The foundational phrase from the Declaration of Independence says, “We hold these truths to be self evident.” But the original draft said, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable.” Sacred, because these truths transcend petty partisanship and selfish ambitions, pointing us toward our brighter ideals. Undeniable, because the statements that followed were thought to be such basic truths of reality as to be unassailable. These are the core premises of humanity; starting points delineating who we are created to become and the best of what we endeavored to build. To say that they are self-evident, sacred, and undeniable is to say that no one should have to be persuaded through argument that they are true: It shouldn’t require convincing to agree that all people are created equal.
Sadly, the word “undeniable” no longer pertains to many important concepts because misguided and unethical policies at the state and federal levels continuously deny truths such as the equality of all people and their inherent rights. We have seen budgets put forward that will push poor people deeper into poverty and sick people deeper into sickness, while reducing access things such as health care and education that would enable them to exercise their God-endowed right to the pursuit of happiness.
But despite years of these truths being denied, they are still self-evident and sacred:
- It’s self-evident and sacred that children shouldn’t be torn from their parents.
- It’s self-evident and sacred that children shouldn’t be put in cages.
- It’s self-evident and sacred that we need to help the homeless.
- It’s self-evident and sacred that we need to fund education.
- It’s self-evident and sacred that we must care for our seniors.
These sacred truths should not require any persuasion. These should be part of a shared foundation on which we build our nation. Any policy proposals should appeal to these truths, not argue to deny them.
Take, for example, another foundational phrase, not written on paper but sobbed from our souls as we struggled to make sense of the Holocaust: “Never again.” It should simply be presumed that concentration camps are out of the question. And yet this sacred and undeniable truth has become, in the mouth of this federal administration, deniable.
We also could consider the concept of filial piety: The basic truth that it is our honor to care for our elders. This is a truth that has transcended cultures and sustained human community for millennia. And yet, as they cut the Senior Benefits Program which provides essential funding for things such as food and health care to more than 11,000 low-income elderly Alaskans, we see that this current State Administration has made this truth deniable.
“We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable.” In the word “sacred” we hear the call to compassion. In the word “undeniable” we hear the call to fact. But when, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary to spend years trying to convince a person or a party that concentration camps are wrong, or that we should care for our elders, then it is apparent that fact and compassion are no longer held as sacred. And if fact and compassion are not the foundation, then anything we build will be unworthy.
Rev. Matt Schultz, an Anchorage pastor, is on the steering committee for Christians for Equality.
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