A great many seeming unrelated conversations have sparked a flurry of self-reflection. Discussion of political concepts like “inalienable rights,” “liberty,” and “force,” and reminiscing mission stories with my brother over the Thanksgiving holiday, have crept into my analysis of the collapse of my personal world which is always lurking in the back of my mind. Like many of the best science experiments, unexpected contamination is breaking new ground in my journey to be a disciple of Christ.
Since it is too complicated for one post, I’ve broken down my thoughts into three loose groups, politics, marriage, and missionary work. I will cover the other two in future posts.
It seems that “rights” are often confused with two concepts; “realities” and “deserts.” Politically speaking, rights are concepts which controlling bodies of people have agreed should be protected by government, unless an individual acts in a way to void their free exercise of those rights. Rights are those things the protection of which has been decided to be the entire purpose of government. When government fails to protect an individual’s free exercise of those rights, the authority of the government is voided.
But this does not mean that exercise of these rights is a reality for everyone, nor does it mean that everyone deserves the exercise of their protected rights regardless of their own behavior. Most people can agree that neither complete loss nor complete consequence-free exercise of those rights is valid under the contract between the people and the government. Most political disagreements arise within the grey areas; how far free exercise of rights should be allowed to run before it can be considered as infringing on another’s rights, when a person has voided government protection of their granted rights, and what should be done about it when they do.
Laws exist to clarify those grey areas, to represent a more-or-less mutual agreement of what citizens of a community under a common government can expect. So long as there is any law, no matter its origin, there will be people who do not agree with it and do not wish to keep it. Politics is ostensibly the process by which a group of governed people works out compromises and grey areas which can be agreed upon, particularly in any sort of government in which the people have direct legal methods by which to affect government. In essence, a document like the Constitution is a social contract, unique in that it is somewhat entered into at birth. It lays out what the participants—ie. citizens—can expect from their citizenship, both what they can expect to be granted in theory by the government, and what the government will do to ensure that those things are granted in reality.
If a citizen decides he or she no longer wishes to be governed by that contract of citizenship, they are free to terminate it and no longer avail themselves of the benefits of the contract (such as the freedom to live and work in a country.) They can seek to enter into a citizenship contract elsewhere which is more to their liking. Or, they can break the contract by committing crimes against it and be fined, incarcerated, banished, or even executed.
The marriage covenant is a contract that defies some aspects of the concept of “unalienable rights,” but that is for the next post.