Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Martin Luther King, Jr.
When tragedy strikes, when chaos reins, when calamity turns lives upside down, people ask questions. In their anger and their grief some of the most common questions are about God, even from people who otherwise ignore or even claim to disbelieve in Him.
“Why does God let bad things happen?” “If God is loving and fair, why does He allow hateful and unfair things happen to good people?” In some cases they’re even blaming God for the tragedy.
Now as a Christian it is easy to become upset with people who ask these kinds of questions and call God’s character into doubt with their insinuations and their faithlessness.
But then we have to remind ourselves that they are asking in ignorance, and it is we, as believers in Christ, who are supposed to have some sort of answer for them. Not that we always have the answers ourselves, but the fact is, if they are asking they deserve some kind of response.
With that in mind we must be careful that we give them a proper and helpful response, and in order to be in position to do that we must think things through for ourselves first.
But in the wake of the events of the past week in our own country, and with the memories of the collapsed bridge in Baghdad, the multiple suicides by out teens, and the terror being advocated by North Korea, and the tsunami in Indonesia being so fresh in all of our minds, I felt that I should address this issue to some degree at least.
I know there will be a lot of good sermons out there in these upcoming weeks about grief and tragedy and how to deal with horrible times and I know many of them will give comfort.
Here, I want to come in a slightly different door and hopefully give the reader some food for thought, and perhaps a word or two to share with inquiring minds.
When Adam sinned in the garden, and by saying Adam I mean both he and Eve, they died spiritually, they began to die physically, and if they rejected God’s promise of a Redeemer they died eternally. I personally believe there is ample evidence that they did believe in that promise, but that’s another discussion.
The point is, since all of mankind was in Adam’s loins when he sinned, therefore all of mankind inherited a sin nature (or a ‘fallen nature’) from Adam. (Romans 5:12-15)
That fallen nature in us is diametrically opposed to anything Godly, since it is the nature of the flesh and contrary to God.
This is not meant to be a sermon on basic Bible doctrine, but this point must be understood so that the reader will know what I mean when I say that our natural thinking is backwards in relation to God and everything about Him.
It is only when we are given spiritual life by the Holy Spirit and He begins to lead us into truth that we begin to think rightly at all about spiritual truth; it is only then that we begin to any degree to think like God.
Therefore, when people, sometimes even Christians, ask questions like what purpose does evil serve? The first thing we need to realize is that the question itself is backwards.
Instead of rambling all over the intellectual countryside trying to formulate an acceptable response to these questions, we could save ourselves a great deal of stress and discomfort and more than a little looking foolish, if we recognize that the whole ‘who’s to blame’ approach is backwards, as it comes from the fallen nature which is fundamentally ignorant of the truth of God.
I believe the only proper response to faithless questions, whether they be from someone else or floating around in our own mind, is to go to the Bible, see what the Bible says about God, and evaluate the circumstances in light of what the Bible says He is like, rather than evaluating God in light of the visible and temporal circumstances.
The next thing we must do then, is to determine what our own response and reaction is going to be to the circumstances in light of what we have learned about God.
So I want to take a brief look at two people in the Bible and their reactions to adversity, and the outcome of their reactions. Then I want us to go to just a couple of places that talk about the nature of God and what our response should be to that information, and then I’ll be done.
Here is Daniel 1:1-8
1 In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. 2 The Lord gave Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the vessels of the house of God; and he brought them to the land of Shinar, to the house of his god, and he brought the vessels into the treasury of his god. 3 Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring in some of the sons of Israel, including some of the royal family and of the nobles, 4 youths in whom was no defect, who were good-looking, showing intelligence in every branch of wisdom, endowed with understanding and discerning knowledge, and who had ability for serving in the king’s court; and he ordered him to teach them the literature and language of the Chaldeans. 5 The king appointed for them a daily ration from the king’s choice food and from the wine which he drank, and appointed that they should be educated three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s personal service. 6 Now among them from the sons of Judah were Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. 7 Then the commander of the officials assigned new names to them; and to Daniel he assigned the name Belteshazzar, to Hananiah Shadrach, to Mishael Meshach and to Azariah Abed-nego. 8 But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.
Judea, the southern Kingdom, had finally filled up her cup of iniquity with her idolatry and ungodly living, so God gave her into the hands of her enemy for a time of discipline and cleansing. Even then He promised His nation would once more be restored.
