I got an interesting discussion going on a couple of my private social media channels about this church sign in Austin, Texas. So I thought it warrants a public blog post, summarizing various people's opinions. Apologies to those who have seen this discussion before. This is the last time I'm posting about it.
When I first saw this sign, my first thought was: are they kidding? Human rights, narcissism, infidelity, materialism, prejudice, hypocricy all grouped together? am I to understand that human rights are a vice on par with with narcissism, infidelity, etc.? What kind of church would be against human rights? Perhaps in their doctrine, humans have no rights except those given by God. So an attempt of humans to establish their own rights is one of the evils of secularism. (I'm really stretching my imagination here.) The church website (www.cccaustin.com) does not make it clearer.
The speculation in my social media streams converged around three possibilities:
(1) it's an unintentionally awkward phrasing, possibly because of a formatting limitation. They couldn't fit "human rights violations" on the sign (without messing up visually), so they put "human rights", because the phrase "human rights" is usually followed by "violations"; thus "violations" can be dropped.
(2) it's a form of trolling... erm, ingenious marketing. Whetting people's appetite by an intentionally cryptic or contradictory statement. Maybe they'll be curious enough to come to the church to find out what it's all about.
(3) this church really counts human rights among the evils of secularism. About half of the people who commented on this photo thought so.
"I couldn't tell if they're for Human Rights or against them, but since they're against the other topics I'm assuming they're against Human Rights too."
"'Human rights' originated after WWII and were defined by a multi-national commission. So Human Rights are an innovation and not given by God in the Bible, therefore they're evil. It doesn't matter that by and large they're corollaries of the "Love your neighbors as yourselves" commandment."
"This page on the church website, You have a part to play, seems to make the point even more strongly. On its web page (which, unlike a sign, does not have formatting limitations), they list all six "issues", including human rights, and says 'In addition, we we will be sponsoring a unique "small group challenge": our small groups will have the opportunity to craft a personal and creative response to these issues, competing for a $250 prize per issue [...]'."
It's probably not (1), because awkward phrasing in a sign could easily be clarified on the website. It may also be (2) and (3) combined. One friend said, "this is a deliberate attempt to confuse people and attract attention, and not a simple failure of parallel rhetorical construction."