Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Federalist No. 8: Unalienable Rights: Life

The more I learn about the human body, the more I am amazed at the ingenuity of our Creator. The engineering principles behind our musculoskeletal system, the chemistry involved in the digestive and endocrine systems, the physics behind our optic, nervous, circulatory, and respiratory systems; they all give witness to the beauty and complexity of life. I don't think I could ever become bored with learning and studying about the human body and all the various facets of human biology.We eat, we breathe, we run, we play, we sleep, all without giving a second thought to the complex processes that occur within our bodies at any given second.

Life. For something so precious, we take it for granted all too often. It seems that only in times of war, disease, or physical ailment do we ever stop and consider the value of life, especially when it's our own life on the line. Death in particular is a harsh reminder of how frail we mortals are, and how precious life is. "The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away," is a common eulogizing phrase. We are born into this world, and whatever gift or opportunity we are given in life is based on the fact that we live. "The dead know not anything, neither have they any more a reward" (Ecclesiastes 9:5). Only the living do.

For this reason our Founding Father's were correct in declaring life as the first among many unalienable rights given to us by our Creator. The definition of unalienable is that which cannot be transferred or sold. So precious is this gift that they felt it appropriate to label this right as something that could not be stripped away by anyone, not even our own selves, without risking incurring the wrath of Almighty God. Our life is something we are given by God, and only by God can it be given away.

What does this say about contemporary issues like euthanasia? suicide? abortion? human trafficking?

How about issues like government-provided health care? food? shelter?

The right to life must not be confused with the right to live. The right to life is the right to experience life, with all the good and bad that entails, with all the choices and their consequences that accompany it. It is the right of conscience, of the soul, and is as unalienable and inviolable as either. We cannot give up that experience, nor deprive others of it.

The right to live is not inviolable. In war, or as punishment for a crime, or as the natural consequence of bad decisions made, the right to live is violated every day. It is neither unalienable or inviolate. No one may arbitrarily deprive a man his right to live, but man can relinquish his right to live thru his actions. He can never relinquish his right to experience life.

Whatever your views on these and other life-related issues, does it not seem contradictory to deem the government responsible for providing things essential to life (like food and medicine), but then say the government cannot step in to prevent the giving away of life (such as in abortion or euthanasia)?

"Men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,-'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness;' and to 'secure,' not grant or create, these rights, governments are instituted."
BUDD v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK, 143 U.S. 517 (1892)

Our government secures the right to life by ensuring that no man may take the life another without the harshest of punishments. It ensures that there are ample opportunities for us to provide for our own needs, and that we are free to pursue the wants and needs of the body at our leisure, without any direct hindrance from our neighbors (tho we are not free to choose the consequences). We may pursue whatever occupation that is common in life, in our attempts to put a roof over our head and food on our table. "That... which a man has honestly acquired he retains full control of, subject to [this limitation]:... he shall not use it to his neighbor's injury...[T]hat does not mean that he must use it for his neighbor's benefit [at his own expense]"
BUDD v. PEOPLE OF STATE OF NEW YORK, 143 U.S. 517 (1892)

Life is a gift from God, one that is often accompanied by the pangs and sorrows of mortality. Some of us will have harder lives than others. Some will have a comparatively easy life. Most of us will experience a motley combination of euphoric joy and unbearable heartache.And how often do we hear from others the phrase, "That's life!" The right to life, with all its associated joys and sorrows, it being the right upon which all other rights are predicated, must be of utmost importance. We are all in this world together, alive, for better or for worse. And we must learn to cope with the ups and downs of life without infringing upon those same unalienable rights of others.

We must treasure life, particularly human life, it being created in the image of God. We must see it as the single most important reason why we exist: to be exposed to good and evil, and to choose between the two. We must experience life, learn from it, overcome it, and master it, and then bring new life into the world and teach that new life what we have learned, so that the cycle of life may continue. We must never come up with vain excuses to diminish the value that individuals have, or the potential that each life brings. "Sickness and healing are in every heart. Death and deliverance are in every hand." (Orson Scott Card, Speaker for the Dead)

We are are born into this world, created equal by God. Each of us has the right to experience the blessings and sorrows this world has to offer, and to learn to choose between the good and the bad, and to endure the consequences thereof. And we must endure, until such time that God which gave us life demands it back.


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