absolute equality

Posted on September 15, 2011

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Our nation was established on the absolute belief in the equality of all people.

“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. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it…” (The Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776)

And yet, 200 years later, a passionate, prophetic, singer / songwriter asks this question:

“You say all men are equal, all men are brothers,

Then why are the rich more equal than others?” (Larry Norman)

Although I agree whole heartedly with the basic premise of this declaration and this question, I ask these authors, what about women? Even our everyday speech has a tendency to include certain groups and exclude other groups of people. And we still segregate people with disabilities in order to provide services to them. Even churches have the tendency to segregate people with disabilities for worship and socialization.

We say we believe in equality, but our actions as a culture, religion, and country show something very different.

When I did some research on disability history, I was appalled at the conditions that people with disabilities were forced to live in over the centuries. An amazing lady, Dorthea Dix, spent two years visiting and writing a report on the deplorable conditions back in 1846 – 1848. She wrote the report in order to present it to congress so that something could be done to improve things. But look at the dates. Women would not be able to vote for another 72 years. She had to find a “man senator” to read the report to congress… Equality? Really? Notice also that slavery was still common practice in the United States. This was before the civil war. We still owned people and used them for our personal profit. Equality? Really?

Even after slavery became illegal as a result of the Civil War, 100 years later discrimination was rampant. Restaurants, bathrooms, schools, society in general were clearly segregated. Equality? Really?

Religion is designed on the concept that we are right, making you wrong. Equality? Really?

Our country has been at war from its inception. War assumes that we are right and you are wrong along with assuming that the other country does not have the right to work out its own differences and come to its own resolutions. We all know that, as humans, any change that is imposed externally is superficial and will not last. And yet we keep killing people. Equality? Really?

Not only have we been at war externally, with other nations, but we have had simultaneous wars being fought internally from inception; women’s sufferage, slavery, civil rights of blacks, civil rights for those that have disabilities, and the fight for social justice for the many groups of marginalized people in our country. We are forever excluding people, marginalizing them, disregarding them; rendering them invisible in our everyday lives. Out of sight, out of mind. Is this not why our neighborhoods and communities are so segregated, so homogenous?

Do we believe that the homeless person on the corner is equal to us? What about the alcoholic sleeping under the bridge? Do we believe that the neighborhood prostitute is equal to us? What about the dirty screaming kid next door? Is that dying man with AIDS equal to us? What about the sex offender around the corner?

Whom do we welcome? With whom do we eat? With whom do we associate? Whom do we live near? With whom do we go to church? Whom do we work with? Whom do we allow our kids to hang around? Where do our kids go to school? What do we really believe and live out. Equality? Really?

The constant war and the widening gap between the rich and the poor, diminishing the middle class, is clear evidence of structural inequality; an equality embedded in very fabric of our nations, its laws and policies, its beliefs and values,  its practices and its people.

The structural inequality of our society and its institutions of religion and government can only be deconstructed by the changed hearts of individuals that commit their lives absolutely to the belief and the practice that all people are created equal.

Even the outcasts?

Even the undesirables?

Even the sinners?

Whom do we welcome into our lives?

Have we ever been accused of being a friend of sinners?

As we  examine our lifestyles, lets ask ourselves, “Whom is it that we are trying to stay safe from? distant from? Whom do we exclude?”

This is an issue of integrity; individually, as a community, and as a nation.

How long will we continue as a two-faced nation? How long will we live a divided life? When will we become whole? When will we intentionally practice equality? Will we ever intended it?

What if we were to believe this:

EACH PERSON COMES TO THIS EARTH AS A GIFT AND FULL OF GIFTS. ONLY AS THEY OFFER THEIR GIFTS AND WE ACCEPT AND APPRECIATE THEIR GIFTS CAN A PERSON FIND MEANING IN LIFE.

What if we were to live this out in our daily walk? What if?

‎”How hard it is for people to live without someone to look down upon — really to look down upon. It is not just that they feel cheated out of someone to hate. It is that they are compelled to look more closely into themseves and what they don’t like in themselves.” (Martin Luther King)

“Our society is not set up to cope very well with people who are weaker or slower. More important, we are not skilled at listening to the wisdom of those whose life patterns are outside of the social norm.” (Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 46)

‎”For me, society must, by definition, be inclusive of the needs and gifts of all its members; how can we lay claim to making an open and friendly society where human rights are respected and fostered when, by the values we teach and foster, we systematically exclude segments of our population?

“I believe that those we most often exclude from the normal life of society, people with disabilities, have profound lessons to teach us. When we do include them, they add richly to our lives and add immensely to our world.” (Jean Vanier, Becoming Human, p. 45)

Extreme Inequality

See also:

https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/the-structural-inequality-of-faith/

https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/listening-for-truth-discernment-or-discrimination/

https://ronirvine.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/being-right-making-wrong/

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