The Magnificat has been set to so much beautiful music that it’s easy to ignore what it says.
It’s part Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus. We love its gooey sentimentalism. We imagine it happening exactly as he described. This post is about what Luke meant, the point he was making. The Magnificat was his way of saying ‘This is what Jesus was about. This is what Christianity is about’. This post defends the Christian record in these terms.
This Monday is the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was a great achievement. Nobody publicly disapproves of human rights. They are too important.
But as soon as we ask what these things are, we get into trouble. Nobody has seen them. Do they really exist? Or are they, as Jeremy Bentham argued, ‘nonsense on stilts’? Positive rights are easily recognised: buy a bus ticket, have a right to ride on the bus. The right is granted by a known authority. Human rights, on the other hand, are a type of natural rights, and appeal beyond all human authorities. To what?
Between September 1665 and November 1666, in the village of Eyam, 260 people died of the plague, including a visitor who had come to sell cloth to the locals, but never left.
The figure comprised about three quarters of the population because the village had gone into voluntary quarantine in order prevent the plague spreading to surrounding communities.