[14]   Human Rights (1): Human Rights & Responsibilities

Background:

·       “Rights” are privileges. Once recognized and legislated, it will be illegal for anyone to do anything to stop the exercise of those rights. In other words, a “right” has legislative force behind it and everyone is compelled to allow the free exercise of that right. A different term related to rights is “freedom”. It refers to an individual’s freedom of choice. While no one can actively restrict another person to exercise that choice, no one is compelled to yield to it either.

62.  What is the Biblical basis for human rights?

a.   Human rights are moral claims of basic privileges necessary to living a truly human life.

b.   Human rights are founded on the belief of “human dignity” which is defined as the worthiness or the claim to respect of being human. In other words, just being human is sufficient reason for deserving a list of human rights because Man was created in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27).

c.   Gen 1:27-28 expresses the basis of human dignity and describes 3 relationships. Note that the world only emphasizes rights. But with rights comes responsibilities; otherwise, rights will be abused (which is what happens in western civilization today).

(1)  “God created man in his own image”: our relationship to God - right and responsibility of worship

o        Basis of right to life; freedom to profess, practise and propagate religion; freedom of worship, of conscience, of thought and speech

(2)  “Male and female he created them”: our relationship to other human beings - right and responsibility of fellowship

o        Basis of sanctity of sex, marriage and family; freedom of peaceful assembly; right to receive respect, whatever gender, age, race or rank

(3)  “God blessed them and said to them, ‘...fill the earth and subdue it.’”: our relationship to the created world - right and responsibility of stewardship

o        Basis of right to work and rest; freedom to share in the earth’s resources; freedom to food, clothing and shelter; freedom to health and self-preservation; freedom from poverty, hunger and disease

d.   The worthiness of man is demonstrated by the action of God. God cares for man so much that He sent His son Jesus to the world to save man through His death.

63.  What are the basic human rights?

a.   There are 2 main areas of human rights: right to life, and right to liberty. While the highest right is the right to life, more human rights activists now concentrate on the right to liberty, especially equality rights. Some even put one’s own right to liberty higher than another person’s right to life.

b.   There are 4 categories of basic human rights to liberty (civil liberties):

(1)  Political liberties -- freedom of association, assembly, and speech, freedom of the press and other mass media, freedom of conscience and religion

(2)  Economic liberties -- freedom to own property, freedom of contract, right to work or withhold labour

(3)  Legal liberties -- freedom from arbitrary arrest, right to an impartial judicial process, such as independent judge and jury, and access to counsel

(4)  Equality (egalitarian) liberties -- without discrimination on the basis of race, colour, sex, religion, or economic circumstances

c.   Equality rights:

·         Equality is taught in the Bible (Acts 10:34-35). There should not be discrimination on the basis of characteristics that an individual was born with and cannot escape from, such as race and sex.

·         But the right to equality is now interpreted as meaning every distinct human charateristic is equal in value and must be accepted and treated equally (based on pluralism).

·         It is impossible to treat every group as completely equal. Should a Christian church be forced to employ an atheist as office worker or allow non-Christians to participate in the holy communion?

·         Equality is certainly not applied to moral areas, especially for demands of equality based on “sexual orientation” which can include all sexual perversions, such as polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, etc.

64.  Should Christians support all efforts of getting more human rights?

a.   There are two opposite facets to the problem involving human rights today:

(1)  In totalitarian countries where rights and freedoms are limited to the privileged class, there is frequent violation of human rights such as unjustified imprisonment, torture, and execution of innocent people. The church has the duty of promoting realizing human rights in these countries.

(2)  In democratic countries where rights and freedoms are available to most, there is over-emphasis and abuse of human rights, especially in western industrialized countries.

b.   Christians should help to prevent human beings being demeaned, abused, depersonalized anywhere in the world (Gal 3:28). But human rights are not unlimited rights; they are limited to what is compatible with being the human person God made us and meant us to be.

c.   Rights do not exist apart from responsibilities. Man must exercise his rights responsibly. Otherwise, the unrestrained quest of rights will bring conflict between individuals.

·         Example: Every driver has the responsibility to follow some rules while driving, such as stopping at the STOP sign. If everyone insists that he/she has the liberty to drive the car in whatever way he/she likes, there will be disorder, conflicts, and disaster.

