What Do We Mean By Equality? (3 of 4)

There are certain common words, when used by some folks, make me scratch my head, wondering exactly what meaning do they actual intend . . . especially when I’m pretty sure they don’t actually know what they mean. This is because some words, by their very nature, are contextualized by an unnamed authority that, for the most part, goes unreferenced. For instance the word right, as in, having “the” right to . . . do, or have, or be – assumes the existence of an unspoken source of that right. So for many folks, the actual authority of the right they’ve chosen to reference, remains in abstraction — making such a pronouncement of rights nothing more than an emotional outburst.

And the complexity of this issue becomes compounded when an entitled expectation of right is associated with something as ill-defined as equality – which inescapably invites the question: equal in what way? Because when you use a comparative word without specifically defining what’s actually being compared, and then pronounce that some general notion of equality needs to be held sacred, you are merely perpetuating emotionally charged empty rhetoric as if your meaning were somehow self-evident. And given that this is the short–hand we all tend to speak in, is it any wonder why we end up speaking past one another?

Clearly we are all uniquely different, with different gifts and talents, pursuing different dreams and ambitions, overcoming different obstacles and struggles. So even though it’s the default setting of authoritarian regimes to homogenize us into a docile lock-step conformity — it’s important that we recognize that equality isn’t really about having everyone declared the same . . . but rather, whether or not we recognize everyone as having an immutable baseline of dignity and worth. But such a baseline requires an immutable moral understanding of the value of human life, a value held high above the volatility of our self-serving opinions. So yes, equality is decidedly a moral issue, but the question is — what moral premise best defines equality?

But this is a question that goes largely unasked, because an ambiguous moral authority allows equal rights to be defined in whatever way that best suits the social agenda – like in George Orwell’s Animal Farm – “. . . some animals are more equal than others.” Even so, we’re drawn to believe that we’re all in this together, that we share a common bond, and within that commonality we share an innate dignity unique to each one of us — which is likely why the idea of true equality rings so true . . . and also why we’re so susceptible to distortions about what equality might mean.

It is the confession of my Christian faith that we are all made in God’s image, and the most eloquent expression of this gospel truth is found in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus enters the world because he deems us all valuable, desiring to draw us all into his loving embrace. For it was the love of God that spoke the world into existence and took Jesus to the cross . . . and we are all equally in need of such a life altering love – a love that pulls down every divide (Galatians 3:28).

. . . O Lord, make us an instrument of your peace.

One thought on “What Do We Mean By Equality? (3 of 4)

  1. The two philosopher/writers I reference do what you object to–precisely!! Like you I find equality in the common Family of a Creator, a Lover who has made us and whose love sustains us. I abhor the American/Roman emphasis on suum cuique– in its individuation – as opposed to the sense of it justice based not on punishment and even accountability, but on repairing the damage to the community, to the whole of creation to the worthiness of a child of God or some creation of nature. I agree with you and what I consider some of your subtext in the confusion over the meaning of words – equality in this case – and how this confusion causes havoc and harm. I need to that, at 85 years old, I have come to live more in the presence of God and the wordless Word of God than in this spaghetti of misunderstandings that are so skillfully manipulated by political (and religious) fellow children of God. I have lost most of the 12 languages I want studied – but they did teach me are inadequate all of our works are.

    Liked by 1 person

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