The longer the ability to earn a livelihood is blocked, the more the individual, the family and the church are undermined….. leaving an ever-expanding civil sphere to fill the gaps. Upsetting this delicate balance leads to devastating shifts in society…. and it’s happening right now.
Like many of you, I memorized Jefferson’s beautiful phrasing in the Declaration of Independence “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…” As an adult studying the writings of the founders, I was surprised to discover that the phrase they most often used to describe God-granted rights was actually “life, liberty and property.” The phrase was made famous by John Locke, but the ideas were not new….it was just a “catchy summary” of the biblical rights enshrined in the English common law from the time of King Alfred the Great.
Most of us have a good understanding of the rights to LIFE and LIBERTY. What we may not understand is why the founders would include “PROPERTY” among those God-given rights. First, we have to understand that “property” wasn’t just your home and your horse. According to English common law tradition, property included your own body, your material possessions, your religious beliefs and your unique, inventive ideas (that’s why the US had such a robust patent office almost immediately). Jefferson attempted to use a phrase that expressed all of that: essentially your God-granted right to pursue a vocation and to steward your own body, your own ideas and the material possessions you earned or inherited - unimpeded by civil government.
Old Testament case laws plainly protect private property. The Eighth and Tenth commandments (no stealing and no coveting) quite obviously presuppose that there are things that are mine and things that are yours and draw a firm line between them. But why? Like the other rights, they are designed to undergird a properly functioning society for our good and for God’s glory. Among other things, Scripture commands INDIVIDUALS to tithe, parents to provide for children (and vice-versa later in life) and FAMILIES and CHURCHES to care for the widowed, the orphan and the poor. Those are NOT roles given to civil government.
But we can’t fulfill those biblical commands without laboring, earning, saving, investing, serving and giving. In other words “properly stewarding private property.” When this right and responsibility is trampled, the building blocks of society (the individual, family and church) are weakened, civil government expands and liberties are irretrievably lost (see the other little illustration from class notes above). This is why the “shut down” is so devastating! Civil government MUST lift this unconstitutional and unjustified infringement and allow people to get back to work.
The contention that brought us to this point was that there was such an overwhelming threat to LIFE that it justified some of the swiftest and harshest restrictions on civil liberties we’ve EVER seen in America. It is abundantly clear now that projections were tragically wrong. Evidence from the Florida Department of Health indicates that, in 64 of our 67 counties, 99% of the population is not sick. The death projections and “peak” date that was modeled by the highly-touted IHME model had to be revised downward exponentially. In a three-day period, Florida’s “peak” moved from April 27th to an “already happened” date of April 2nd. Now evidence from multiple sources, including two studies of populations in California released this week, confirms that COVID-19 infections and recoveries are far more widespread than assumed. Respected mainstream experts are coming to agreement that the actual mortality rate is .1 or .2. In other words, exactly like seasonal flu, 99.8% of those who are infected survive.
COVID-19 is real and, like many other diseases, it can be devastating to the vulnerable. One benefit of the “shut-down” is that we’ve all learned how to better love our neighbors by staying home when sick, washing our hands regularly and being mindful of those at risk. Individuals who are very high-risk, as well as their families and caretakers will continue to have both freedom and responsibility to take every precaution. But God calls us to faithfully steward life, liberty AND property. To continue to block our neighbors from earning their livelihoods is undermining the very institutions in society which best safeguard our ability to do so.
I encourage you to reach out to your state representatives and senators, as well as our governor's office with your message of strong support for "re-opening" Florida. You can find your state legislators at myfloridahouse.gov or flsenate.gov . Be brief and respectful and be in touch if you need help.