What's Wrong With Human Rights? By David Cross - Book Club Summary

Posted at 10:20am on 13th July 2019

Quotes from the book are in italics.

Never, before, have I made so many highlights in a book! As my Book Club members said when we met yesterday evening, this was certainly a narrative that opened up debate, on a subject not often discussed. With so much material to grapple with, I was aware that we could easily jump around to such a degree that it would it be difficult to make sense of our discussion. So, in order to address the conundrum, I created a list of questions for the group, a job that took me two days to undertake!


Beginning with the question: Do we agree with the following? we endeavoured to make sense of the concept of a Right. Is it, as David Cross asks: a just (i.e. fair or ethical) claim of entitlement, or a licence to act in a certain way? I'm not sure that we came up with an answer for that, but we certainly agreed with what Sir Roger Scruton is said to have articulated on a BBC radio programme. This was that European society is rapidly jettisoning its Christian heritage and has found nothing to put in the place of it save the religion of human rights. Likewise, with the question as to whether we have an inalienable right to parenthood, to marriage, or even life itself. Each of these, we all agreed, is: a gift from God and comes with clear boundaries and responsibilities.


Quoting Dwight D Eisenhower, who stated in 1953 that 'A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both', David Cross sets out clear evidence to support that claim. At the UN Human Rights Committee in Geneva in 2017, there was a significant focus on the unconditional right of women to have an abortion, while they chose to deny any right to life for an unborn child. With the UK Parliament having, just this week, backed amendments that require the devolved government in Northern Ireland to liberalise abortion and extend same-sex marriage if they continue not to meet at Stormont, this is an issue very much in the news.

Abortion, we all agreed, should be permitted in circumstances where the mother's quality of life would otherwise be in danger, or where rape or incest has occurred. It has, however, become a free-for-all, with no concern for the tens of thousands of unborn children, many of whom, we thought, might have been adopted rather than giving unfettered Rights to those wishing to have IVF treatment at the expense of an overworked NHS.

Lively discussion on such matters led, naturally, to the matter of the Rights of same-sex couples to adopt a child. Adoption agencies have been forced to close down, because they expressed the view that the right of every child to grow up under the traditional parenting of a mother and father should take precedence over the desires and rights of a gay couple. We heard from one member of the group, of two small children who were incensed with the fact that they had two 'daddies' and no 'mummy', as their friends had. Could this be seen as denying those children their rights?

When it came to the matter of compulsory sexual education being given to children as young as four, we faced a dilemma. Of course they need to understand that although some families will be different to the norm, this is now perceived as acceptable. But given that children are naturally inquisitive, are we not opening the door to youngsters experimenting in sexual activities they might not otherwise even have known about?

With government data showing that 1,267 abortions were carried out on under 16 year olds in 2018, and sexually transmitted infections at 'epidemic levels', with a rise of 5%, this, surely, should be a matter of concern? Where are a parent's rights in this matter? Especially when it comes to contraception which, according to the Daily Mail, is being given to girls as young as twelve, without parental knowledge, let alone consent? Meanwhile, Scottish law, in 2018, allows children of any age to seek to change gender without parental consent, by appealing to the courts. Yet in reality, the thousands of genetic differences between men and women cannot be changed by hormones or surgery; only a change in appearance is possible.


My cousin, once a leading actuary elsewhere in the world, once remarked that the prevailing attitude nowadays is one of entitlement rather than responsibility. And this, states, David Cross, is the main problem with Human Rights. Sin, he says, is found to be an embarrassing concept, worldwide. A moral perspective, which is regarded by many as completely outdated. Yet it is natural rights, he continues, that seem so often to promote human selfishness. Ironically, although secular humanists dismiss the concept of sin they often take an aggressive stance against anyone who challenges their particular ethical code of rights.

