Not once had my friends openly desired to discuss politics before this last election cycle. Thankfully, that is no longer the case.
Many Americans have forgotten that the United States was intended to be a representative republic. Referencing the system of government designed by the founders, John Adams attested that our government would be a government of “laws, and not men.”
The conservative philosophy argues that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights that can be neither conferred nor withheld by any man or government. Among these are the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all.
Unfortunately, government infringes upon inalienable rights in many ways today. The growth of government over the last century means that government is more involved in our lives than ever before, making it harder for the average person to affect government and keep it accountable.
In a timeless quote that is as applicable today as it was when written, James Madison explained the importance of limiting government through constitutional restraints:
“If men were angels no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”
If the founders had felt that our fundamental, inalienable rights were so easily protected, they would not have gone to such lengths to secure those rights in the Bill of Rights.
When discussing with others how government overreach frequently restricts religious liberty, free speech, and other constitutionally guaranteed rights, I often hear the other person dismissively say, “I’m not doing anything wrong, so it won’t affect me.” But it is important we ask, “Who is deciding what is right or wrong?”
For most Christians, we defer to the immutable Word of God for all questions regarding morality. But as of late, Christians have been finding that their sense of right and wrong is not shared by those in power.
For example, the Knapps—a husband-wife team of ordained ministers operating the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho—certainly believed they were doing the right thing by refusing to officiate homosexual weddings. Likewise, Barronelle Stutzman didn’t think she was doing wrong when she managed her business according to the dictates of her faith. Yet in both cases, government officials thought otherwise. Despite thinking they were doing nothing wrong, both Stutzman and the Knapps found themselves in the crosshairs of government policies that violated their inalienable rights.
When government infringes another person’s rights and we think to ourselves, “That doesn’t affect me,” we should remember Stutzman, the Knapps, and countless others who probably once thought the same. As long as someone besides God is defining right and wrong, the growing reach of government will inevitably lead to further infringements on our rights.
Therefore, it is no longer acceptable to be an uninformed, one-issue voter. There are multiple ways for a government as immense and perplexing as ours to infringe on the rights we hold dear. Although these policies might seem harmless at the time, they create precedents that can later be used to violate our constitutionally protected rights. We are already witnessing this on a small scale in the cases cited above, as well as numerous other similar examples.
People need to pay attention to what government is doing so they can confirm that their rights are being respected and that their legislators are faithfully representing them. For too long, this has not been the case. If we are to maintain our republic and our rights, citizens must wake up and become informed and engaged. The time is now.