In the meantime however, here was Daniel, a young man at the time, forcibly taken into captivity and removed from his homeland. In all of it though, Daniel was faithful to his God, and obedient and prayerful.
Why? Because Daniel was prepared for adversity by his faithfulness and obedience to God in times of relative peace and comfort.
Daniel was blessed and protected by God and to make a long story short, the Bible does not record one fault of Daniel. It does not record one instance in which Daniel wavered in his faith and God used him greatly.
Next let’s go to Genesis 19:1, 2
1 Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. 2 And he said, “Now behold, my lords, please turn aside into your servant’s house, and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.” They said however, “No, but we shall spend the night in the square.”
Peter, in his second letter, called Lot ‘righteous’. In a seeming contrast we see Lot here, sitting in the gates of Sodom. Now that means he was doing business with the inhabitants of the city, perhaps exchanging philosophies with them, maybe politicking a little. The city gate was where these things took place.
So Lot might have been righteous in that he was religious and did all the right religious stuff, but he was living in tandem with an evil society and being affected by its evil thinking and its evil world view.
Verse 29 of Genesis 19 tells us that it was because God remembered Abraham’s request that He saved Lot and his family out of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But what we see of Lot is that he had become so embedded in the lifestyle of Sodom that the angels preferred to sleep in the city square than to come into his house.
In addition, His thinking was so tainted that when the men of the city came banging at the door wanting to have sexual relations with Lot’s visitors, he thought that giving them his two virgin daughters would be the solution to the problem.
As if that is not bad enough, when he escapes to the mountains with his daughters he gets drunk and commits incest with them, generating the Moabites and the Ammonites.
Why? Because Lot wasn’t prepared to face adversity and handle it properly and in a Godly way, because instead of staying near to God and pursuing holiness he pitched his tents toward Sodom, (first step) and eventually found himself in the city gates (second step) and even living amongst them in the city (third step).
What about God destroying the cities with fire? Well, He was willing, at Abraham’s request, to spare them all if He could only find 5 righteous men there. That I think is where our focus should be.
Instead of blaming God for the evil that men do, and then blaming Him when He acts against evil, we need to take note that He is patient and loving and not willing that any should perish.
Read Matthew 5:43-48 and remember this is Jesus speaking:
Matthew 5:43-48 (NASB95)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.’ 44 “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 “If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Two things to note from this portion. One, God causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. He shows no favoritism; He is fair and just in all He does.
Second, and backing up a step in the passage, note that Jesus said, “…love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in Heaven” The point being, that is what God is like. Loving, interceding, even for His enemies. We are to be like Him in that respect.
One final passage:
1 John 4:15-19
15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 16 We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. 17 By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. 19 We love, because He first loved us.
God is love, says John, and then he says that as God is so are we in this world. Read this passage several times. Let it sink in.
Then, having the truth about God freshly in mind, go back and look at the circumstances of Katrina, or the Baghdad bridge, or the Indonesian tsunami, or 9/11 or the Columbine shooting and all the other ‘Columbines’, or just the adverse circumstances of your own life, and assess them in the light of what the Bible says about who God is.
If you can do this honestly, if the people you talk to who have these questions can do this honestly, perhaps you can begin to see the times of trouble with a different perspective, knowing that everything about God’s plan for the ages has as its result the end of evil, and the conforming of men to the image of His Son Jesus if only they will come to His cross for forgiveness and to His empty tomb for life eternal.
Instead of trying to second-guess God and instead of trying to answer questions that come from a faithless heart, we should all be more concerned with whether we are close enough to Him, and desiring holiness and justice and righteousness so that when adversity comes we will respond with Godliness and Christ-likeness instead of faithlessness and failure.
The Winds of Fate
One ship drives east and another drives west
With the self-same winds that blow;
’Tis the set of the sails
And not the gales
That tells them the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the winds of fate
As we voyage along through life;
’Tis the set of the soul
That decides its goal
And not the calm or the strife.
— Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Effects of Slavery
African Americans or Black decedents of Slaves are one of two groups of unique minorities in the United States of America–the other being the American Aborigine or Native American.
The peculiarity of African Americans has nothing to do with the origin of this minority constituting about 13 to 15 percent of the US population–even though the origins of this group in general is myopic–or the physical characteristics that identify Blacks.
