God vs Human Rights

En Hakkore

Well-known member
I am still not clear, then, what the Christian position is.
Christianity is a diverse religious phenomenon, there is no singular position on the subjects we are discussing or anything else. That said, the idea of humanity having a 'Father in heaven' and humans being the 'children' of that deity is likely to be found in most Christian theologies so I have referred to most Christians believing this... this would certainly be true for your handful of Christian interlocutors here.

Are you suggesting rights are relative? That is, a person only has to respect the rights of their peers, and not of their inferiors? Thus an adult can disregard the rights of a child; God can disregard the rights of an adult.
I've been making observations about how human rights actually function in our world... there is nothing prescriptive about my comments. Adults can and do routinely disregard the rights of children, if they consider them rights-bearers at all... applying this to the aforementioned metaphor of humanity's relationship to the divine, it was not surprising that most of your Christian interlocutors more or less balked at the idea of human rights right out of the gate and dialogue dried up soon thereafter. As flawed as the UNCRC is, it is no coincidence that the only nation yet to ratify it is the US with its large right-leaning religious population opposed to any notion of children's political rights.

To me, that is antithetical to the whole concept of rights, which should in intrinsic. It is a short step from there to saying the ruling elite is not required to respect the rights of citizens; citizens are not expected to respect the rights of slaves.
As noted in one of my earlier posts, the history of human rights legislation has been a succession of battles by and on behalf of disenfranchised peoples to share in the rights claimed by those in power for themselves --- if there is any genuine notion that rights are intrinsic for all humans, it isn't because the experiment started out that way and it has hardly achieved such an ideal.

My argument is with Christianity.
No, your argument is with a subsection of Christianity... one, no doubt, with a strong presence on this forum. You would have very little if anything to criticize about the position of Christians in whose circles I run in...

My point is that there is a dichotomy between God's disregard for human rights, specifically with having those who fail to worship him suffer in hell for eternity, and the claim "God is love". Christianity is therefore inconsistent, and so can be rejected. Therefore what is important with regards the First Commandment is not how it was originally intended, but how it is understood by Christians today.
See my criticism above on the non-homogenous nature of Christianity. As noted in my previous post, I'm not convinced it is prudent to build scenarios based on misreadings -- however common they may be -- of the biblical text. Sure, it's easy this way to knock down the naïve and inconsistent form of Christianity circulating amongst fundamentalists and some evangelicals, but this can be done without compromising a contextually-sensitive interpretation and your conclusion to reject, insofar as it seems to apply to Christianity generally, does not follow.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Christianity is a diverse religious phenomenon, there is no singular position on the subjects we are discussing or anything else. That said, the idea of humanity having a 'Father in heaven' and humans being the 'children' of that deity is likely to be found in most Christian theologies so I have referred to most Christians believing this... this would certainly be true for your handful of Christian interlocutors here.
What I meant was: For a Christian who believes 'Father in heaven' and humans being the 'children' of that deity, what then is that Christian's position on this topic?

I've been making observations about how human rights actually function in our world... there is nothing prescriptive about my comments. Adults can and do routinely disregard the rights of children, if they consider them rights-bearers at all... applying this to the aforementioned metaphor of humanity's relationship to the divine, it was not surprising that most of your Christian interlocutors more or less balked at the idea of human rights right out of the gate and dialogue dried up soon thereafter. As flawed as the UNCRC is, it is no coincidence that the only nation yet to ratify it is the US with its large right-leaning religious population opposed to any notion of children's political rights.
That does not answer my question. Are you suggesting (some Christians believe that) rights are relative, and that a superior can freely ignore the rights of an inferior?

As noted in one of my earlier posts, the history of human rights legislation has been a succession of battles by and on behalf of disenfranchised peoples to share in the rights claimed by those in power for themselves --- if there is any genuine notion that rights are intrinsic for all humans, it isn't because the experiment started out that way and it has hardly achieved such an ideal.
Okay, I will agree with that. But how is that relevant? How does this impinge on whether God should respect human rights? Are you saying we should not have rights because they are not fully accepted in all nations?

