The words of Patrick Henry sum up what we are memorializing today and what our American soldiers have died for.
Give me liberty, or give me death!
But what do these words mean?
These words sound shocking to more and more people today in America. In the 1950-60’s, during the cold war between the communist totalitarian regimes and the democratic governments, there were the dueling slogans of better red than dead versus better dead than red. The reds referred to communists at the time.
We’ve come a long way since those days. Now we have candidates and voters demanding that America be turned into a socialist system. They do not want America to be one nation under God. They prefer it to be one nation under men. Specifically, their own leaders. Why? Because ultimately, socialism leads to totalitarianism. A few rule and make laws that everyone else must abide by. Individual freedom is sacrificed.
Though socialism promotes the idea of good for the whole, it is really good for only those who rule. As government control increases, personal freedoms decrease. This thinking is the opposite of what the founders created for the USA. They argued that individual freedom was better for the whole because, as the individuals do well, the whole will do well. It was considered paramount therefore that government be minimized to maximize personal freedom and community well-being. The founders argued that government should be of the people, by the people, and for the people for the sole purpose of protecting their individual, personal liberties. Socialism, in contrast, is government by a few who rule over the masses.
Today, the shock of Henry’s words, Give me liberty, or give me death, reflects the lost memories of tyranny, slavery, oppression, and servitude inflicted on most people throughout history and the world. The memory of servitude under governments with the power of a few to rule and to abuse with impunity has faded and has been lost to many. Ignorance of cultures under oppressive regimes today is perpetuated by socialist controlled media outlets.
Imagine being forced to serve someone else because they control you. Imagine your life being drained and used for the benefit of someone else. You would be used like a mule pulling a plow in the fields to make food for someone else. Your sweat and pain would be your rewards for the enrichment and comfort of others who force you to serve them.
You work and reap, but your government takes and spends. They call it taxes. And while we enjoy the benefits of community services such as police protection, firemen, water, sewer, sanitation, roads, etc., for which there is no complaint, we are outraged by the wasteful squandering and abuse of our “generosity” by corrupt, selfish government officials. There is outrage and indignation over the injustice of government officials enriching themselves with perks and luxuries at the expense of others’ sacrifices. But in a government system that allows people to be above the law, the rest of the people are abused.
This is the problem with socialism. This is the problem our founding fathers of these United States fought against.
For example, it is not fair for government workers to be paid more than those who are doing the same kind of job in the private sector. In government, there is a lot of money filling the coffers. It is tempting to put their fingers into it to enrich themselves. And many do. When budget proposals come up, everyone wants more. So who decides what is just and fair compensation? Who decides what is too little or too much? A fair proposal is that secretaries in the private sector should not be required to contribute to the pay of those in government earning more for the same job. It is not right that those working to pay taxes be forced to pay for the wages of those in government doing the same work.
I am not saying all public officials are greedy, lazy, and incompetent. But there are enough that it is noticeable and frustrating. We have public officials whom I know and respect a great deal. I am grateful for their character. They are great people. We need more like them, and this is the point I am making.
Who is the government? Who are they? People in control. They are the people who decide what you will work for and how your money will be spent, which represents your life of time and sweat and sacrifice.
The problem of corruption is not government. Social order and well-being require government. Romans 13 makes it clear that God created government for our good. But men and women are selfish, greedy, and corrupt. And therein lies the problem. When people get involved, that which was intended for good ends up being used for evil. In this case, government officials become the slave owners and the rest of us the slaves.
This is called socialism. This is what it means to be in a socialist system. If we forget this, we forget the cause for which our soldiers have died. And with lost memories, history is doomed to repeat itself. We will return to the old systems of tyranny that our forefathers fought to be free from. Why? Because sin corrupts people, and corrupt people corrupt government.
No system is perfect. Where there are people, there is always imperfection. But America has shown itself able to correct its wrongs, no matter how slow and no matter how often wrongs keep popping up. But the only reason it has been able to correct its wrongs is that there have been those like Patrick Henry willing to sacrifice their lives for the right to be free and because of the Biblical values that make freedom in government possible.
President John Adams put it this way, ”Statesmen may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand.”
We are not remembering a government today. We are remembering God, Jesus Christ and His teachings. Government is not the problem for lost freedoms. Freedom is lost because we lose sight of who makes freedom possible.
Remember, it is the evil in humanity that corrupts government. And it is God alone who can change man’s corruption.
Therefore, it is for the freedom of religion and for the freedom to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ that our soldiers have died. It is for the freedom to proclaim liberty and life in Christ that our soldiers have sacrificed.
This we should remember. Ultimately, our fight is with sin, and the wages of sin is death. If we remember this, then we will remain free. As Jesus said in John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Message by Dr. Patrick Briney May 26, 2019, at Mission Boulevard Baptist Church evening service.