What distinguishes the Blacks of America from other groups who immigrated to the United States of America? Blacks did not enter the US by choice. Every other group of America can reverence the memory of pioneer ancestors who traveled bravely across the ocean or the plains willing to forge a new life and build something unique–putting aside old culture and adapting to new. Other heritages that made the US great gave up their language to become Americans.
Irish immigrants spread across Pennsylvania and Italians dominated New York creating new American versions of the old country. What of the African?
The fact that African Americans are called African at all is an indication of the limited explanation of this group’s history. The nationalities of Black American ancestors are a mystery for the great majority of the group. Slavery stripped this group of the choice to decide to merge with American culture. Slaves were cattle to the slavers, and treated as such.
There would be no Walimi Americans or Bangelima Americans, just African because the tribes and nations were intermixed preventing camaraderie through language. There would be no melting pot of exotic names because the tribes people were renamed and branded as nonhuman and soulless.
There would be no unique motherland identity. There would be no mingling of heritages other than the rape of tribes-women and breeding of tribes-people to make them bigger and stronger.
What is Black Heritage in America? Slavery. No identity other than a vast continent and no heritage other than what the slavers provided their ancestors and what little enslaved forebears etched out of the residue of similarities they could put together following the emancipation up until the Civil Rights Movement.
Second Class Heritage
Following slavery, there existed about 20 years of prosperity for the newly free people of color before the new form of slavery became social law–racism. The social idea that any person of mixed slave ancestry constituted a Colored person created a singular class of people regardless of differing ethnic identity, Black–no matter the color of skin.
This concept survived from slavery where it was used to prevent mixed race people from claiming freedom based on European heritage or gaining a foothold after slavery as a more preferred class–though that occurred anyway.
After many generations of slavery and second-class citizenship, the sociological impact on this group created a people with no past to glorify as other Americans and little reason to love a country that did not guarantee constitutional rights. Generation X may be the first group of Blacks that actually experienced a more level social experience since slavery.
The psychosocial impact on African American cultural developed into what I call Collective Social Regard or CSR. No matter where a Black person originates in the country and above all political and social ties race is the definition of this group. CSR is based in the humanistic approach of Carl Rogers, specifically unconditional positive regard in reference to the client-center approach to therapy. Black Americans in general may not accept the action of those claiming Black heritage; however, this group tends to regard others within the group, owning the fellow members racial sameness without accepting necessarily the individuality. This provides a default group of identity for all Black Americans.
CSR is the perspective of African American social interaction derived from a shared ethnic experience based on heritage and race. Black people accept other Black people regarding them as brothers or sisters–due to the cattle like breeding during slavery–no matter the percentage of tribal ancestry. All an individual needs is to claim African heritage to be included as Black.
During slavery the slaver could trade away slave offspring at-will creating the need among these mixed tribes-people to form non-genetic connections of familial relationships that continue in Black tradition presently where many Blacks consider relatives removed by many degrees of separation or family friends close kin. .
Generally Blacks have not integrated into the main stream culture because most stand out due to physical differences and subjective distrust of Whites due to past dealings as a group–viewing attacks on any Black person irrespective of circumstance as evidence that there exists some institutionalized conspiracy that targets minorities secretly while publicly assuring equal protection and felicity under the law.
As a community of Blacks without a specific African cultural heritage beyond slavery and having to depend on MOSTLY each other socially for many years until recently, it must purge the idea of Black against White.
It must not disregard the shared heritage as the descendants of slaves and second class citizens with attempts to convert to the majority culture and pretend color does not matter.
White America is a choice purposely forged with the benefit of continuity of culture from homelands. Blacks have no choice but to accept the ambiguity of connections to Africa and the reality of livestock-like breeding in America.
The breeding of American slaves allows for the exploration of promiscuity among present-day Blacks and a possible connection between high percentages of single mothers with large families due to father absenteeism The suggestion that there may be a link is only that, a suggestion based on little evidence and no facts–more a philosophical reasoning than a sociologically assumption.
Many descendants of American slaves are attributed stereotypical physical characteristics of tall, large muscular men and thick wide-hipped women. At one point in history, the description could describe the humans slavers used to breed the other slaves. There may be some connection to the assumption that Blacks excel at sports at a higher rate than not.
