The topic that my frequent commenter, Dan Trabue, was hot to debate with me was "feminism" which he defined (essentially) as the quest for equal rights for women. I am (again) not debating it here. What I am thinking about is the concept of rights in general.
I suppose it is likely that all Americans over the age of 15 are able to quote this phrase from the Declaration of Independence. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." I suppose it is equally likely that very, very few of those Americans have taken a moment to ask, "Why? Why did they (and subsequently do we) hold these truths to be self-evident? On what do we base these 'unalienable rights'?" America is predicated on rights and has, over the centuries, become rights-and-entitlements driven. It seems almost all of us look at life through rights-colored glasses. You know ... "You deserve a break today." Oh, really? A recent commercial on local television assured me that "All Americans deserve a fresh start", referring to their bankruptcy option. Really? All Americans? When the FCC tried to turn off analog television last February, the cry went out. "We have the right to television, and some aren't ready for the transition!" Television is a right? Then you find organizations like the "Human Rights Campaign". Their mission statement: "HRC envisions an America where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are ensured equality and embraced as full members of the American family at home, at work and in every community." Ummm, okay ... let's interpolate. They are the "Human Rights Campaign" who are fighting for the rights of "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people". I would have to assume from these two facts that heterosexuals are not humans ... or have no rights? No, no, don't be ridiculous. We all have rights and we all know what they are and you're an idiot for even bringing up the question.
The U.N. has created a document titled The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It sets out to declare "a common standard" of what they term "inalienable rights" for "all members of the human family". I won't quote it -- there are 30 articles. But I'll give you the flavor of it. Article 1 assures us that "All human beings are born free ..." (Note: The three dots that follow what I wrote there indicate there is more. If you want to know what, look it up yourself.) It seems certainly true that not all human beings are born free. Article 2 says, "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, ... or other status." Really? Without distinction of any kind? All of these rights?? Some of these "rights and freedoms" to which every single living person is entitled without distinction of any kind are "a fair and public hearing" (a private hearing is a violation of human rights -- even in cases such as national security), "the right to freedom of movement", "equal rights as to marriage", "the right to own property alone", "the right to social security", "the free development of his personality" (think about that when you consider sociopaths, child molesters, and the like), "the right to rest and leisure", and "the right to a standard of living". One I found fascinating, considering recent hubbub in various places, was "Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children." Oh? What about home schooling? Has anyone told Germany? Another of the interesting items on their list of universal human rights was this little piece: "The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures." In other words, the U.N. has declared that among other human rights is the inalienable right to ... democracy. All other governments -- monarchy, benevolent dictatorship, communism, etc. -- that are not elected governments violate human rights.
One of the "human rights" listed regarded marriage. "Marriage shall be entered into only with the free and full consent of the intending spouses." In one sentence the United Nations declared that God had violated basic human rights. You see, it was God who instituted marriage and the biblical examples of marriages were arranged marriages. It made me think. Since God has violated "human rights" ... what makes us think they're human rights?
The question gets really sticky after this initial examination. The concept of human rights assumes that humans simply by virtue of being humans have basic moral guarantees that cannot be arbitrarily removed because they are based on the fact that the human is human. Wait ... it gets stickier. The basis of human rights is that there is "a rationally identifiable moral order", a moral universalism that is inherent to and applicable to all humans. Do you see the problem yet? You see, one of the basic premises of human interaction these days is the argument that there is no moral absolute. That's a mere Christian myth. Human dignity in Christianity is based on the basic claim that people are made in the image of God, but since we're discarding Christianity as an absolute and, in fact, discarding moral absolutes entirely, we don't have that basis anymore. So ... now what? Since morality is now defined as historical and cultural and volatile, we would necessarily define human rights as historical, cultural, and volatile.
Now, having found that we've carefully and willfully undercut the basis for "human rights", we end up back at the beginning. What rights do we have? What rights are "unalienable"? Having removed the basis of moral absolutism, how do we determine what rights are right and what rights are imaginary and what rights are temporary? After having stirred through that nasty pot of stew, we would next need to determine exactly what "equal rights" means. As an example, the argument has been made that if a test is given to all the members of a fire department and only white fire fighters passed the test, it wasn't "equal rights". The argument has been made that paying some people (like doctors and lawyers) more than other people (like administrative assistants and the cleaning crew) is a violation of "equal rights". Some people would like us to believe (and you will need to decide if they're right or not) that unless everyone has the same thing, it's a violation of "equal rights". So, with little basis for "human rights" and the "reality" that whatever you define as "human rights" is volatile and then moving on to trying to figure out what exactly "equal" means in terms of "rights" (which are in question, remember), well ... you can see you have your work cut out for you. So, for the Christians, let's start here. Go to your Bibles and find, if you will, a basic list of "human rights". Feel free to look anywhere in the Book. It doesn't have to be a "list" in one passage. Anywhere will do. Basic human rights from Scripture ... that's all I'm looking for. Thanks.