In this pandemic, we are hearing a lot about rights including the right to refuse to wear a mask, the fear of our rights being taken away by the government, the fear of losing other freedoms we now take for granted. I got to thinking about rights, who has them and what right (there’s that word again) we have to defend our rights.
The characteristics of basic human rights is that they are universal, they belong to all of us. They are inalienable in that they cannot be taken away. They are interconnected. They are dependent on one another. They are indivisible, unable to be treated in isolation. Lastly, they are non-discriminatory. They should be respected without prejudice.
The human rights written up in the international bill of rights are as followed:
- The right to equality and freedom from discrimination
- The right to life, liberty, and personal security
- Freedom from torture and degrading treatment
- The right to equality before the law
- The right to a fair trial
- The right to privacy
- Freedom of belief and religion
- Freedom of opinion
- Right of peaceful assembly and association
- The right to participate in government
- The right to social security
- The right to work
- The right to an adequate standard of living
- The right to education
- The right to health
- The right to food and housing
We cannot argue that anyone does not have one of these rights because they are basic human rights. What happens when I think my rights are infringed upon? Am I wrong in thinking I have rights? What happens when my rights hurt someone else? This is the quandary facing our country right now. Number 8, the freedom of opinion and number 15, the right to health, is something we each need to truly consider. What if my freedom of opinion suffers because of your right to health? If you think you are in danger of losing your life to a virus if I don’t wear a mask, must I wear one regardless of my opinion in order for you to feel safe? Who has a right to live or die in the pandemic? Who has a right to determine my safety and yours? How can I ensure that your rights are being considered fairly while I maintain the dignity of my rights?
Being fair means considering the rights of those who are our weakest members because they are less able to take care of their own rights. It is for this reason that the Underground Railroad was established during the days of slavery. It is for the rights of Jewish people that Dietrich Bonhoeffer perished during the Nazi regime. Basic human rights of less fortunate people are at stake. How concerned should I be about them? Do I have a right to deny a person with diabetes the right to shop at a supermarket because I have a right to not wear a mask? If someone believes mask wearing makes them ill, should they also be obliged to stay home and let someone who believes in masking go shopping for them? This is what we believe those who are ill should do, right? The needs of others should be as considered as much as our own needs. We ALL have the right to live well, whether we are sick or not. You do not know if your neighbor is suffering from diabetes or an invisible illness such as autoimmune disease. You do not know. You cannot see those illnesses. What we do know is that there is a pandemic and we ALL have rights. Weigh this before you go out in public. Think about how easy it is to put ourselves and our rights first.
Jesus said this, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7:12 NLT). If you do not enjoy worrying about dying, do not put others in that position of anxiety. If you can help someone who is suffering because of the pandemic, help them. If it is a store owner whose store is in danger of shutting down, help them think about alternative businesses or ways to make their businesses safe without hurting others. Stop being selfish. This is a time in which we need to consider the weakest among us. There are enough wise, smart, rich people among us in our Christian circles to protect the less fortunate among us.
Isolation is not necessarily the answer to protection. There are ways to help the vulnerable without isolation tactics. We can deliver groceries and drop them off on our friend’s porches, talk on the phone through a window, face-time them through video conferencing, send care packages of fun gifts and treats, and write letters.
There are the grieving to think of. Who is supporting our friends who have lost loved ones due to the virus? Are you caring for them? What are you doing? Fear is not the answer.
It is just as stupid to be afraid of losing our freedoms as it is to be afraid of dying of Covid-19. We are not stupid. There are needs that can be met with dignity and imagination and creativity. Do you not have it? Caring for the needs among us is not impossible for the people of God. Let other people know of your needs without scoffing at those who disagree with you. This in not a time to panic or to be angry. It is a time to be there for our brothers and sisters, our elderly and our ill. We need you. You need us.