30 Sep What The Bible Really Says About Civil Rights
Protecting and preserving our civil rights as Americans is part of what makes this country unique. It is easy to forget that not every country champions the equal and fair treatment of its citizens. However, in order to protect and defend our civil rights, we must understand how the Bible views this very important topic.
So, what does the Bible say about civil rights? Throughout the pages of Scripture, we find a common theme of equality. The Bible champions the equal and fair treatment of each individual, acknowledging that we are all created in the image of God. As Christians, it is our responsibility to fight for the fair treatment of all individuals.
You may have heard the phrase ‘civil rights are human rights’. Is this really true? What does the Bible have to say about the fair and equal treatment of all people? And what about the American Civil Rights Movement? In this post, we will discuss a wide variety of topics surrounding a Biblical view of civil rights in America.
Understanding a Biblical View of Civil Rights
As Christians, we must allow Biblical truths to permeate every area of our lives. By developing an understanding of the Bible, we are able to view issues like civil rights through a Biblical lens. This allows us to more effectively promote and protect the rights we have been given.
What Are Civil Rights?
At a very basic level, civil rights are a broad set of rights that were put in place to prevent the unfair treatment of an individual. Civil rights grant each individual the right to receive fair and equal treatment in a variety of settings including:
- Public Accommodations
- And More!
Civil rights promote the equal treatment of each person regardless of their race, sex, age, disability, nationality, religion, or other defining characteristics. Because of civil rights, citizens of the United States are granted freedoms such as free speech, equal protection, due process, the right against self-incrimination, and more!
Without civil rights, certain groups of individuals are subject to discrimination and unfair treatment. While civil rights laws and legislations have made a tremendous impact on the fair treatment of all Americans, we still have work to do.
Proverbs 31:8-9 states, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.” As Christians, it is our responsibility and privilege to stand up for the oppressed, work towards equality, and avoid discrimination at all costs.
Important Civil Rights of All Americans
While there are many rights that fall under the category of civil rights, some of the most important include the following:
- Right to Life
- Freedom From Torture
- Right to Privacy
- Freedom of Assembly & Associates
- Right to Fair Trial
- Freedom of Thought, Conscience, & Religion
- Right to Asylum
- Freedom of Expression
- Right to An Effective Remedy
- Freedom from Discrimination
- Right to Liberty & Security
What the Bible Says About Civil Rights
While the term “civil rights” is not found within Scripture, we are able to find the concept of equality carefully woven through the text. Genesis 1:27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
The Bible Commands Us to Love Our Neighbor
In Mark 12:31 we read, “The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” In order to obey this clear command found in Scripture, we must treat each individual as we would ourselves. This command doesn’t include qualifying text. It doesn’t say to love your neighbors if they are of the same gender. It certainly doesn’t say to love your neighbors if they are of the same nationality. The message is simple, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Bible States That All Men Are Created Equal
As we read in Galatians 3:28-29, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
Even in ancient times, people groups experienced discrimination and division based on birth, nationality, gender, or appearance. This is just one of many passages that clearly state that all men are created equal, Abraham’s offspring and heirs according to the promise.
The Bible Forbids Favoritism
Leviticus 19:15 says, “You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”
And in James 2:1-4, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”
These verses do not directly address the topic of discrimination due to race or nationality. However, they are clear in stating that we are not to show partiality towards certain groups of people. The Bible is clear on the fact that advocating for or promoting one race or group of people above another is forbidden.
James 2:8-9 states, “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
The purpose of civil rights is to ensure the equal treatment of all people. If we are all made in the image of God Himself, why should certain groups be treated unfairly or suffer from discrimination? By observing and defending our civil rights as Americans, we recognize and respect the equality of all humans.
Human Rights vs. Civil Rights
We’ve all heard the phrase ‘civil rights are human rights’. But, is this actually the case? While they are similar in many ways, human rights and civil rights are actually two separate issues. The distinguishing factor between human rights and civil rights is the origination of those rights.
