Subject: What America must remember – Freedom is the God-given dignity of all people
Psalm 8:3-5 “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of Him, and the son of man that You care for Him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor.”
In our verse this week, King David asks the question many ask today: the universe is so vast, how could anyone think humans have any significance at all? In Carl Sagan’s 1994 book ‘Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space’, Sagan uses the 1990 photograph of Earth taken by Voyager I to emphasize how insignificant Earth and human beings are when compared to the enormity of the universe:
“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.”
But in Psalm 8:5 David and Sagan diverge in their view of mankind. God has given something very special to each person at creation. The Hebrew word for ‘glory’ is moral uprightness, and the word for ‘honor’ is dignity. God has crowned people with the dignity, as His children, to live freely and make our own choices.
But last week’s Supreme Court ruling has severely weakened this fundamental freedom given by God and guaranteed to all Americans by our founding fathers. In his dissent to the Supreme Court ruling that recognizes same-sex marriage, Justice Clarence Thomas explains: “The Court’s decision today is at odds not only with the Constitution, but with the principles upon which our Nation was built. Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits. The Framers created our Constitution to preserve that understanding of liberty. Yet the majority invokes our Constitution in the name of a “liberty” that the Framers would not have recognized… Along the way, it rejects the idea—captured in our Declaration of Independence—that human dignity is innate and suggests instead that it comes from the Government. This distortion of our Constitution not only ignores the text, it inverts the relationship between the individual and the state in our Republic. I cannot agree with it…
The majority goes to great lengths to assert that its decision will advance the “dignity” of same-sex couples. The flaw in that reasoning, of course, is that the Constitution contains no “dignity” Clause, and even if it did, the government would be incapable of bestowing dignity. Human dignity has long been understood in this country to be innate. When the Framers proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” and “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” they referred to a vision of mankind in which all humans are created in the image of God and therefore of inherent worth. That vision is the foundation upon which this Nation was built.”
In his dissent, Justice Scalia articulates how the decision of the five judges has cancelled the voices of tens of millions of Americans who defined marriage as one man and one woman: “In the guise of extending liberty, the Majority Opinion furtively “robs the People of the most important liberty they asserted in the Declaration of Independence and won in the Revolution of 1776: the freedom to govern themselves.”
Justice Alito warns Americans of the danger with so much power being in the hands of the Court: “If a bare majority of Justices can invent a new right and impose that right on the rest of the country, the only real limit on what future majorities will be able to do is their own sense of what those with political power and cultural influence are willing to tolerate. Even enthusiastic supporters of same-sex marriage should worry about the scope of the power that today’s majority claims.”
But Justice Alito’s warning isn’t new. In his letter to William Johnson in March 1823, Thomas Jefferson gave these ominous words: “There is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our government by the noiseless, and therefore unalarming, instrumentality of the Supreme Court.”
As we celebrate July 4th this weekend, we as Americans remember that our dignity and God-bestowed right to govern ourselves cannot be taken away by government. As the only writing on our Liberty Bell reminds us, our dignity as free man and women comes from the God of the Bible: “You shall consecrate the 15th year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants.” (Leviticus 25:10).