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Equality, Diversity, and Dignity

March 18, 2021 3 min read
The Statue of Liberty

Equality as a societal goal has been a major component of the post-Enlightenment world. From the assertion of the Declaration of Independence that all men are equally endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights—life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—or the French Revolution's cry for Égalité! that cast down the monarchy (and the civic order), the notion that a just society ought to fight for the equality of its members is written into our collective consciousness.

Equality in the eyes of God has been a Christian notion from the beginning, rooted in the Hebrew understanding of the human person. This Judaeo-Christian view of equality admits of diversity in the way in which life is lived, however, and recognizes that equal dignity is manifest in different ways. The Christian is called to strive always for the earthly coming of the kingdom of God by reflecting and respecting the divine dignity present in each human person.

Despite the shared recognition of the importance of “equality” between post-Enlightenment societies and Christianity, however, important distinctions arise. There is a difference, for instance, between “equal justice under the law” as striven for by the American ideal, and the Reign of Terror’s method of enforcing equality among those who disagreed with just how equality was to be accomplished during the French Revolution.

When nuanced distinctions arise around seemingly agreed-upon terms, how are we to proceed? It is difficult as a Christian to fight against a thing named “equality,” and yet this is what some are now deciding to do in order to preserve their ability to operate according to a vision of the human person not shared by all. In a pluralistic society, how can competing visions of the world operate (or cooperate) when concepts as fundamental as equality, sex, personhood, and liberty are radically disagreed upon? Such is the question we must grapple with today - and that's unlikely to change any time soon.

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