When did “Give me liberty or give me death!” give way to “I’ll give you my liberty if you’ll save me from death!”?
Our Founders had an appreciation for something we seem to have taken for granted (at least until relatively recently). That something is freedom. The Founders experienced life under a tyrannical government, and many of them gave their lives to ensure we would never have to endure the same. They preferred death itself over life in bondage to an overbearing government.
Because of their sacrifices, Americans have enjoyed more freedom than citizens of any other country. Over time, our liberties have eroded as we have increasingly trusted and relied on our government to solve our problems. The arrival of COVID has accelerated that trend. Out of fear, we have allowed the government to step in and take even greater authority over areas reserved solely for our control (such as our children’s education, our healthcare and medical decisions, our businesses, our parenting, etc.).
Many in positions of federal leadership have attempted time and again to exploit our fears to gain power. One of their strategies is to take real issues and dishonestly frame them in order to elevate our fears, then assure us that the government can save us. Unfortunately, we have too often willingly handed them the power they seek in exchange for their promise of a better life.
This tactic is not original–consider the serpent in the Garden of Eden. The reality is that those who promise us security in exchange for power are usually intent on depriving us of both. We would do well to keep this in mind as we evaluate ongoing attempts by our government to gain more and more power in exchange for protecting us from certain peril. We should embrace our Founders’ healthy skepticism.
“The ideal subject of a totalitarian state is someone who has learned to love Big Brother.”Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies
The reality is that government cannot save us. No person or politician or political party can save us. Only our Creator has the power to save us, not by removing every obstacle, but by setting us on a firm foundation, despite the challenges we face. When we choose, in faith, to believe and to embrace His instructions for living, He empowers us to live life from a position of strength:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.2 Tim. 1:7
If we will embrace God’s plan for us, we can operate out of faith and courage, regardless of how formidable the adversary or the challenge may be. In the context of our present situation, this might include refusing to affirm a dishonest framing of the issues, refusing to operate out of fear, and refusing to mindlessly accept powerlessness. We may not be able to change every outcome, but we can commit to standing firmly on the side of what is good and right and true.
The ordinary man may not be able to overturn the kingdom of lies, but he can at least say that he is not going to be its loyal subject.Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian political prisoner
History teaches us that it often only takes one courageous person to lead the way.