Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Fighting for Rights and Losing the Right-Giver

Two items have been in the news lately. Neither one is surprising because the philosophical foundation for them have been in place for a number of years now.

The first item is the court case that PETA filed against Sea World arguing for the human rights for cetaceans (marine mammals like orcas, whales, dolphins, etc.). It caused a flurry of debate in the public square. Example 1. Example 2. The court ruled against PETA. You can count on similar cases being appealed. This won't die. They rarely do.

But I have to ask what we would be giving the cetaceans if we grant them human rights. Take this next news item for example:

Ethicists Alberto Giubilini and Francesca Minerva have published a paper arguing for the ethical permissibility for After-Birth Abortion. ("After-Birth Abortion" is euphemistic for "infanticide".) So finally here is vindication for the Vietnam veterans charged with being "baby-killers". But really, this rationale was around in Nazi Germany. They went farther and classified entire ethnic groups as being sub-human, not just humans in earlier stages of developments.

So, let's go ahead and give human rights to everything because really there are no human rights according to the justification cited by Giubilini and Minerva. Just follow the justifications to their logical conclusion. Nothing need change.

But my Christian brethren should not despair. The rights codified in the Constitution of the United States are not complete or fully biblical anyway. A couple of examples are given by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. In chapter 9, Paul cites rights that he has as a preacher of the gospel of Christ. Those rights aren't in the US Constitution, but they are in the Bible. What's interesting is that with regard to the proclamation of the gospel, while these rights are indeed right to follow, he found it even better to not follow the rights divinely accorded to him. His reward for proclaiming the gospel, found in verse 18, is to proclaim the gospel free of charge making no use of the rights he cites. The only way that makes sense is if his goal is not to obtain rights for himself but rather to proclaim the gospel.

Where our rights interfere with the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is better not pursue those rights. Now that might upset some, but here it is. Many of the difficulties we see in church life are from many individuals vying to obtain their rights over and against the proclamation of the true gospel.

I can go in so many different directions at this point, but I'll save each of those directions for other posts that I may or may not ever get to. But I'll sum up how they fit together. Among those directions are importing non-Christian forms of leadership into the Church, the effects of moralism (as distinct from legalism) on the Church, hindering the outworking of Christian love in the Church, the destruction of marriage, and anemia in the Body of Christ due to not relying on the gifts that others have been given. There are probably others as well, but that's the list I have forming as I type.

What all of these things have in common is a propensity for people to compete selfishly for their rights against the larger work of Christ in the Church. There is a sense that if we don't use it, we lose it. However, if the Bible says it, we have it. In fact, many are often so concerned for their own selves that pursuit leads to the practical loss of their rights in the Church. This is because they fail to contend not for the gospel that provides these rights, but only for their rights. They cling to the rope and neglect the mountain that the rope was supposed to be attached to falling to their spiritual deaths.

So while one hand seeks to offer rights to creatures who shouldn't have them, the other undermines the rights that are being sought. Let's not make the same mistake in the Church.

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