·         Today’s society tries to avoid responsibility. Criminals use excuses of poor upbringing to explain away their individual responsibilities and blame the society for their crimes.

d.   Ethical dilemma arises when human rights of one are in conflict with human rights of another. Nobody can do whatever he likes. It is NOT proper to support all efforts to get human rights.

e.   Examples for conflict of human rights:

(1)  Distribution of hate literature (or hate speech):

o        Christians should carefully distinguish what is classified as hate literature because Bill C-250, when passed, will classify the Bible and preaching against homosexuality as hate speech.

o        Hate literature is written material that directly promotes hate against particular individuals or a group of individuals, e.g. Ku Klux Klan publishes materials against blacks and Jews.

o        Hate literature can cause social problems because it may encourage discrimination or physical violence against the targetted group. Therefore, such literature should be prohibited.

(2)  Establishment of Satanic churches and other cults:

o        An uncommon religion such as Satanic churches should not be prohibited simply because it is uncommon or newly organized. If a cult advocates unlawful practice, they should then be prohibited. However, the church should caution Christians about the danger of cults and those involved with demonic spirits.

f.    Today, the over-emphasis of human rights is gradually infringing on the religious freedom of Christians. As a homosexual rights activist declared, “The Charter of Rights trumps the Bible.”

65.  What is the meaning of religious freedom for Christians?

·         Christians need to defend our religious freedom which includes:

o        free to publicly express our beliefs and our celebrations

o        free to distribute the Bible and proclaim the gospel in public

o        free to restrict the employment of church workers to people with the same beliefs

o        free from coercion by the government to change our Biblical moral standard

·         Such freedom may appear reasonable, but there is a trend for the government to take away such freedom. If such a trend is not resisted, more of our religious freedom will be taken away.

·         The guarantee or religious freedom by the government will not be sufficient to protect Christians because liberal judges and the ultra-liberal Human Rights Tribunals in Canada have frequently upheld equality rights and penalized Christians.

 


[15]   Human Rights (2): Racial Problem & Multiculturalism

Background:

·       In US, there are about 7,000 to 10,000 hate crimes recorded by the FBI each year. Two-thirds are hate crimes involving race or ethnic origin; the remaining involving religion or sexual orientation.

66.  What are the cause and effects of racial problems?

a.   Definition: Racism is the degradation of others on the basis of race.

b.   Present situation:

·         There are many different forms of racism in the world against many different racial groups.

·         Racism is mostly directed to blacks in the US and Canada, less severe against Hispanic people.

·         Racism against oriental people is generally not serious because of their high achievement.

c.   Types of racism:

·         Explicit racism: whites are regarded as superior to other races, through enforcing stereotypes, and practising segregation and open discrimination.

·         Hidden racism: racism assuming a more subtle form in recent times

o        structural and economic racism: difficulty in getting jobs or treated unfairly by the police

o        personal racism: lack of acceptance in intimate situations, such as intermarriage or friendship

d.   Cause and effects of racism:

·         With the large amount of emigration in recent history, there is a greater mixture of races and subsequently racial awareness and racism increase.

·         Effects: prejudice against other races, discrimination in employment and daily contact, segregation in residential areas, hate crimes against other races

e.   Modern racism by the white majority:

(1)  indeliberate segregation causing the formation of urban ghettos:

o        the phenomenon of “white flight”: white residents leaving increasingly black neighbourhoods. The neighbourhood soon becomes all black. The result is inferior schools providing poor education to blacks.

(2)  biased criminal justice system because of black stereotype of criminality:

o        unequal treatment by the police including racial profiling and higher arrest rates and charge rates

o        more severe sentences handed down by the courts to blacks for the same crimes

o        However, blacks account for 12% of the US population but half of murder victims, 95% killed by blacks.

(3)  widespread poverty among blacks because of stereotypes of mental inferiority and laziness:

o        employment opportunities more limited

o        There is a persistent black “underclass” while all immigrant groups gradually move up.

f.    Modern racism by the black minority: [this analysis done by a black academic]

(1)  Attitudes:

o        many blacks suffer from a fatalistic attitude, unwilling to work hard, believing it won’t be rewarded

o        cling to the status of victims: emphasizing the oppression and discrimination by the white establishment

o        successful blacks are ignored as role models, otherwise the victim myth will be disproved: black students who do well in schools are ridiculed; successful blacks are not regarded as blacks

 (2) Strategies:

o        use race as an excuse for own failures: committing crimes, producing kids but not raising them [70% of blacks in US are born to single mother holdholds], addicting to illegal drugs

o        use the charge of racism to malign the enemies: blame white people (making whites feel guilty)

o        use anger as a shield to escape taking responsibility: some rap music encourages violence, even the killing of cops; the objective is to rouse blacks to take up arms and physically fight the race war

o        use the history of slavery to portrait blacks as victims in order to gain power

