Introduction: Special Forum on Christianity and Human Rights Udi Greenberg and Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins The intellectual roots of human rights have been a source of much debate, but Christianity’s role in shaping the language of universal equality has been especially controversial. Historians agree that prominent Catholic phi- losophers, such as Jacques Maritain, were crucial in crafting and populariz- ing theories of rights, and that Protestant activists, such as American Protestant Frederick Nolde, were instrumental in drafting the UN’s Univer- sal Declaration of Human Rights. Yet the lessons that scholars draw from this genealogy are diverse. For some, such as John Nurser, history reveals Christianity as the crucial engine of the modern era’s most celebrated con- cept. Christians may have engaged in countless brutalities over the centu- ries, but the Gospel’s universal aspirations also helped bolster peaceful endeavors. Others, such as Samuel Moyn and Joan Scott, have instead claimed that the marriage of Christianity and rights reﬂects how deeply the language of universal equality preserved traditional hierarchies. Human rights and religious freedom, they claim, were forged by Christian Western Europeans, and were meant to combat Marxists, feminists, Muslims, and anti-colonial activists. In this provocative narrative, the concept of rights John S.
Journal of the History of Ideas – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Sep 20, 2018
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