This week we celebrate the independence of our nation from England. Like many countries that celebrate freedom, the cost of that freedom came with a high price (namely the loss of many lives in war). Today we enjoy many freedoms in our country, we have many opportunities, and the American Dream though perhaps not as easy to realize as it was 100 years ago, is still very much alive and attainable.
However, it does seem like over time some of our freedoms have been replaced for personal securities, and some issues not previously thought to be debatable issues are now on the forefront of political turmoil.
It would be easy to write a post today about Trump, the presidency, the state of Washington, and what could be, should be, or what should never be, but instead, I want to focus on what rights we have as Americans and how we can be thankful for those rights regardless of what is happening in our government and between our government and the news media.
To understand what rights we have, we must first define what constitutes a right. A Right is a justified entitlement or claim that one individual possesses in regards to someone or something. A right is different than a duty. A Duty is an obligation that an individual has. Our duties require action, but our rights allow opportunities. All humans have rights and duties. A duty is imposed on someone by someone else’s right. For example, we all have a duty to respect others–at least according to Kant’s Kingdom of Ends. The philosopher Thomas Donaldson argues that human rights should fulfill three conditions: First they must protect something of importance to human beings. Second, they must be subject to substantial recurrent threats. Third, the obligations they impose upon others must be fair and affordable. Donaldson goes on to describe 10 basic human rights:
- The right to freedom of physical movement.
- The right to ownership of property.
- The right to freedom from torture.
- The right to a fair trial.
- The right to nondiscriminatory treatment (freedom from discrimination on the basis of such characteristics as race or sex).
- The right to physical security.
- The right to freedom of speech and association.
- The right to minimal education.
- The right to political participation.
- The right to subsistence (the ability to support oneself).
These rights are not recognized in every country, but they are recognized here in America (or at least they should be when others are dutifully acting correctly with regards to the rights of others).
My real question here is what does Scripture have to say about these rights?
The answer quite a bit. What it says about human rights should really begin with what the Bible teaches about justice. First, God is just. Second, justice implies fair treatment, objectivity, and morality. Justice is characterized by honor. Third, God expects Christians to act justly and to treat others fairly. When others are treated fairly, their rights should be evident. When people act unjustly, they forfeit those rights. Thus a person who is incarcerated does not have the same freedom of physical movement, he or she cannot just go anywhere the person pleases. But the person who is incarcerated should not receive a steeper punishment than his or her crime requires (thus ensuring fairness).
The Compelling Truth website shares this list of rights in relation to Scripture:
Human rights as our God-given lifestyle
– Marriage (Genesis 2:24)
– Family (Psalm 127:5)
– Opportunity to work (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
– To be part of a group for safety and identity (Numbers 33:54)
Human rights as God-defined justice
– To not be murdered (Exodus 20:13)
– To not be robbed (Exodus 20:15)
– To not be insulted (Matthew 5:22)
– To not be kidnapped/enslaved (Exodus 21:16)
– To not be cheated on in one’s marriage (Exodus 20:14)
– To not be lied about (Exodus 20:16)
– To not be disrespected by children (Exodus 20:12)
– To not be cheated in business (Proverbs 16:11)
– To not be victimized by society such that one’s life is threatened (Deuteronomy 14:29; 24:17)
– To not be raped (Deuteronomy 22:25-27)
– To not be denied access to a place to worship God (John 2:11-12)
– To not be defenseless (Exodus 22:2-3)
– To not be denied reconciliation after apologizing for an offense (Matthew 18:22)
– To not to be barred from entering a land that is safe (Leviticus 19:34)
– To learn about God (Deuteronomy 6:7)
Human rights as God-ordained mercy
– Return another’s possessions (Exodus 23:4)
– Help another’s need (Exodus 23:5)
– Feed the needy (Deuteronomy 24:19)
– Sacrifice your investment for another’s safety (Deuteronomy 24:17) (https://www.compellingtruth.org/human-rights.html)
Now for the final questions. As a Christian, what will you do to stand up for the rights of others? How will you promote justice? Will you choose to live responsibly so as to be a good citizen? A good person? A true follower of Christ? (I know that just doing these things does not make one a follower of Christ, but I would argue that a good follower of Christ strives to uphold the things listed above.)
For more on this topic check out Got Questions: https://www.gotquestions.org/human-rights.html