Christianity's Blessed Equality

11/30/15, by Clement Pulaski

"Christianity is too earnest to present fables about pure man--it wants only to make men pure."
-Soren Kierkegaard

When it comes to the question of racial equality, there is a broad spectrum of secular opinion. The socially acceptable position is that all races are absolutely equal in every way, while secular white nationalists of the more extreme variety hold that non-whites are so inferior that they do not even qualify as human. Rather than occupying a position on this spectrum, Christianity transcends the spectrum altogether; Christianity posits a spiritual equality derived from the commandment that we love our neighbor, while at the same time recognizing the reality and significance of human differences. To both the racial egalitarian and to the secular white nationalist, Christian equality is seen as foolishness. The egalitarians want absolute equality in all spheres of life, so Christianity's spiritual equality is offensive in its refusal to implement equality by force in this life; secular racialists want absolute inequality in all sphere's of life, and Christian equality is seen as an impediment in the total dehumanization of the inferior races. In a sense, both the egalitarian and the secular nationalist are correct: Christianity runs counter to their carnal schemes. As Christians, we should be aware of our unique position, and we should unapologetically offend those who oppose it. The following passages from Soren Kierkegaard's Works of Love (Harper Perennial 2009, pages 80-84) incisively deal with the question of Christian equality and inequality, and how much it differs from worldly interpretations of the same issue. He begins by noting the role that Christianity has played in weakening pagan caste systems in which certain individuals were deemed to be non-human:

Even the person who is otherwise not inclined to praise God and Christianity does so when with a shudder he reflects on the dreadfulness in paganism or a caste system whereby men are inhumanly separated man from man through the distinctions of earthly life, when he reflects on how this ungodliness inhumanly teaches one man to disclaim relationship with another, teaches him presumptuously and insanely to say of another man that he does not exist, that "He is not born."

While the egalitarian may be grateful for this change brought about by Christianity, there are racialists and "radical traditionalists" in the mold of Julius Evola who actually want to bring back these firm caste distinctions. Like the Pharisees, they wish to restrict the definition of "neighbor" to those of their own kind or ideology, while Christ calls us to love both the haughtiest and the most degraded, whether they be persecuting magistrates or suffering prisoners.

Then he even praises Christianity, which has saved men from this sort of evil by deeply and eternally unforgettably stamping the imprint of kinship between man and man, because kinship of all men is secured by every individual's equal kinship with and relationship to God in Christ, because the Christian doctrine addresses itself equally to every individual and teaches him that God has created him and Christ has redeemed him, because the Christian doctrine calls every man aide and says to him, "Shut your door and pray to God and you have the utmost a human being can have; love your Saviour, and you have everything, both in life and death; then pay no attention to the differences, for they make no difference."

(First a quick note to my Reformed readers: simply substitute "Christ has redeemed all men" with "Christ has redeemed men from all classes and nations", and I believe that Kierkegaard's general point remains the same.)

Having dealt with the aspect of Christian equality that is pleasing to the secular egalitarian, Kierkegaard then proceeds to the side of the doctrine that causes him offense. God saves us where we are, in our current circumstances. Salvation is of grace, so there is no need for the saved man to become wealthier or more powerful upon his conversion. Christian equality demands not only respect and recognition for men of unequal status, it demands respect and recognition for inequality itself. To deny inequality is to distort the Gospel, because denying inequality demands a communistic equality on earth before spiritual equality can be fully gained.

I wonder if a person looking from a mountain peak at the clouds below is disturbed by the sight; I wonder if he is disturbed by the thunderstorm which rages below in the low regions of the earth? Just so high has Christianity set every man, absolutely every human being--because before Christ just as in the sight of God there is no aggregate, no mass; the innumerable are for him numbered--they are unmitigated individuals. Just so high has Christianity placed every man in order that he should not damage his soul by preening himself over or grovelling under the differences in earthly existence. For Christianity has not taken distinctions away--any more than Christ himself would or would pray God to take the disciples out of the world--and these remain one and the same thing. Never in Christendom, therefore, just as never in paganism, has there lived any man who has not been attired in or clothed with the distinctions of earthly life. Just as the Christian does not and cannot live without the body, so he cannot live without the distinctions of earthly life which belong to each individual, whether by virtue of birth, position, circumstance, education, etc.--no one of us is pure or essential man. Christianity is too earnest to present fables about pure man--it wants only to make men pure...

