Tuesday, June 1, 2010

What Rights Do You Have

At the heart of this blog is whether humans enjoy "natural rights" at all. As a human construct John Locke's exceptional philosophy underpins the American experiment and, as such, I give it what honor is due to the finest human accomplishment. I cringe at modern social movements which attack its defense of private property and freedom worldwide. And further, the most observant Christians of the founding fathers (and more specifically, the framers) would be unlikely to have issue with this, however...

As Christians we are slaves to Christ. As one concerned commenter wrote, isn't God the ultimate sovereign from which we must flee to attain liberty? The answer is yes, and no. God is sovereign, and that relationship makes the free and rich Western person have more difficulty fathoming that relationship. Here is a recent example of the dilemma, if there be one:

I love the practical consequences of the First Amendment as much as the next person, but I worry that it is built on a faulty foundation, that it derives from ideas about the human person and human dignity that do not cut the anthropological mustard, and like everything built on a faulty foundation, it may not be as sturdy as it seems. We can keep the issues fuzzy, but at the end of the day, the fact of the Incarnation calls into question the very idea of autonomy. I submit this is the central issue in our Western culture today and the point at which the Church remains the most counter-cultural influence in the West: How do we rescue human freedom and all the manifest good that flows from a politics in which human freedom is valued, from the nasty Enlightenment influences that require the privatization of religion?

The author responds:

It is possible (indeed, it is common) to think about, interpret, and apply the First Amendment as if it were a philosophical statement about the nature of truth (e.g., "it can only be found through the operation of an unregulated marketplace of ideas") or human flourishing (e.g., "no one is any position to judge whether or which ideas and statements are damaging or harmful"). But, it can also be understood, in a more pedestrian way: "Generally speaking, the government is an unreliable, or even untrustworthy, regulator of the search for, and debates about, truth. So, we disable the government from regulating speech not because there is no truth, or because ideas never cause harm, but only because the government-speech-regulation cure will too often be worse than the disease."

There is great value in keeping our eyes on the true prize, what Paul called "winning the race." We do this through self-discipline, so let's not get so caught up in political parrying that we forget the Source of our blessings, Who loves us and is active in the world today.

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