Tag Archives: equality

Liberty or Equality?

Liberty. Equality. In our American way of life, which is more important? Last Friday, Mark Levin opened his program with this question. Before you read further, please stop and consider these terms. Think about what our way of life is all about. Think about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Think about our Revolutionary War. What were our ancestors fighting for? Liberty? or Equality?

 

When the French, much inspired by the American Revolution and particularly by Benjamin Franklin, set out to topple their king, they marched to the rhythms of “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” Their revolution never brought to France the stability, the tranquility and the prosperity enjoyed by the USA. Why? What was more important? Liberty? Or Equality?

 

When Russian peasants inspired by the ideas of Marx and under the cunning leadership of V I Lenin threw down the Czar and his empire, what did they want? Liberty? Or Equality?

 

What did they get? To work backwards, the Russian peasants took charge of themselves and created communes. They gave up their land and quite a bit of liberty in order to become equal. They all became equally poor, equally privileged to stand in line for simple necessities such as toilet paper and bread. They gave up the liberty to work for anybody they wished in order to have a guaranteed job in the commune. Everybody ultimately worked for the government, because nobody was allowed to be an employer, except the government. They all had equality in their choice of employer. The government ran the factories that made the tractors, which were all alike. The tractors were all equal, and they all equally fell apart and failed to run. The peasants of Russia obtained equality, but they were all so equally oppressed that they all equally desired to leave. Russia did not have an immigration problem; Russia had an emigration problem.

 

The French were pretty concerned with equality, too. In fact, anyone who reads deeply into the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution quickly discerns a number of common threads. Men and women lost their identity as men and women and became neutered fellow revolutionaries. They engaged in committees where their high-minded ideals of a prosperous liberated future fell victim to human egos, and before they knew it, an artful speaker had high-jacked their revolution and run it into the ground in the wicked winter of 1812. They got a lot more equality than liberty. They sold their liberty for a pack of fine words.

 

The British colonists who undertook to become independent in 1776 were accustomed to English Common Law, and in the context of that legal environment, they knew the difference between liberty and equality. In the litany of their complaints against the king of England, they demanded to recover rights they knew are theirs because they were the rights of all English citizens, but the dominant theme is an insistence on their freedom to procure and protect those rights for themselves. In the bloody, frozen battlefields of the Revolution, men did not give their lives in order to have equal rights. They gave their lives in order to obtain the liberty to protect rights they knew God had already given them. They declared their liberty by naming the rights they intended to protect, but it was liberty, the escape from the tyranny of the empire, that they wanted most of all.

They knew something very important, something the French and the Russian and contemporary liberal politicians do not know. (You may call them progressive if you like, The politics don’t change; just the nomenclature.)They could look at ten homesteads on the edge of a wilderness, ten family farms, ten households, and see ten different lifestyles and incomes. Of the ten some would successfully feed, clothe and shelter their growing families. Others would barely make ends meet. Yet all were at liberty to do the best they could imagine or dream with the opportunity before them. The colonists turned American citizens knew that if everyone was free, then everyone had the same shot at success, because the hindrances to success imposed by oppressive laws and the machinations of politics did not matter out there at the edge of civilization. The truth was the same for all locations, but it was most clearly visible at the frontiers. That is where they could most readily see the truth that if a man has liberty, he can make his own way, but he only has equality, he is oppressed.

We know it here in the mooring field where our boat is currently located. There are probably 200 boats in this mooring field. They are all sizes, all sorts of designs. Each is truly unique, as unique as each owner. The boats in the mooring field are not equal by any means. They vary widely from extremely luxurious to extremely utilitarian. They are not equal, but they are all equally at liberty to come and go as they please. Each has the same right to moor as all the others, and nobody owes the others anything but common courtesy. They are not equal, but they are all equally free. That is the root of the real happiness of the cruisers who reside in these boats. They are free, and they don’t really worry much about being equal. They didn’t all want to be the same, and that is why no two boats are ever alike.