This would also justify the stereotype that American slaves’ descendants are inherently intellectually inferior–a premise that most would not accept in modern psychology. No scientific justification for such a view is forthcoming, but culturally the idea was considered and is slowly diminishing along with the physical stereotypes.
Because of the cultural effects of slavery and persecution for many generations in any given situation, a Black individual must cycle through introspection that few other groups tend to consider.
For instance, a White man may experience a bad day at work and speak rudely to a Black store clerk who may think, “Did that person behave curtly because I am Black?” Because of the implication of his or her culture handed down from generations of oppressed Black people, those thoughts flash through the minds of many Blacks and are filed away by rationalization.
The same applies to women–especially minority women who must add to the mental reflection the question of their gender.
This introspection is applicable to anyone that does not identify with the majority culture completely including homosexuals, obscure religious groups, etc, but mostly for Blacks because Black culture is uniquely tied to America since that group is alone being forced to the states and forced to give up culture.
This all translates that as a group, Blacks think that the prisons are full of Black men and women because Blacks have no choice but to fight through the American system even if they have a more level playing field in today’s society.
it means, Obama is the president because “THEY”(WHITE PEOPLE) want Blacks to stop using the excuse that Blacks cannot get ahead in society because of racism–the hidden kind, conspiracy.
Blacks who think differently may deny heritage, or are denying heritage unawares–hurting themselves by disassociating with the social aspects of most African American culture. Whites do not need a race to identify with, but Blacks seem to need race collectively and not individually–to account for those of whose cultural experience has allowed them to adjust to mainstream American society, which is growing number.
Not enough time has passed since the Civil Rights Movement. Possibly, in three to five generations Blacks will think about race as do most Caucasians –meaning race does not define their heritage. Yet, it is also intriguing that a entire ethnic group of Americans exist whose only identity stems from American origins, a uniquely American creation.
It is not the purpose of this article to persuade Americans of African heritage to forget the struggles of the American slave. Contrarily, Black Americans must remember and embrace the shared American heritage of struggle. All Americans have struggled to some degree for the right to be in America. The United States of America is culturally diverse with groups that successfully etched a place in the American landscape. Whether the struggle began with a fight for equality or a fight for independence, all Americans share the same single trait to persevere until the work has completed and the situation controlled.
American descendants of the African slave are distinguished as captives and slaves in the nation, but share the glory of overcoming with other groups. Granted, the descendants of slaves may have a greater deal to overcome because of the oppressive past; however, such a past does not constitute a handicap. The determination of the change-makers of the past has diffused in the genetic core of all Americans. As diverse as America is, it is the common heritage that makes it great, and not the diversity alone.
Nothing but encouragement can come to us as we dwell upon the faithful dealing of our Heavenly Father in centuries gone by. Faith in God has not saved people from hardships and trials, but it has enabled them to bear tribulations courageously and to emerge victoriously.
Author: Lee Roberson
Words communicate abstract or vague things. We can use them to explain events, to share feelings, and to help visualize the future. Words shape our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes towards a subject. They help decide if we stay neutral or take action. Just reading words can affect your thoughts, attitudes, and feelings. For example, read these six words slowly and vocally, taking notice of how they make you feel.
Murder Hate Depressed Cancer Sad Despair
Now read the following six words slowly and vocally, noticing how the words affect you as you do so. Wealth Success Happiness Health Inspiration Joy
How did these words make you feel? Successful persuaders know how to use the right words to create the desired response in their audiences. Speakers with greater verbal skills come across as more credible, more competent, and more convincing. Speakers who hesitate, use the wrong words, or lack fluency have less credibility and come across as weak and ineffective.
The use and packaging of language is a powerful instrument that can be fine-tuned to your advantage. We all know the basics of language, but mastery of both the aspects of language usage and the verbal situation can control human behavior. The proper use of verbal packaging causes you to be adaptable and easy to understand. This type of language is never offensive, and is always concise. I will try to convey what the Lord choice of the word “In” means and how we should feel while “In” a trial of afflictions.
Glorify ye the Lord” In” the fires. ( Isaiah 24:15 kjv)
Notice the little word “In”! We are to honor the Lord in the trial—In the very thing that afflicts us. And although there are examples where God did not allow His saints to even feel the fire, usually the fire causes pain. It is precisely there, in the heat of the fire, we are to glorify Him. We do not this by exercising perfect faith in His goodness and love that He permitted this trial to come upon us. Even more, we are to believe that out of the fire will arise something more worthy of praise to Him than had we never experienced it.
