Biblical Teachings on Equality
The Bible teaches that God made man in his image, male and female he created them.
Life is sacred/holy; every person has equal value and dignity.
Christians preach the Parable of The Good Samaritan – The parable is told to explain the concept of ‘Love your neighbour’.
The Bible advocates ‘agape love’ – Unconditional Christian love. Like the parable, your neighbour is everyone (the Samaritan helped a man of a differing race and religion – in fact they were enemies).
The Church and Equality
Quakers were the first group of Christians to state categorically that no member of their denomination should own slaves.
Methodists – John Wesley campaigned actively against the slave trade.
Secularism and Equality
It is illegal to discriminate in employment, education, housing or community life, e.g. staying in hotels, work in banks, in restaurants, on public transport etc.
It is illegal to use threatening, abusive or insulting words in public when racial hatred is likely to be stirred up.
The 1975 Sexual Discrimination Act made it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the grounds of gender and men and women must have equal opportunities for promotion and training.
The Christian response to Prejudice
In the book of James Chapter 2 Verse 17 it says that “faith without action is a lifeless thing” so Christians believe that you should put what you believe into practice. Subsequently, they may do some or all of the following:
A Christian might organise a peaceful march or protest if they felt that discrimination was being put into practice locally to them.
Christians might also write letters to their MPs informing them of the discrimination or go Parliament and lobby for a new bill. They do this for example if they feel that women are being discriminated against unfairly, as in the Bible it says ‘In God there is no man, no woman’ which suggests to some Christians that women and men are equal.
Christians might also do speeches empowering others to see the discrimination and to put a stop to it.
They could organise a petition at their church.
They could hold a meeting after the service on a Sunday, encouraging others to get involved and join the fight against discrimination.
If they felt discrimination was being practised within the church they could write a letter to their bishop explaining the situation and call for action.
A Christian Case Study – Martin Luther King Jr
MLKJr was a Baptist minister and therefore a Christian.
As a Christian he could not stand by and watch the racial injustice that was happening in America. Key times / dates include:
1955 - Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott. MLKJr helped with this campaign by becoming the leader of a Civil Rights Group.
1963 - Led Washington Peace March campaigning for a new civil rights bill - “I have a dream” speech.
1964 - Right to vote was granted to all black adults. MLKJr also won the Nobel Peace Prize.
1968 – Assassinated.
MLK preached pacifism/non-violence as a way to achieve civil rights, unlike Malcolm X.
Despite the fact that his life was under constant threat, he used Jesus and Gandhi’s teachings of passive resistance in order to achieve change.
inspired by Jesus’ teaching of “Love your enemy” from the Sermon on the Mount.
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend” and “I hold this to be self- evident that all men are created equal”.
Why does Racism exist?
Inherited from parents, peer groups.
Afraid of people different from us: ignorance/fear- hatred.
People who are hard up, out of work want someone to blame.
When it comes to racial discrimination today, the younger generation is much more tolerant.
The majority of UK cities including London, Bristol, Birmingham, and a large number of towns including Watford and Luton are multi-cultural and multi-faith, as they have a large immigrant population.
At infant/junior school second generation immigrants mix freely with the indigenous population, children at that age are free from prejudice and enjoy learning about other faiths/cultures.
However, racial attacks have been very common in some areas of England, attributed to parental influence, peer pressure, lack of employment. “Them and us” attitudes have also given rise to prejudice.
Attitudes among all ages in society are changed, reflected in not only sports stars but high profile newsreaders on TV, the increasing number of MPs and Lords in Parliament of differing racial origins.
Barriers in middle aged/ elderly are also brought down by contact with differing ethnic groups in work, hospitals etc.
The Bible and Sexism
In the Bible, it states that woman was made as a companion for Adam, suggesting submission. She was made out of his rib.
Woman was responsible for the fall, i.e. it was Eve that tempted Adam with the fruit, again implying inferiority through weakness. She suffers pain during childbirth as a result.
Such teachings have led many Christians to believe that the role of women is a traditional one; that men go out to work and women stay at home and have children – remember that according to the New Testament women will be saved be the fact that they can have children - but what does this say for women who choose or are unable to have children – are they condemned?
Alternatively the Bible promotes complete gender equality, namely through Jesus. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman and healed the Bleeding Woman despite her being thought of as ‘unclean’.
Jesus forgave the adulteress – “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone”.
When Jesus is dying on the cross he makes sure that his mum is going to be looked after, saying to her and his beloved disciple: “….he is your son; she is your mother...”
Jesus also appears to women after his resurrection and Mary Magdalene was the first witness to the resurrection.
There are many accounts of women who were followers of Jesus, and he was always concerned for their welfare.
The Church and Women in the Ministry
Roman Catholics argue that women should NOT be priests on the grounds that:
The 12 apostles of Jesus were all male – tradition stands.
Only a man can represent Christ at the altar and consecrate (bless) bread and wine, as he was male!!
This issue has almost split the church; a number of Anglicans have become Roman Catholic as a result of women being ordained priests. It is still a ‘live issue’ – there are, as yet, no women bishops, but again people (one whole parish and their vicar) have become Roman Catholic instead because they think this is wrong.
Methodists accept female priests and have had women ministers for decades.
Quakers - Women have preached at Quaker meetings from the 18th Century onwards.
Christianity and other religions
Christianity and Islam are evangelising religions; Judaism and Sikhism generally do not encourage converts.
Some Christians are exclusivists, believing that Christianity is the only true religion. They think this because Jesus said that “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but through me”.
Although some Christians believe that everyone should have the right to practise their own religion, they also believe that only Christianity has the complete truth about God. This is also because Jesus, on the cross, atoned for the sins of mankind. His resurrection proves that he is the only way to God.
The Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelise all men (Catechism of Roman Catholic Church). This belief is inspired by Jesus’ commission to the disciples to “Go and spread the gospel amongst all nations”.
Traditionally, from Pentecost onwards Christians have always evangelised. The Acts of the Apostles is the account of how the gospel was spread by the first apostles from Jerusalem, through Asia Minor (Syria, Turkey), Greece (Corinth, Athens) and then on to Rome.
Christianity and other religions
Christianity was brought to Britain by St. Augustine who became the first Archbishop of Canterbury in 598.
Since then, Christian missionaries have always existed, believing it is their Christian duty to convert as many people to Christianity as possible. As our knowledge of the world expanded, missionaries combined education or medical care with preaching the gospel.
Sometimes the missionaries went to a different country. In the 13th Century a Roman Catholic monk preached the gospel in Mongolia (modern day China).
However, as Europeans gradually moved to other countries and established colonies, priests/ministers went with them.
Many Methodists travelled to the Far East/Africa/India and the Pacific as missionaries.
Today however, Inter-faith dialogue has increased in the 20th Century, particularly since the 1950’s. Many religions practise Ecumenism.
Ecumenism and the Ecumenical Movement
Ecumenism tries to unite differing Christian groups.
Many meet as members of the World Council of Churches.
The ecumenical movement has been encouraged and helped Christians in African and Asia unite together in courage against persecution.
Corrymeela tries to unite Protestants and Roman Catholics in the hope of bringing continuing peace to Northern Ireland.
Taize – An Ecumenical Community
Taizé is an ecumenical Religious Community in France, founded by Brother Roger during WWII, who offered shelter to Jewish refugees.
Taizé practices the Christian belief of forgiveness and reconciliation, and the monks come from a variety of differing denominations. Worship is based around prayer and chanting (simple songs in Latin, German, French, English).
- There is Bible study so Christians from all denominations and countries can participate and young people from differing denominations and countries go on pilgrimage to Taizé.