Inalienable Rights · Social Issues

Equality

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This is the start of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence. The quest for equality in the United States has had many twists and turns, from freeing the slaves, to Women’s Suffrage, to the Civil Rights Movement, to today. These represent very real struggles: the right to self-determination, the right to a voice in our government, the right to be treated with equal dignity in society.

Yet today, it has become a massive bone of political contention. People of all stripes complain that their “rights” are being infringed, and that they aren’t being treated “equal” in some manner or other.

Definition Time

Going back to good old Merriam-Webster, we find equality defined as:

  1. 1:  the quality or state of being equal

  2. 2:equation 2a

Chasing the link to equal we get:

  1. 1a(1):  of the same measure, quantity, amount, or number as another (2):  identical in mathematical value or logical denotation :equivalentb:  like in quality, nature, or status; c:  like for each member of a group, class, or society

  2. 2:  regarding or affecting all objects in the same way :impartial

  3. 3:  free from extremes: such as; a:  tranquil in mind or mood; b:  not showing variation in appearance, structure, or proportion

  4. 4a:  capable of meeting the requirements of a situation or a task; b:suitable

The key thing here is the notion of equality relates to comparing two quantities. It’s all well and good to say that I’m created equal to Shaquille O’Neal, yet he’s 7’1″ tall, while I’m only 5’10” tall if I stand very straight. He weighs about 325 lbs, while I’m working hard to lose weight and got down to 165. Things get worse if we compare bank accounts.

Equality of what?

This is where things get a bit ugly. If you listen, and perhaps do a bit of inferring, you will find that people have a lot of different ideas about what equality between people means.

“Equality under the law,” is a good example of something that seems very noble. Yet, in our modern society, the reality is often that he who has the best lawyer, wins.

“Equality of opportunity,” the idea that we should all be unfettered to attempt what we want, sounds equally good. Yet circumstances of birth can severely impact that. I have no chance of being an NBA star. Someone with Down’s Syndrome will never be a rocket scientist. Chelsea Clinton is far more likely to have a successful political career than I am, as well.

“Equality of outcomes,” is another common meaning. You can see hints of this when people complain about how unfair it is that CEOs make so much more money than their employees. Accusations of systemic racism, sexism, etc. often point to differences in outcomes as evidence for systemic disparities, as well. The reality, of course, is that your socio-economic status, the subculture you’re raised in, what schools you go to, and even luck will result in different people having different levels of “success” in life.

For all of these common notions of equality, it seems very clear that none of them is actually possible to achieve. Despite that, our founders believed equality of all men was a reality, not an impossible dream.

Going Back to the Bible

Genesis 1:27: So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

This is the first way in which all humans can be said to be truly equal. We are created in the image of God. Each and every person to ever live is modeled after the Divine, the Holy of Holies. We are not God. We are fallen and sinful, yet there is still that aspect in us in which we are created in His image.

Romans 3:23: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Here we see another way we are equal: we are all sinners. None of us have achieved the standards of the image we were created in. We fight, we steal, we kill, we lie, we commit atrocities, big and small.

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Here we see another way we are equal: God loves us all. Even though God has every right to look at us and shake his head, as if we were clay pots that came out of the kiln in pieces, God loves us. He doesn’t reject us and throw us away.

So we stand equal before God in many ways. Even so, some are saved, and some are not. Among those who are saved, he pours out different spiritual gifts and calls us to serve one another in different ways. God made us each unique and different.

Equality of Value

I can only conclude that our equality is not in what we do, or what we achieve, or our gender or aptitudes or anything else. Our equality is in our value. God has set our value. God paid the ultimate price for us. Rather than lording over one another, or scheming against one another, or resenting one another, what if we saw each other as equally valuable?

The CEO and the janitor do different jobs, and get different pay, but they have equal value as people. A man and a woman have different biological roles in the production, rearing, and caring for children, yet they have equal value as people. Read it again:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Your value as a human being gives you the right to life. Your value as a human being gives you the right to engage in the business and activities you see fit. Your value as a human being gives you the right to seek happiness in what you do. And so does everyone else’s.

Matt 22:36-40:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Declaration of Independence was written to a king who had forgotten to love his subjects, and so he became a tyrant to them. They didn’t want to kill him and take over, they wanted only to be left alone. We live in a society that increasingly seeks to tell people what to do with their lives, instead of respecting their dignity as people created in the image of God. How long will we be truly equal?

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