When Jefferson spoke of God giving us liberty, he said a wise thing. He echoed the Old Testament prophet Joshua, who said, "Choose this day whom you will serve ..." and he added "as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15). God gave him a choice, and he exercised it, but he didn't impose that choice on others. There are benefits for choosing wisely and consequences for choosing wrongly. But liberty, not conformity, should be supreme.
Admittedly, this is a biblical notion. So is "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord." When a mere human takes on the role of God, dispensing vengeance and judgment, and thus assuming the role God reserves for Himself, he becomes guilty of that worst of all sins: pride. He is saying that only he knows what God wants. No human can fully know that because we all "see through a glass darkly."
It's going to be difficult to win consideration for Jefferson's noble observation in Pakistan and Russia and in many other places, but we should try. As Dinesh D'Souza wrote in The Washington Post (July 4), virtue has great power, but not if it is imposed - only when it is chosen.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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