s an ephemeral and unworthy goal. But it is part and parcel of liberty. We want to be free to do whatever we want when we want and that is our pursuit of happiness. We choose liberty over all else so that we can pursue happiness.
Do we, as a culture, value life? We have made murder illegal, even the murder of a wanted unborn child. But millions of unwanted children have been killed legally. We’ve enshrined, instead of life, the value of privacy. And that is, in fact, just another way of saying we have enshrined liberty. We want what we want when we want it, regardless of the fact that someone else’s death may be the result. We want to have sex. We want to have sex without responsibility so we do (or don’t) use birth control. When a pregnancy occurs, we want to have liberty of life, so women kill their unborn children. The baby can’t save itself. The father can’t save itself. The only liberty here is for a woman to end a pregnancy if she wants. That’s what has happened when our value of liberty has clashed with our value of life; liberty triumphs and life… dies.
We want to have the freedom to do what we want when we want. That has led to debt because doing costs money. No one wants to have debt. That has led to bankruptcy becoming almost common. (We finally decided, as a society, that bankruptcy might not be the best thing to do, so we passed a law making it harder.)
We want the freedom to do what we want when we want. So gays lobby for the right to marry, even though marriage has been restricted on a federal level (in the Defense of Marriage act) to mean a man and a woman and all the states where a vote has been taken have chosen to adopt that same definition.
We want the freedom to do what we want when we want. So marriage has become a short term product with no fault divorces often granted instantly.
We want the freedom to do what we want when we want. So we’ve made that the highest value and made those who “want” to work support those who don’t want to work. We’ve turned our welfare system into a freedom to do what you want system where folks can have more babies to get more money. So if you don’t want to work and you want more money, you have more babies.
Liberty may not, after all, be the best value. “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” “I am the way, the truth, and the light. No one comes to the Father except through me.” “In Christ there is neither … slave nor free….”