Source: J.B. Shurk

Not so many years ago, few people in the West were speaking or writing about “freedom.” Although civil rights battles have existed in the United States for as long as there has been a united country, Americans for several decades have more or less consigned to the pages of history the great struggles pitting “freedom” against “tyranny.” Once the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the Cold War came to an end, the hard-fought wars for liberty appeared won.

This misplaced confidence that freedom once obtained will remain secure without continuing sacrifice has been ruinous. As with any boxing match where one pugilist stops fighting while the other continues slugging away, friends of freedom have found themselves getting pummeled by growing State tyranny ever since. “Freedom” may have won the war but it certainly lost the peace.

Nowhere has this been more obvious than in the way the United States and its Western allies have responded to the COVID panic of the last two years. Almost immediately after government health authorities began furiously ringing emergency alarm bells, politicians just as furiously began stripping citizens of their protected rights.

The speed with which officials dispensed with the most basic building blocks of any free society—free speech, freedom of association, the rights to travel and earn a living according to free will—has been staggering. Censorship and the government’s “war on misinformation” have replaced discussion and debate. Government mandates have cataloged and controlled citizens’ movements. Government “permission” has become required to go back to school or work. The near-universal conclusion from presidents and prime ministers, congressmen and members of parliament, has been that rights and freedoms simply disappear when those in power decree it so. What a travesty!

As repugnant as Western governments’ responses have been to COVID, traditional friends of freedom have been equally disheartening. Civil rights groups have remained silent while the Bill of Rights is trampled, or worse, they have encouraged the government’s abusive tyranny as in the best interests of the “common good.”

Journalists have continued to prove their worthlessness in keeping government institutions in check by refusing to question, let alone investigate, the “facts” health agencies assert or the effectiveness of blunt force government-imposed “solutions.” The Globe and Mail has gone so far as to demonize the “ugly side of freedom” embraced by those who simply want the State to leave them alone.

And perhaps most disappointing of all, church leaders have, with few exceptions, abandoned their flocks by submitting to lockdowns and other unconstitutional bars against religious gatherings in the misguided belief that civil authorities must be unquestionably obeyed.

It has been clear that too many places of worship were unwilling to stand up for the natural rights delivered to us by the authority of a higher power when the authorities of so many mundane powers came knocking with billy clubs and harsh words. Fortunately, many people of faith have witnessed the tyranny of the last two years and will never forget what they’ve seen.

For all the harm the China Virus has caused the world, it has had one solid, salutary effect: It has crystallized for hundreds of millions of people around the globe how little respect governments—even Western governments—afford to natural, unalienable civil rights.

When Joe Biden was pressed last autumn about his administration’s enforcing vaccine mandates against the will of many Americans, he actually mocked the idea that citizens in the “land of the free” should possibly have the freedom to refuse the government’s demands that they inject a foreign substance into their bodies. In what is left of his mind, it was simply absurd that anybody could have the right to make a personal health decision that contradicts the State’s official “science.”

Image: The First Committee’s design for a national seal. Public domain.

Of course, as all Americans have witnessed over the last year, the “science” has been in constant and ever-changing flux, so when Joe hails the authority of “science,” he is really hailing the authority of government force—nothing more. Obey…because we said so!

Western governments’ raw power and their clear disdain for natural rights have been one too many punches for traditional defenders of freedom to ignore and, like a boxer unconscious on the mat provided with a whiff of smelling salts, freedom fighters have come jumping back to life. Should we call this a spiritual awakening? A rebirth for the cause of liberty? A renewed struggle between good and evil, freedom and tyranny, once again?

I think we are witnessing all these things. Far from the lessons of pacifism and submission to civil authorities some church leaders taught, I have always believed that those who would wage war against God’s natural law make enemies of God’s faithful. And this has been the resounding conclusion of some of America’s most formidable fighters, too.

When suffragist leader Susan B. Anthony “positively voted the Republican ticket” in the 1872 presidential election, New York arrested and tried her for illegally casting a vote. (Which do you think would surprise uneducated Democrats more—that New York once prosecuted illegal voting or that the great women’s rights stalwart was a Republican?)

Upon being tried and convicted by a jury of men, Judge Hunt sentenced her to a fine of a hundred dollars and asked if she had anything to say for her conduct. The civil rights hero replied that she would never pay a penny of the “unjust claim,” declaring: “And I shall earnestly and persistently continue to urge all women to the practical recognition of the old revolutionary maxim, that ‘Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.’”

Anthony was following in the tradition of many great Americans who understood the fight for human freedom to be in the service of God’s will. When Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were appointed during the summer of 1776 to design a national seal for the newly-independent American colonies, Franklin and Jefferson both suggested a scene depicting the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt, albeit one that portrayed Moses as forcefully acting, rather than passively receiving deliverance from harm.

From the committee’s notes on the seal comes this description:

Moses standing on the Shore, and extending his Hand over the Sea, thereby causing the same to overwhelm Pharoah who is sitting in an open Chariot, a Crown on his Head and a Sword in his hand. Rays from a Pillar of Fire in the Clouds reaching to Moses, to express that he acts by Command of the Deity. Motto, Rebellion to Tyrants Is Obedience to God.

Although most of the committee’s work was eventually redone, Thomas Jefferson was so taken by Franklin’s proposed motto that he used it for his own personal seal later in life.

The struggle for freedom reverberates no matter the era: To obey God’s will requires the devoted to confront, resist, and rebel against tyranny in all its forms. To the extent that the faithful have been unwilling or unable to do so during these last two years of COVID-1984, the loss of our God-given freedoms has been the great and natural cost.

If two years of pandemic tyranny have taught us anything, it is this: Governments should be terrified of infringing their citizens’ natural rights, not smugly self-assured that those rights can be watered down whenever expedient. Those who feel a duty to a higher power must also recognize a duty to rebel against the lowly, unscrupulous powers within our midst. And in the never-ending boxing match between “freedom” and “tyranny,” there is no time to rest on laurels, just as no victory can ever be celebrated as permanent.