I think that that argument would have some merit - it would certainly undermine the OP - but do Christians want to go on record saying we should abandon human rights? I am guessing they would not, because we (people in the west) generally recognise that human rights are a good thing and depriving people of them is a bad thing.

No, your argument is with a subsection of Christianity... one, no doubt, with a strong presence on this forum. You would have very little if anything to criticize about the position of Christians in whose circles I run in...
Absolutely. I am assuming a version of Christianity when God sends those who reject Jesus to hell to suffer his wrath for eternity. I fully appreciate that is not a universal position, and perhaps not a even a majority.

It is, however, as you note, very common on CARM.

See my criticism above on the non-homogenous nature of Christianity. As noted in my previous post, I'm not convinced it is prudent to build scenarios based on misreadings -- however common they may be -- of the biblical text. Sure, it's easy this way to knock down the naïve and inconsistent form of Christianity circulating amongst fundamentalists and some evangelicals, but this can be done without compromising a contextually-sensitive interpretation and your conclusion to reject, insofar as it seems to apply to Christianity generally, does not follow.
Fair comment.
 

Harry Leggs

Well-known member
Christianity is a diverse religious phenomenon, there is no singular position on the subjects we are discussing or anything else. That said, the idea of humanity having a 'Father in heaven' and humans being the 'children' of that deity is likely to be found in most Christian theologies so I have referred to most Christians believing this... this would certainly be true for your handful of Christian interlocutors here.
It is Pharaoh who is God with the Godless and rights are granted by Pharoah. There are no human rights which transcend the rule of kings in Godlessness. So it is two models. Human rights are from God and transcend the rule of kings and that is fact both in Judaism and Christianity.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
What I meant was: For a Christian who believes 'Father in heaven' and humans being the 'children' of that deity, what then is that Christian's position on this topic?
Replies to this question will differ depending on the answerer's thinking on children and childhood, a topic we touched on briefly a month ago here. A Christian who draws on traditions that view children and their capacities positively will configure the relational metaphor quite differently from one who draws on negative such traditions.

That does not answer my question. Are you suggesting (some Christians believe that) rights are relative, and that a superior can freely ignore the rights of an inferior?
Your question, as phrased, cannot be answered because it assumes that all people regardless of their social rank have rights, but such ranking itself undermines the notion of intrinsic rights... one who is in or appropriates for him- or herself a superior position is not ignoring the rights of their subordinates since they would not grant they have any, or at least the same ones they have, to begin with.

Okay, I will agree with that. But how is that relevant?
It is relevant because you invoked a human rights document in your OP that configures its human subject primarily in terms of the adult, implicitly denying some rights to a subsection of humanity (ie. children) --- implications that have been made even more explicit in later documents such as the UNCRC. Your personal views on human rights, rather than what's actually influencing national and international laws, are less open to criticism.

How does this impinge on whether God should respect human rights? Are you saying we should not have rights because they are not fully accepted in all nations?
I can't answer your first question since I'm not sure such a being exists and I see no utility in exploring how such a being might relate to the idea of human rights, which is already a contested area of discourse without introducing conjecture about a supernatural entity... that's a dialogue for you to have with an outspoken theist, though it doesn't appear there are any willing to do so in any depth. As to your second question, no, my position on human rights is that there is perhaps still something worth salvaging of them despite their flawed origins and existing problems --- we need to be consistent with who has them: all humans, without exception.

Kind regards,
Jonathan
 

The Pixie

Well-known member
Replies to this question will differ depending on the answerer's thinking on children and childhood, a topic we touched on briefly a month ago here. A Christian who draws on traditions that view children and their capacities positively will configure the relational metaphor quite differently from one who draws on negative such traditions.
Okay. So what are those views?

Your question, as phrased, cannot be answered because it assumes that all people regardless of their social rank have rights, but such ranking itself undermines the notion of intrinsic rights... one who is in or appropriates for him- or herself a superior position is not ignoring the rights of their subordinates since they would not grant they have any, or at least the same ones they have, to begin with.
That is rather my objection to it too.

