The first problem I have is about talking about human rights is that, theologically, I don't believe in them. According to Christian theology everything that human beings have is mercy or grace, including our very lives. The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord. Therefore, if we are speaking strictly in Christian theological terms, we can't really speak about "rights".
However, I'm not ready to dismiss the concept of human rights out of hand. I suspect that, no matter which position one takes in regard to economics, all of us would have an instinctive problem with the "tough luck" approach. "You are poor, despite working 18 hours a day, tough luck; in the eyes of God you have no rights." Or "You worked hard for that money, but we're taking it away from you in order to help others less fortunate than you; tough luck, in the eyes of God you have no rights." I suspect that at least one of those statements will rankle you!
For me, the concept of "human rights" is a secular expression of the Arminian (and catholic) theological belief that "God is no respector of persons" (to use the KJV/AV language).
Theologically, I believe that God wants all people to come to him, regardless of rank, status, skin color, community affiliation, sexual orientation, gender or any other characteristic that people can think of. God does not love aristocrats more than peasants. He does not love rich people more than poor people. He does not love men more than women. As the African congregation I served in London often said at the beginning of the service: "Whoever you are, you are welcome here. Whatever you nationality, tribe, language, skin color or gender, everyone is welcome in the house of God."
This message seems like something so natural to many of us in the United States, that we don't even question it. Yet, it was certainly part of Jesus' original Good News, because it was taken for granted in the Greco-Roman culture that the gods did prefer some people to others and that - for example - aristocrats, men, and the freeborn were ontologically better people than peasants, women and slaves. My African readers can correct me if I'm wrong, but one of the reasons this message was so powerful in the London African congregation was that, back home, different tribal groups were often viewed as being ontologically better than others. This congregation understood this part of the Good News because the opposite reality had been part of their life experience.
I think that this theological conviction that "God is no respector of persons" can very adequately be expressed in secular language by the idea that all people are endowed with certain inalienable rights. It is actually the matter of "What are these rights?" that is probably going to be the big bone of contention. I'll try to start thinking about that in the next post.