Rev. Ross Helgeton
Faith and Reflection
When I was about seven, our family gathered around the Marconi to watch the black-and-white version of Animal Farm. It was somewhat over my head, but still enjoyable. One paradoxical statement left me confused. It was the phrase, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
I asked my father to explain what the phrase meant, and he did a pretty good job of bringing it into the realm of humans and explaining that not all people are viewed as being equal in importance, or value. My dad’s lesson that day introduced me to human rights and planted some enduring seeds of interest.
Human rights are believed to be the basic rights and freedoms of every person, regardless of age, race, creed, colour, gender, or geographical location. Some believe that these rights cannot be removed, but only restricted. I respectfully disagree, as I witness daily, particularly by means of the media, the almost total eradication and elimination of people’s rights. Human rights are built upon and maintained by value systems that honour and respect fairness, justice, equality and human dignity. When systems do not maintain these values, human rights will always be in jeopardy.
Canada has a value system that maintains respect for both human and personal rights. However, the whole matter can be rather subtle, and the real test is revealed by how we view and treat others. For example, a lady once treated me quite rudely. Later she came and said, “I didn’t realize that you were a pastor, so I must apologize for my demeanour toward you.” I thanked her for valuing my professional role, but explained that I could not accept her apology, because it seemed that she was saying that if I were not a pastor, then it would be all right to be rude with me. I expect that I blew any opportunity to be in her top 10 of favourite people, but I did not want to nestle in comfortably within a system that would espouse either subtly, or blatantly that, “All humans are equal, but some humans are more equal than others.”
The Bible spends more time teaching responsibilities than it does rights and focuses strongly on maintaining the worth and dignity of everyone we encounter. God Himself, divides people into two groups, but it has nothing to do with their rights or worth. He distinguishes between those who receive Him and those who reject Him. In Acts 10:34, the apostle Peter discovered that “God is no respecter of persons.” Deuteronomy 10:17 states that, “…the great God, mighty and awesome, shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.”
Looking for human rights and equality? The ground is level at the foot of the cross!