The Emperor’s Chair: “Our Obsession with Rights”

By Graham Glover


We absolutely love them. We cherish them above all. Regardless of our political persuasions, we extol them as the defining characteristic of our national identity. They are not only part of our DNA, they are our political heart, lungs, brain, and limbs. We literally could not function without them.

I’m referring to those things we commonly refer to as individual rights. And we Americans are obsessed with them. Right, Left, Democrat, Republican – our individual rights are sacred. Yes, sacred. We dare not tread on them or even hint at regulating them. To do so invokes the wrath of millions.

Well, you might want to get ready. It’s coming. Prepare yourselves to stir up some wrath…

Here it is:

I’ve had it with our obsession over individual rights – especially with our asinine belief that these rights are sacred. That these individual rights were given to our Founding Fathers by the Lord Himself and that to be truly free – to be truly righteous – is to enshrine them into our understanding of what it means to be human.


Whether it’s our right to say, believe, our publish whatever we want (no matter how vulgar or sadistic such thing might be); our right to bear arms (be it a pistol, an assault rifle, or for some – weapons systems that make our military blush); our right to choose whatever we want to do to our body (even if that body has another body living inside of it); or our right to keep every dime that we earn (remember, only dictators tax their subjects…) – Americans love to talk about our rights. We especially love those rights that “protect” that which is important to our selves. And our rights are holy. They come from on high. They are what make America so great.

My question is why we believe these individual rights are absolute. Are they written on our hearts like the natural law is? Were they revealed by God, the Government, the Bible, the Constitution to be the core of a free society? After my article and subsequent dialogue from last week, I can’t help but wonder why our individual rights are more important than our communal ones? Rest assured, I believe in “the land of the free”, but should our understanding of freedom begin and end with the protection of individual rights above all else? What happens with our individual rights infringe on the well-being of others?

Screen-Shot-2012-07-04-at-11.44.28-AMTo really get you fired up ponder whether we truly are endowed by our “Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”? I’ll bite on the unalienable right to life, but are liberty and the pursuit of happiness really endowed to us by our Creator? If so, where do the Holy Scriptures or the Church speak to such rights? Moreover, at what point does even the slightest regulation of these rights become an infringement upon them and cause for concern or even upheaval?

Rhetorically speaking, if I propose the curtailing of the 1st or 2nd Amendments to the Bill of Rights, does that mean I want to take them away? And if I do, so what? Does that mean our society is less free? As a Christian, does a free society even matter? Or say I don’t believe in a right to privacy. Does that make me a tyrant who wants to control your every deed? If your right to do whatever you want, be whatever you want, or live however you want isn’t what’s best for our nation and our people, should the well-being of others be relegated to your right to do, be, live, or say whatever you want?

I’m over the obsession. Individual rights are so 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries! I’m looking for something else – something more sacred and communal. I’m looking for a return to “Summum bonum”, where the highest good is infinitely more important than individual “rights”.  Americans though worship individual rights, which makes my argument a tough sell. But, that’s why we have the Jagged Word, to try and figure out just what the hell is going on…