To go through the fires will take great faith, for little faith will fail. We must win the victory in the furnace. We must win the victory on the battle field as Joshua did, he exuded so much faith that he prayed and asked God to still the sun and God did. A person has only as much faith as he shows in times of trouble, The three men who were thrown into the fiery furnace came out just as they went in—except for the ropes that had them bound. How often God removes our shackles in the furnace of affliction!
These three men walked through the fire unhurt—their skin was not even blistered. Not only had the fire “ not harmed their bodies, nor was a hair of their heads singed; their robes were not scorched, and there was no smell of fire on them” ( Dan.3:27) This is the way Christians I feel should come out of the furnace of fiery trials—Liberated from their shackles but untouched by the flames. I had the honor yesterday to speak with a blessed man of faith name Trevor, he went on to encourage me that though the enemy of our souls was raging against me that I need to remember to preach to myself about the faithfulness of God’s word and His presence while going through. I have found that I have to be “In” the word daily always meditating on what God has promised in-order to prevail.
Triumphing over them “In” it.( Colossians 2:15)
This is the real triumph—triumphing over sickness in it, triumphing over death in dying, and triumphing over other adverse circumstances in them. Believe me, there is a power that can make us victors in the conflict. There are heights we can reach where we can look back over the path we have come and sing our song of triumph on this side of heaven, we can cause others to regard us as rich, while we are poor, and make many rich in our poverty. We are to triumph in it.
Christ’s triumph was In humiliation. And perhaps our triumph will also be revealed through what others see as humiliation. Isn’t there something captivating about the sight of a person burdened with many trial, yet who is as lighthearted as the sound of a bell? Isn’t there something contagious and valiant in seeking others who are greatly tempted but are “ more than conquerors”? Isn’t it heartening to see a fellow traveler whose body is broken, yet who retains the splendor of unbroken patience? What a witness these give to the power of God’s gift of grace!
When each earthly brace falls under,
And life seems a restless sea,
Are you then a God-held wonder,
Satisfied and calm and free?
My life will never be the same because I am not waiting for the prophet to come to me, I am girding myself up and proclaiming God’s power myself to quite this devil that is angry because love kept Christ on point for us due to the fathers love for us. I am going to be successful and powerfully used by the Savior of this world, I will be a great friend and husband, I will have a prosperous ministry, I am fearfully and wonderfully made, there is no sickness that shall prevail against me, I will walk in the power of my creator “In” every trial He allows me to endure In the blessed name of Jesus. Darkness tries to steal our hearts away daily, but remember this beloved “Mercy says No” Things that are visible are brief and fleeting, while things that are invisible are everlasting.
Thank you Jesus for being a ever present help in our time of need, we will not be defeated because we believe you are saying a prayer for us as you did Peter. You O’ Lord will see us through triumphantly in everything we encounter. Let us look to the only thing Lord that will not perish, that is your word that became flesh and dead and arose. Holy spirit thank you for keeping us until our redeemer returns In Jesus Holy name Amen & Amen……
If God would have wanted us to live in a permissive society He would have given us Ten Suggestions and not Ten Commandments. – Zig Ziglar
Today, the biggest challenge we must meet is the one we present to ourselves. To not become a nation that places entitlement ahead of accomplishment. To not become a country that places comfortable lies ahead of difficult truths. To not become a people that thinks so little of ourselves that we demand no sacrifice from each other.
In my quest to understand “entitlement” today I watched the debate on whether college athletes should be paid. I also pondered the question why low caste status felons have no right or entitlement to live their life as this T.I. rapper or Marth Steward, and let us not forget the countless football and basketball felons and celebrities of hollywood that are still moving forward with life. To deny any one of any status associated with life and humanity I feel is an endictment to all the “Ehtical” core values affiliated with the Constitution.
I find all of the practices of “commercialism” to be unfair. Why is it alright for our college athletes to put all on the line with their future and get nothing while pursuing their dream? Why is it alright for the lower caste status felon’s to be exploited while serving their debt to society with no hope of ever being employed all the while having to survive on crumbs and no decent housing? Can you Imagine living a slow death coupled with the temptation to survive everyday and no help nor training or opportunity to reintegrate into society as a higher caste felon? I have looked from the inside out on these issues and felt compelled to write about it today. I also thought of the Human Beings called illegal citizens, my God whales and other protected animals seem to have better rights than we as Human Beings. We need to take a look at our value system. I am ready to make some noice, how about you?
