Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sun. Nov. 18, 2012 (Carl Friesen)

Carl Friesen (graduate student at Regent College) spoke on "Justice and the Liturgy of Human Rights". In an earlier talk, Carl showed that humans are primarily loving, relational beings and not simply coldly rational creatures. However, over the past three or more centuries, certain philosophers' arguments have profoundly shaped societal thinking in ways which have led even today's Christians to think unquestioningly about the supremacy of human rights, rights which concern the individual rather than that which is best for a relational (let alone loving) community. Hobbes, for example, argued that science/mechanics/math can explain everything rationally, that people are fundamentally individuals (not social beings) concerned with self preservation. Thinking like this leads to the assumptions of the "unalienable rights" of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness" embedded by Thomas Jefferson so prominently in the US constitution. John Stuart Mill emphasized that individual freedom is the greatest good, and this assumption is too often unquestioned by today's media, courts and societal thinking. This leads our society into a fragmented view of justice in which we focus more on an individual's goods and rights than on all of us fostering love and helpful societal relationships. If pushed too far, individual rights will not provide a foundation for the common good. For example, forests, lakes and meadows were formerly preserved as a cooperative endeavour for the common good, but now we are subdividing them into tiny parcels purchased by individuals who have the 'right' to do with their resources as they wish, even if it will lead to harming society as a whole. Believing in absolute rights also leads to the type of polarization, and the lack of compromise now so prevalent in US politics. What to do? Carl suggested that Christians can begin to change society through hospitality, "inordinate" hospitality, a selfless serving of others, a loving of the unloveable. We still have rights (and do not want our hospitality to be exploited), but if we practice the level of hospitality outlined in Matthew 25, rather than individual rights first and foremost, we can become more Christ-like. [JEK]

Listen to the sermon audio MP3 recording from Sunday, November 18th, 2012 using your browser's preferred media player.



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