Human rights, for example, are fundamental rights that every human possesses simply because they were born. Civil rights, however, are rights that are granted to citizens through documents such as the U.S. Constitution and other important legislation.
The famous phrase from the Declaration of Independence reads, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”. The rights referenced in this phrase refer to foundational human rights granted to each individual.
There is one very important similarity between human rights and civil rights – they are both important to the heart of God. As people created in His image, we are responsible for supporting and promoting the equality of all individuals, regardless of our differences.
Important Civil Rights Legislations
Throughout the course of our nation’s history, we have been working to further promote the equal and fair treatment of all Americans. There are several key pieces of federal legislation that have been put into place to ensure this foundational belief of our country remains central to our values. A few of the most notable civil rights legislation include the following:
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
This act protects job applicants and employees over the age of 40 from discrimination based on their age. Because of this act, all employees have fair access to compensation, advancement opportunities within the workplace, and other employment conditions.
Age Discrimination Act of 1975
The Age Discrimination Act of 1975 prohibits programs and activities that rely on federal assistance from discriminating on the basis of age. Some of the programs included under this category include rehabilitation programs, health care services, educational services, housing, welfare, food stamps, and more.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Perhaps one of the most well-known civil rights legislation is the Americans with Disabilities Act or ADA. This act prohibits discrimination due to real or perceived disabilities. Because of this, Americans with disabilities are granted fair access to employment, public accommodations, commercial facilities, transportation, telecommunications, state and local government, and much more.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
A pivotal moment in our nation’s history, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, or nationality. This act was responsible for important changes in the areas of education, voting, employment, and public accommodations for all Americans.
Fair Housing Act (FHA)
This act protects Americans from discrimination in housing and accommodations due to race, sex, religion, disability, or familial status.
Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)
As the first disability civil rights legislation passed in our country, section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 protects disabled individuals from discrimination in federal financial assistance programs.
These are just a few of the important laws and legislations that work to ensure the fair and equal treatment of all Americans. The legislation mentioned above are all on a federal level. However, there are many states that have put their own civil rights law into place to further protect against discrimination.
The Bible & The Civil Rights Movement
As one of the most pivotal moments in our nation’s history, we would be remiss to gloss over the Civil Rights Movement. At a very basic level, the Civil Rights Movement stands on the Biblical belief that all people deserved fair and equal treatment regardless of their race or the color of their skin. While some areas of this important movement were not entirely Biblical, the overarching theme was founded in Biblical truths.
The equal treatment of all people is close to the heart of God. Because of this, it should be close to the heart of Christians in American both in the 1960s and today.
Standing Up For Civil Rights As a Christian
If we believe that the Bible champions the fair and equal treatment of all people, it should be a topic of great importance to all Christians. As Christians, we must work to actively set an example for the world in which we live. Others in our world actively discriminate against individuals because of their nationality, gender, race, or disability. However, it is our job to stand up for those people groups!
There are many laws and legislations in place prohibiting discrimination. Even still, discrimination is far too common in many areas of our society. As Believers, we have an undeniable calling to stand up for the oppressed. We find this truth scattered throughout the pages of Scripture.
Isaiah 1:17 says, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” And in Psalm 82:3 we read, “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.”
Actively look for ways to fight oppression and discrimination that you see within your social circles. Vote for political leaders who stand up for historically oppressed people groups. Evaluate ways that you may unknowingly allow discrimination in your own life. Hold the government responsible for enforcing civil rights through rules for government. By taking these steps towards the equal treatment of all people, we can enjoy living in a country that champions and values civil rights for all citizens.
What are political rights? In addition to human rights and civil rights, you may have heard the term political rights. How do political rights differ from civil rights? Political rights are things such as the right to a fair trial, the right to due process, the right to defend yourself, the right to vote, and many others. Many political rights intersect with civil rights as foundational rights of all American citizens.