According to a 2013 Harvard study using real-time brain imaging, race and gender are the first two things we notice about another person. Taking note of a person’s skin color is hard-wired into humans. The question is not: How to we stop noticing race? The question is: How to we prevent ourselves from allowing racism to run rampant and rip us apart? The answer has everything to do with who we allow to assign value, worth, and dignity to people.
In Charlottesville, we have a shameful snapshot of what happens when people begin to believe that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are up for grabs.
who decides our value and validity?
What we are seeing is what happens when we tamper with the foundations of our law and liberty. As a nation, we have never been completely Christian. That’s revisionist history. Some of our founding fathers were followers of Jesus. Some were deists. Others were rip-roaring moralists. However, our legal system was assembled with a set of basic assumptions that come from the Judeo-Christian tradition. For example, we all believe that it is good and desirable to seek “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We have to look no further than our Declaration of Independence to see that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is something that our government should protect.
We also see that these “unalienable rights” — that means these are rights that cannot be taken from or separated from any human being — these rights are not granted by our government. They are protected by our government. Where do these rights come from? Every person is granted these rights by their Creator. That’s the foundational claim of the grand experiment of United States government — Creator God has given every person the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” simply by the act of creating him or her.
no creator…no holds barred
We have had a fun fifty-year foray into experimenting with this foundation. We’ve attempted to chip away at it and try other arrangements. Partly because this foundation has been misused and abused in blasphemous attempts to justify racism and sexism in the name of God. How utterly harmful those attempts have been. We’ve also wanted to free ourselves from the responsibilities and expectations that rest on our shoulders as individuals created by God. Because, if we are created by God, then we have some kind of relationship with God. That relationship grants us the privilege of life and liberty. That relationship also comes with the notion that we have been created for a purpose and we are obligated to find and fulfill that purpose.
Many of us don’t want to face that obligation. We don’t want the responsibility of a relationship with God. So we have fought and questioned the validity of it. We’ve looked for other answers to our origins. And we have attempted philosophical and biological contortions to deny the facts about us that we cannot choose — things like our gender, race, and family of origin. We’ve picked up an ideological bottle of Windex to erase God’s fingerprints from our identity. We don’t want a Creator. He asks too much of us.
We can attempt to free ourselves from our Creator. And, for a while, freedom from the obligation of a Creator feels like the liberty we crave. We can choose our backstory. We can choose our identity. We can choose our own purpose. Fulfill our own destiny.
We want freedom. And now, we’re getting it. All of it. See, while we free ourselves from the “archaic” obligations to our Creator in order to choose our own identity, we also erase the only real claim we’ve had for freedom in the first place. So, we’ve opened the door for the mob to decide who gets to pursue happiness, who gets to enjoy liberty, and — frankly — who gets to live.
This is not new. As a people, we’ve already been choosing who gets to live based on their value to us. Slavery was allowed to endure at the founding of this nation. And in 1973, we decided that unborn children are expendable in some cases. While we’ve all been flag-waving defenders of democracy in our front yards, in our backyards we’ve been running a small orwellian Animal Farm where: All men are equal, but some are more equal than others.
And now, those animals are coming home to roost and laying rotten eggs of hatred, violence, and racism in the house. We’ve tolerated ranking people based on their desirability and value for so long now that we are no longer able to see the division in anything other than political terms. We’ve sanitized the discussion into “democrats vs. republicans” rather than tackle the matter in terms of honesty, hypocrisy, love, and truth.
why can’t we all just get along?
But, we don’t need God in order to behave civilly toward each other, right? On paper, that’s true. Just like on paper Marxism is a workable system. But theory met facts on the streets of Charlottesville. And theory couldn’t stand to protect us. The fact is, we shouldn’t need the Creator to stand between us and mob rule. The fact is, people should just be nice and accommodate every other point of view. You’re right. They should. But they don’t and they won’t. Because people are self-serving and self-preserving to the core. Every honest student of history knows this. Greed, fear, and pride win the day….the year…the millennia.
Without the authority of the Creator God as our foundation for our rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our only law is the law of the jungle: survival of the fittest. The weak, the voiceless, the minority, the underfunded and unconnected will be consumed to insure the life, liberty, and happiness of the strong. This is our Creator-less reality. The cliched question, “Can’t we all just get along?” has an answer that’s 10,000 years and one word long: No. We can’t all just get along. Why? Because we all want what gives us our own happiness, liberty, and sustains our own life. Without the authority of our Creator, we’re all in a deadly struggle for our own turf. We are either image-bearers of God or destroyers of mankind.
And don’t make the mistake of assuming that what stands in the way of life and liberty is to remove a few bad apples from among us. There are always more bad apples. If the appalling transgressions of World War 2 — and the violent reaction of the world to them — didn’t put a permanent end to this madness, then no human effort can.
Without the Creator to give us our “unalienable rights” our government has no mandate to protect those rights. Our republic has no standard for the maintaining of those rights….and the mob with the loudest voice, the best funding, and the strongest weapons is allowed to define those rights. And that’s all fun and games until the most influential mob no longer has your back.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are up for grabs when we take them out of the Creator’s hands.
the path forward to life, liberty, and happiness
If you’re interested in being part of the solution to the racism, anger, and violence, here’s where to start:
- It’s time for us to accept that there are some things about us that we cannot choose or change. It’s time for us to accept that aspects of our identity like gender, race, and family of origin are the fingerprint of the Creator. Because, when we put ourselves as our own Creator, we have only ourselves to defend our rights. The only way to for us to maintain love and protection for those who are not like us is to place ourselves under the love and protection of the one who created us all in love and with purpose.
- As a culture, we need to decide where we draw the line at human value. We need to make a clear statement of which human lives are worth defending. To avoid hypocrisy, we need to embrace and defend the value of all human lives regardless of age, race, or gender.
- There is no defensible, biblical position for any form of racism or ranking of value of human lives. According to the Bible, every person is carefully formed by God from the moment of conception with a path and purpose for living. According to the Bible, every person bears the image of God. Every human life is sacred. For the alt-right racists among us, that means skin color is not a basis for ranking worth or deciding value. For the pro-life among us, that means you aren’t truly pro-life unless you go to bat for every human life, not just the unborn. If you claim to love unborn children, but have a problem with races other than your own, check yourself.
- The first amendment guarantees the right to free speech. It does not guarantee the right to free speech without opposition. It’s time to pull out our collective cultural keyboard and hit…. control ALT-right delete.