Freedom and Happiness

“Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!” Psalm 144:15b~

I had the great privilege once to meet Harry Wu, a Chinese dissident who spent 19 years in a laogai, a “re-education camp.” Wu was eventually exiled to America. He worked nights in a doughnut shop until he could learn English to become a voice for freedom until his death in 2016.

Something he said still resonates with me. “A barefoot peasant can be happy if he is free.” Happiness and freedom go hand in hand. 

In “The Grand Inquisitor,” Fyodor Dostoevsky presents what at first seems like a different view.

Alyosha, a priest, is generous and loving. His brother Ivan is an atheist who plans to live until he is thirty, then commit suicide. The two discuss a parable Ivan has written. The conversation, a chapter in The Brothers Karamozov, is more of a political statement than a religious one. But sometimes, people substitute politics for religion.

In Ivan’s parable, a 16th-century Cardinal/inquisitor talks to a silent Christ who has returned to earth for the day. Christ sits silently while the inquisitor tells how he and others in power have replaced God, having improved upon His plan. They have convinced the populace to willingly relinquish their freedom.

Christ had brought freedom with the promise of heavenly bread. He had brought no guarantees of earthly bread or even of happiness. The inquisitor offers people earthly bread at the cost of freedom. Not having to pursue their own bread, the people will be happy, the inquisitor claims.

Speaking to Christ, the inquisitor sums up our times:

“Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? ‘Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!’ that’s what they’ll write on the banner, which they will raise against Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple.”

Published in 1880, Dostoevsky was prophetic. Much of the world has turned to the bread of socialism. They don’t, however, seem any happier for having done so.

Satan’s promises never pay off.

In the 1960s, President Lyndon Johnson promised America freedom and happiness. He admitted he did not have the “full answer” to America’s woes. But he determined to find “the best thought and the broadest knowledge from all over the world to find those answers for America.” It’s unlikely that he realized his point mirrored the words of the inquisitor.

Johnson’s speech marks a turning in America, not the first nor the last, away from the wisdom of God to the wisdom of man.

“The purpose of protecting the life of our nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a nation.” The government’s new goal became to effect personal happiness in its citizens. Without it, the nation would be a failure.

Johnson’s Great Society would result in “abundance and liberty for all” and require “an end to poverty and racial injustice.”

After having spent more than $22 trillion over 50 years, rates of poverty first dropped from 17 percent to about 12 percent, rose again to hover at 15 percent, then ticked back up to almost 17 percent in 2020. 

Changes to Social Security and Medicare accounted for much of the initial poverty reduction. 

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report shows a murder rate in 1960 of 4.6 (per 100,000). The rate soared to 10.2 in 1980 and was at 4.5 in 2013. Currently, the rate is 6.9. The War on Poverty has failed.

More than half a century since LBJ promised that programs could produce a heyday of peace and prosperity, a heaven on earth utopia has not come to pass.

It cannot be on earth.

The pursuit of happiness is not something that anyone–including the government–can chase on someone else’s behalf. Certainly, no one can pursue happiness without freedom.

In response to the inquisitor, Dostoevsky’s Christ remains silent. His only response: kissing the inquisitor before He departs.

Ivan thought he figured out how to fix the world. But Ivan still wasn’t happy. Before they part, Alyosha kisses him.

Alyosha knows happiness does not come in the form of government-provided bread. It comes in the form of love.

Love shares, provides for needs, and is generous.

That kind of love comes only through Christ.

Photo Credit: Pexels

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Taking Us to the Edge of Darkness?

“I have no personal stake in these people, Jean-Claude, but they are people. Good, bad, or indifferent, they are alive, and no one has the right to just arbitrarily snuff them out.”

“So it is the sanctity of life you cling to?”

I nodded. “That and the fact that every human being is special. Every death is a loss of something precious and irreplaceable.” ~ Laurell K. Hamilton

Social Security came to be during the Great Depression as a way of moving older workers out of their jobs to make room for younger workers. Robert W. Merry points out that, today, the Social Security fund is running out of money.

