Power, Principles and Human Rights
ONE OF THE factions in the early Christian Church, followers of the charismatic preacher Montanus, believed that only those who ate a steady diet of radishes would be saved. The women of the community, who played an inordinately powerful role in the life of the movement, especially promoted this healthy regimen. Had Montanism prevailed, Christians might be eating vegetables at Holy Communion rather than wafers and the Roman Catholic Church might suffer today no shortage of priests. But whether it was resentment of roots or of "rabble", the Church fathers of the day declared the Montanists enemies of the Church in 170 AD and that, for all intents and purposes, was the end of that.
Why did the Montanists fade into history? Did God really have no taste for radishes? Was it somehow a violation of natural law for women to assume a leadership role in the Church? Or did the Montanists simply lack the capacity to build an adequate consensus for their views? Had they been operating in China, where a saying has it that "only those who appreciate root vegetables can know the true meaning of life", might the story have been different?
Whether it be a religion, a nation or the world at large, the norms that govern reflect either the views of those who are at the moment holding the power, or the principles that have managed to claim a consensus among enough people that the powerful dare not challenge them. This is true, too, of human rights.