by Christopher Harbin

Poor Placement
Christopher B. Harbin
James 2:1-17

We know people do not have different levels of worth, or at least we know that intellectually, anyway. We know the value of one human life is the same as any other human life. We know all people are created equal in the eyes of God. At the same time, our practice of daily living does not bear out the truth of those statements. The framers of the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence wrote words of equality, only to exclude women and people of color from the practical application of their declarations. We saw the church in the South do the very same during the era of Jim Crow, then continue struggling with these same issues over the following decades. We know the words, but applying them to real life is a wholly different reality. Where do the poor, outcast, marginalized, and racially different fit in our lives and understanding of the gospel?

Perhaps the biggest issue we have with all this is simply our penchant for placing people into categories. Our social structure is based on those categories, even as the founding fathers were trying to distance themselves from the feudal monarchical system of England. They made great strides, even while conditioning voting rights to landowners, who were all male. They did not consider that they were keeping women in a lesser category, they simply moved beyond one social boundary without seeing that there were many more still in place. Women, children, indentured servants, slaves, orphans, poor, native peoples, witches, and any otherwise undesirables were left in secondary status to the power brokers of the fledgling society. It was still a leap from the structures of society back in England, but there was yet much to be desired along the lines of equality.

It has been this way in societies across the globe down through the centuries. Our social structures are built to offer stability and order, yet they also exclude people from full participation in the ben ...

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