Inverse Equality

There seems to me to have been a shift in the usage of the word equality lately. I am not speaking of logical equality, but of human equality.

From a logical point of view, when I am writing a computer program, I evaluate two different entities to determine if their value is the same. If the value of these two is the same then I can perform any set of actions; otherwise if they are not the same I can perform a different set of actions. Logical equality is only relevant if I want to use that equality (or lack thereof) to determine a branch within a procedure.

A strong basis for equality is famously described in the United States Declaration of independence:

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.

Even though it uses a specific gender and although we can debate whether or not the people at the time felt it applied to slaves, the vibe is that it speaks to humanity. Unlike logical equality, “human entities” are given equal value. Their value is not tested for equality. Their value is assumed to be equal. One human is “equal” to another.

When discussing marriage this week in the Sydney Morning Herald, a significant number of people did not like Peter Jensen’s point that: men and women are different and therefore it is appropriate for them to have different vows. Many were posting that men and women are in essence the same. Thus they should have the same vows otherwise they somehow lack equality.

I really think they miss the point. The reason why Thomas Jefferson felt the need to say “all men are created equal” is that while all people are created equal, they are also created different. There is a real thrust behind much of the “equality language” at the moment which seeks to achieve a level of sameness by discounting difference. We seem to be seeking equality by deceiving ourselves. By defining difference out of the equation we lie to ourselves and we are going about it topsy-turvy.

Equality is a given (in my opinion by God), not something to be achieved. Therefore we should treat others as if they are our equals and respect any differences we have. We should not be redefining others to be like us (or us to be like others) in order to achieve equality.

Meeting Jesus

I’ll probably be sniggered at in my current church, but this is where I met Jesus.

When I was twelve years old I attended a Christian youth camp. At one of the small group sessions we had, the youngish leader said something about Christianity that I was taken aback by. I knew it was wrong, although I couldn’t articulate exactly why it was wrong. I knew that if this guy was right, then the Jesus that I knew was a liar.

I knew Jesus pretty well. I knew his capacity for love. I knew his capacity for anger. I saw his seriousness and enjoyed his wit. I experienced his patience. I saw that he was right to declare guilt and yet forgive. I was afraid of him. I knew that I was not up to his standard; but I trusted him when he said it was all going to be all right. Even though I sometimes tried to dismiss Jesus, I always knew that he would be there.

Today I attended a seminar in which Richard Glover spoke so eloquently of having a relationship with the characters in a book, of escaping the reality of the world and developing a strong empathy with these characters. I take it that Richard did not have in mind the character of Jesus as presented in the four books of the New Testament of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John; but that is very much what I was thinking of as he spoke.

Now, I did not read the bible myself when I was young. My father, even though he was a priest, did not read the bible specifically to me when I was young. The sermons at church did not help me to understand. (I cannot even say if they were good or bad; orthodox or heretical, I just did not listen to them). The thing that I did listen to was when everyone stood up and the priest would process down carrying the big book and we would face him as he read from the “Holy Gospel of ….” Week in, week out, sometimes two or even three times a week I would stand and listen. I would stand and listen to Jesus. That is how I got to know him.

I had heard him speak to me so many times that when I was teased for being a preacher’s son; when the atheists mocked me at uni; when I was full of self-doubt; when things were hard; Whenever I doubted the very existence of God; I knew Jesus.

That is why tonight I started reading Jesus’ story to my kids. Not the sanitised for kids version. The real one. I have often prayed that they would have the same opportunity to know Jesus that I had. It only occurred to me today as Richard spoke of the power of empathising with characters in books, that the way I got to know Jesus, might actually work for my kids (although I won’t be dressing up or burning any incense!)