The parallelism should enable readers to surmise at once the basis for our entitlement to certain equalities. Just as with the liberties to which we have a natural right, so here with respect to the equalities that we can rightfully claim, the ultimate basis of the right lies in the nature of man.
If human beings were not by nature endowed with freedom of the will and the power of free choice, to be exercised in the pursuit of the ultimate good that they are morally obliged to seek, they would not have, by nature, a right to liberty of action. If they were not by nature political animals, they would not have by nature the right to political liberty. Their right to these liberties lies in the fact that deprivation of them renders their power of free choice ineffective in the pursuit of happiness and frustrates their natural inclination to participate in political affairs.
The equalities to which we are all entitled, by virtue of being human, are circumstantial, not personal. They are equalities of condition–of status, treatment, and opportunity. How does our humanity justify our right to these equalities?
The answer is that, by being human, we are all equal–equal as persons, equal in our humanity. One individual cannot be more or less human than another, more or less of a person. The dignity we attribute to being a person rather than a thing is not subject to differences in degree. The equality of all human beings is the equality of their dignity as persons.
Were all human beings not equal in their common humanity, did they not all equally have the dignity of persons, they would not all be entitled to equalities of condition. The point is strikingly illustrated by an ancient and erroneous doctrine (which, by the way, takes many disguised forms in the modern world) that some human beings are by nature slaves and so are radically inferior to other human beings who are by nature their masters. If this view of the facts were correct, as it is not, all human beings would not be entitled to any equality of condition–equality of status, treatment, and opportunity.
The factual basis for the correct view is biological. All members of any biological species, human or otherwise, are alike in possessing the properties or powers that are genetically determined attributes of that species of living organism. These common properties, shared by all individuals of a certain species, are appropriately called species-specific. Of these species-specific properties, some are generic, shared by other animals; such, for example, in the case of human beings, are their vegetative and sensitive powers. Only some of man’s species-specific properties consist of powers that are not generic, but being distinctive and definitive of the human species, differentiate human beings as different in kind from other animals.
To say that all human beings are equal in their common humanity is, therefore, to say that all have the same species-specific properties, both those that are generic properties shared by other animals and those that are distinctive and definitive of the human species, such as man’s power of free choice and his power of conceptual thought.
The statement in the Declaration of Independence that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights is not, on the face of it, self-evidently true. Nor can it be made self-evident by substituting “are by nature equal” for “created equal,” and “endowed by nature with certain unalienable rights” for “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.”
The truth of the statement, even when the substitutions are made, is the truth of a conclusion reached by reasoning in the light of factual evidence, evidence and reasoning that refutes the ancient doctrine that some human beings (all members of the same species) are by nature slaves.
I am not going to present here the evidence and expound the reasoning that establishes the truth of the conclusion that all human beings, as members of the species Homo sapiens, are ipso facto equal. I have done that in another case study, entitled The Lynching of felons.
The conclusion there reached is that man differs in kind, not merely in degree, from other animal organisms, which means that while he has certain generic properties shared by them, with respect to which he may differ in degree from them, human beings also have certain distinctive properties that only they possess and that all other animals totally lack. It is the having and not having of these distinctive human powers that differentiates human beings in kind from other animals.
The truth of the proposition that all human beings are by nature equal is confined to the one respect in which that equality can be truly affirmed; namely, their all being equally human, their having the species-specific properties and especially the differentiating properties that belong to all members of the species.
There is no other respect in which all human beings are equal. Two or more individuals may be personally equal in some other respect, such as height, intelligence, talent, or virtue, but equality in such respects is never true of all.
The contrary is true. When we consider all members of the human species, we find that, in every respect other than their possession of the same species-specific properties and powers, inequalities in degree prevail. In other words, though all human beings have the same generic and specifically distinctive properties and powers, some will have them to a higher, some to a lower, degree than others.
Individual members of the species differ from one another either by innate endowment, genetically determined, or by voluntary attainment, individually acquired. From these individual differences arise the inequalities in degree that make one individual superior or inferior to another in some particular respect.