“Consider the recent report that Social Security costs will exceed the program’s income next year, which means Social Security will have to begin dipping into its $3 trillion trust fund to maintain benefit payments. And that trust fund, under current projections, will run out of money within 15 years.”

The problem looms like an oncoming freight train, yet there is little discussion of a solution.

We’ve seen this problem before. In the early 1980s, Bob Dole, a Republican, and Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Democrat, put their heads together to save the program, which was in crisis at the time.

The solution Dole and Moynihan came up with involved taxing Social Security benefits and postponing those benefits until later in life. When the program began, life expectancy was not what it was in the ’80s although it remains close today to what it was during Ronald Reagan’s presidency.

With fewer children being born, the fund can only become more unstable or more expensive per person. Veronique de Rugy writes that between “1945 and 1965, the decline in worker-to-beneficiary ratios went from 41 to 4 workers per beneficiary. Now that rate is 2.9 workers for every recipient.

The cure, if there is one to be found, for this situation may depend on who holds power in Congress and the White House as the problem comes to its inevitable head.

One solution may include higher taxes–both on workers and recipients–and more delays in receiving benefits although it seems unlikely that elder voters will embrace putting off their benefits beyond age 70.

Some may suggest yet another solution–one that is already in play in some places–the withdrawal of medical care from the terminally ill–or the withholding of care from those who need it to continue living–or the overt act of killing someone whose productivity has passed or will never come to be.

Andrea Peyser writes about Stephanie Packer who suffers from scleroderma–an auto-immune disease that causes scar tissue to accumulate in her lungs. She has outlived her prognosis by six years. But not because of any help she got from her insurance company or the state of California–which allows physician-prescribed-suicide.

“[At one point,] her doctors suggested that switching to another chemotherapy drug might buy her time. Her medical insurance company refused to pay. She says she asked if the company covered the cost of drugs to put her to death. She was told the answer is yes — with a co-payment of $1.20.”

We need to let that sink in. The insurance company refused to provide care that would extend Packer’s life, but killing herself would only cost her $1.20.

Some countries where the government manages all health care have moved even further down this road than America has.

In the United Kingdom, there were the cases of Alfie Evans and Charlie Gard–children who died because of a lack of care–care which would have been expensive.

Medical personnel wanted to actively kill Alfie, but his parents protested. The child finally died after authorities ordered the removal of his life support and a court refused to allow him to go to another country for treatment.

Medical decisions are happening based on cost-effectiveness without regard to patient outcomes, families’ wishes, or even a patient’s own desire to stay alive.

Very concerning: right now, 72 percent of Americans believe euthanasia–assisted suicide–should be legal. The only group for which the numbers fall under a majority are weekly churchgoers.

It’s sad to see that so many people don’t see the slope that slides between voluntary death and mandated murder. When the government is the highest authority–when the government pays for everything–or even when it doesn’t–life becomes secondary.

Simon Fitzmaurice, a victim of ALS, escaped death in Ireland only because the person helping him breathe didn’t know the rules. And the rules state that ALS patients don’t receive ventilators–even though the equipment is available at no cost to the government.

This filmmaker and writer would have received a death sentence–if not for the accident of his rescue–and his refusal–even under pressure–to have the ventilator removed after he received it.

Where once America provided for retirees to make room for younger workers, we may soon find ourselves eventually officially abandoning care for our elders, as well as the weak and sick, to make a financial way to care for everyone else.

But everyone else will then have to watch their own backs.

Such a turn of events would be tragic indeed. Life offers few securities. Embracing euthanasia would deprive us of the security that comes from having a society that reveres human life–a society that understands our lives are worthy of respect until their natural end.

Embracing euthanasia would deprive us of precious and irreplaceable human lives snuffed out on the altar of cost-effectiveness.

It is too great a price to pay to save a little money. There must be a better way.

There must be.

“All life is sacred. Human life is especially so. Protecting it is of utmost importance to God. He takes this so seriously and personally because He made humanity to reflect Him. We are His earthly representatives, made in His image. To murder another person is to mount an attack on the One who created him.” (Genesis 9:8-10 Voice)

Photo Credit: Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”