Freedom, Thomas Jefferson said, is the right to choose: the right to create for oneself the alternatives of choice. Without the possibility of choice, and the exercise of choice, a man is not a man but a member, an instrument, a thing. The timeless reality is, the greater the freedom, the more choices you have; less freedom, less choices.
It is government that controls this. And as President Ronald Reagan pointed out, “We the people tell the government what to do, it doesn’t tell us. We the people are the driver, the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast. Almost all the world’s constitutions are documents in which governments tell the people what their privileges are. Our Constitution is a document in which “We the People” tell the government what it is allowed to do. “We the People” are free. That’s the recipe for freedom we originally enjoyed as a nation.
My good friend, former Congressman Bob McEwen, when sharing the opening lines of our Declaration of Independence, often remarks, “We hold these truths to be self-evident is simply a Jeffersonian way of saying, any idiot ought to understand this.” You see, I don’t think there is at the heart of our cultural battles today a misunderstanding of the issues. It’s not a matter of right and wrong, nor is it a misunderstanding of what the Word of God says regarding the issues. One of my favorite cartoon characters is Calvin and Hobbes, and in a classic sketch, you see Calvin’s poor mom confronting him with the question, “Did you break this dish?” Calvin responds, “I was carrying too much, and I dropped it.” She then told him his problem was a lack of common sense to which he replied, “I’ve got plenty of common sense, I just choose to ignore it.”
This reminds me of Peter’s words to the early church when confronting the trending opinion that God no longer involves himself with mankind, “knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’” For this they willfully forget — I really like the King James wording here — “For this they willingly are ignorant.” Which brings me to the heart of the issue. It matters not what trends on Facebook, what popular media talking heads and so-called experts declare or, for that matter, what governments may legislate or decree. What matters is what’s true. What matters is what we do with the God-given common sense each of us possesses, and whether we employ it or not.
We believe that our rights here in America come from God. We do not believe our rights come from our group. Another word for group is union. Another word for union is soviet. The thought that because of my group I have rights is not what we believe as a nation. Is not and never has been who we are. You have to go to another country to believe that. Our founders said we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, and that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Nowhere else in the world treasures life like America. Nowhere else in the world treasures liberty like America.
The case of Jack Phillips, the Colorado baker and owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, was front and center in experiencing this and reminding us of this timeless principle in recent weeks as his legal battle ended with the Supreme Court’s 7-2 decision. The court ruled that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission discriminated against him on the basis of his religious beliefs when it ruled against him. His shop lost 40 percent of its business after he stopped making wedding cakes following the commission’s ruling. According to Jack, “The government’s hostility directly impacted my shop, our ability to make a living,” he said. “We also faced death threats and harassment, all for choosing not to design a cake that celebrates one particular event.” Ryan T. Anderson of the Heritage Foundation sums up the ruling, “The Supreme Court has said clearly that the government may not punish people because of their religious beliefs. Any generally applicable, neutral law must serve the common good, not punish those whom people in power deem to be ‘wicked’.”
A band of activists turned up at the cake shop Friday for a protest called “Gay Party at Bigot Bakery,” backed by groups including the People for Bernie Sanders and Millennials for Revolution, but they were met by dozens of counter-protesters in support of responded by speaking to the opposing parties — and handing out cookies. I think Jack has the right recipe. Not just for cakes, but for freedom.
Tim Throckmorton is the former executive pastor for Plymouth Heights Church of the Nazarene in Franklin Furnace, Ohio, and Portsmouth First Church of the Nazarene. He is currently senior pastor at Crossroads Church in Circleville, Ohio.