The English word “right” derives from an ancient Indo-European word meaning “to straighten” or “to direct.” Today there is substantial disagreement about what exactly is to be understood under the term. Some would give more clarity by distinguishing between natural and legal rights, where natural rights are universal and apply to all people at all times, and legal rights are based on a specific society’s customs and laws.1 Although the idea of rights has come a long way through history, the modern concept of human rights can be traced back to the Enlightenment, which followed the Renaissance in Europe. The major document in the eighteenth century born out of this revolutionary movement was the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in France. Human rights developed as a result of an attempt to form a secularized version of ethics. Later, in 1948, in the aftermath of World War II, the United Nations adopted the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which can be considered the driving force behind contemporary international customary law. Jack Donnelly correctly noted that although the ideas of liberty and political justice existed in pre-modern societies, they did not resemble the contemporary concept of human rights.2
No concept of rights can exist independently from a moral foundation. It would be senseless to argue in favor of rights without it. It cannot simply be claimed that something is an undeniable right and end the argument there; a sensible basis must be provided. The philosophical grounds for secular human rights is the social behavior of society, and probably the most accepted theory for the philosophy of human rights today is the interest theory, i.e. that the function of human rights is to protect and promote certain central interests of humanity.3 The interest theory says that rights must exist to protect and promote certain central interests of humanity, but this has three main downfalls: First, it neglects the value which ought to be placed upon God (indeed, the rights which God has), and therefore does not seek to order society at all according to the first four commandments of the Decalogue. Second, by neglecting the value which ought to be placed upon God, it undermines the value we ought to place upon humanity, since humans are made in the image of God. Otherwise, without a specific feature of mankind setting us apart from the rest of the animals, it would be arbitrary and cruel to assert that “certain central interests of humanity” guide us to proper human rights, all the while we ignore the rest of the animal kingdom as our equals. Third, the idea of “certain central interests of humanity” is a formal phrase which can provide hardly any practical agreement among people without a common religious basis. It does not answer any questions concerning human rights with concrete content, and so leaves us entirely without an answer, since anyone can claim a rational principle in opposition to his inherited moral tradition. Dr. Donald Livingstone explains why such a concept of natural rights is nothing but a “philosophical superstition,” stating:
Whatever they might be, natural rights are universal and apply to all men. Further, they are known by reason, independent of any inherited moral tradition. . . . It follows, therefore, that the doctrine of natural rights must be in a condition of permanent hostility to all inherited moral traditions. Any such tradition, no matter how noble the goods of excellence cultivated in it, can always be seen as violating someone’s natural rights under some interpretation or another.4
Therefore human rights, when applied as principles disconnected from any moral tradition, can (and will) come in direct opposition to the moral obligations of God’s law. For example, while capital punishment is a moral obligation of the civil government (Gen. 9:5-6; Rom. 13:4), it can also be considered by a liberal to be a direct violation of the essential human right to life. When the interest theory claims “certain central interests of humanity,” it is, after all, devoid of any meaningful content. To the modernist, all principles are merely reduced to the practical life, while the theoretical life, upon which tradition founds its application of moral principles in the practical life, is declared non-existent. Thus the modernist, since he has denied the constant moral foundation upon which traditionalism rests, is free to twist a “right to life” to mean anything that suits him at the time. This is also clearly evident in contemporary debates over the issue of abortion.
Traditionalism’s distinction between the theoretical and practical life allows for civil laws to take the ethnic and cultural makeup of the land into consideration, since the practical application of universal principles naturally differ according to their various contexts. However, without the theoretical foundation, modern-day human rights are indeed, as Ehud Would observes, “spinning a web of the most nebulous terms imaginable without any attempt at definition nor justification — terms like ‘social progress,’ ‘better standards,’ ‘larger freedom,’ etc. which are left to the interpretive appetites of all supposedly aggrieved parties the world over.”
