Dignity, ‘rights’ and biblical Creation1
Published: 29 August 2013 (GMT+10)
Earlier this year, the UK’s Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) published a document offering guidance to employers relating to religion and belief in the workplace.2 In this, they stated that they support “individuals’ right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.” In answer to the question, “How will an employer know if a religion or belief is genuine?”, they answered that, among other things, it should be “compatible with human dignity and should not conflict with the fundamental rights of others.” They then went on to give some examples of how such guidance might be applied. In their view, it might be appropriate to exempt a vegetarian from fridge cleaning duties where meat is stored. However, it would be inappropriate, they said, to exempt a magistrate from duties requiring him to place children into the care of same-sex couples, as this would be “incompatible with upholding the dignity and fundamental rights of same-sex couples.”
Dignity and a person’s world-view
So, they say, a belief is genuine if it is compatible with human dignity. But what makes something compatible or incompatible with human dignity? The answer depends on your world-view. One with biblical beliefs would hold that people have dignity because they have been made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). So, anything that preserves the image of God in someone confers upon them dignity; anything that mars that image robs them of dignity. The secular view appears to be that anything that supports a person in living the lifestyle of their choice gives them dignity; anything that obstructs this, or makes them feel uncomfortable in it, denies them their dignity.
These different ways of thinking lead to very different conclusions. For example, according to the Bible, marriage should be between one man and one woman. Such a union was ordained by their creator; He made them to be mutually compatible, so that, both individually and as a couple, they reflect God’s image in them. In secular thinking, promotion of ‘gay rights’ liberates people to live as they wish. Denying the gay community the ‘right’ to adopt children, for example, would prevent them from living full lives.
The secular view, of course, is coming to dominate in both legislation and general practice. When a Christian counsellor was unhappy about giving sex-therapy to same-sex couples, he was sacked.3 He could easily have been exempted from these duties; but simply questioning homosexual practice, it was claimed, robbed homosexual couples of their dignity. Andrew McClintock, a South Yorkshire magistrate, was forced to resign his position because he felt unable to place children with same-sex couples.4 In contrast, excusing vegetarians from duties requiring them to clean a meat fridge is seen to preserve their dignity.
Beliefs about origins are crucial
What determines which view is held? I think there’s little doubt that it will be established, directly or indirectly, and very largely, by what people believe about their origins. If, along with the animals we are the product only of natural processes, then perhaps animals have as many ‘rights’ as humans. Why, then, should we eat them? If we are as we are because that’s how nature turned us out (i.e. that’s how we evolved) then whatever we feel is surely natural—and if we feel attracted to someone of the same sex, surely that’s natural too.
Belief in creation leads to a very different way of thinking. Those who believe they were created will naturally want to know how the creator intended us to live. Wise people who buy a new car read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, so as to understand how the vehicle should be used and serviced. Just a cursory consideration of human anatomy makes clear that woman was made for man and man for woman. The Bible teaches that man has a place far above animals and that animals were made for man. After the Flood, God gave people permission to eat meat (Genesis 9:3–4); Jesus himself declared all foods ‘clean’ (Mark 7:19).
Needless to say, as always, the secular view is contradictory and self-refuting. The ‘right’ of homosexuals to adopt children infringes the ‘right’ of children to be raised by a mother and father. The ‘right’ of vegetarians to be exempt from cleaning meat fridges infringes the ‘right’ of others to eat meat free from any sense of guilt. If it is offensive to act in a way that expresses the view that homosexuality is wrong, why is it not also offensive to act in a way that expresses the view that meat-eating is wrong?
It is for good reasons the Bible begins with God’s act of creation. Without the creation world-view, people will lack the framework with which to think rightly about themselves, the family and society. This is one of the many reasons why the creation/evolution debate is so important. It really is no side issue. Indeed, its outcome will determine the laws, the morality and the very ethos of the nation.
- This article first appeared in the July 2013 issue of Prayer News, the newsletter for CMI (UK & Europe). Return to text.
- Religion or belief in the workplace: A guide for employers following recent European Court of Human Rights judgments, Equality and Human Rights Commission, February 2013; equalityhumanrights.com. Return to text.
- Christian counsellor Gary McFarlane who refused to offer sex advice to gay couples fails in religious discrimination claim, MailOnline, 30 November 2009; dailymail.co.uk. Return to text.
- Wynne-Jones, J., Christian magistrate sues Government over placing children with gay couples, The Daily Telegraph, 26 November 2006; telegraph.co.uk. Mr McClintock lost his case. Return to text.