The American Declaration of Independence of 1776 famously stated that “all men are created equal”. It proceeded to explain this as a religious truth from which political structures and ‘inalienable’ human rights were derived. At the time, both women and slaves were evidently excluded from the application of this principle and equality has proved an elusive ideal to live out both before and since. Probably as many have died in wars fought in the name of equality or against it, as have died in the name of religions.
This is a grim paradox when we consider that the belief in equality stems from a conviction that all people have equal spiritual worth. In the language of Quakers, all have “that of God” within them and the capacity to express this in the way we live together – not just in the values, creeds and causes we speak or write about. Such a conviction is often in conflict with the consumer culture and gross inequalities of the world as we find it today.
The corrupting effects of inequality on human relationships can be seen in the attitudes and behaviour that have caused the current world crisis as much as in the desperate actions of dispossessed people at the other end of the economic spectrum. Spiritually the ‘winners’ are as impoverished as the ‘losers’.
To “make the world a better place” we each have to recognise that the power of love is more sustaining and creative than the pursuit of an unequal share of the world’s finite resources. Despite our human fallibility, at some level we all already know this.
Simon Colbeck, reprinted from the Watford Observer