Dabney notes that the meanings of terms such as “equality” and “liberty” meant something very different to the American founding fathers than they did to the liberals of his day, and they differ even more drastically from the ideas associated with these terms by contemporary liberals. The Living Document Theory, to which postmodernists adhere, enables them, without any regard for the particular moral tradition, to adapt the meanings of words to suit their agenda. The Declaration of Independence famously states, “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.”5 Dabney sees that “equality” in this sense means equality before the law, and “liberty” refers to the liberty do those things which are morally right under God’s law. These notions differ radically from the alien notions imputed to the text by moderns. This being said, however, the language of the document shows that it is at least partially influenced by Jacobin-type thinking, which leaves itself vulnerable to misuse by liberals, not only those of Dabney’s day but also of our own. When contextless meanings are attached to these concepts, as is done by the mainstream society of our day, it becomes completely contradictory to true morality: we certainly know from Scripture and our experience of reality that all men are not created equal – not before God (Mal. 1:2-4) or each other (Eph 6:5-9). Furthermore, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness cannot be regarded as unalienable rights without regard for historical and moral context. The right to live, for example, cannot be morally upheld during war or in cases of capital punishment, as described above. Liberty, again, should be regarded as good under all normal circumstances and something to be sought; however, God sometimes punishes evildoers, or even His children, by actually taking away their liberty. A clear example of this is the destruction of Jerusalem and Israel’s national liberty as a providential means of leading God’s people to repentance (Isa. 10:1-6). This responsibility of the civil government is in our Christian tradition grounded on Christ’s golden rule (Matt. 12:35) and the government’s responsibility to suppress evil (Rom. 13:4). Finally, the pursuit of happiness can certainly be virtuous when it is done in the Lord (John 15:7), but when the pursuit of happiness becomes in any way a stumbling block for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom, it cannot be regarded as something good any longer.
Another example is the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion as a basic right. That which modern-day cultural Marxists regard as freedom of religion is, as I have previously explained, very far from what James Madison believed and what the first amendment in its original context conveyed. Again, the right to freely practice religion has to have a social and moral context.
One of the major movements grounded on the modernist concept of human rights was, of course, the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. This movement’s cultural Marxist ideals have since come to be known as “human rights,” even though they are in fact violations of God’s ordained social order and many principles of biblical morality, including the separation of ethnicities, complementarian gender roles, and heterosexuality. Biblical moral obligations often compel us to discriminate — to act on the basis of a distinction — on various grounds, such as race, gender, and religious convictions.
Hunter Wallace rightly stated recently: “In the aftermath of the Civil Rights movement, the Northern multiethnic elite of Jews and deracinated White liberals became a multiracial/multicultural elite that expanded to include blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, women, etc.”6 Now, just to put this quote into perspective, he is not saying there is anything wrong with blacks, Mestizos, or women as such. In fact, women have (under exceptional circumstances) been God-fearing leaders in the past, e.g. Deborah (Judg. 5:1-15), and there are also certainly some good non-white leaders. Yet, the fact that these groups became an integral part of the elite of a previously conservative WASP society is evidence of the cultural and moral decline of the United States in the decades following the Civil Rights era. The inconsistencies of this nihilistic concept of human rights have been pointed out by Texas Congressman Ron Paul and his son, Kentucky senator Rand Paul, who have argued that many of the implications of the Civil Rights Act actually violate individual property rights.7
The Civil Rights movement also placed new focus on the idea of minority rights within a liberal democracy. In the context of a suppressed Afrikaner-Boer minority in South Africa, the support of these rights is a seemingly inevitable means of survival. And while I have no objection to making use of these rights in our contemporary context (which forces one to have a pragmatic approach to civic matters to a certain degree), to claim any rights that aren’t morally justifiable in terms of God’s Law-Word for oneself, or even without the acknowledgement of the moral order from which they arose, is idolatry and would in the long run inevitably lead to self-destruction. This is my criticism against many Afrikaner civil rights groups, such as AfriForum and Solidarity (an Afrikaner Trade Union) and (to a lesser degree) the Freedom Front Plus, the major Afrikaner political party, who does a lot of good work for the protection and survival of Boer people, but often does so on the wrong moral and philosophical grounds. The same can be said of the various Afrikaner movements for self-determination contributing to the cause of an independent Afrikaner homeland on a national and international level.8 In principle there is, of course, nothing wrong with doing this, but when these actions are not grounded on the biblical principle of ethnonationalism and the desire to implement a theonomic civil government as a witness to God’s glory, they are essentially liberal and sinful in nature.
Human reason is depraved and unable to come to a correct understanding of true ethics without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 1:18-27). The modernist idea of human rights have nothing to do with the God-given rights upon which Western Civilization was founded, nor is it in any way God-honoring or helpful for the advancement of mankind. It is rather in direct opposition to the advancement of Christ’s kingdom on earth, and therefore to be cautioned against and opposed.
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rights ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_human_rights ↩
- http://the-classic-liberal.com/conservative-what-is-paleoconservative/ ↩
- http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html ↩
- http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2011/09/24/protestantism-and-racial-decline/ ↩
- http://racerelations.about.com/b/2010/05/24/rand-paul-criticizes-civil-rights-act-argues-businesses-should-be-able-to-discriminate.htm ↩
- http://www.oase-ekspedisie.com/ ↩