The most important element of our national government, the element proclaimed by the Declaration of Independence and protected by the Constitution is our liberty. Our form of government was never intended to procure equality, because that objective so easily leads to tyranny. Just listen to all the scathing words about “the rich.” As soon as everyone is economically equal, somebody squanders his allotment, and then you must redistribute everything. As soon as all the skin-colors have been mollified, those with red hair start feeling picked on. Do you require everyone to have red hair? Or at least wear a red wig in order to achieve equality in hair color? Where does it end? If you start giving everyone equal vehicles, can you manufacture them rapidly enough to give everyone a new one at the same time? If you spread it out, will you have given everyone a new one before the first folks need a replacement? Then is it equal or not? Can you give the first folks something different when you start the new round of distribution?

America is not the land of equality. We have always prided ourselves on assuring equality before the law, which is to say, we pride ourselves that a rich man and a poor man stand before blind Justice and receive the just disposition of their conflict. Being human, we have found that an elusive goal at times. Nevertheless, what we value above equality is liberty. Equality becomes tyranny. The goal of equality has eroded our conversation as we struggle to find just the right word to avoid offending anyone. We want all our words to be completely neutral. The goal of equality is eroding the meaning of family, even the meaning of humanity. America has not been the land of equality, because equality becomes oppression. Who gets to say what equal means? Who gets to distribute the equal gifts? Who is more equal than others? Read 1984 and find out what happens when equality is the goal.

America has always been the land of the free. Above all other things, people came to this country to be free. If you read what immigrants say about us, you will find that they don’t much talk about equality. They want to be free so they can be whatever they dream. Not equal. Better than that.

Liberty? Or Equality? I’ll take liberty any day.

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Equality Might Not Mean What You Think

Image Courtesy of Stuart Mileshttp://www.freedigitalphotos.net
Image Courtesy of Stuart Miles
http://www.freedigitalphotos.net

One of the magical qualities of a word is its ability to defy definitions. The world is full of dictionaries, and we use those dictionaries to help us understand words. Yet no dictionary ever quite captures every nuance of the meaning of a word. The magnificent human mind exceeds the ability of words to transmit our richest meanings. Dictionaries help us, and we constantly tweak the dictionaries to assure that they get closer to the truth. Yet the meaning of a single word in human speech in any language is never exactly what we think it is.

Take equality, for example.

That word has a storied past, rich in service for the good of mankind. Yet, as soon as you read the word mankind in my sentence, many of you will flinch at the gender implications of the word and wonder if I am insensitive or simply ignorant. Women around the world have fought for gender equality, yet I, a woman, use the word mankind to speak of all human beings! The uproar surrounding the use of the word mankind is precisely the sort of uproar that surrounds the use of the word equality, yet those who protest its misuse and abuse are rarely heard above the cacophony of campaigns and agendas to achieve equality according to a definition that has been severely warped.

The word equality used in mathematics has an undisputed meaning. For example: 2+2=4 because mathematically speaking, no other answer is possible. Equations use symbols for mathematical concepts and measurements, and an equation states an equality that can be verified in the physical world: E=mc2. Mathematical equalities are truly equal to the last decimal point. Using such equalities allows architects to design skyscrapers that do not fall down, rocket scientists to put men on the moon, and homemakers to bake angel food cakes. There is no dispute about what equality means in mathematics.

Not so in the world of political and social justice. In these realms, which have merged into a single bitter stew in recent years, the meaning of the word equality depends entirely on the usage of the speaker or writer. It is not at all uncommon to hear an argument in which two people use the word equality with equal fervency to mean two completely different things.

Why do Christians care? We care, because each of us lives in that bitter stew every day. The social and political changes being proposed and even wrought in the name of equality blindside us daily. We must be prepared to address these issues, because the changes affect our lives in profound ways. The agendas which use the word equality to advance their causes are changing the face of our culture in ways most of us could not have imagined as recently as June of 2008.

Less than two weeks ago, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear two cases that will include a great deal of rhetoric using the word equality. One case looks at the federal Defense of Marriage Act, while the other examines a state act, California’s Proposition 8. Both cases center on the meaning of the word marriage, but the thrust of the arguments will likely be that both acts breach the concept of equality before the law.

