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Sunday, December 1, 2013

On Just Deserts and Entitlements

When have you fallen into the trap of “offering sacrifice” but “neglecting mercy”? How can you work to reverse that this week? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1355).

Now there is a great outcry against people who feel they have entitlements or who feel some sort of innate condition of being deserving. Frequently it is heard that no one is entitled to or deserves anything. This comes in part from Christian ideas. We say that we don’t deserve anything for all that we have (in this universe and in this world) is a gift of God. Likewise, we are fallible sinners with no spiritual entitlements earned or otherwise. Thus Christianity and conservative politics are joined at the hip. Unfortunately various unintended consequences can result from this line of thought. For example, it follows that unborn infants bereft of any social status or power whatever (by category “the oppressed”) are found to be exceptionally underserving by a large segment of American society. Unborn infants are meat to be excised. They deserve nothing—or so it would seem.

Actually we find it repugnant to say that infants are not deserving. Newborns in a hospital—are these children not deserving of love and respect even though they in no way have proven themselves to be responsible? The simple fact that they represent life (especially human life) indicates a need of exceptional consideration. And if a child should be born with a serious medical condition, we are confronted with what to do? Toss him out in the trash or give him the best medical care possible? And as we always choose the latter, such feeling of unearned due deserts (which can in some cases last a lifetime) has substantial inevitable budgetary consequences for individuals and institutions. In addition to these considerations, we add to that as American citizens these children with no portfolio of proven responsibility have the eventual umbrella protection of the Bill of Rights along with other amendments. Like other Americans we must conclude that they are deserving of certain rights—why? Not because of some proven track record of excellence, but simply because they are American citizens. From our nation’s beginning we have stood naked before the world with one explanation for this apparent excess—we are guided to find all deserving of guaranteed inalienable rights by the will of Providence.

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