Like Button

Monday, February 07, 2011


Equality is something that we moderns are very big on. Equal rights, equal treatment, equal opportunity -- these are all important to us. Unfortunately, we have not taken the time to figure out exactly what "equal" means.

As it turns out, the word isn't as easy as it seems at first blush. The word implies, in actuality, a difference between two things, not sameness. For instance, if I were to tell you with all the seriousness and wisdom I could muster, "You know, 4 = 4", you'd laugh at me. Of course they are equal ... because they are the same. No, for "equality" to have any relevance, the things being compared must be different. But beyond that, there is a relativity that is involved. Consider two men, one 6' 4" tall and the other 5' 4" tall. Both weigh 200 pounds. "They're equal!" we would all exult, right? No, of course not! One is in good shape and the other is dangerously obese. "But ... wait! They're the same weight!" Yes, but "equal" doesn't necessarily mean "the same".

Of course, we aren't particularly concerned about trivialities like the philosophy of equality or how much two men weigh. No, it's more important stuff like equal justice. So let's consider that concept for a moment. Assume two men in the same city both drive unsafely and both run down ... oh, I don't know ... let's say they run down a telephone pole. Both are required to pay for the damages and both are fined $1000 for their recklessness. Equal justice, right? Well, perhaps, unless you consider that one owns a successful multimillion dollar business and carries the cash in his wallet and the other has been unemployed for 6 months and hasn't seen that much money in a year. Now how "equal" is the justice? If the purpose of the fine is to urge the perpetrator not to do it again, how effective is this justice?

Hopefully you can start to see that "equal treatment", "equal justice" -- any basic "equality" -- can get a little tricky. Consider a somewhat benign but very real example. A couple has two children. One is an 11-year-old boy and the other is a 3-year-old girl. Christmas is around the corner, and they want to treat them "equally". So, how does that work out? If it is a matter of spending the same amount of money, the truth is that the 3-year-old will likely make out much better than the 11-year-old because the little girl will get much more that she can enjoy on the same amount of money than the boy can get. So he gets the video game he requested and she gets a doll and a play tea set and a toy pony and ... well, you get the idea. It was equal spending; was it "equality"? Or should they go for equal enjoyment? Now that is much tougher to hit, anticipating what the older boy will like to what degree and being sure that the younger girl will receive the same degree of pleasure.

Keeping this all in mind, let's get even more complicated ... but real. Paul says that we are supposed to be "submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph 5:21). Today's exegete will interpret that to mean "submitting to each other in the same way to the same degree" or "equal submission". But Paul doesn't leave it that nebulous. He tells wives to submit to their husbands "as to the Lord" and husbands to "love your wives as Christ loved the Church" (Eph 5:22-33). These are, in fact, both forms of "submission", but they are not the same. They are equal, but not identical. Many have tried to argue that Eph 5:21-33 is (essentially) nonsense because of Eph 5:21. But this is the product of a failure to comprehend both submission and equality.

Perhaps now you can get a sense of how things might be askew in our world today. Feminists (both female and male) clamor for "equality". What does that mean? What they want is "sameness", but that's not necessarily "equality". (If you have any doubts about that, give both a man and a woman an electric drill for their birthdays and see if they react the same way.) The homosexual agenda pushes for "equal rights" and points to marriage and serving in the military as prime examples of inequality. This assumes that equality is "sameness". It's not. I believe in equality. I just know that equality isn't as easy as "same", isn't as simple as "alike". Today's egalitarians (those who believe in the equality of all people) try to make "the equality of all people" fit into "the sameness of all people". This just isn't right. It just may be possible that some of our current philosophies regarding women, men, "gays", children, married couples, and so much more breed inequality because we've bought into a simplified "equality means same". Maybe, just maybe, we ought to look to the Designer to figure out what genuine equality might look like.


Marshal Art said...

A bit of a quibble, but I think your example of the two drivers is close to the same kind of equality of which you speak. The two are equal in how the law treats them, as they both are fined the same amount regardless of who they are. The are equal under the law, even if the impact of the law's implementation on their lives is not.

Stan said...

That was my point. If the goal of a fine is "sameness", then the two drivers were treated "equally". If the goal of the fine is to impact their lives -- a punishment, a correction -- then it was not "sameness" and they were treated "unequally" ... even though the amount they paid was the same.

The real point is that people call for "equality", but they do so by oversimplifying people and circumstances. Men and women are not "the same". "Gays" and heterosexuals are not "the same". Children and adults are not "the same". And while there are indeed similarities and commonalities, it is erroneous to oversimplify them to "the same" and then cry, "Unfair! Inequality!" without accounting for the differences.