Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A Closer Look at the Declaration of Independence

Many flag-waving, TEA Party patriots in the [u]nited States think very highly of the Declaration of Independence, considering it a sort of skeleton key that unlocks the mysteries about man and government.  This includes many Christians, who claim it is a Christian document.  Let us see how well such claims about the Declaration hold up under closer scrutiny.

The first thing that catches the eye is this statement:

the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them

Why are the Laws of Nature considered as something sundered and apart from the Laws of Nature’s God?  Already the writer (Thomas Jefferson, by most accounts) is heading toward the theology of certain heathen Greek philosophers, who said that matter, as well God, exists eternally and does not rely on Him for its existence.

Further, Mr Jefferson did not believe in the divinity of the Son of God, so we may take his reference to Nature’s God as referring to a single divine being, not the Three Persons of the All-Holy Trinity.  This Deistic understanding of a God closed up in His own essence and detached from mankind and the rest of creation (as opposed to the Persons of the Trinity living in communion with and for One Another and pouring out Their overflowing Love upon mankind and all the creation) is reflected in his political theories, where each man is likewise a self-contained monad concerned only with his own ‘rights’.

We hold these truths to be self-evident

Mr Jefferson is here speaking of the revelation of truth to man through the creation.  But since our Lord Jesus Christ is the final, and the fullest, and the perfect revelation about God, man, and the creation that has been given to the world (since He is both perfect God and perfect man, Uncreated and created), whatever he says should agree with Orthodox Christian teaching if the Declaration is a Christian document as is claimed.  But this is not what we find:

all men are created equal

Mr Jefferson did not approve of an established hierarchy.  He led the fight in Virginia to fordo there the primogeniture laws (that inheritance passes mainly to the oldest son) to weaken the power of the large landholders in favor of a fluid ‘natural aristocracy’ that would be based mainly on educational attainments.  He likewise opposed kings and Church clergy.  But these sorts of beliefs are not in line with Christian truth. 

Hierarchy is everywhere in creation.  The hosts of bodiless powers in Heaven are ordered in a hierarchy:  seraphim and cherubim ministering closest to the Lord and angels and archangels ministering closest to mankind.  Christian countries, and most other traditional societies, are ordered in a hierarchy consisting of peasants, warrior/service nobility, and clergy.  And these likewise are ordered hierarchically, kings at the top of the nobility, with lesser and greater nobles beneath him; and deacons, priests, and bishops in the Church.

To everything there is an order that ought to be respected.  Uncovering the structure of that order is our duty (it will look different in different countries).  To reject it and simply say ‘all men are equal’ will only lead to sorrows.  Meritocracy like that proposed by Mr Jefferson should play a role in that order, but it must be balanced by respect for settled estates.

that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We have nothing as a right from God but only as a gift.  If as a right, then even God is beholden to us in some way, and this can never be.  Likewise, if as rights, selfishness, fear, suspicion, and so on will come to typify people’s lives.  For if the goal of life is the enjoyment of one’s rights to the greatest degree possible, then he will always be afraid of losing them, always be afraid of having to yield something for someone else’s sake.  This is the opposite of Christian love, which pours itself out to the uttermost for others with joy (Think of Christ’s enfleshment and His hanging on the Holy Cross, or the holy saints constantly interceding for us in Heaven.  Thankfully, none of them demand their right to an individualistic ‘liberty’.), and the opposite of belief in Divine Providence, which works for man’s salvation, for which all should say, ‘Glory to God for all things!’ (including the gaining or losing of one’s ‘rights’).

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,

First, government does not derive its powers from mankind, but from God.  That is why traditional governments have a king or a king-like figure (e.g., Moses, Joshua, and Samuel):  He is the earthly representative of God’s authority over a people.  Second, governments exist not to secure rights but to cooperate with the Church to help bring about the salvation of the people by punishing evildoers, rewarding the good, calling Church councils to combat heresy, etc.

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness

Though there have been times when Christians have overthrown leaders who were acting against the common good or promoting heresy, this is far from making it a ‘right’ (and which is perhaps one of the most dangerous to proclaim).  Furthermore to totally destroy one’s form of government and remake it with completely new and different institutions that suit the current whim of ‘the People’ contradicts Mr Jefferson’s stated fidelity to the ‘Laws of Nature’.  For any government to function tolerably well, it must arise from, and be conformed to, the long-held customs of a people (which are part of natural law).  It cannot be created from abstract theories.

Such is the great Declaration, the foundation of American politics, supposedly a Christian work.  May the South find a better way than the misguided teachings of this document.

(All quotes taken from http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/, opened 1 Nov. 2016)


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the South!

Anathema to the Union!

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