The Respect of Equality
Christopher B. Harbin
One of the celebrated principles in founding the United States of America was a proclamation of equality. The Declaration of Independence referred to the equality of all men as sharing the very same Creator. The men writing such words and founding the country were struggling against a system of wealth and power tied to a powerful minority who controlled the land in England. They recognized the glaring injustices of a system in which the landed class held wealth and power at the expense of those who struggled as serfs to the land. The Constitution they devised decreed that titles of royalty were not to exist in this new country, but that all would be considered equals.
We are aware of the failings in their application of these ideals. Slavery yet existed. Only those who owned land could vote. Women had neither a political voice nor a vote. These were more than simple issues of oversight in their proclamations. These were problems living up to the ideals they proclaimed, yet the principles laid out were important ones. Later generations would extend these principles to include many who had been left out. People were to be accepted with respect due to their personhood. Class distinctions were to be disallowed. We still struggle with fleshing out this concept in the public sphere and in the day to day of our lives.
This principle of equality ensconced in our founding documents follows the theme of Exodus 23. Yahweh's instructions for Israel demanded they respect one another as equals. God established a system to ensure justice for all. Unlike our tendency to separate life into categories of secular and spiritual, Yahweh's decrees recognized that the secular and economic were part and parcel of living under God's direction. How we treat one another on the job, in court, and in our business transactions are just as spiritual or religious in nature as what we do inside our sanctuaries and homes.
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