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Ky. Voices: Unrooted in a value system, civilization would be at peril

May 13, 2013 

  • At issue: April 9 commentary by David Adams, "It's illogical to insist on gun rights yet ask government to restrict marriage"

Tea Party activist David Adams' essay on gun control and gay marriage seeks to create a new political coalition of Republican libertarian and Democratic social liberal secularists, both of which want freedom from governmental restraint and strictures.

Adams so strongly believes in individual prerogative and limited government and what he understands to be the Constitution's guarantee of same regarding gun control and gay marriage that he asserts that upholding that guarantee is more important than holding together western civilization, the very source of the ideas of individual worth and inalienable rights.

The Constitution was the product of a civilization and its values, not the creator of the civilization. If the civilization falls, there will be no Constitution to provide ordered liberty and political equality, only liberty of the mighty.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address talks of identifiably Christian values of justice and mercy in a tragic world and he goes back to national origins found not in the Constitution but in the principles/values of the earlier Declaration of Independence, which are in turn products of western religion.

There could be no freedom without a civilization of commonly held values and a willingness to defend that civilization and its values.

Today, the contest between western religion and secularism could not be more stark or basic. Today there is no common societal understanding of the principles and values of the Declaration. Is there a God or not? Are there inherent rights or no moral absolutes?

Is liberty defined as freedom from governmental authoritarianism or freedom from want requiring a powerful, intrusive government? Does freedom encompass the Declaration's right to life and society's definition of human existence or is it each individual's right to define life?

Should the Constitution be interpreted in light of original intent or refashioned by judges to meet the perceived needs of changing times?

Should we keep a republic of checked powers or replace it with a mass democracy immediately responsive to the will of the people at any given moment? Does being free mean that religion is a pervasive influence across a person's life or is it found in a compartment outside the public square?

Does freedom mean voting your faith or never doing so?

Which are paramount: individual rights and freedoms or fairness and the redistribution of wealth according to tribal identity? Is individual freedom inexorably tied to free economic enterprise and property rights or is it really equality of condition in a government directed economy and society?

Is marriage defined by distinctive gender roles or not, or by the number two or by an indeterminate number? Is the world one of tragedy and grace and imperfection or one solely of natural forces, sinless, and perfectible?

For at least two generations now, Americans have been pulling apart from one another, literally moving into different communities that shared one or the other faiths (traditional western or secular), but not both.

People in different parts of the nation believe very different things. It is a profound Balkanization of the nation and a threat to civil peace.

For instance, the local gay T-shirt controversy highlights an effort to replace western ideals of individual liberty of conscience, religion and economic activity with secularized definitions of justice and equal protection under the law.

Lexington's Human Rights Commission has laid out an argument against the printing company that would require a Jew to print Nazis' "religious" slogans, a black man to do the KKK's bidding in publishing its "religious" thoughts and a gay-owned company to print fundamentalist tracts citing Bible passages against gays.

Americans are no longer able to exercise freedom of religion and speech by attempting, like Thomas More under King Henry VIII, to remain silent and not blend their voices to those professing a particular faith.

The government now insists, like the communists who ran Korean War POW camps, that people profess (and proselytize on behalf of) what they do not believe. More, of course, lost his head.

I do not think Adams has given enough thought to how his libertarianism of the right or left not grounded in western universals would survive.


At issue: April 9 commentary by David Adams, "It's illogical to insist on gun rights yet ask government to restrict marriage"

James L. Hood of Nicholasville, is an adjunct history professor at the University of Kentucky.

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