POINTS TO PONDER

Today in the news and on social media, we hear more and more about equality. Equality between men and women, between blacks and whites, salaries, appointments to government positions, etc. They are not talking about justice equalityunder the law,” which already seems forgotten in politics. Psychology describes inequality as an obvious or hidden disparity between individuals for various reasons.

Psychologist Christopher Dwyer, a lecturer at the Technological University of the Shannon in Athlone, Ireland, says, despite the American Constitution, that “No one is created equal.” For example, some people are more intelligent than others; some are more attractive, some are healthier and happier, some are more conscientious and kinder, some make more money, etc. If we can quantify differences among people, then we can readily observe that people are not equal.

So, is that to say that some people are more important than others? A politically correct answer would be “no,” and everyone is equally important. But I also would argue, says Dwyer, not because people are equally important, but rather because of how hard it would be to decipher what is “important.” For example, if facing an ethical dilemma or philosophical puzzle in which you must choose between two people as to who lives and who dies, wouldn’t the decision boil down to who you viewed as more important? But, what is “important?’ For example, person X is more competent than Person Y, but Person Y makes more money (and pays more taxes) and is healthier than X, but then Person X has a family and is more crucial than Person Y. This could go on forever.

So, where do we draw the line? It’s likely to come down to what the “decision-maker” values. The importance of persons X and Y’s significance will likely differ across perspectives. Of course, kinship issues will affect some decisions, but outside of kinship, each person is likely to judge according to their criteria of “importance.” So, this should never be left to one individual’s decision, but like in voting, to the majority.

Psychologist E. J. R. David, an associate professor of Psychology at the University of Alaska Anchorage, suggests that we may have seen the widespread problem of equality played out. Whether intentional or not, this image presents inequality as existing because of physical or biological differences between people. But in reality, the inequalities that exist in our world are not because of some inherent characteristic. Instead, we must remember that inequality results from hundreds of years of exploitation and oppression. The reality is that there are inequalities in our world. However, these inequalities are not because of some inherently inferior characteristics that some people have. Further, systems and institutions created and maintained these inequalities to benefit some people while keeping others down.

As we collectively attempt to address inequality, we must remember that equality is the goal, not the method. An equality approach may look good and project fairness, but it cannot lead to equality. On the contrary, an unequal system will only maintain (maybe even worsen) inequality in an unequal world. Instead, we need to use an equity approach to drive our solutions. An equity approach is risky and may not produce good “optics,” but it is what is necessary. To be a faithful ally and an accomplice in addressing inequality, we must take risks and do what is required. To address disparities, we need to be willing to take risks, have bad “optics,” and potentially get in trouble – we need to use our power and privileges – to do the right and necessary thing.

In the “Good Therapy Blog,” we read that Equality is a concept in law, politics, philosophy, sociology, psychology, and many other fields based upon the notions of equal treatment, equal access to resources, and similar concepts. Philosophers and political scientists have debated the meaning of equality for generations, and the definition of equality tends to change with each age. For example, the United States Declaration of Independence declared that all men are created equal when many could not vote, and slavery was a significant force. However, notions of equality in the United States are often based upon this original declaration of equality, though they have evolved significantly.

Equality is sometimes used synonymously with fair treatment, and popular notions of equality do not necessarily require equal outcomes. For example, the fact that one person is a manager while another is a CEO does not necessarily indicate unequal treatment but refusing to promote a manager due to their race, sex, or religion would be an example of inequality. Similarly, institutional policies that make it difficult for people who are members of historically oppressed groups to advance are commonly used as indicators of inequality.

Standard definitions of equality include:

  • Presuming that all people are equal
  • Treating people as equals
  • Providing equal access to opportunities
  • Combating inequality without stereotypical and prejudicial treatment
  • Compensating for the losses associated with inequality – for example, by using affirmative action measures

The presumption of equality is of significance in contemporary mental health settings. Measures designed to increase cultural competence, for example, increase the likelihood that minority groups will be treated fairly and equally. Many mental health advocates have pushed for equal treatment of people diagnosed with mental conditions, including participation in treatment decisions and an end to discrimination against those with mental health circumstances. Some mental health professionals have worked to be aware of how subtle biases can affect treatment. For example, a therapist engaged in marriage counseling might be influenced by racial stereotypes when advising a mixed-race couple.

But what does the Bible say about equality? Moses tells us that God created humans in His image. He created them to be like Himself. He made males and females equal (Genesis 1:27). Again, Moses expressed that we must be fair in judgment. We must not show special favor to the poor. And we must not show special favor to well-known people. It would be best if you were equal when you judge your neighbor. Also, do not do bad things to foreigners living in your country. You must treat them equally as you treat your fellow citizens. Love them as you loved yourselves in Egypt [Leviticus (9:15, 33-34). King David has the same idea. He declared, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity” (Psalm 67:4). Then Solomon continued this theme when he said unequal weights and unequal measures are both alike an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 20:10).

Jesus went even further. “He instructed that when we give a feast, invite the poor, the disabled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13-14). To this, our Lord adds: “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16). This no doubt caused the Apostle Peter to preach to Gentiles, “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation, anyone who reverences Him and does what is right is acceptable to Him” (Acts of the Apostles 10:10:34-35).

The Apostle Paul takes up this same crusade for equality when he mentions that “God shows no partiality” (Romans 2:11). Consequently, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Further, says Paul, Jesus is our peacemaker. He also made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of inequality (Ephesians 2:14). For example, Paul reveals that “Though Jesus was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be held onto” (Philippians 2:6).

Then our Lord’s brother, the Apostle James, told everyone to “show no partiality as you practice faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, ‘You sit here in a good place, while you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there,’ or, ‘Sit down at my feet,’ have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which He has promised to those who love Him?” (James 1, 26).

So, what is your standard for equality? Do you just equality based on what you see, how you feel, what you know, common morals and virtues, or on what God’s Word says about it? If we are all equal in God’s family, that is the norm for the Church. Since we were all created equal by our Creator, that is America’s standard. When God created men and women as equals, He settled the gender question. So, what’s left? Only our personal biases, prejudices, preconceptions, bigotries, racism, moral code, and popular thinking.

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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