This upcoming year is likely to be a rough one. Our basic rights are under assault. This article is a repost of one written a year ago. We will likely see the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) passed by the legislature and signed by the governor this time. Like it or not, we are in a war—one of ideas. Legislation like the ERA represent one thread of ideas, a pagan thread. The other comes from Judeo-Christian principles derived from God’s word in the Bible.
One can say they only care about life, or equality, or traditional marriage, or education, or erasing our history, or whatever issue you choose. The thing is, these issues are all connected by the set of ideas underlying them. It’s an all or nothing proposition. We can choose to sit on the fence on some issues. That is our right. However, the Devil owns the fence.
On example of this from yesterday. A Saudi national here at one of our military bases for training opened fire on those around him. Three of his companions were there. They did not try to stop him, instead they filmed his actions. A righteous guest does not dishonor himself by such actions. But they are the fruit of these same pagan ideas. Ideas that built empires such as Rome, where at its height 40% of its populations were slaves, women were possessions without rights, and only about 10% of its people were citizens. It is insanity to believe that one can follow a set of ideas and expect a different outcome. It is time to choose. Who will you serve?
Why the ERA is Unequal
As a people we are deeply divided today. This division comes mainly from changes in how we view rights, a shift also changing how we govern.
From a biblical view there are at least two types of rights, natural and human. God grants natural rights and they are almost exclusively negative. Man creates human rights and they are almost entirely positive. Positive and negative in this case do not imply good or bad. Think of them instead like force or power. Positive attracts you to something, while negative repels you from it. Natural rights repel us from evil, while human ones attract to what man wants.
God’s rights are higher than man’s. First, God is creation’s creator. It belongs to Him. Second, God is good. Creation and His gifts to man are proof of His goodness. Third, God does not change, so His rights do not change. Fourth, we are all Adam’s children, so everyone has the same nature and natural rights. Only God is infinitely good, wise, and powerful. Man is one of God’s creations. Human rights come from man’s character. They apply only to who man decides they should apply.
The Equal Rights Amendment represents a positive human right. It corrupts the true equality based on our nature by creating equalities based on what we see. Nothing could be more wrong or morally corrupt.
How Positive and Negative Rights Differ
Negative rights set our expectations for the few things we are to avoid doing. There are normally many positive rights as each set’s expectations about a specific thing we are to do or benefit we are to receive.
Both types set limits, just in different ways. Negative rights allow us to choose our actions unless they are prohibited. Negative rights promote freedom, but goodness and personal responsibility are needed to morally use that freedom. Positive rights, on the other hand, simply direct what you are to do. Your choice (freedom) becomes one of obedience. Negative rights focus on serving others. Positive rights with serving ourselves. The Equal Rights Amendment is a positive right. Negative rights recognize our true equality, human rights define equality by the group to which you belong.
Why the Differences Matter
First, negative rights promote peace as we each make our own decisions. Positive rights cannot do that. There are usually many positive rights, so they often conflict—and all infringe on negative rights. When society recognizes positive rights, inequality and division grow. Second, negative rights require morality so they promote good—that is, virtue. Positive rights only require obedience. They corrupt virtue, including the virtue of justice.
Governing also differs. Negative rights societies develop rules based on everyone’s decisions. Rules bringing success are kept; they become custom. Customs are usually unwritten, so each generation must learn them. Legislative power is limited as law is created either to punish for violating a rule, or when following a rule creates injustice. By supporting society’s rules in making law, politicians serve the people—and in turn serve God.
America was founded upon the preceding principle, using rules derived from Judeo-Christian beliefs. We’ve sometimes missed the mark because we forgot to follow them. We always have our natural rights, but only realize their benefits when turned toward God.
Positive rights, however, simply direct what we are to do. They aim to achieve specific goals created by law. Legislative power becomes nearly absolute within positive right societies, and governing requires uniting enough groups to create a majority. Each group receives some things it wants, at everyone else’s expense, what amounts to legalized bribery. The Equal Rights Amendment is a human right that corrupts freedom and governance.
I saw a policy debate in Houston between James Baker and Barack Obama. The two agreed much more than they disagreed. Mr. Obama observed, “We are a nation governed by politicians.” With all due respect to both, they couldn’t be more wrong. Principles govern our nation. When serving those principles, we serve each other—and thereby serve God.