A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Thursday Thought — Do Christians have Rights?

Bill Gothard and others in ‘c’hristian communities would have you believe that as a christian you no longer have any rights and that demanding your rights is wrong, even sinful.   This erroneous belief is demonstrated in this quote by Dan Leningen:

Demanding your ‘rights’ is pride in expecting that you deserve to be treated a certain way.  Ultimately, we deserve nothing but judgment for our sin.

The ramifications of such a belief upon abuse victims are horrific and Rebecca Davis has done an excellent job of exposing the heresy of this teaching in her article,  Replying to One Who Says Christians Should Have No Rights [Internet Archive link].

Update October 2016: Rebecca has now expanded on the teaching about Christians and their rights — their human rights as well as their rights in Christ — to become the first two chapters of the new Justice Keepers Publishing book Untwisting Scriptures that were used to tie you up, gag you, and tangle your mind [*Affiliate link].

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.


  1. IamMyBeloved's

    Well don’t those same people say that the Bible is our only source for anything in life and doesn’t that same Bible state clearly that Paul appealed to his rights as a citizen, for his own protection?

    Just because now as true Christians, we were once unredeemed, does not mean that as redeemed saints, we don’t have a place or job in the world. We are in the world, but not of the world. That means that we live according to how things are done down here, being subject to Christ above all else. We certainly do not agree with all that goes on, nor approve of certain laws, but we still live in this world. Even the unredeemed have rights and seek to protect those rights. How much more so then, should those who are of the Kingdom of God. I am not saying that we should seek our stately rights over trusting God or letting trivial things go, and certainly not over harming another individual (such as leaving someone homeless, etc.). However, abuse is certainly not trivial and as God says, He put the governmental system in place, to protect those who do good and for those who do evil, to constrain and punish them.

    I think people believe that if we as Christians, just let all the evil in the world “go” and not address it, that it somehow makes us better Christians, or better witnesses of Christ and that the lost will see how wonderful we are to “let it all go” and the lost in turn will run to Christ. But the truth is, Jesus did not just let evil go and not address it nor did He just give into those who desired to do harm to Him. Those who are unrepentant and living in their sin, will still face their judgment. Jesus will not overlook or let it go in the end. How sad it would be to find out that we could have been better witnesses, by standing for what was right, instead of just letting it all go –

  2. MeganC

    Yes . . . I never understood it but I believed it for a long time. I went to Bill Gothard, as a pre-teen, with my mother. And she reiterated the fact that we “don’t have any rights”. And then I heard it in seminary, over and over. It made a way to cope, for a while. Whenever I was hurt, I could tell myself that I don’t have any rights and don’t deserve anything. It also made a way for me to ignore the fact that none of my needs were being met and that what felt important to me didn’t matter to anyone else. I just kept whispering to myself, “I don’t deserve to be loved or have my needs met!” But, still, I remember thinking that our country was much built on people fighting for certain unalienable rights! We wouldn’t even have options if our forefathers didn’t believe that God has gifted all humans with rights!

    • IamMyBeloved's

      Yes, Megan. That is also part of what kept me living in abuse for so long. No rights to protect or defend myself or my children. Give them everything they want. Now that’s what any REAL Christian would do. Wow. Not deserving of anything – including love, so why expect it? I knew then and I know even more clearly today, that these are lies and not of God – no, not at all. If the God of the universe cleared us of all sin – past, present and future – because He loves us so much, then even though we may not deserve His grace, He gave it to us nonetheless, because He wants to have relationship – loving relationship – with His children. Now therein is freedom.

  3. Anonymous100

    Went to Gothard seminar 3 times. Funny how many believe this teaching and yet they hold the belief that a man “has the right” to make all final decisions for the family.

  4. Gary W

    The Rebecca Davis essay linked to above is a worthwhile read. She distinguishes between rights in our vertical relationship with God (before whom, she asserts, we have no rights) and in our horizontal relationships with others (wherein we do have rights). She then identifies the error of applying the-no-rights-before-God principle to our relationships with our fellows. Basically, this conflation of principles results in, or is the justification for, demands that we yield to every power hungry, tyrannical preacher, teacher, boss, husband and other ravenous wolf whose path we come.

    Yet I suggest that Davis is mistaken in saying that we have no rights before God. I posit that, just as parents are obligated to care for their children, so also our Heavenly Father is obligated to care for his creatures. This obligation is not imposed on Him from outside Himself, but neither is it an obligation he voluntarily assumes. Rather, it flows, of necessity, from His nature as a just and loving God, as the God whose very essence is Love. Perhaps it would be less jarring to think in terms of reasonable expectations, as opposed to rights, in the vertical relationship, but the substance is the same.

    This is the point: If we have rights (or reasonable expectations) before God, how can it be said that we have no rights vis-à-vis those abusive preachers, husbands, etc. who would subjugate us to their wills?

    • This is so important I would like to repeat it:

      1) In our vertical relationship with God, we might be said to have no rights but we can have reasonable expectations based on the attributes and character of God who is both loving and just.

      2) In our horizontal relationships with others, we most certainly do have rights.

  5. Barnabasintraining

    While I think it is true that before God we don’t have rights, on the other hand He always seems to treat us as though we do. Even He treats us according to the dignity He bestowed on us.

    But take away rights before our fellow man and we are all in trouble. Besides, it is impossible. Someone somewhere always ends up having rights. The problem is when some have rights and others don’t, which is a perversion of humanity because having no rights denies personhood. So some people are persons and others aren’t. Then we have the kinds of severe problems we see in Islam where women have no rights, and other places where slavery is practiced where slaves have no rights.

    The no rights doctrine is clearly not from God. I would call it outright satanic.

  6. debby

    So all of our efforts to “eradicate injustice in the world” such as poverty, abuse, famine, totalitarian governments, etc. is WRONG? Do we do all that because those people have no rights or because we believe they have value as God says they do and therefore they HAVE the right to be treated as a valuable person? Do we do it so we can “win others to Christ” and then when they are “won” we tell them, “Ok, good choice. Oh, and from now on, all of your rights are no longer valid?” How can we even make a judgement over “good and evil” if we have no rights? How can we say something is “wrong” if we have no rights to judge wrong things by? I had a pastor ask me after I came to him numerous times for help with my abusive husband, “Well, why do you think you deserve any better?” He was telling me “You have no rights, therefore, how can “abuse” be present?” Crazy. No. Evil. Even touted with the best of intentions (they really BELIEVE the Bible means this) is still playing right into Satan’s hands. He doesn’t care WHY we help him devour and destroy, only that we do. Thank you so much for TRUTH!

    • Shattered not broken

      Wow….there was a saying in my old church, a response to how are you doing, and it was “better than I deserve”. I’m sorry the pastor actually asked you that. So sad.

  7. Shattered not broken

    I think this is a fitting place to put my comment. A while ago, I withdrew my membership from a spiritually abusive church. I’m still receiving written threats of church discipline from an elder wife for not attending there even though I’m no longer a member. This leads me to believe that the pastor never told anyone in the church that I’m no longer a member or is ignoring my withdrawal. I am no longer under their bondage and I let them know already not to contact me. I signed an agreement when I became a member and there was nothing in there about how to stop being one so I simply sent an email after over 2 years of contemplation to leave…I had gotten up the guts and was no longer living in fear for my salvation or had to live a legalist lifestyle. Why are they doing this?

    • They are doing it because they want to maintain control over you.

      • Shattered not broken

        I suspected that but sometimes it helps having confirmation from someone else.

      • Shattered not broken

        Thank you Barbara….

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