We The People have Human Rights
All Governments have OBLIGATIONS!
By Eileen Fleming
America’s Declaration of Independence:
Holds these truths to be self-evident: That all [people] are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights…that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among [people] deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the RIGHT of the people to ALTER or to ABOLISH it…
America was founded by visionaries, rebels, agitators, dissidents, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers who essentially told the King of England to back off of this land and leave US alone.
The most revolutionary minded of all America’s founding fathers was Thomas Paine, who articulated a flaming hope birthed in a vision of a new world of independence from a British Occupation.
Paine’s self published forty page pamphlet, “Common Sense” united a disparate group of settlers to become compatriots and rise up in rebellion to form a nation that will only thrive on dissent.
Paine also wrote:
Soon after I had published the pamphlet “Common Sense” [on Feb. 14, 1776] in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion…
The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
Thomas Jefferson understood himself to be a true Christian and he proved so by remaining mute to brutal and unjust accusations against him of being a deist, an atheist, anti-religion and an antichrist.
Jefferson took Jesus so seriously, that he devoted twelve years of his life to literally cutting away all the miracle stories from the gospels in four different languages from the King James Bible and gluing all the passages of Jesus as a teacher and philosopher, onto pages that were bound between covers of straight-grain red morocco- a goat skin that is laboriously processed for over two months and tanned with sumac.
In 1902, Congressman John F. Lacey, a devout Christian, introduced a resolution for the printing of a facsimile of Jefferson’s private piety to be distributed to Congress.
Until the 1950’s, every newly elected member of the Senate received a copy of “Jefferson’s Bible” on the very day they swore their oath of office.
On his tombstone, Jefferson expressed that he wanted to be remembered as the Author of the Declaration of American Independence, the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and the Father of the University of Virginia.
The ideas that were “self-evident” to America’s Founding Fathers were the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment, which put forth the primacy of human reason, conscience and inherent human rights and called for public education.
The inscription under the Dome of the Jefferson Memorial reads:
I have sworn upon the altar of god eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.
Jefferson first wrote those words to Dr. Benjamin Rush, in his search for a rational Christianity that could not be found in the corruptions, misconceptions, superstitions and “priest craft” that became self-evident in the days of Emperor Constantine with Augustine’s JUST WAR heresy.
Rush was raised in the evangelical “New Light” Presbyterian tradition of the 1730’s. His faith laid emphasis on the individual’s personal and emotional communion with God and those who shared his beliefs relied on the Bible and not the teachings of any clergymen. Rush was also a Philadelphia physician, scientist and an active force in humanitarian efforts to end African American slavery.
In 1800, Rush wrote Jefferson that this nation could only be steadied and the promise of the Revolution secured for future generations;
IF it is grounded in Christian morals and faith that are clarified by reason and commonsense!
Thomas Paine “saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion” and was condemned as the “ungodly author of THE AGE OF REASON” for offering the idea of God as creator but denouncing clerical power.
Paine also wrote:
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
“Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be true.”
“Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.”
“Every religion is good that teaches man to be good; and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.”
“Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion, when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities.”
“Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”
“Reputation is what men and women think of us; character is what God and angels know of us.”
I imagine God and the angels might agree with my Top Ten Teachings of Jesus as gleaned from THE JEFFERSON BIBLE:
- Be just and justice comes from virtue, which comes from the heart.
- Treat people the way you want to be treated.
- Always work for PEACEFUL resolutions, even to the point of returning violence with COMPASSION.
- Consider valuable the things that have no material value.
- Do not judge others.
- Do not bear grudges.
- Be modest and unpretentious.
- Give out of true generosity, not because one expects to be repaid or acknowledged.
- Being true to one’s self in more important than being loyal to one’s family and following one’s conscience is the only way to do it!
- Those who think they know the most are the most ignorant.
In “A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom”, Jefferson wrote:
God who gave us life gave us liberty…
Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God?
Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that his justice cannot sleep forever…
Laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind.
As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times.
We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors!
Knowledge can be gotten from books.