...Consequently, Christianity has once and for all dispelled this horror belonging to paganism, but the distinctions of earthly existence it has not taken away. These must continue as long as time continues and must continue to tempt every man who enters into the world, for by being a Christian he does not become free from distinctions, but by winning the victory over the temptation of distinctions he becomes a Christian. In so-called Christendom, therefore, the distinctions of earthly existence still continually tempt; alas, very likely they more than tempt, so that one behaves arrogantly and another defiantly envies. Both ways are rebellion, rebellion against what is Christian. Far be it from us to strengthen anyone in the presumptuous delusion that only the mighty and the famous are the guilty ones, for if the poor and weak merely aspire defiantly for the superiority denied them in earthly existence instead of humbly aspiring for Christianity's blessed equality, this also damages the soul. Christianity is not blind, nor is it one-sided; with the quietness of the eternal it looks equably on all the distinctions of earthly life, but it does not contentiously take sides with any single one. It sees--and with real distress--that earthly busy-ness and the false prophets of secularism will in the name of Christianity conjure up the illusion of perfect equality, as if only the high and mighty make much of the distinctions of earthly existence, as if the poor were entitled to do everything in order to attain equality--only not by way of becoming Christians in earnestness and truth.

In this passage Kierkegaard is primarily discussing the distinction between rich and poor. What he says about the "false prophets of secularism" in the context of class struggle is certainly true, but it is even more true when it comes to the current struggle for "racial equality". Economic inequality exists mostly because of differences in ability and external circumstances of birth (for example, being born into a wealthy family). In the case of economic inequality, there is at least a degree of plausibility that some from amongst the poor could have been rich if they had received the same external advantages as the rich. But in demanding racial equality, the secularist denies God's creation in a much more profound way. Due to obvious racial differences, it is completely implausible to suggest that Negroes can reach white levels of achievement if given the same external advantages. The Negro's disadvantage is in his very blood. Denying racial differences is like denying that a man born with Down syndrome is less mentally capable than a normal, healthy person. Down syndrome is genetic, physiological, and visibly apparent in the face of the individual. The same is true of race.

He, then, who will love his neighbour, he who consequently does not concern himself about eliminating this or that distinction or about mundanely eliminating all distinctions but concerns himself devoutly with permeating his distinctions with the sanctifying thought of Christian equality, such a person easily becomes like one who does not fit in with earthly existence, not even with so-called Christendom; he is readily exposed to attacks from all sides; he easily becomes like a lost sheep among ravenous wolves. Wherever he looks he naturally sees distinction (for, as said, no man is pure man, but the Christian lifts himself above distinctions); and they who have mundanely fastened themselves to a temporal distinction, whatever it is, are like ravenous wolves.

Here Kierkegaard plainly states what the Christian is to expect: attacks from all unbelievers on every important point of ethics and religion. The black man is our inferior, but he is also our neighbor and therefore God commands that we love him. The black man should be excluded from our political community, perhaps even in a position of official servitude, but his children still have the same absolute right to life that ours do. We think it best that congregations be racially segregated, but we would never deny baptism or fellowship to non-whites who are sincere in their Christian faith. In saying this we offend both the egalitarian and the secular nationalist, for they have both "mundanely fastened themselves to a temporal distinction"; but if we were not offending them, we would not be doing our job. Under the current Jewish regime, the Gospel is attacked by the false doctrine of carnal equality, so this is where we need to witness to the truth. Under a secular nationalist regime, we would likely be attacked from the opposite direction.

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