inalienable rights and the doctrine of total depravity

I’ve been thinking about our country. I love it.

I love the constitution and all the freedom-loving ideals that founded it. When I hear the Declaration of Independence read aloud it gives me chills. But a couple phrases in it are quite opposed to Christian ideology. Jefferson writes, “all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”

Rights. This is the word that gives me trouble. Do we really have God-given rights? As Christians, don’t we believe that we are entitled to nothing…that life itself is a gift? Every breath I take is evidence of God’s mercy; every moment it is his right to crush me, if he choose, for the unbelievable audacity I have shown by sinning against a holy God.

And if we do believe that we have rights, what does this mean for salvation? God’s sacrifice of His only Son on the cross looks small, trite, perhaps even unnecessary, to one filled with their own self-important rights. Our depravity and our need for a Savior diminish as our rights increase.

Yet, depravity is a reality. We are utterly depraved. In desperate need of a Savior.

And because God has shown his outrageous grace to us by sending His Son to die for us, to reconcile us to Himself, we are then indebted to protect the life that He lovingly creates. No, it is not the right of the unborn to live, it is pure grace that they have been created. But it is our duty to protect and defend that life. Life has supreme value because it was created in His image, not because it was endowed with His rights.

Do you think this understanding of rights has had an effect on the Gospel in America? My hand has been tipped, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.