“I thought love meant equality,” she said, “and free companionship.”
“Ah, equality!” said the Director. “We must talk of that some other time. Yes, we must be guarded by equal rights and must all wear clothes for the same reason. But the naked body should be there underneath the clothes, ripening for the day when we shall need them no longer. Equality is not the deepest thing, you know.”
“I always thought that was just what it was. I thought it was in their souls that people were equal.”
“You were mistaken,” he said gravely. “That is the last place where they are equal. Equality before the law, equality of incomes — that is very well. Equality guards life, it doesn’t make it. It is medicine, not food.”
I admit I recoiled a little the first time I read those words, from C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. The idea that equality was a useful fiction, not a fundamental truth, offended my sensibilities, and offended them deeply. My first instinct was to slam the book shut and throw it across the room then and there, but it’s rarely wise to go with your first instinct on anything.
I’ve learned that when something offends me, there are always two possibilities: either (1) it is wrong, or (2) I am. Usually, the latter is true. I knew also in this case that the latter was much more likely to be true, since Lewis was older and wiser than I was, and much more well-read both in general and in terms of the Bible and Christian theology. Was it possible humans were not created for the purpose of being equal?
The strange thing about being an American is that your entire system is founded on certain theological assumptions, but that those assumptions have very little to do with any particular religion, let alone the Christian faith. “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” wrote some guy in the 18th century, “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” It was catchy, so we founded a country on it.
Never mind that the assertion is absurd on its face. How can a truth be “self-evident”? What does that even mean? It gives us warm fuzzies, so it must be true.
But the ideal that Christ and his Apostles paint for human interaction is a very different one.
If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Whoever forces you to go with him one mile, go with him two.
Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.
So the last will be first, and the first will be last.
No “Fight for your rights.” No “Obedience to tyrants is disobedience to God.” Just “Blessed are the meek.”
Equality is medicine, not food. A corrective measure to guard against the evil in the world, not the purpose of the world itself. A bare-minimum baseline for those who can’t imagine anything better. In a world made of nothing but servants, there is no need for equality. We weren’t “created equal” — we were created to serve. Our unwillingness to do so is the only reason we have need of equality.
For now the human race lies comatose, kept alive by an intravenous drip of equality, but I look forward to the day when it will be resurrected in glory — not to demand its rights, but to serve God and each other.
Sometimes I write stuff. Here’s some more of it: