Shock at the Belief that Rights Come from God

Shock at the Belief that Rights Come from God March 12, 2024

Yesterday we blogged about France making abortion a constitutional right.  Speaking of rights, an American journalist helps us to understand what has happened in France–not by analysis but by revealing her ignorance.

Politico reporter Heidi Przybyla appeared on MSNBC to discuss Christian nationalism, that bogeyman that the Left is using to alarm its donors.  She said this:

“The thing that unites them as Christian nationalists — not Christians, by the way, because Christian nationalist is very different — is that they believe that our rights as Americans, as all human beings, don’t come from any earthly authority. They don’t come from Congress, they don’t come from the Supreme Court. They come from God.”

Isn’t that shocking?  Can you imagine that these “extremists,” as she calls them, would believe such a thing?

Well, as social media and various Christian organizations were quick to inform her, that is what our Declaration of Independence, says in so many 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.”

This document with this preamble was not just composed by Thomas Jefferson, a Deist, it was adopted unanimously by the Continental Congress and signed by 56 of our nation’s founders, who held to a wide range of theologies and beliefs.

Przybyla distinguishes between Christian nationalists who believe this and other Christians, positively citing the “natural law” emphasized by Catholics, saying that it has helped promote the cause of social justice.  She says,

“But now you have an extremist element of conservative Christians who say that this applies specifically to issues including abortion, gay marriage, and it’s going much further than that.”

So this is another howler, the notion that natural law doesn’t address abortion and gay marriage!  And that God-given rights and natural rights are two different things.  The Declaration of Independence itself brings them together when later it invokes “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.”

But note the movement from the notion of rights as given by God to the notion of rights as given by government.  God-given rights transcend human governments, not only establishing limits and direction for them but giving a framework by which they can be criticized if those governments violate those rights.  Those transcendent rights are “unalienable,” to again use the Declaration’s words, meaning they can’t be taken away.  If rights are only bestowed by the government, they are alienable and can indeed be taken away.  They can be anything the government chooses to favor, but they aren’t “over” the government, which can hardly be held to account for violating them.

There can be no right to an abortion by any God-given right.  In the Declaration’s terms, it violates the right to “Life,” as well as the unborn child’s right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Nor can there be a natural right to abortion, since life is fundamental to human existence.  But France, thinking like Heidi Przybyla, can declare it a right, defying both God and nature.

The reporter’s confusion and the French presumption illustrate something else as well.  The Declaration says that the truths of God-given rights are “self-evident.”  Well, they are not self-evident any more.  In fact, an increasing number of people don’t believe in these truths at all.  The question is, can our free Republic, built on this foundation, survive without it?  Or will it all crumble, to be replaced by a new form of absolutist, unlimited, all-controlling monarchy?


Illustration:  The Declaration of Independence by J4P4N via Open Clipart, Public Domain.

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