One individual, by nature equal to another in kind, which means equal through having the same species-specific properties, may be by nature unequal to another in degree, which means being genetically endowed with a higher or lower degree–with more or less–of the properties or powers that both possess at birth. In addition, one may be superior or inferior to another in individually acquired attainments as well as in genetically determined endowments. This may wholly result from differences in individual effort; but it may also be partly due to the favorable or unfavorable circumstances under which the individual strives to accomplish something.
For brevity of reference, let us use the phrase “specific equality” to refer to the personal equality in kind that is the one equality possessed by all human beings. Let us use the phrase “individual equality” or “individual inequality” to refer to the personal equality and inequality of human beings in all other respects, whether that be equality and inequality in degree of endowments or equality and inequality in degree of attainments.
From the declarative statement about the specific equality in kind of all human beings, what prescription follows? The answer is that all human beings are in justice or by right entitled to a circumstantial equality in kind, especially with respect to political status, treatment, and opportunity and with respect to economic status, treatment, and opportunity.
Being by nature equal, they are all endowed by nature with certain unalienable rights, unalienable because they are inherent in man’s specific nature, not merely bestowed upon man by legal enactment. Legal enactment may be necessary to secure these rights, but it does not constitute their unalienability.
Merely legal rights are alienable. Being granted by the state, they can be taken away by the state. Natural rights can be secured or violated by the state, but they do not come into existence through being granted by the state; nor does their existence cease when they are not acknowledged or secured by the laws of the state.
As we have seen, human beings, having by nature the power of free choice, have a natural and unalienable right to liberty of action. Being also by nature political animals, they have a natural and unalienable right to political liberty and participation. Justice requires that all should be accorded the equal status of citizenship with suffrage, through which status they can exercise their power to participate in government. All citizens have this power. It is totally lacking in those who, being disfranchised, are deprived of it. Having this power to some degree confers upon all citizens with suffrage a circumstantial equality in kind. Between those who have it and those who are deprived of it, there is a circumstantial inequality in kind.
Turning now from the political to the economic sphere, parallel reasoning reaches a parallel conclusion. Both as an animal generically, and as a specifically human animal, man has certain biological needs, such as his need for the means of subsistence in order to survive, and his need for certain comforts and conveniences of life, which he needs to live humanly well. Economic goods are the goods that man by nature needs in order to survive and, beyond that, to live well-to engage successfully in the pursuit of happiness,
These include more than food and drink, clothing and shelter. They include schooling as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need for knowledge and skill; a healthful environment as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need for health; ample free time from toil or earning a living as instrumental to fulfilling man’s need to engage in play for the pleasure of it and in the pursuits of leisure for the improvement of his mind by engagement in all forms of learning and creative activity.
From these natural needs for the goods mentioned and for the goods that are instrumental to achieving them arises man’s natural right to the possession of that sufficiency of economic goods which is enough for living well–for making a good life. The existence of natural right leads us to the conclusion that every human being is entitled to whatever economic goods any human being needs to lead a good life.
Just as all human beings are entitled to a political equality in kind, so they are all entitled to an economic equality in kind.
All should be haves with respect to political liberty, none have-nots, none disfranchised persons totally deprived of the power of political participation that a political animal needs.
All should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of whatever economic goods a human being needs to live well, at least that sufficiency of such goods which is enough for the purpose. None can be have-nots in the sense of being totally deprived of such goods, for total deprivation means death. But none should be destitute–have-nots in the sense of being deprived of enough wealth to live well.
In both the political and economic sphere, justice requires only as much equality of conditions as human beings have a natural right to on the basis of their natural needs. The statement of the matter just made occupies a middle position between the two extremist views mentioned earlier.
At one extreme, the libertarian maintains that the only circumstantial equality to which all human beings are entitled is equality of opportunity. He argues for this view on the ground that such equality tends to maximize individual liberty of action, especially freedom of enterprise in the economic sphere.
The libertarian rightly thinks that attempts on the part of organized society to establish an equality of economic condition other than an equality of opportunity will inevitably result in government regulations and interferences in economic activities that restrict individual liberty of action and put curbs on freedom of enterprise. Where he is wrong is in failing to see that such curtailments of freedom, made in the interests of justice, are proper limitations of liberty. His error lies in asking for more liberty than justice allows.
At the opposite extreme, the egalitarian maintains that the circumstantial equality to which all human beings are entitled should not be merely an equality in kind that is accompanied by inequalities in degree. It should be more than that. It should be the extreme form of circumstantial equality, which is an equality of condition attended by no inequalities in degree.