John Locke (1632-1704) is seen as the father of liberalism and the founder of the modern theory of human rights. (However) he believed that such rights needed to be grounded in man's duties to God. In other words, a right to liberty should not be seen as a right to self indulgence. Jesus did not exercise his supreme authority by proclaiming rights, but by humbling himself to be perfectly obedient to the father. Would the world not be a better place if we did likewise?


This proved to be a difficult topic among my Book Club members.

'Would I want to suggest that our NHS is subject to satanic influence?' asked one member, when we discussed the issue of transgender surgery - i.e. changing God's creation - and the fact that those with the skills we need and value are given no freedom of conscience.

The history of Human Rights was, however, found to be a hugely enjoyable and eye-opening section of the book. Writing in The Guardian in 2013, Sir Roger Scruton compared the situation of today to Edmund Burke's warning of the bloody and violent consequences of the French Revolution. Now, as then, says David Cross, abstract ideas and utopian schemes threaten to displace practical wisdom from political process. Instead of the common law of England, we have the abstract idea of human rights, slapped upon us by European courts.

Deism and Freemasonry - neither of which adhere to Christianity - are shown to be behind The Declaration of Independence in 1776, which was masterminded by Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. While a philosophy called Epicureanism, which argued that the purpose of life, and indeed man's entitlement, was essentially the pursuit of pleasure or happiness also played its part. In constituting a new structure for French society, the revolutionary mood of 1789 required omission of any clear reference to the God of the Bible and was drafted under the auspices of the Supreme Being, a name not found in Scripture but closely associated with Freemasonry and the Occult.


My final question for Book Club met with a mixed response. As David Cross says: Questioning the validity of any of these rights in another person's life is immediately classified as discrimination against not just their life-style, but the person themselves. He identifies this as: A rights-based system of justice (which) neatly side-steps the need to directly confront the issue of sinful lifestyles. He goes on to remind readers that: Accusations not infrequently end in the courtroom with charges of homophobia, transphobia, unlawful discrimination or even hate-crime. So should we remain silent, I asked?

The fact is, as the book says, Sharia Law is almost certainly opposed to the concept of human rights because Muslims would say that the will of Allah needs to be the arbiter of justice, rather than following a man-made philosophy of human entitlement. So should we, as Christians, not say likewise, acknowledging that God, as Creator of the world and its inhabitants, should be judge of what is right and wrong? We are called to be salt and light in this world, to preserve the law of God, and to shine the light of Jesus into the darkness. If we do nothing, are we not condoning the iniquities, and creating a void in what should be seen as the love and forgiveness of the Saviour who died for the sins of the world?

Yes, we are to love our enemies; to turn the other cheek and forgive those who hurt us; to surrender our right to recompense. Yes, we are to respect the institutions of authority, to pray for, and pay tribute to those who rule. But as we learned some months ago in Glyn Harrison's book, A Better Story we need to find a better way of both telling and showing the positive aspects of Christian faith. Only then can we usher in the rights God plans for humankind: the security His forgiveness offers; the joy of knowing we are the children of the Father, precious in his sight; the peace of mind afforded by the gift of eternal life. And as David Cross reminds us, this book should never be an excuse for condemning and further rejecting those who truly are victims of intolerance, prejudice, and bigotry. Respecting the value of every person is entirely biblical because that value has been clearly affirmed by God.

You may, also, like to read a post I wrote long ago, in August 2008, in which I, personally, experienced the bad effects of Human Rights.

Your Comments:

14th July 2019
at 11:40am
It sounds a really searching, rewarding discussion - asking some fundamental questions which we all need to face.
Mel Menzies
25th August 2019
at 7:33am
Absolutely, Gill! My cousin, who was a leading actuary in Australia, spoke about society's sense of 'entitlement' these days. I couldn't help but agree. Our National Health Service is brilliant, as are Social Services. But, as David Cross' book says, 'fixing' people's problems gives them a sense of expectation and removes any sense of responsibility. Whereas, helping them to help themselves - to find jobs, set up a business etc - gives those people not only responsibility, but a belief in their own value and worth.

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