If anyone had any doubts about the validity of Radical Orthodoxy’s critique of the secular rhetoric of human rights let them read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest this article in The Jerusalem Post by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sachs (hat tip to Chad Pecknold), in which Sachs trenchantly writes,
Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, science no longer holds its pristine place as the highest moral authority. Instead that role is taken by human rights. It follows that any assault on Jewish life – on Jews or Judaism or the Jewish state – must be cast in the language of human rights. Hence the by-now routine accusation that Israel has committed the five cardinal sins against human rights: racism, apartheid, ethnic cleansing, attempted genocide and crimes against humanity. This is not because the people making these accusations seriously believe them – some do, some don’t. It is because this is the only form in which an assault on Jews can be stated today (italics mine).
That is what the court in Cologne has done. It has declared that circumcision is an assault on the rights of the child since it is performed without his consent. It ignored the fact that if this is true, teaching children to speak German, sending them to school and vaccinating them against illness are all assaults against the rights of the child since they are done without consent. The court’s judgement was tendentious, foolish and has set a dangerous precedent.
One can see a similar dynamic at play in the recent Dutch ban on the shechitah (thankfully reversed … for now), here endorsed by the secularly machiavellian Peter Singer, as well as in the Obama Administration’s recent deplorable attempt to require payment and referral for abortion-causing drugs and birth control in the health care services provided by various Catholic institutions.
I hasten to add that that the most profound response to such developments is not for the Church (or “religious institutions”) to lobby for “a place at the table” of pluralistic voices, thereby pandering to and invoking the very secular rhetoric which has led to the marginalization of religion (although of course such a move can “buy more time” in the short run).
For more on this I would recommend (especially for my more “conservative” friends) Peter Leithart‘s works on ecclesiology, including The Kingdom and the Power, Against Christianity, and Defending Constantine.
The Church has two basic vocations: to convert the culture (noncoersively, of course) and to suffer as martyr. Christians in postmodernity should be asking, “What time is it now?”