Monday 21 August 2017

Equality, Diversity and Spirituality

Equality is one of the great buzz words of our time. No inequalities must be allowed, whether of gender, sexuality or ethnicity: no distinction of creed, colour or class, no ageism or isms of any other kind.

Yet we are manifestly not equal by any measurable objective standard. Some of us are tall and athletic, others sadly less so. Some of us are great musicians, others cloth-eared. Some are fabulous with figures and awesome with admin – regrettably I'm not one of those! Some are creative, some are practical, some are charismatic high-fliers, some are plodders who get there in the end. Some who are ferociously intelligent academically may be really dense emotionally…

The fact is that on a secular, materialistic worldview we just can't be equal. A very few of us are Albert Einsteins or Usain Bolts or Nelson Mandelas, and how wonderful for the human race that we can produce such extraordinary people. But the rest of us, in the slow lane – in what verifiable sense are we their equal?

 In fact we can only have genuine equality by abandoning secular materialism. If we are measured by the outward things which are the only things secularism can judge us by, our physical and mental talents, equality is obviously an impossibility. It is a massive self-deception to believe in equality if we are going to hang on to the materialist world view that denies it.

Our longing that all humans should be equal therefore directs us to a different world view. It is because we are equally beloved of God that we are equal. The God who created us and who in Christ laid down His life for us all is the bedrock for human equality. However strong, talented, rich, beautiful or charming we are, God will never love us more than He loves our neighbour who has  none of these things; and however poor, broken, sad or boring their lives may be, He will never love them less. God has already loved both them and us to the uttermost.

And the great thing about our spiritual understanding of equality is that it makes room for diversity as well. So often societies of both left and right have sought equality through the suppression of difference: "don't let anyone stand out, they might become a threat! Stick 'em all in uniform and make them all the same!"

A classic example of this is the recent BBC documentary No More Boys and Girls. It's true that stereotyping is no fun at all for those being stereotyped. It may seriously limit their potential. However the response of the programme displays a deplorable poverty in our understanding of equality. We can only be equal if we are all the same. So we are asked to suppress diversity in the name of equality - no more boys and girls.

But how we dare we say that people who are not the same as us are not our equals? Beneath this attitude lurks the very opposite assumption, that is, the inequality of all people who are not the same as one another. How weird that in trying to make us all the same, secularism actually undermines our equality. And the suppression of difference is too high a price – it is our variety that enables our creativity.

So instead of turning to sameness we must accept difference on the grounds that all, however diverse, are equally valued. Once again we find ourselves directed to the world of values and away from the poverty of the materialist view. People are valuable because God loves us and identifies with us. And if God loves us with all our differences, it doesn't matter that I'm not Stephen Hawking or George Clooney. God loves me as I am, and He is working out His own plans for the things that make me uniquely me.

So Hooray for equality! Hooray for diversity! and Hooray for the spirituality that is the only ground in which either can flourish for long.