We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The well-known first paragraph of the preamble of the Declaration of Independence is an absolute revelation of both human rights and human failings. As a declaration of human rights, it sets out a broad idea of individual freedom and that extends from none other than the Creator. As a snapshot of American revolutionary thinking, it’s a bracing reminder that for our young nation at the time, “all men are created equal” really only included men — and white men at that.
We’ve come a long way. And we have so much farther to go. So I’m proposing a new declaration of independence. Just as the original Declaration included an indictment of King George III’s rule over the Colonies, here’s a litany of things I’d like to see us declare our independence from:
- Allowing the politics of polarization, demonization and hyperbole.
- Believing that someone else’s equality comes at a cost to us.
- Believing we can afford our war machine but can’t feed, house or provide healthcare for every American.
- Believing that a living wage would do more harm than good.
- Denying that policing in America is not the same for everyone.
- Worrying about a person’s physical sex instead of accepting their gender expression.
- Denying the impact and scope of human trafficking, slavery and forced prostitution.
- Shaming, bullying and hostility in our schools, political spheres and the internet.
- Denying that the everyday people of any country on earth want the same basic things we do, despite what might be done politically in their name.
- Defaulting to a patriotism that can’t decouple itself from ideas and images of our war machine.
- Thinking we can’t afford to care for our veterans properly.
- Believing we can afford our prison-industrial complex but can’t afford to educate our children properly.
- Keeping mental illness in the closet.
- Believing the Second Amendment means we cannot open the door to one iota more of gun sanity.
- Keeping drugs like marijuana illegal yet denying the impact of our pharmaceutical drug culture.
In other words, a declaration of independence from our old ways of thinking. Which leads me to perhaps the principal declaration of all: An independence from allowing anyone, anything, any institution or idea, to come between us as individuals and our God. Because when we are in a relationship with God, and truly listening to God, we declare our independence from anyone who would try to control our thinking and distract us from God. We find it much easier to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.