Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Equality Before the Law Versus Equality

     The structure of society is built on the human sin of seeking inequality: that is, the desire to believe that I have a right to tell someone else, "I am intrinsically your superior, with the power of God to exert control over one or more aspects of your life."
      In the 2012 Spielberg-directed movie Lincoln, the end of legalized slavery is achieved by claiming equality before the law for all races in the United States---while not forcing the issue of equality of personhood.
      Many in Congress during the Civil War demanded that equality of personhood be fully recognized. But the representatives from slaveholding states couldn't stretch that far. Their very life structure depended on denying that the personhood of blacks was equal to whites. Senator Thaddeus Stevens and others realized that to keep pressing for recognition of full personhood would have meant losing the vote in Congress to pass the Thirteenth Amendment, which abolished slavery and all forms of involuntary servitude (except when a person has been lawfully convicted of a crime).
     After December of 1865, slavery could no longer be upheld as a lawful societal institution anywhere in the United States. But abolishing slavery (while of enormous importance) was not the same as abolishing inequality. 
     I was born in 1954. I understood only through a child's eyes what the Civil Rights Movement addressed and what the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968 achieved. As the 1960s progressed, and as legal barriers to equality were being dismantled, I believed that not only had slavery been abolished: so had inequality of personhood. Becoming a Christian in 1976 only reinforced my belief in the evil of inequality. I felt blessed because I lived in the United States, where inequality in itself had been destroyed.
     Yet, as a Christian, I should have known better. Human sin is going to assert itself. God wants to unite us all. It is we humans who are bent in the direction of wanting to divide against each other. We want the power of God over each other, and we seek an excuse to exert it. We manage to set up groups and use one group as the measuring rod against which other groups will be deemed lesser---a mentality that was never in the mind of God. Theology 101 ("God is God. I'm not God.") has to be learned and re-learned, taught and re-taught. Power structures will persistently rise based on human-generated grouping (Roman over. the rest of the world; Norman over Anglo-Saxon; English over Irish; male over female; white over black; one tribe over another; one religion over another; one sect within a religion over another; society stratified into class levels based on wealth; communities of color stratified into lighter over darker).
     My familiarity with scripture shows me that in Christ, all these stupid vain excuses for self-superiority are demolished. Simultaneously, my familiarity with scripture warns me that these same lame excuses will arise to trick us into the same sin. We can't ever let ourselves believe that we won't sin again. We have to remain alert to the problem where it manifests and speak out when it does. 

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