WHY WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF OUR RIGHTS — PART 1

Jerusalem_Modell_BW_3
Model of Herod’s Temple (a renovation of the Second Temple) in the Israel Museum, created in 1966 as part of the Holyland Model of Jerusalem. The model was inspired by the writings of Josephus. (from here)

OF A POST TO COME promised to compare the governing approaches of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton with respect to two issues.

  • The growth of the power of government.
  • The protection of our rights.

Here we will consider the protection of our rights.

Why The Law Written In Our Hearts Is Not Enough

Why don’t we care about the protection of our rights? We are ignorant of our rights. Because we don’t properly educate our children, we don’t understand the concept of human rights and RESPONSIBILITIES. I suppose that sounds arrogant, but please bear with me and let me explain.

The notion that individuals have rights is a relatively new idea.  We tend to be more concerned about doing the right thing, and we equate what we think is the right thing with respecting human rights.

What do we think is the right thing? Consider this Bible passage.

Romans 2:12-16 New King James Version (NKJV)

12 For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law 13 (for not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; 14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, 15 who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them) 16 in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.

Without ever hearing about Jesus or the Bible we each know enough to do the right thing (see IS GOD EVIL OR HOLY?), but our pride and our instincts fight with this knowledge. Hence, we constantly find excuses to ignore it.

Consider when and where the Apostle Paul wrote the passage above.

  • The Roman republic was dead, subsumed by the empire its efficient and brutal legions had created. Slavery was common. How well a slave fared depended upon the decency of his or her master (see here, here, and here). Rome defended the institution of slavery mercilessly. The rebellion led by Spartacus provides the most famous example. Roman legions crucified 6,000 of the rebels (see here and here).
  • Even without slavery, Roman society was highly class conscious (see here, here, and here), and the prestige of the Rome depending upon the integrity of its empire. About a decade after Paul wrote the Book of Romans, the Jews  rebelled. Eventually, Roman legions descended upon Jerusalem. They slaughtered and enslaved the population and burned the city, including the temple (see here and here).

Do we live in a better place and time? Yes, but why? The Romans were civilized and in many ways quite virtuous. Yet they had little respect for human rights, particularly the rights of foreigners. The Romans were as savage as any barbarians, just better organized, trained, and equipped.

What is the difference between the Roman Empire and America? The Romans only had the law written in their hearts. They could see themselves and their conduct reflected in their own eyes and each others eyes, but they too often saw only what they wanted to see.

The Bible provides a better mirror. The Bible teaches that we are all children of God, made in his image. The Bible teaches that we must love our neighbor as our self. As Jesus explained in The Parable of the Good Samaritan, every man is our neighbor. Every man has rights we must respect.

When studied carefully, the Bible does what the law written in our hearts cannot do. Whereas the law written in our hearts is intertwined with our fleshly desires, the Bible is purely of the spirit. Thus, the Bible perfectly mirrors our life and conduct with respect to what God expects of His children.

James 1:22-25 New King James Version (NKJV)

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.

Yet the Bible only works if we read it and study it, and it works best when we insist our children read it and study it. Unfortunately, such Bible instruction is not common in America anymore.

To Be Continued

  • What Are God-Given Rights?
  • Where Do The Candidates Stand With Respect To God-Given Rights?

6 thoughts on “WHY WE DON’T CARE ABOUT THE PROTECTION OF OUR RIGHTS — PART 1

  1. Tom – I don’t want to be too critical here because I really liked most of this. One thing bothers me though, and I hope you will explore it more. You wrote:

    “The Bible provides a better mirror. The Bible teaches that we are all children of God, made in his image. The Bible teaches that we must love our neighbor as our self. As Jesus explained in The Parable of the Good Samaritan, every man is our neighbor. Every man has rights we must respect.”

    The Good Samaritan showed that each man has a moral “responsibility” to love and to help his neighbor, but I don’t think that you have explained how the moral “responsibility” of every person to help his neighbor turns into a “right” that the aided person can expect. In other words, does that man left robbed and dying have the “right” or a “God given” expectation to medical care that he was “deprived of” by every other person who passed him by until the Samaritan? What other rights can we each expect to be afforded by God? God mysteriously made all our mortal bodies to ultimately suffer and die one day in spite of the amount of aid we (rightfully?) receive from others.

    My theology doesn’t really believe in “God given rights”. It talks about “God given responsibilities”. I do, however, very much believe in very human and very imperfect “legal rights”. And I am not saying that the two are not related, but the history of American legal juris prudence (with some recent exceptions) afforded those who passed the injured man by with some level of “right” not to actually help their neighbor. Are you saying that, because the hurt citizen has “a right” to be helped, that you would use the power of government to force everyone to afford him that right? Are you saying that everyone has a “God given right” to health care then, and that we should use the power of government to enforce and protect that right?

    God given rights are not so clear are they? God given responsibilities to act virtuously (and as you point out, for us Christians we have a splendid example in Jesus and His story and His stories to us) are more theologically and scripturally clear, although in an imperfect world and as imperfect sinners, also very difficult to actually perfectly carry out as Jesus did.

    As a child we learn our God given reponsibilities from all the people who teach us the greater value of moral goods over material goods. We learn from The Good Samaritan Story that moral goods are relational. If we meet our God given moral responsibilities to each other then, in a very indirect way, we afford others their rights at every level of social relationship whether it be the family, the church, the business or government. Maybe we even pass Good Samaritan laws.

    It’s never as easy as it sounds though. Rights and responsibilities often conflict and must be balanced. The problem is also that, as Chistians and Americans, we early on recognized that, for a mature adult, to have a real conscience, that person’s conscience to do the right thing (or the wrong thing) in very many cases must be as free as practically possible, and should not be physically coerced any more than necessary without their being some dire conflict of rights or without a substantial state interest. Thus we have freedom of speech to say the stupidest, most unconscionable things but we can’t yell fire in a crowded theatre without getting arrested. We have the freedom to be left alone to practice the most rediculous religions or no religion at all, but we don’t have the right to sacrifice babies. All of American law and juris prudence is an imperfect and constantly evolving attempt to find these precarious balances between our legal human rights and our legal (and often God given) responsibilities to one another. But regardless of what the law says we, even in a state of slavery, are never freed of our God given responsibilities to do our best to individually act virtuously toward the highest moral good and with love and virtue relationally toward one another.

    Perhaps that is what you are meaning to say, and if so, sorry to steal your thunder. If not, I’ll await you reply or your next post because I find this topic very interesting and of the highest import if we are going to continuously figure out what kind of a person we each want to be and what kind of relationships we want to have with each other, including the relationship we all have with one another through our various levels of government.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. @Tony

      Thank you for your comment. I will try to address most of your concerns in the next post. I will just here observe here that no one has a right to be loved. Not even God who is our Creator forces us to love Him. Love must be given freely.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. If your “right” conflicts with your “responsibility,” the chances are that the topic in question is neither a right nor a responsibility stemming from anything except positive law.

      Like

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