In 1776 government in virtually every nation was based on the inequality
of man. The "divine right of kings" elevated them and their cronies, and
subjugated all citizens to their rule. The state was of paramount
importance, and man subject to the state.
From the beginning, however, those who came to this land had a higher
view of the role of the individual, a view that stems from Scripture. "Then
God said, let us make man in our own image." If that is so, all men are
created equal, and should have an equal voice in government.
The first permanent settlers arriving in Plymouth in 1620 signed the
Mayflower Compact before they even landed. It was America's first written
document of representative government:
They acknowledged "having undertaken for the glory of God and advancement
of the Christian faith...to plant the first colony...solemnly and mutually
and in the presence of God and of one another, covenant and combine
ourselves together in a civil body politick for our better ordering and
preservation...and frame such just and equal laws...unto which we promise
all due submission and obedience."
Each Pilgrim had a vote on who would be chosen to administer civil
government and the church. Submission and obedience to a government one
helped create is no burden.
"To understand political power, right, and derive it from the Original,
we must consider, what State all Men are naturally in, and that is a State
of perfect Freedom to order their Actions, and dispose of their possessions
and Persons as they think fit, within the bounds of the Law of Nature,
without asking leave, or depending upon the Will of any other Man."
"A State also of Equality, wherein all the Power and Jurisdiction is
Reciprocal, no one having more than another...This equality of Men by
Nature...the Foundation of their Obligation to mutual Love amongst Men,"
wrote John Locke in "Of Civil Government," a 1689 book that had a profound
influence on such founding fathers as Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams.
However, what is less recognized is Locke's dependence on Scripture for
"My command is this: love each other as I have loved you" (John 15:12).
"The State of Nature has a Law of Nature to govern it. No one ought to
harm another in his Life, Health, Liberty, or Possessions," wrote Locke,
revising the Golden Rule of Luke 6:31:
"Do unto others as you would have them do to you."
"But though this be a State of Liberty, yet it is not a State of
License," is a slight paraphrase of Galatians 5:13: "Use not liberty for an
occasion to the flesh."
What mattered most to Jefferson was Locke's rationale for overthrowing a
government. For had not Paul written to the Romans: "Everyone must submit
himself to the governing authorities, for there are no authorities except
that which God has established."
"A Child is born of no Country or Government. He is under his Father's
Tuition and Authority, till he comes to Age of Discretion; and then he is a
Freeman, at Liberty what Government he will put himself under," writes
St. Paul told the Corinthians, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is
Locke concluded in 1690, "And 'tis not without Reason, that he seeks out
and is willing to join in Society with others, who are already united, or
have a Mind to unite, for the mutual Preservation of their Lives, Liberties
and Estates, which I call by the general Name, Property."
Jefferson put these sentiments more eloquently, though clearly inspired
by Locke, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created
equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable
rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -
that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among men."
U.S. history is an effort to extend that liberty first to the slave and
then to women. This too is based on Scripture, as Paul wrote to the
Galatians (5:28) "You are all sons of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are
all one in Christ Jesus."
Contrast the honor given to American women with how they are treated by
Muslims who allow a man to have four wives, or by Buddhists in China and
Hindus in India, who often abort female children ironically condemning
millions of their sons never to find a wife.