By Ashley Vaughan
“Where do our rights come from?”
Scanning the audience, Mike Winther, founder of Institute for Principle Studies, invited audience participation. “We need to list every possible source of our rights.”
Potential answers started flowing from the audience, “The majority!” “The Constitution?” “Government!” “Maybe there’s no such thing as rights.” Each option was written on the whiteboard at the front of the room. One jokester in the front of the room shouted out, “Space aliens!” That too was dutifully added to the board.
Mike pointed out to the class of Detroit public schoolers that some people believe our rights come from God, and so added that to the board as well.
After they had exhausted their knowledge of every possible source of rights, Mike reminded the audience of what he’d taught earlier in the class, the source determines the use. Similar to a wealthy person gifting a large amount of money to an organization or college, as the ones giving the gift (the source) they can choose how those funds are spent (the use). So the source of our rights can decide how those rights are used, who gets to have rights, and if there are limits to those rights.
How does that then affect where our rights come from? Well, if it’s the majority that gives individual rights, what if you were a black American growing up under the Jim Crow era, or in the South in the 1850s? The Detroit class of mostly students with high melanin counts were not a fan of this. So “majority” was crossed off the whiteboard.
Or what about the government? This might seem to be an okay option at times, if the people in government could stay righteous and impartial. But there is a reason there are so many jokes about the corruptness of politicians. Governments come and go so quickly, and even long standing ones prove to be fickle. (Just ask the underground church in China, or North Korea, or India, or read about the morbid and tragic history of the Roman Empire or the French Revolution.) No, government is too unstable a source of human rights.
The Constitution isn’t much more stable. All it takes is a majority to amend it (which has been done on 18 separate occasions). And no one wants to live in a world where there are no rights ( most people would agree that they have a right to live), so that option is not popular or tenable.
So on, down the list, each option was eliminated, until all that was left was God and space aliens. The truth is, only God is unbiased, righteous, sovereign, unchanging, kind, and good, and therefore the only unwavering source of our human rights. So, in a fight between God and space aliens, God definitely wins. 🙂
Why does this matter?
First, this shows how every subject, even the study of political science, points back to our awesome God. Second, it’s important how we, and the leaders we elect, view the origin of human rights. Do those running for office think that they are the giver of our rights? Or do they think they come from the changeable (and often misinterpreted) Constitution? From space aliens? Or do they think we have no rights at all? Only a legislator who believes that rights come from God, and that they too are under the sovereign rule of and accountable to God, will lead with equity and fight to secure our rights.