This post will not address the issues of defining the word marriage, but the use of the term equality has been the most subtle part of the campaign to lead our culture to accept the idea that two people of the same gender can marry. The term equality coupled with the word marriage has slipped under the radar of a lot of people. Gay marriage may sound offensive to some ears, but who can argue with the idea of marriage equality? The use of this term implies that the definition of marriage is not the issue. The campaign to legitimize the concept that a union of two people of the same gender is a marriage has leaped over the definition of marriage altogether and seized upon something almost everyone admires – equality. Even religious leaders who might have previously choked at the idea of a wedding of two men or two women have swallowed the idea of marriage equality.

The deep basis for using the term equality yoked with the word marriage is to lead the argument down the path of civil rights. In this context, the word equality is used to invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution. It seizes upon the phrase “equal protection of the laws” as a basis for arguing that homosexuals are being denied “equal protection of the laws.” (The argument for “equal protection” also requires acceptance of an unfounded assertion that science has proved that homosexuality is congenital rather than a choice. This post does not encompass the refutation of that argument, but this writer rejects the hypotheses offered in lieu of actual proof.) This argument only has meaning if the definition of marriage has been changed. No such change has taken place, but by focusing on equality, the whole argument assumes a common agreement on the definition of marriage. If the proposition of equality is agreed upon, the definition of marriage is transformed as the inevitable consequence of equality.

In the realm of Christian faith, the word equality likewise sidesteps the issue of the Bible’s teachings about marriage and sexuality. Before the throne of God we are all equally sinful. What made homosexuals more sinful than anyone else? Those who willingly accept speculation in place of real science will assert that if homosexuality is congenital, then God created some people homosexual and some people left-handed. If that is true, then Christians who reject homosexuality and homosexual unions, are judging God’s own handiwork and marginalizing people who are simply different. Proponents of marriage equality ask, did God really say that homosexuality was wrong? (Do you hear Satan in the Garden of Eden whispering to Eve, “Did God say …?”) Some Christians actually believe that humans have learned so much about science and human relationships that they have outgrown the Bible. In the name of marriage equality they absorb contemporary social and political agendas and assert that we must not discriminate against homosexuals who want to marry like everybody else. God loves homosexuals, too.

Of course he does. He loved the thief on the cross. He loves murderers on death row. We are, indeed all equally sinful in his eyes. We are all saved by grace through Christ. But this salvation does not justify theft, murder, or perversion of God’s highest institutions. The biblical teaching that marriage is a time/space copy of the eternal/infinite relationship between God and his church cannot be simply ignored by redefining our universal unrighteousness before God.

Satan must be very happy about this. Satan is always pleased when human beings believe any lie. The lie that our equality before God as sinners one and all means that God blesses and honors a form of union that he universally rejects throughout the Bible is hard to accept. Can we really believe that Scripture is our divinely inspired source for guidance in all areas of faith and life and still believe that God just made a mistake when he proscribed homosexuality. Did God think ancient writers and readers could not handle the truth? Or worse, do we believe he merely failed to give us a complete revelation? Did God simply mess up?

Equality is a wonderful thing, but just like the gift of sexuality, it can be perverted. Every Christian must engage in the disciplines that nourish a mature faith and pray for deep discernment in order to see the many ways Satan daily contrives to deceive us about the truth. The deceptive manipulation of the meaning of the word equality is only one example.

The New Normal

 

A bible from 1859.
A Bible from 1859 Image via Wikipedia

I have commented before that I observe a massive cultural change in the USA. Our country was founded by people who believed in God and considered the Bible to be a holy text. They attended Christian churches and sang Christian hymns. When they spoke, they exercised a level of restraint on their speech that seems quaint to twenty-first century ears. In eighteenth-century Boston, nobody would have considered it cute for a seventh-grader to shout “Oh my God!” at the sight of a beautiful necklace. Local, state and national leaders in the early days of this country were expected to behave respectfully toward Christians and to live by Christian standards, an expectation that occasioned little concern on the part of the leaders who pretty much accepted those standards in daily life anyway.

