on Divine gifts & human rights
by halley low
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – from the Preamble of the U.S. Declaration of Independence.
the authors of our declaration of independence understood that human beings have inherent rights in regards to their interaction with other people and society as a whole. their specific listing of life, freedom, and the pursuit of well being, suggest that these three inherent rights are of primary importance. this seems reasonable enough given that all other rights extend from these three. the authors recognize these inalienable rights as rooted in the fact that they are first, and foremost, gifts from God to all of humanity, and therefore universal human rights.
indeed, in the very beginning of the bible we are told that the origin of human life is in God (gen. 1:27, 2:7). the whole book of exodus is a freedom-song, the story of God’s gifting people with freedom from oppressive social structures. this freedom-song is repeated throughout the writings of the prophets and in the words of Jesus. likewise, the right to pursue the desires of one’s heart and enjoy life is expressed throughout the book of ecclesiastes (2:24-26, 3:10-15, 5:18-20, 9:7, 11:9). we are given the gift of choice, and also responsibility for our choices. All actions have consequences, whether positive or negative, thus God gives us directives that point us in the way of wisdom (deut. 30:19).
yet sadly, there are places in the world today where the universal human rights to life, freedom, and the pursuit of happiness are gravely denied. there are even those in our nation who would meter out these rights selectively. denial of these Divine gifts and universal human rights are often justified on the basis of culture and tradition. while we need to be culturally sensitive and respectful of tradition, we also need to remember that culture and tradition are social constructions that by human necessity are subject to change.
this is demonstrated in the bible; for example, it was the tradition of the patriarchs to practice polygamy, where even the great and wise solomon had countless wives and concubines, yet that tradition changed as marriage evolved in context of shifting social norms. history as well demonstrates the necessity for cultural adaptation. it was not too long ago that slavery was a legally recognized part of american culture. today most americans abhor the very idea of human trafficking.
therefore, the denial of life and liberty based on the evolving human inventions of culture and tradition is a fundamental threat to individual dignity and societal health, as well as an affront to God. we must, as a people, find the moral courage to stand up for universal human rights wherever they are being sacrificed on the altars of the false gods of culture and tradition. otherwise, we deny the very tenets upon which our democracy was founded, and further deny God’s graciousness towards all people. The words of Dr. King ring as true today as ever, “No one is free, until everyone is free”.
© 2012 halley low
check out halley's blog - "sane living in a crazy world"- http://sanelivinginacrazyworld.blogspot.com/
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