Wisdom observes, forgives but never forgets the lessons learned from the past!
Inspired by the words of Rev. Martin Luther King from Birmingham Jail, which directly challenged his “fellow clergymen”;
I seized a few liberties and spun it as a Citizens of Conscience Manifesto in my run for US House in 2012:
I am on the Internet because injustice can be expressed here. I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in comfort and not be concerned about what happens in Israel Gaza Palestine.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives in the world can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; examining one’s motives and acting on conscience with direct action.
Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community, which has constantly refused to negotiate, is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored I am not afraid of the word “tension.” I have earnestly opposed violent tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension, which is necessary for growth.
Too long has The Peace Process been bogged down in a tragic effort to live in monologue rather than dialogue.
Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. We must come to see that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”
There are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but also a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine “an unjust law is no law at all.”
A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust.
Segregation [Translates to Apartheid in Afrikaner] distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an “I it” relationship for an “I thou” relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things.
Hence segregation; apartheid, conscription and military occupation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound; it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man’s tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness?
An unjust law is a code that a numerical or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal. By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself. This is sameness made legal.
One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.
Everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and it was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany.
Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever and if repressed emotions are not released in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence; this is not a threat but a fact of history. [End of Letter from Birmingham Jail]
In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, King reminded his fellow clergymen that Jesus was an extremist for love who taught his follower’s to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
King recalled to his fellow clerics that the Hebrew prophet Amos was an extremist for justice who called to “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream.”
The world is pulled to change by extremism and our only dilemma is what will we be extremists for? Hate or love? God or State? The preservation of injustice or the extension of justice; equal human rights?
The clinging to the status quo is a form of extremism for all around US are the deep groans from the oppressed, as King addressed from his jail cell:
Few members of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent and determined action. Too many others have been more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
There was a time when the church was very powerful–in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being “disturbers of the peace” and “outside agitators.”‘
Small in number, they were big in commitment and by their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent–and often even vocal–sanction of things as they are.
If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twenty-first century….
King wondered if organized religion was too inextricably bound to the status quo to save our nation and the world. He knew that “Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.”
We the People who claim to be Christian are called to love our enemies and NOT bomb, torture or occupy any!
During one of my eight trips to the occupied state of Palestine [since 2005] Mohammad Alatar, film producer of “The Ironwall” addressed my group on an Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions tour.
We raveled through Jerusalem to the village of Anata and the Shufat refugee camp, in the very area where the prophet Jeremiah in the 6th century B.C. critiqued the violent conflicts in the Mid East, which were already old news:
“I hear violence and destruction in the city, sickness and wounds are all I see.” [Jeremiah 6:7]
After we broke bread and ate a typical Palestinian feast prepared by the Arabiya family in the Arabyia Peace Center, Mohammad Alatar said:
I am a Muslim Palestinian American and when my son asked me who my hero was I took three days to think about it. I told him my hero is Jesus, because he took a stand and he died for it. What really needs to be done is for the churches to be like Jesus; to challenge the Israeli occupation and address the apartheid practices as moral issues. Even if every church divested and boycotted Israel it would not harm Israel. After the USA and Russia, Israel is the third largest arms exporter in the world. It is a moral issue that the churches must address.
While he lived the FBI placed wiretaps on Reverend King’s home and office phones and bugged his hotel rooms throughout the country. By 1967, King had become the country’s most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic.
In his “Beyond Vietnam” speech delivered at New York’s Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 [a year to the day before he was murdered] King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.”
In 1986 the federal government ‘honored’ King with a national holiday…
A few weeks after his FREEDOM OF SPEECH Trial began, Israel’s Nuclear Whistle Blower Mordechai Vanunu invited “Hillary Clinton and all the Christians to come and see the real Wailing Wall the Apartheid Wall”
- Vanunu still has more nuclear secrets to spill, Israeli court declares - December 29, 2021
- 9/11 and a 20th Reflection of That Day - September 5, 2021
- Mordechai Vanunu: Final Annual Update and this Writers Next Steps - June 19, 2021