Last updated: August 30. 2013 10:16AM - 727 Views
Mac McPhail Contributing columnist

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“I demand my rights.” I’m sure if you have watched very many crime dramas on TV, you have heard the arrested criminal say those words. And in real life, it is important that everyone have those rights inorder that the justice system can operate in a fair and proper manner.

There are other necessary rights that a citizen should have. Voting rights have been brought to the forefront recently due to changes in voting laws passed this session by the North Carolina legislature. Every person, who is eligible, should be able to vote. It is their constitutional right. But I also see the need for proper identification to verify that the person is an eligible voter. But, after working at the polls the last few elections, I know this additional verification will add strain to the voting system. And the reduction of days in the early voting time period included in the legislative action will probably add to that strain. Voters, workers, and all involved in elections will have to understand this, and be more prepared and exercise patience during the voting process once the changes go into effect.

The rights of American citizens have always been important. The founding fathers felt that establishing those rights were so critical that they would not ratify the U.S. Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added. But what really are “rights,” and what are just the desires for those promoting a certain cause? With all the hoopla about healthcare over the past few years, I have heard commentators on TV say that Americans had the “right” to affordable healthcare. Affordable healthcare may be a good idea, but I don’t think you will find it mentioned anywhere in the U.S. Constitution.

Some people claim their “rights” in an effort to just get things their own way. (And to be difficult for everyone else.) While working with the Revenue Department, I once had a tax protester come into my office and claim, among other things, that he had the right to drive on whichever side of the road he wanted. Of course, he didn’t think it was his responsibility to pay the taxes to provide those roads, no matter which side he chose to drive on.

On a personal level, there is within us the urge to “claim our rights.” You may feel you have to right to buy that new car, even though you can’t afford it. An apparent injustice may make you think you have the right to be upset. There are other personal rights we may claim, and the reasoning behind them may sometimes be understandable. But are we helping or hurting ourselves? Years ago, I heard a preacher say, “You can demand your rights and lose your blessing.”

Probably the most dangerous personal right we demand is the right to be happy. When you hear someone say, “But I have the right to be happy,” it usually means one of two things. It probably means they have done something wrong, or they are planning to do something wrong, and are trying to justify it. Contrary to what many think, the U.S. Constitution does not give us the right to happiness, only the “pursuit of happiness.” Of course, it’s better to be happy than unhappy. But happiness is a feeling and is largely based on how we view the world around us. And that world can be fickle. If my team wins, I’m happy. If they lose, I’m not. So, if I am not careful, I will put my happiness in the sometimes unsure hands of a twenty year old football player I have never met.

The interesting thing is that there is one right we can claim that can really lead us down that road in the pursuit of true happiness. In the Bible, John 1:12 states, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” True happiness can be found in the “righteousness, peace and joy,” (Romans 14:17) that comes from being a child of God and a part of His kingdom.

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