February 11, 2003


God and Empire: Some Theological Reflections on the State of the Union (Gregory Dunn, January 2003, Ashbrook)
The telling moment came toward the very end of his speech. "The liberty we prize is not America's gift to the world, it is God¹s gift to humanity," he said. This merits attention. The Roman and British Empires, the critics say, thought they possessed the epitome of civilization and, therefore, it was their duty to bring this civilization to the world

Not so, says Bush. By insisting that liberty is God's, not America's, gift to the world, he is saying that freedom is not something America possesses and, so, can dispense as it pleases but, rather, something that all human persons, by virtue of their created nature, already possess by right. America does not "bring" freedom to the peoples of the world but strives to actualize the freedom they hold in potential. In other words, when "we exercise power without conquest" and "sacrifice for the liberty of strangers" (two more telling phrases), we do so because it is the right thing to do. America acts on behalf of freedom not because it is benevolent (though it often is), nor because it wields its power prudently (though it often does), but because defending freedom is the right thing to do. God created people for freedom. America and all other nations are called, by divine mandate, to recognize this freedom. It is a justice instituted by God; so, when we fight, we fight on God's side.

Folks who are understandably skeptical about the existence of God unfortunately seem unaware of how important this point is. The alternative, if rights don't come from God, is that they are granted by the State, however a society decides to structure that State. But this, of course, makes all rights illusory, because we can simply change the State or in many (all) cases, the State, once formed, can simply begin aggrandizing power to itself. Yet if rights don't predate the State, if they are part and parcel of governance, then anything the State has power to do it is entitled to do. That's why the secularization of Western European society has led not to greater freedom but to less. Europeans have destroyed the one institution that effectively intervened between them and the State. Posted by Orrin Judd at February 11, 2003 6:40 PM

"The alternative, if rights don't come from God, is that they are granted by the State,"

Ayn Rand would disagree with you on that. Not that I'm a Randite myself, but their existence disproves your claim that "ATHEISM IS STATISM".

Posted by: ralph phelan at February 12, 2003 11:16 AM

The existence of people who don't understand a truth does not disprove it, else the world is flat.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2003 1:03 PM

Let me play devil's advocate for a moment here.

The secularist would say that since the existence of G-d cannot be proved, that you could be right, but also wrong about the rights granted by G-d.

He might say that just as a constitution making no resource to divine authority can be changed, so can a constitution that does.

All it takes is a change in the "values held by the community", and instead of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness", you get Sharia.

What do you say?

Posted by: tictoc at February 12, 2003 11:40 PM


That's kind of my point. Once we lose our religious values we'll lose our freedoms, as is already happening rapidly in the EU.

Posted by: oj at February 13, 2003 12:12 AM