Thursday, 15 April 2010

A hierarchy of rights?

Is there a human rights "hierarchy"? Are there actually any "human rights" before God? Well, it is complex. There is the Creation dignity of being made in the "image of God", which means that all human beings have the right to being treated with respect as "holy" - not despatched as sub human or unwanted, in gas chambers. I would say that the emphasis is on human responsibilities: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and on our active duty to care for the sick, mentally ill and poor.

I know that one UK political party plans to rescind the Human Rights Act, which it says has had some nonsensical consequences. Are the religious consciences of believers less important than the "rights" of gender? Or are the "rights" of Christians (surely not a very strong concept considering passages from St Paul) less important than the "rights" of other groups, under the law? Certainly former Archobishop Carey and the Christian Institute protesting today outside the High Court about its judges lack of knowledge of religious conscience, do not accept that.

We are speaking about the "the religious conscience" v "material or carnal rights". Religious conscience has always had a tough time. One looks at martyrs in the 15th century who died for matters of conscience. Certainly, a true believer cannot transgress his or her religious conscience. Today that may mean they lose their job. However, supporting this principle has consequences for all. This principle greatly restricts the careers that Christians can enter which is employment discrimination in itself. It means a loss of their rich contribution to the wellbeing of society which, of course, modern secularists wrongly deny.

My thoughts are that unless "rights" can each be balanced fairly, not as part of some invisible hierarchy which favours some rights over others, we should reinvent the "rights" concept altogether, or just ditch it. Inspite of teaching human rights in the past, I have always preferred a hierarchy of responsibilities. There is no hierarchy in the Ten Commandments. You have to do them all which you cannot.

This is why one needs the Cross and the borrowed righteousness of Jesus (grace) who alone could do them all.

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