Stated in political terms, this would mean that all should be haves in the sense of having political liberty and power, but no individual should have more, and none less, of the power that all should have because it is requisite for participation in political life.
Stated in economic terms, this would mean that all should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of the economic goods needed to live humanly well, but also that all should have the same amount of wealth. None should have more, and none less, of the wealth that everyone needs for the successful pursuit of happiness.
The middle position between these erroneous extremes, in both the political and the economic spheres, calls for a moderate, not an extreme, form of circumstantial equality. With regard to the possession of political or economic goods, real goods that every human being needs, it calls for no more than everyone is entitled to by natural right. It is willing to settle for no less.
A moderate or justly limited equality of conditions is an equality in kind, with respect to either political or economic goods, but one that is accompanied by inequalities in degree that justice also requires. Justice requires only that all shall be haves. It does not require that all shall be haves to the same degree. On the contrary, as the next chapter will attempt to make clear, some are entitled by justice to more, and some to less, of the goods that everyone is entitled by justice to have.
Two additional reasons can be given for rejecting the wrong prescription concerning equality of conditions that the egalitarian recommends on the basis of man’s specific personal equality.
First of all, he appears to forget that the specific equality of all members of the human species is accompanied by individual inequalities of all sorts, both in endowments and attainments and in what use individuals make of their endowments and attainments.
Human individuals are not all equal in the way that so many precision-made ball bearings are alike–identical with one another in every respect except number, all having the same properties without any difference in degree. Unlike the ball bearings, which of course have no individuality at all, human individuality consists of individual differences that result in one person’s having more or less of the same attributes that also belong to another.
To recommend the prescription that all human beings are entitled to a circumstantial equality of conditions, political and economic, that should involve no differences in degree is to neglect or overlook the existence of significant individual inequalities in degree among human beings. These personal inequalities in degree call for circumstantial inequalities in degree, just as our personal equality in kind calls for circumstantial equality in kind.
The error being made by the egalitarian arises in the same way as the one made by the elitist who neglects or overlooks the personal equality in kind of all human beings. On the sole basis of personal inequalities in degree, the elitist recommends circumstantial inequality in degree with respect to political and economic goods. He rejects the recommendation of any circumstantial equality in kind, except perhaps equality of opportunity. The elitist makes that one exception because he believes that, in the race of life, the superior will win.
Elitism can be avoided without going to the opposite extreme of egalitarianism, simply by rendering what is in justice due human beings by reference to their personal equality without overlooking their individual inequalities and by reference to their individual inequalities without ignoring their personal equality. In recent history, the most glaring and egregious example of an egalitarian overreaction against elitism is provided by the cultural revolution to which China was subjected under the gang of four.
A second reason for rejecting the extremism of the egalitarian looks not to its injustice, but to its practical unfeasibility.
It is possible for miscarriages of justice to occur that would permit liberty to run rampant beyond limits and to become injurious license. The libertarian extreme is feasible, but not the egalitarian extreme. More liberty than justice allows is possible in society, but more equality than justice requires cannot be sustained.
To recommend that all should be haves with respect to political liberty and power, but that none should have more and none less, is to recommend a form of direct democracy so extreme that it would allow no distinction whatsoever between citizens in or out of public office–a democracy in which there are no magistrates, one in which everything is decided directly by a majority vote of the whole citizenry.
It is doubtful whether such extreme democracy ever existed, in Athens or in New England townships. It certainly would not be practically feasible in any state of considerable size; having a population so large that all its members could not deal with each other face to face, nor when confronted with the complexity of problems that states and governments must deal with in the contemporary world.
In the economic sphere, to recommend that all should be haves with respect to wealth in the form of whatever economic goods human beings need to live well, but that none should be richer and none poorer in their possession of wealth, is to recommend an equality of conditions that has never existed, except perhaps in monasteries where the monks, taking the vow of poverty, participate equally in what wealth is available for the community as a whole.
If, under secular conditions, all individuals or all families were somehow to come into possession of the same amount of wealth, in whatever form, that absolute equality of economic condition would not last for long. A magic wand would be needed, not only to bring it into existence, but also to make it endure. No one has ever worked out a plan whereby, short of magic, this extreme form of economic equality might become feasible.