(3)  Actions:

o        gain material redistribution and more power through race-based advantages in studies and work

o        seek large financial compensation to address past wrongs like slavery

o        some express their anger by massive riots and destruction of property when triggered by minor incidents such as perceived police brutality towards minorities (the case of Rodney King in Los Angeles)

67.  How should Christians view racial problems?

a.   God’s desire is racial equality: God is impartial (Dt 10:17; 1Pe 1:17);God does not show favouritism on the basis of race (Ac 10:34-35; Ro 2:10-11).

b.   Christians must not hold any racial prejudice (Jas 2:1-9; Gal 3:28-29): People of all races are created in the image of God. Racial prejudice is learned attitude, not born.

c.   Racism is socially unacceptable: Victims of racism are denied human dignity, are humiliated, and are disadvantaged socially, politically, and economically; they cause social disorder.

68.  Should Christians support giving advantage to racial minorities in education and employment?

a.   Policies or programs to give advantage to racial minorities.

(1)  In education, some U.S. colleges and universities use a quota system or bonus points to ensure a certain proportion of the incoming students are from ethnic minorities (blacks and Hispanics).

(2)  In employment, the policy of affirmative action has been usedfor a long time. It specifies that minorities (sexual or ethnic) will have priority in being employed if the qualifications are the same.

b.   Objectives of such policies:

·         to compensate for historical wrongs such as slavery or discrimination (“historical justice”)

·         to give an advantage to disadvantaged minorities due to past “institutional discrimination”

·         to ensure ethnic diversity in academic or working environments

·         to train or employ ethnic minorities in order to achieve greater harmony with minorities

c.   Arguments against such policies:

·         It is an unfair system which encourages and permeates inferior performance.

·         The policies increase the chance of lawsuits because of reverse discrimination or reverse racism.

d.   Conclusion: Some objectives are well-intentioned but policies favouring minorities should only transitional and should be eventually phased out.

69.  How should Christians view racial profiling in law enforcement?

a.   Racial profiling is the targetting of racial groups for selective police searches and traffic stops.

b.   The main justification for such action is the best use of limited police resources. However, such demeaning actions against a specific racial group to save money is not justifiable.

c.   However, search and seizure policies and practices based on concrete evidence is not profiling.

70.  What is multiculturalism? Should Christians support multiculturalism?

a.   Definition: Multiculturalism is the government policy in Canada to promote the retention of cultural identity of individual ethnic groups through government subsidy.

b.   Objective: It is a formal recognition that all cultures are worthy of retention so that new immigrants can feel proud about their own culture. Such objective appears well-intentioned.

c.   Problems:

(1)  Value pluralism: The philosophical foundation of multiculturalism came out of the theme of diversity in political correctness. The extension of such philosophy is that one must not criticize the moral standard and religion of other cultures.

(2)  It actually creates or magnifies ethnic prejudice.

d.   Conclusion: All cultures should be respected but moral standard must not be compromised by value pluralism. Cultural expressions by ethnic groups should be self-subsidized.

 


[16]   Human Rights (3): Feminism & Women’s Role in Church

Background:

·       Like the society as a whole, the Christian church has historically discriminated against women. The Roman Catholic Church and most Protestant churches still place limits on women assuming leadership. The Christian and Missionary Alliance does not allow women to be elders.

71.  Are men and women completely equal?

a.   Women have always suffered discrimination and unequal treatment in the past few millennia.

b.   The Bible emphasizes equality:

·         Man and woman were created equal (Gen 1:27), and are equal in the church (Ac 2:16-17; Gal 3:28). Husband and wife are to submit to each other (Eph 5:21) and mutually dependent (1Co 11:11-12).

c.   Man and woman are equal but different:

·         Man is the head of the family (Eph 5:22-25).

·         However, this applies only in the family, not male-female relationship in general.

d.   The Jewish tradition discriminates against women. (Jewish prayer book: “Thank God that I am not a woman.”) But Jesus did not discriminate against women.

·         He spoke to women in public (Jn 4:27). He spent time teaching women and welcomed them as disciples (Lk 10:38-42). He made a woman the first witness to His resurrection (Jn 20:10-18).

72.  Should Christians support the feminist movement?

a.   Feminism refers the organized activities that advocate women’s rights and interests. There are two very different types of feminism. On the one hand are the traditional feminists who wants equality with men. On the other are the radical feminists who reject men.

b.   Traditional (or early) feminism:

·         It began in the 19th century, and was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It was an attempt to deal with the historical inequality between men and women in many areas of life.

