Almost without exception, if you want something you are doing to be accepted in today’s society, all you have to do is claim that it is your right. “I have the right to do such and such.” “You cannot take my right to this.” “Rights” are now the call word or battle cry of all variances of human behavior, but do we even know what the word means? When used in the context of social acceptance and legal battles, it seems that we have no real clue what the term means. It is as if we have lost the meaning.
The reason for this is that the term has begun to be used as a hammer and wedge. Various groups have used “rights” as a means to separate Americans from themselves and normal behavior. Where there is a desire to act, feel or think in a certain way, therein is born a new right. However, we must see that such foolish fancies will not serve us or others in the end.
Will Rogers rightly said:
We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.
Rogers placed a high value on the rights of others. We should as well. However, until we can know what are, and are not, true rights, we will have a difficult time meeting Rogers high expectations. It will eventually grow out of style for those who believe that from their pen is given the rights of man. We must have the answer to the question I now ask. Does it matter where rights come from?
Now, I do not suspect that such an answer can be given in one simple post. So, for today, we will simply seek to discover what a right is, and then build on that truth.
The best place for us to start is the Scripture.
The middle portion of the book of Exodus is devoted to the working out of this subject. In chapters 21-23, the sundry laws found there, define the Ten Commandments for us. What did God mean when He told us that we were not to steal? This is explained. We have the right to own what we make, buy, produce or inherit. We have a right to marry and have children. We have a right to expect protection from the state, also a body owing its existence to God, and to live in peace.
So, when we discuss rights, we are talking about the things that all people should be able to expect to be theirs. By our very nature, as humans, we should expect that these things are ours to have and enjoy. But is this what our founders intended?
Jefferson wrote these familiar words:
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.
Jefferson and the framers meant that this was something that all men could perceive. It was not a mystery that had to be deciphered. It was clear to all, that these rights belonged to all. What did they list?
Life: Men and women should not live in a state of fear. They should not have their person molested or their bodies harmed. We should all, if we live lawfully, expect to be allowed to continue to live.
Liberty: Men and women should be allowed to decide for themselves what they wish to do with their property, what to sale, to whom and at what price. People should have the freedom to try and fail, and try again. The government should only get involved if there is a grievance or point of suit.
Pursuit of happiness: People should be able to pursue their happiness. The things that make for a happy life should be free for their pursuit. They should not be restricted from business, areas of the country, or from personal purchases for any reason.
Rights then are the things that we should be able to do or enjoy simply because we were born. We are not speaking of things that have to be earned, but the freedom to earn; nothing that has to be learned, but the freedom to learn. This does not include certain things.
Sexual preference is not included in this, for one simple reason. We can prove that this is not a right because we would not include every variance. The pedophile would not have the right to molest children. A rapist would not be allowed to rape women indiscriminately. Sexual sadists cannot fulfill their appetites for hurting others. Liberty, then, is limited.
We will show from where rights come and why that is important tomorrow.