I am trying to understand your claim that (Christians believe) God sees us as children, and that therefore is under no obligation to observe human rights. This was my best guess as to the logic behind that, and, as you note, it is flawed

It is relevant because you invoked a human rights document in your OP that configures its human subject primarily in terms of the adult, implicitly denying some rights to a subsection of humanity (ie. children) --- implications that have been made even more explicit in later documents such as the UNCRC. Your personal views on human rights, rather than what's actually influencing national and international laws, are less open to criticism.
So you are saying (Christians believe) God can ignore the ideal set of human rights because mankind cannot agree on exactly what those rights are and who they apply to? Does it follow that we should have no problem with China ignoring human rights? The same logic would seem to apply.

I can't answer your first question since I'm not sure such a being exists and I see no utility in exploring how such a being might relate to the idea of human rights, which is already a contested area of discourse without introducing conjecture about a supernatural entity... that's a dialogue for you to have with an outspoken theist, though it doesn't appear there are any willing to do so in any depth. As to your second question, no, my position on human rights is that there is perhaps still something worth salvaging of them despite their flawed origins and existing problems --- we need to be consistent with who has them: all humans, without exception.
Okay, thanks.
 

En Hakkore

Well-known member
My apologies for taking so long to get back to this thread...

Okay. So what are those views?
Views representing something of the two extremes Christians have held could be connected to the writings of Paul on the one hand and the teachings of Jesus on the other hand. In terms of the first, there is a text such as 1 Cor 13:11 that assumes in children an irrationality that is grown out of, reflecting how children were viewed in wider Graeco-Roman culture. In terms of the second, there is a text such as Matt 18:3-5 that assumes in children something adults should emulate, an idea subversive of the aforementioned view.

A number of Christians down through the centuries have tried to synthesize, with varying results, these two conflicting views... other exegetes clearly favor one over the other. For example, the 18th-century Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards wrote of children that "they are naturally very senseless and stupid, being born as the wild Ass's colt {a citation of Job 11:12}, and need much to awaken them." The 19th-century English Romantics were at the opposite end of the spectrum... John Henry Newman, for example, wrote how a child comes "out of the hands of God, with all lessons and thoughts of Heaven freshly marked upon him."

These extremes are still with us here in the 21st century, at least in the popular imagination... the Christian boys choir Libera, dressed in white robes and gushed over for their ostensibly angelic voices, taps into the Romantic ideal of children as pure messengers from the divine --- the lyrics to the song linked below "Lead, Kindly Light" were written by none other than Newman. As an inheritor of Calvinist traditions, Edwards also viewed children as depraved and referred to them as "infinitely more hateful than Vipers" --- cinema's popular "evil kid" genre at times explores the animality that connects views of children as irrational and depraved, often with nods to their religious roots such as in the Netflix original Eli (2019).

I am trying to understand your claim that (Christians believe) God sees us as children, and that therefore is under no obligation to observe human rights. This was my best guess as to the logic behind that, and, as you note, it is flawed


So you are saying (Christians believe) God can ignore the ideal set of human rights because mankind cannot agree on exactly what those rights are and who they apply to? Does it follow that we should have no problem with China ignoring human rights? The same logic would seem to apply.
Neither of these encapsulate what I was getting at... the polarized views outlined above lead to a variety of ways in which Christians might conceptualize the metaphorical relationship of child to divine parent and, in turn, apply that to a position on human rights. That said, the majority of your Christian interlocutors in the present context may pay some lip service to the teachings of Jesus on children, but lean heavily toward the Pauline view, which resonates with contemporary developmental views on children (and thus the types of rights extended and withheld in the UNCRC)... one of them a few weeks back said something to the effect that children grow into being human --- I wish I could remember the wording exactly, where it was and link to it. In any case, this is unfortunately a widespread dehumanizing view and typically translates into the denial of some or any (human) rights to children. Mapping this particular view onto the metaphorical relationship between the divine and humanity would result in the denial of some or any rights to humans generally... for example, the right to freedom of religion.

Kind regards,
Jonathan

 
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