I must confess that the language of “human rights” makes me uneasy.
Not because I’m politically conservative (because I’m not) nor be cause I disagree with the concept of a fair go (because I don’t).
I’m uneasy with the language of “human rights” because (1) it focusses attention on humans, (2) is awfully legalistic and yet (3) seems founded on modernist language, the universality of which is highly questionable.
Take something like literacy. Is literacy a “human right”? I can’t help noticing that for most of human history, universal literacy has been a practical impossibility. Yet is universal literacy something we should aim for? In our society, absolutely! Why? Because in Jesus we discover that God seeks to empower the powerless.
But is this a right … or a gift?
I’m uneasy with the language of “human rights” because it tends to leave the Creator (and the rest of creation!) behind in the conversation. I’m uneasy with the language of “human rights” because it can all too easily be twisted into talk of personal entitlement and me-ism. I’m uneasy with the language of “human rights” because it undermines the language of generosity and grace.