International Institute for Religious Freedom

Exploring the Intersection of Faith and Universal Freedoms

Evangelical Christians and Human Rights


Evangelical Christians have had a complex relationship with human rights. On one hand, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UN General Assembly 1948) reflects Christian principles. On the other hand, human rights mechanisms have been used to support policies that are abhorrent to evangelical Christians’ beliefs and identity. The 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration is a good time to evaluate its impact for Evangelicals. Not only do Evangelicals have a complex relationship with human rights, but they also are bifurcated on their perspective on the United Nations. An article published in 1959 in Christianity Today, the leading American evangelical magazine, sets out the dichotomy well, “One group is frankly and outspokenly antagonistic” (Reid 1959, 10) This group sees the United Nations as heading towards world government and potentially the source of the Anti-Christ mentioned in the Bible as part of the end-times. The book and movie series Left Behind depicts this well. (LaHaye and Jenkins 1995) At the other end of the spectrum are those who support the UN’s goals – peace and assistance for the poor – as consistent with Christian principles.