It happened this way, because the vast majority of the people who came to the east coast of North America came from countries where Christianity was the state religion. Even if they came in protest at the particular church the state had chosen, it wasn’t because of a desire to worship a different God.

As a result, our culture and our cultural expectations were shaped by Christian teaching. In many instances, those expectations actually perverted Christian teaching into little more than a cute little proverb for schoolchildren to learn. Nonetheless, Christian ideas and Christian words shaped the culture. Even as immigrants from around the world came to our shores, they, too, soon absorbed the cultural norms. Until very recently, both immigrants and American citizens assumed that immigrants would assimilate. We didn’t expect them to abandon their festivals or even their religions, but we did expect them to speak English and dress in clothing that we considered normal. The immigrants likewise expected to become part of this nation when they came here. They did not expect to bring their old country with them, even though they continued to protect their heritage in festivals and holidays of their own. They expected that when in this country, they would become more like the people who lived here.

Even though the civil rights demonstrations alleged to be about integrating the culture, its outcome has been to divide the culture in ways I don’t believe the original leaders ever considered. It is the subject for another post to examine the issues of language and law that have steadily widened the rift between the many subcultures in this country. For today, I simply observe that it has happened. Rather than become more thoroughly integrated, more deeply unified in cultural and political values, our nation has become steadily more divided. Every subculture presses strongly for pre-eminence, and failing that, it demands equality. The word “equality” has become a weapon, not a unifier. In the service of this conflict, the word “diversity” stands right beside “equality” as a weapon of division.

The bottom line is that the culture that dominated life in America for almost two hundred years is disintegrating. You may have your own ideas about how it happened or why it happened. You may think that it is broken and needs to be fixed. Nevertheless, no matter how you look at it, our culture today is not the Norman Rockwell culture many people imagine to be the bedrock of American life. I believe that his state of affairs will persist into the foreseeable future. For good or ill, this is the world we live in.

Christians need to recognize this truth, because we cannot continue to live by the same expectations that worked in 1950. We cannot assume that people respect us for being Christians. The new normal in American culture is the idea that religion is something to keep locked up in houses of worship and not dragged out into the streets. If we Christians want to continue to be free to live and speak our faith, we need to recognize the realities. In order to deal with them, we must remember what Jesus promised us.

As Jesus ascended to heaven after his resurrection, he sent his followers out to share the good news and baptize believers into the kingdom. Knowing that in the Roman Empire, this work would meet with cultural and political resistance, much as it does in the contemporary USA, Jesus promised, “I will be with you.” It is important to know that when we are living our faith, swimming against the cultural current, our Lord and Savior in the person of the Holy Spirit is with us. That is comforting, but it isn’t the only thing we should remember. We must also remember that Jesus promised us we would endure persecution, resistance, and hatred, and we must absolutely remember that he told us the answer to all of Satan’s assaults on us was love. The Christ who asks us to serve him faithfully says that our defensive weapon against people Satan uses to persecute us is love.

I encounter a lot of people online who really scorn Christian faith. They scorn God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, churches, and Christians in general. Some are respectfully resistant, but others trash Christians and their faith in words I would neither speak nor print. We must expect this, because the new normal in American culture is not a Christian standard for behavior.

For those of us accustomed to the general accommodation of Christianity by the culture, this state of affairs is hard to take. We are tempted to feel hurt personally. We must remember that Jesus said the world would hate us, because it hated him first. Our job is not to respond in kind. We don’t serve Christ by whining that things used to be different. It won’t help anything to accuse people of a war on Christians. We must, instead, do exactly what Jesus told us to do – be salt and light in the world. The Satanic way to deal with rejection is to act out, to take the initiative and pound the opposition into submission. God has been enduring rejection since the day Eve rejected him and bit into the forbidden fruit, and his way to deal with it is to love us even more. If we want to be like God, we, too, must simply love our enemies even more than they hate us. That is how we live with the new normal.