The secular vision of equality is fighting against the reality of God’s world. It will be forced to try and smash the family, because that’s the source of inequality and difference. So, as Christians, we have to take the family seriously, now more than ever…Jesus Christ is rebuilding a family, an organic, inter-connected, inter-dependent humanity, where all are welcome, all have a place, and where great glory and honour is to be found, not by merit, but by grace. This is a great opportunity for the church to showcase and invite people into a very different vision of humanity.
In 1516, the Dutch scholar Erasmus wrote a book called The Education of a Christian Prince. He wrote it for the Spanish Prince Charles, advising him about how to rule. It contains this line:
“it is not equality for everyone to have the same rewards, the same rights, the same status; indeed this often results in extreme inequality” p.72, Education of a Christian Prince.
Erasmus’ vision of equality is very different to the vision offered us by secularism today, where statistics of inequality in education, income, and health automatically represent injustice. I think Erasmus’ vision is much closer to the Bible’s.
The Bible’s vision of “equality” is glorious. The doctrine of man taught in Genesis chapter 1 dignifies every human being (Gen 1:27). Many in the Ancient Near East believed that only kings and princes were the “image of God”. But God’s word democratises the concept – from the drunk in the gutter, the embryo in the womb, the enemy in combat, through to the rich and powerful (James 3:9). Jesus’ famous parable of the Good Samaritan taps into this same truth, as he instructs us that even my enemy is included in the list of neighbours I am to love (Luke 10:29ff).
Clearly, the true religion of Israel and the coming of Jesus Christ has unleashed powerful equalising forces into this world. Paul uses the concept of “fairness” to argue for redistributing goods within the Christian church (2 Cor 8:13-14). He argued masters are to treat their slaves “justly” and “fairly” (Col 4:1), profound concepts that still underlie ideas of a minimum wage and workers’ rights today. Jesus causes goods to flow between people in a very different way to both feudal and capitalist economies (Acts 4:32, 34).
There’s no doubt that the secular vision of “equality” draws deeply from these Christian roots. After all, it’s not obvious that being committed to Darwinism and the “survival of the fittest” gives any real grounds for a vision of “equality”. You won’t find equality touted in ancient paganism. But secularism is offering us a distorted, somewhat grotesque, vision of the Bible’s equality. It’s an atomised, statistical version of humanity, as opposed to a corporate and organic vision.
A key thing missing in this vision is family. Between individuals and society there is this mysterious thing called “family”. No two families are equal. Families have histories and exist through time. No two mothers or fathers are the same. They have different grandparents and different great grandparents. Their geography is different – growing up in the countryside is not an equal experience to growing up in a big city. No two children born to those parents are the same. They have different physiology, and DNA, with the specific opportunities and disadvantages those particular bodies create. Childhood experiences differ between families – attitudes towards cooking and diet, health and hygiene are different. No amount of social engineering can erase that family history.
What’s more, families accumulate things over time, and they pass these things on to the next generation. This is called “inheritance”. It’s no surprise, therefore, to see a celebrity like Daniel Craig say “inheritance is distasteful”. In an interview, he’s stated that he doesn’t intend for his children to get his Bond millions. If we’re all inherently independent individuals, then why should one child stand to gain from what an adult has done? Families introduce inequality!