·         The only objective was to strive for equality, not any special treatment. They asked for the right to vote; for the control of their own property; for equal employment and educational opportunities and, for the right to obtain divorce on the grounds of brutality and drunkenness.

c.   Radical (or modern) feminism:

·         In the late 1960s and 70s, feminism abandoned its moral heritage and became a movement based on the attitude of anger, resentment and self-pity. This is represented by the National Organization for Women (NOW) in the US (founded in 1966) and the National Council of Women of Canada.

·         They hold that women are victims in the male-established social order. They proclaim women’s sexual freedom. They hate men and marriage.

·         Equality is no longer the only objective of the feminist movement. Instead, radical feminists seek to overturn and restructure society.

d.   Recent development:

·         A 1999 poll shows that women are growing more uncomfortable with radical feminism.

·         Many have returned to support traditional values. They only seek to end discrimination of women. Representative organizations include REAL Women of Canada and Concerned Women for America in the US. They can be called the New Traditional Feminists.

e.   Comparison of the two types: [according to Concerned Women for America]

·         Traditional feminists saw motherhood as privilege; radical feminists see the family as a prison.

·         Traditional feminists were against abortion; radical feminists support abortion.

·         Traditional feminists wanted to maintain the traditional family; radical feminists work to destroy it.

f.    Conclusion:

·         Radical feminism advocate power struggle with male, call for the abolition of marriage and family, uphold self fulfilment above family responsibility, and seek to destroy the traditional family. They should be opposed by Christians. In contrast, traditional feminism is worthy of support.

73.  Can women preach or assume leadership in church?

a.   For many centuries, women had been excluded from preaching and leading in the church because of some Bible verses (1Co 14:34-35; 1Ti 2:11-12). However, such restrictions are based on arguable interpretation of the Bible. That is why some Protestant churches today have women pastors and women elders.

b.   To say that Paul’s commands may not be applicable to today will require satisfying the three questions on “cultural relativity” [see lesson 2 on principles].

c.   First, it should be noted also that restrictions of ministry of women in the church is not a question of morality. It is a question of propriety (see 1Ti 2:15).

d.   Second, the restriction is not universally applicable to all times because there is no uniform witness in the Bible.

(1)  Restriction on women to teach is not universal. While 1Co 14:34-35 apparently prohibits women from public speaking in the church, Paul in the same letter teaches that women can pray and prophesy in public (1Co 11:2-16). Prophesy refers to preaching and teaching, with the intent to edify, to comfort, and to encourage (1Co 14:3-4,24,31).

(2)  Restriction on women as church leaders is not universal. There are numerous prominent woman leaders in the early church:

o        Ro 16:1-15 lists 8 women highly regarded by Paul including Phoebe the deaconess [Greek word is actually “minister” (diakonon, translated as “servant” in NIV) meaning one who presides, also 1Ti 3:11]; “Junias” was most likely “Junia”, a female apostle (Ro 16:7).

o        Priscilla was Paul’s fellow worker (Ro 16:3) and was sometimes mentioned (contrary to Jewish custom) before her husband Aquila (Ac 18:26) indicating her greater role in church.

e.   Third, Paul’s commands are probably to be understood in its specific life situation and cultural setting in the 1st century, possibly only for Corinth and Ephesus.

(1)  In 1Co 14:34-35, the Greek word for “speak” (lalein) refers to conversation. The women were asked to “hush up”, not to “shut up”. The intention is an orderly worship.

(2)  In 1Ti 2:11-12, the Greek word “have authority” (authentein) means “domineering or usurping authority”. Paul was likely responding to specific situations in Ephesus where some women were influenced by heretical teachers (2Ti 3:6-7).

(3)  Women in the 1st century were poorly educated and public teaching by a woman is improper.

f.    What are the reasons given by Paul in placing restrictions on women?

(1)  accepted social practices (1Co 11:13-15)

(2)  the order in creation (1Co 11:3-12; 1Ti 2:13): Adam was created first

(3)  Eve was tempted (1Ti 2:14): possibly referred to the susceptibility of women

g.   Additional arguments against restrictions on women:

(1)  Female missionaries are not prohibited from preaching and leading in their mission field.

(2)  God gives spiritual gifts of teaching and leadership to some women (Ac 2:16-17). Spiritual gifts are given solely for the benefit of the church (1Co 12:7; Eph 4:11-12). How then can the church prohibit the use of those spiritual gifts?

h.   Conclusion: Most evidences show that women should not be restricted from any kind of work in the church. In view of the presence of arguable points, positions could be held tentatively. In the C&MA, women can perform ministry functions including preaching and leading, but they cannot assume eldership. Notwithstanding the interpretation above, conflicts with regard to women’s ministry in church should be avoided.