Over the last few decades, “equality” arguments have successfully secured everything from the legalization of abortion, homosexual sodomy, and same-sex “marriage” to the dismantling of the biological basis of gender.
Equality (of opportunity) is the cornerstone of the American justice system. The great social movements of our nation—abolition, emancipation, women’s suffrage, and civil rights—all owe their being to the moral force of the principle that “all men are created equal” which recognizes that each person is a creation of intrinsic worth.
But the equality of our nation’s founding has devolved into the equality of outcomes that a person feels is necessary to his pursuit of happiness. The result has been the divorce of “civil rights” from social responsibility, physiological reality, moral truth, and natural law.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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Consider what is happening in the educational system.
Everyone Is Special
In the interest of making sure no one feels uncomfortable about himself, an increasing number of schools have eliminated class standings, “exceptional” curricula, honorary distinctions, and all-male sports (like football) while allowing biological males to compete in (and win!) women’s events.
Notwithstanding the intent of the administrators, such practices do anything but make people feel comfortable because they quash a fundamental longing of the human spirit—confirmation that our hard work and efforts are meaningful and our achievements valued.
In The Incredibles (2004), Dash is a young boy with superhuman speed. When he asks permission to use his special ability in school sports, his mother demurs,
“The world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we’ve just got to be like everyone else.”
“But Dad says our powers are nothing to be ashamed of. Our powers make us special.”
Parroting the groupthink of the day, his mother sighs,
“Everyone is special, Dash.”
Dash turns and shrugs,
“Which is another way of saying, ‘No one is.’”
The scene evokes some important truths about human nature. First, physically and intellectually, we each have abilities and skills that vary in type and measure from person to person. So, contrary to the founding document of our country, in whatever aspect “men are created equal,” it is beyond what is evident.
Second, “fitting in,” by leveling our talents and abilities to achieve equal outcomes, is “artificial equality.” Lastly, human flourishing is accomplished not by artificial “equals” but by responsible citizens, using whatever gifts and abilities they have for the betterment of society.
Challenging the Notion
Over two decades before the evolution of modern-day egalitarianism, C.S. Lewis wrote an essay in The Weight of Glory called, “Membership.” There, Lewis argues,
I do not believe that God created an egalitarian world. I believe the authority of parent over child, husband over wife, learned over simple to have been as much a part of the original plan as the authority of man over beast.
If that doesn’t singe our modern ears, what Lewis writes a few paragraphs later will set them ablaze: “The infinite value of each human soul is not a Christian doctrine.”
Before you commit all of your C.S. Lewis works to the flames, Lewis goes on to explain that in the divine calculus, equality is about God’s love and not our value. Despite our inequalities, God, who is no respecter of persons, loves all equally. Indeed, as the apostle Paul reveals,
You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Regardless of ethnicity, socio-economic standing, or sex, entry into the Kingdom of God is on an equal-opportunity basis. All the same, there is no affirmative action program to ensure that all segments of society will be equally represented. God may love all equally, but it’s individual response, not corporate “targets” that will determine the final mix.
A Shift in Emphasis
Instead of the popular trend toward flat, more egalitarian organizations, the Kingdom of God is hierarchal and differentiated. Paul likens it to a body with a central command center (i.e., a head) and individual members having distinctive abilities and functions, all designed to work together for the well-being of the whole.
It may come as a shock to some, but in the Body of Christ, as in the human body, each member is neither equally gifted nor equally important. I could live to a ripe old age without an appendix, wisdom teeth, or even two legs, but I wouldn’t survive a moment without a heart or lungs. Similarly, the Kingdom could advance without people who speak in tongues and interpret them, but without apostles, teachers, and preachers it would atrophy.
Yet Paul exhorts us to have “equal concern for each other” and to give “special honor” to those whose appearance is unsightly or whose contribution minor. At the same time, having “equal concern” does not mean treating everyone the same. Eyes need glasses, not a hearing aid. Similarly, a person gifted in teaching needs a lectern and a class, not a parking lot and pair of white gloves.
Neither does it mean that every person should be brought down to the level of the poorest performer. A body with poor eyes needs ears that perform optimally, not at a level commiserate with its vision. Lastly, equal concern does not mean that no one should ever feel uncomfortable. A foot with a lesion needs a surgical procedure, not a French pedicure. Likewise, a person involved in an immoral relationship needs to be spiritually counseled, not affirmed.
A Kingdom Parable
In the well-known “Parable of the Talents,” a master, setting out on a journey, entrusts three servants with five talents, two talents, and one talent, respectively. Upon his return, he learns that one servant earned five talents, another earned two, while the last merely held onto the one he was given.
In response, the master rewards the first two servants, while the third is summarily dismissed and his solitary talent given to the servant with ten.
This parable conveys several things that cross popular sensibilities.
First, the master doesn’t invite all of his servants or those of other masters to oversee his estate. Rather, he entrusts his property to three specific servants in his household.
Second, instead of dividing his estate in equal measures, he splits it, in all likelihood, based on the ability to manage.
Lastly, his response is based on the execution of responsibility, not on staff member entitlements. Note that even the two faithful servants receive different rewards—the servant with ten talents is given an extra one.
The Modern Reaction
Falling on modern ears, this story sounds all wrong. Not only should the master have given his trustees equal portions, but he should have extended the opportunity to every person in his community and divided up his estate accordingly.
As to the master’s response—appalling! Has he no feelings, no concern for their fragile self-esteem?
While the invitation to dine at his banquet table is universal, service in his household is based on calling and gifting, with rewards based on faithfulness in service.
A Necessity, But…
Although rights and equality are not a part of God’s original design or Kingdom, in the kingdom of man they are essential.
In the long shadow of the Fall, no person can be trusted with absolute power over any other. Because of man’s cruel and coercive bent, certain rights, such as equal voice and equal protection, have become necessary defenses.
At the same time, artificial equality and the notion that personal happiness and individual expression are inviolable rights unencumbered by personal responsibility should be as foreign in the kingdom of man as they are in the Kingdom of God.
Editor’s note: Pictured above is “The Parable of the Talents” painted by Willem de Poorter in the seventeenth century.