by LUCAS THOMPSON
Since the beginning of the colonization of North America, there have been key characteristics regarding the mentality or philosophy that Americans identify themselves with. Americans have had an extensive history of rebellion, individualism, and strive. The creation of the United States of America in itself is a revelation to the core ideology that brought about one of the most powerful nations in the history of mankind.
Do Americans today still have that same philosophy or tenacity? Has anything changed since the colonization of America? Has the American identity evolved over the centuries? These questions would make any American ponder the correct response based on their own perspective; however, significant historical works that served immense meaning during the formation of the United States may be the appropriate answer to those questions.
A pamphlet titled Common Sense was instrumental during the American Revolution. Thomas Paine wrote the pamphlet in 1776 during a crucial time for the American colonists. This pamphlet not only sparked the revolution and gave haste to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, but also set the precedence for the core identity that American society would soon adopt.
The all-time best-selling American publication to date, Common Sense spoke to the common man at the time of its publication and still speaks to Americans today in its call for individual empowerment. Paine believed that society is the positive, constructive force and that government is an institution that is used solely to limit a citizen’s ability for selfish intent. He points out that the formation of the government in general was due to selfishness and evil intent; therefore, it should be abolished or revolted against. The Second Continental Congress of the United States transcribed Paine’s beliefs onto the Declaration of Independence by mimicking the belief that government shall be used for liberty and the protection of life instead of limiting the ability of man.
John Locke was one of the most influential Enlightenment thinkers of the seventeenth century. Arguing on the side of natural rights and the origin of man’s rights when it comes to sovereignty from government or religious doctrinaire, he wrote a piece of literature titled Second Treatises of Government, a philosophical work on the governance of man, as a direct response to other philosophers that advocated for the power of kings and God's role in the rights of men. The United States adopted many of his ideals in government, which I can clearly see after reading his publication.
In my belief, the radicalization of politics today has led to the demise of the philosophies that individuals like Locke brought. The indoctrination of political parties in the individuals that hold responsibility or a vote has polarized the United States government today.
Who has the right to govern man? How will man be governed? Is it man’s responsibility or government’s responsibility? Does religion have the right to subdue man’s free will? I found my answers to these questions through the study of significant historical works such as Locke's. After all, these questions may set forth the foundation of government and law.
Religion, specifically Christianity, has been a key influence on American government. Although there may be separation between church and state, it does not eliminate religion's influence on legislative decisions. In Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, no man has the power to enforce the rule of God or is ordained to be given power for the will of God. If one is going to look into the free will of man throughout the history of the United States, he must account religion’s role in both historic and current events.
Locke made four statements regarding Adam, God’s first creation of man:
1. That Adam had not, either by natural right of fatherhood, or by positive donation from God, any such authority over his children, or dominion over the world, as is pretended.
Here, Locke explained that no ruler had authority from God to rule over man. I agree with this philosophy. I do not believe it is the job of any man or woman to dictate the moral decision of another unless that decision will harm another or a collective decision has been made by a society. After reading Locke’s general stance, I applied this to the fundamental stances. In Genesis, the Bible repeats to followers and sinners alike that God put mankind on this Earth to have a free will through choosing the ability to connect or disconnect with God. If it were not for free will, what is the purpose of human existence?
I am not speaking in context that God does not punish those that deny him, but that God gave all beings the ability to make the choice to deny him in the first place. If God wished to give all of humanity the choice to accept or deny, then is it not the responsibility of all followers to protect the free will of world? The ironic perception that many may get from Christian faith today is that Christians find it necessary to minimize the free will of others, often only aligning to like-minded choices and instilling their ideology into policy by eliminating someone’s free will.
My viewpoint speaks solely on society as a whole, not on the church; the church neither governs nor influences moral behavior in a way to be punished through imprisonment, sentencing, or other forms of punishment. My viewpoint is directed towards the humanistic control that people have wanted to bring into government. What has been shown throughout Christian (and human) history is that there are humanistic perversions that often corrupt institutions, altering the one fundamental that God created humanity for: the ability to prosper or demise under one’s own free will.
At their cores, John Locke and Thomas Paine argued the proposition of natural rights. This begins with our right to free will. In a state of perfect freedom, a man or woman should be able to make his or her own decisions, whether anguished or healthy. Today’s ideology is that this action may reflect on society through infliction upon the rights of others. However, the line should be drawn only when one individual begins to impede on the rights of another who involuntarily wants that repercussion.
The misconception of law and order is that by involving government into the equation, the nature of man is eliminated. If the decisions have no direct consequences, then one should have the right to make any given choice. I agree with the philosophy that the state of religious leaders shall not hinder free will or the pursuit to happiness.
What I leave you with today are the following questions: What was the first right of man granted by God? Was it God’s intention for man to condemn man? Are you living in a free society? Does either major political party today represent genuine freedom?