Friday, December 16, 2011

Liberty - A Human Right?

Human Rights are difficult. Let me just be clear that this post is more of an exploration than a conclusion. I'm interested in your thoughts.

R N W brought to light the question of whether Liberty is really a human right based on the Wagner quote in my previous post. Wagner indicates that only those who are self-controlled can breathe the air of Liberty without getting drunk on it and being "morally slain." We see this throughout history and in our own culture. When given freedom to do whatever they wish, and unconstrained by an "inner law" based on a Judeo-christian ethic, the people become increasingly enslaved to their desires and passions. As Plato said so long ago, pure democracy always ends in tyranny, because a government must great tighter and tighter regulations to control a people who will not control themselves. That is exactly what Wagner is saying, and what C.S. Lewis prophesied in The Abolition of Man.

But what does this have to do with Human Rights? Should we selectively withhold Liberty from those who are not self-controlled? In a sense we do this already; it's called prison. But is Liberty still a Human Right?

The Declaration of Independence is one of the most profound documents of our time. A true game changer.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The founding fathers are saying here that Liberty is a right by God's law, and cannot be given or taken away by government. In a sense, even if we wanted to take away someones Liberty, we really can't do it. See China. Mao's revolution was designed to control the people by forcing them to think a certain way. But he couldn't do it. It didn't work. [As an aside, it's interesting to note that China is now partnering with very capitalistic organizations like... WalMart. Why? What reason would a still-communist China have to bring the largest corporation on the planet inside its borders? To control the people. Consumerism is the great opiate of America, and it may just work in China too...]

Back to Human Rights. Alexander Hamilton makes an interesting point about liberty, rights, and government in Federalist No.1:
It will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgement, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.
This, in a letter that is arguing for the acceptance of the newly published Constitution. Hamilton argues on the same theme as Plato, which Wagner would later pick up, that the elevation of individual liberties above all else ends in tyranny.

I'm still circling the question. Is Liberty a human right?

Let's see what the Bible says. We know that mankind is depraved and rebellious, bent on evil (pursing not-God), and is thus deserving of Death (eternal not-God). In that sense, we have no "rights." Zero. The only human right before God is Death. There is nothing else we "deserve."
However, we also know that humans are created in the Image of God, and that Christ is the perfection and completion of that Image. This bears significant impact on the way we treat each other. God created you; in your face I see the image of my Creator. Therefore, out of respect for Him, I respect you. I respect your ability to make autonomous choices, and until proven otherwise, I respect your ability to control yourself. Liberty, I think is the right and responsibility of all humans to treat each other with justice. Liberty does not say, "Give me mine!" as secular humanism is teaching us today. Liberty is not an individual sport. True Liberty does not say, "I demand my freedom to do whatever I want. Respect me." it says, "I respect you, because God has made you free."

We must follow the example of Christ. He never stood up for his own "rights." Instead he freely gave them up and chose to wield his power on behalf of those who before God are powerless, without rights.

Liberty is Human Right. But to experience true freedom we must not demand Liberty for ourselves. Instead, we bow to the "inner law." We control ourselves out of deference to Christ and his image in others.


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