What is equality?
Discrimination and prejudice are often used when talking about equlity. In 1948 the United Nations Declartion Of Human Rights was established. The first two rights state that everyone in the world should have exactly the same rights and freedoms:
Right 1: all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Right 2: Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.
Despite this people still regularly suffer from inequality and descrimination.
Biblical teachings on equality
Christians believe that all human's are made 'in the image of God' They feel God doesn't care what race, gender, ability, skills and wealth you have and if you pray God will treat you without favouritism. Therefore they feel they should treat people equally and they also feel you should 'love your neighbour as yourself'.
Leviticus:When an alien lives with you in your land do not ill-treat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Galatians: There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
James: My brothers as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favouritism.
Acts: Then Peter began to speak: 'I realise how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.'
prejudice and discrimination
Christians follow Jesus' example of equality. They feel that because Jesus healed the Roman centurion, even when they were hated and he respected women who were thought inferior to men, and because in one of his most famous parables the hero was a samaritan whos people weren't respected by the Jews he was trying to teach us that people were equal.
There are many ocasions when racism occurs:
- In the crusades thousands of europeans were killed because of christianity.
- During the 16th centuary spain invaded south america and killed thousands n attempt to convert them to christianity, they also robbed them of their wealth and took over the slave plantations.
- In South Africa Prime Minister Reverend Daniel Francois Malan, supported by the Dutch church, seperated black, white and coloured people - this racial separation is called an Apartheid and it was banned by the World Allience of Reformed churches in the 1980's and the Dutch church was expelled and in 1994 the system disappeared in South Africa.
Slavery is a well debated topic in the chuch in the New Testament some verses support it:
Corinthians: Were you a slave when called? Do not be concerned about it. Even if you can gain your freedom, make use of your present condition now more than ever. For whoever was called in the Lord as a slave is a freed person belonging to the Lord, just as whoever was free when called is a slave of Christ.
America band slavery after the civil war in 1865:
" Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
The Christian church now condemns all forms of slavery.
Martin Luther King Jr
Martin Luther king was the leader of the protest against racial discrimination. He was a black, American, Baptist minister and his father was also a Baptist minister. He was familiar with racism and had grown up with it and made it his target in life to remove racicsm from the USA however he believed in a peacful protest. His most famous speech was made on August 28 1963 in Washington.
"I have a dream that one day “every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”
This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning: My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, From every mountainside, let freedom ring!
And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last."
Sexism is a form of prejudice based on gender, normally against women. People in the past thought women possesed different skills so they were treated differently. The Church is often accused of sexism, with language used suggesting male superiority. Some Christians believe God made men and women differently and the passage "God made man in his own image" is often used against equality in the Church. However the Hebrew original reads "God made a human being in his own image."
St Paul often suggests female inferiority:
Corithians: Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to enquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgracful for a woman to speak in the church.
Corithians: Now I want you to relise that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
This meant that traditionally men worked and provided for their family whilst woman brought up their childrenand home.
However many modern christian believe in shared household roles. We must also consider other biblical verses such as when after Jesus' reserrection he revealed himself to a woman first:
Mark: Now after he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.
And others such as:
Corithinians: Woman is not independent of man nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.
So the bible has various views on sexism however different denominations will value different verses and act upon them in their churches. Generally Christians believe in equality however they feel that woman have very different qualities to men. Some denominations will allow women no part in the Ministry of the Word of God.
Women in the church
The Roman Catholic Church: Don't acccept women as priests as they believe only men should speak Gods words. They also feel because God came to earth as a man, chose 12 male apostles and left Peter in charge of the Chuch he intended men to be the leaders in the Church. Also the bible says women "should be silent" in Church.
Other denominations such as the Methodists and Baptists have long since allowed women in their ministry as ministers giving them equal resposibility to men
The Church of England accepted woman vicars in 1994. Some Anglicans are unhappy with women running their parish.
Importance of Woman
In recent years many Christians have argued that woman should have an equal role in the Church not only because of equaliy but because of what happened in the early Church:
Acts: They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
And because of womans importantance in the early Church:
Romans: I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the Church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been great help to many people, including me. Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the Churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them. Greet also the church that meets at their house.
Christianity and other religions
Christians believe in evangelism- This means they believe they should encourage others to join their faith. This is because of Jesus' commission given to the diciples. Some Christians feel this by other people following their own religion then they are also following God. Although Christians feel that everyone has the right to practice their own religion they believe Christianity is the complete truth.
Matthew: Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have ever commanded you.'
This commission to spread the gospel/ evangelise is a very serious task for some Christians, they feel they should be involved in missionary work - bringing Christian messages to their country and the whole world. For hundreds of years Christians have travelled the world as missionaries as they believe the only way you can get to heaven is by becoming a Christian, so they attempt to convert as many people as possible.
They feel it is essential everyone has the opportunity to follow Christianity to know God. John's Gospel explains this: Jesus answered 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me'. The missionary societies today aim to provide help for Ledcs by following Jesus' example.
This is the name given to the movement that attempts to unite different Christians. There are hundreds of different Christian denominations with different practices. Many denominations- often Orthodox and Protestant- meet as members of the world council of churches to celebrate that they believe in the saviour. Many Asian and African Churches have been encouraged by the ecumenism because they have had to have great courage in the face of persecution.
Many communities have been established to help members of different denominations come together to worship.
Ecumenism is great in community activities such as charity where they generally share beliefs.
In 1940 Roger Schutz founded a religious community of monks at Taize France that sheltered Jewish refugees escaping nazi Germany until 1942. When the Nazis were in France, Roger had to leave but returned after the war to car for the German prisoners of war, practicing the Christian teaching of forgivness.
It is now a place teens come from all over on pilgrimages. The pilgrimage is in an ecumenical community as people are from various Christian denominations. The monks are also from different Churches and countries.
The young people camp in fields, join daily worship and help to farm the area and they cook their own food. They sing in Latin, French, German and English. There is time for meditation and reflection allowing young people to develop self awareness of what is in their heart and to listen to God. Group discussions take place to encourage listening skills and provide the opportunity to discuss Christianity. It is a time without TV and luxeries when you can discover what is really important in life.