A very interesting piece over at The American Vision:
Imagine the following scenario: At church this Sunday, while reviewing the list of announcements and upcoming events for your church, your pastor added, “Oh, and don’t forget: on Sundays we have our regular target practice. Make sure to bring your rifles. Make sure to bring your pieces to church.”
Absurd, right? Not so. It used to be the American way. For example, a 1631 law in Virginia required citizens to own firearms, to engage in practice with them, and to do so publicly on holy days. It demanded that the people “bring their pieces to the church.” Somewhere along the line we have lost this mindset. Today the ideas of church and arms are assumed to be at odds, as if loving your neighbor has nothing to do with the preservation and defense of life and property.
But the idea of Christian society and an armed, skilled populace actually have deep historical roots.
Self-defense was viewed as what it is – a testament to the fact that you cared about life, liberty, property, happiness, and freedom. In this case, it’s often the freedom to worship, but still, interesting even so.
The American Second Amendment did not spring into existence from nowhere. It had a long pedigree. The Christian society emerging from the old laws of Alfred continued to include the ideal of an armed populace as a means of securing human liberties. The Founders, many of them lawyers, had studied that legal tradition and would have read William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765–1769). The first part of the first volume elaborates on the subject of our “principal absolute rights… of personal security, personal liberty, and private property [i.e. life, liberty, and property].” It then covers five means of securing and protecting these rights “inviolate”:
The fifth and last auxiliary right of the subject, that I shall at present mention, is that of having arms for their defence, suitable to their condition and degree, and such as are allowed by law. Which is also declared by the same statute I W. & M. st.2. c.2. and is indeed a public allowance, under due restrictions, of the natural right of resistance and self-preservation, when the sanctions of society and laws are found insufficient to restrain the violence of oppression.
Blackstone was noteably cited in DC v Heller.
Locke elaborated these views within the context of belief in God’s ultimate sovereignty, ownership, and law-order over all of creation:
Every one, as he is bound to preserve himself… so by the like reason, when his own preservation comes not in competition, ought he, as much as he can, to preserve the rest of mankind, and may not, unless it be to do justice on an offender, take away, or impair the life, or what tends to the preservation of the life, the liberty, health, limb, or goods of another.
Locke’s elaboration there and in the Second Treatise of Government is also noteworthy because it can exist even if you don’t believe and thereby don’t equate God’s gift of life with the morality of self defense. If you are a die-hard atheist who believes totally in the accidental creation of the universe by the FSM or something, your survival – your own personal survival, is ultimately of paramount importance to you. If you don’t believe in God, you still know that there’s something that came before the big bang, you still know there’s some Higgs’ boson or something out there left to discover, and the ultimate answer to existence (since you say no to God) means it’s left to be discovered. In the meantime, you need to survive, learn, and most likely procreate so your descendants will learn from you and ultimately you’ll find that purpose.
Yeah, yeah, 42, but what’s the question?
Survival becomes, and is, an absolute moral. Your life is the most important thing there is.
I mentioned Starship Troopers in the last post, and I’ll mention it here again. Within the book (the movie is an abomination), there’s much discussion of how survival is the basis for all morals, and morality has become almost mathematical because of it. Your life is the most important thing in the world. But the value you put on your family’s life may exceed that you put on your own. It doesn’t mean that yours is less valuable, it just means that you have taken it upon yourself to value their life more, and put your own at risk to protect them. This starts with spouse and children (with whom you share a link to the future), but ultimately extends outwards to encompass all of your region, culture, society, and humankind. It takes great understanding to put your own life at risk for someone you’ve never met, which is why this is such a virtuous thing to do.
And at the same time, it’s also why a tyranny that views even one life as unimportant (let alone millions) is an invalid entity – because that one life has value on its own.
Thus even if you choose the advancement of human knowledge as your deity instead of Yahweh, Jesus, Buddha, Vishnu, Ahura Mazda, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you can still find that these principles apply, and agree with the wisdom here:
Evil ever advances upon our families, churches, and states. Evil seeks positions of power, such as government, and from there seeks to eliminate the avenues of power that threaten it (an armed people). Thus tyrannical government seek to pass gun control laws.
Perhaps it’s important to note something else Heinlein put forth: that “an armed society is a polite society”. Tyrants don’t try to oppress those who can fight back, just like bullies don’t torment those who fight back. It’s a preemptive move against tyranny, and creates a more peaceful state. No wars were ever started because a pacifist was too strong.
Si vis pacem, para bellum.