Thursday, March 21, 2013

What is Wrong with Rights?

Today is Human Rights Day which is great because it's a public holiday.  There is however the fact that the words "human rights" still conjure up a vague sense of unease within me is keeping me from enjoying it as much as I should.  This is not OK.  I was raised to have a negative view of human rights and this needs to stop right now so today I'm going to try to dig this thing up by the root!

I think part of the problem was that I was never really clear on why human rights were supposed to be bad.  For as long as I can remember people in church only mentioned human rights in a derisive manner.  Much like "humanism" or "compromise" it was a term that everyone apparently just understood was a bad thing, no explanation necessary.  So that was all I knew.  Human rights were bad.  Actually all rights were bad - Human rights, Children's rights, Animal rights - all of them.  Good Christians were supposed to be against having rights.  Having rights were bad, you were supposed to "give up your rights".  Again, no idea why, it's just something good Christians were supposed to believe.  Lest you think I was just in some weird cult, this happens all over.  Not only do certain American Christians oppose Children's rights, they even actively oppose giving rights to the disabled.  This isn't just something my weird little pentecostal church taught, this is something Christians all over the world believe.  But why?

Well for the first time in my life I looked up the actual Universal Declaration of Human Rights and I have to say, it was no help at all!  Everything on there seemed like a great idea!  I see nothing in it that could be scary in any way, except perhaps if you were a running an oppressive dictatorship.

So I've been scouring my memory banks and came up with two possible reasons I was supposed to consider human rights a bad thing:

Rights lead to entitlement!  I distinctly remember one sermon in the student church I attended making the case that we should abandon human rights and instead adopt human responsibility.  See having rights make you entitled and lazy and prevents you from taking the responsibility to help yourself.  This makes total sense right up until you actually read up on what human rights actually entail at which point it stops making any sense at all.  This is just one more nasty offspring from the union of Christianity with political conservatism.  There is this deep seated aversion to people getting good things they didn't earn themselves which is pretty ironic considering the basic tenets of Christian Theology...  Any mention of human rights also tended to get rather vitriolic when it was regarding the rights of a criminal.  This of course isn't confined to church, this happens everywhere.  Everyone seems to get really upset at the idea that a suspected criminal could have rights under the law, and I certainly understand that impulse.  However this too shows both complete ignorance of what human rights actually entail and a staggering lack of empathy.  You don't think criminals should have rights?  What if you were accused of a crime?  Should you get to have rights?  Yes?  Well then, maybe having basic human rights isn't the worst thing in the world!

Rights are a conspiracy!  If you want to understand Evangelical Christians you need to understand End Times paranoia.  Really if you only have the time to learn ONE THING about Christians, learn this because it colours the world of Christendom more than any other doctrine.  What Christians believe about the end of the world determines how they relate to the other groups, international relations, climate change and everything related to the future.  This is why many Christians - especially in America - distrust the UN.  They believe that the UN is just a forerunner for the One World Government the Antichrist will install during the End Times to oppress all Real True Christians (who weren't Raptured)*.  Therefore, everything connected to the UN must be viewed with suspicion.  No matter how benign it might seem, ultimately it has to be a nefarious trap to destroy the Christian way of life.  Since the UN is the one pushing for rights, rights have to be bad.  I know it doesn't make sense but then again, neither do their ideas about the End Times.

So then as best I can gather I was supposed to distrust human rights because it may make people suffer less and because it could all be fantastical plot by a nonexistent evil entity.  Well, I guess that settles that.

Human Rights are to be promoted and protected.  Human Rights are not to be feared.  These things should be self evident and I'm ashamed that for a while they weren't.  Happy Human Rights Day!

See also:  Things that are and are not cake.  I should add human rights (or just rights in general) to things that are not cake.  You can have the full spectrum of human rights and it will take nothing away from me.  I can have all the same rights too.  There is enough to go around, rights are not cake!  Enjoy!

No comments: