I’m sure some of you noticed a shocking sentence at the end of the Wikipedia quote about Francis Bellamy, Baptist minister, and the originator of the Pledge of Allegiance. After quoting the original pledge — “…with liberty and justice for all” — there was this sentence: “As a socialist, he [Bellamy] had initially also considered using the words equality and fraternity but decided against it – knowing that the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.”
It’s notable that as a Christian leader (Baptist minister) he was in favor of emphasizing equality as a key component of the pledge, but what is also surprising is the reason he didn’t — “the state superintendents of education on his committee were against equality for women and African Americans.” This was in 1892, after the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation had gained equal rights for all. Equal rights on paper, maybe, but still a long way from equal in people’s minds.
It is so important that we, as Christians, lead the way in these areas. It shows the world what Jesus is like, and it speaks well for the Gospel of Welcome. What a surprise it would be to see Christians leading the way to equality and respect for diversity in society, or what Os Guinness calls “the public square.” Given the current climate, most people would be shocked to discover that Christians were in the forefront of these things. Think about how you might be able to foster equality in your own thinking and in the treatment of people around you.
Do some serious thinking today about equality, and see if you can identify people whom you might think are not equal to you. You can find this out by how you treat people, how you act around them, what you think when you first see a person. Do you give preference to an employed person over an unemployed person? Do you give preference to the person with the most money, or the nicer car? Do you give preference to people of a certain race or ethnic group over those of other ethnic groups? (I can remember, growing up in a Christian home, hearing the “N” word for African Americans, and a word I don’t even want to mention used for Mexicans.) What about a urine-reeking homeless man? Is he equal to you? Do you think of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people as equally important as you are? What about Arabs, Palestinians, Muslims? All equal? What about men and women? Do you pass on jokes that degrade anyone? Or what about the people you just choose not to notice — the invisible people? Hey, what about Baptists and Pentecostals? Equal? Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses?
I don’t know about you, but if I put myself through this gauntlet, I don’t come out on the other end smelling very rosy. Is there anyone who is not in the image of God? Then why don’t I see everyone that way? Why don’t I see God in everyone? We may have fallen, but we haven’t lost the resemblance.
Jesus Christ was followed around by a group that included beggars, prostitutes, lepers, demon-possessed — misfits, all of them. He championed their cause. He treated them as equals while the Scribes and Pharisees looked on and judged not only them, but Him. What group do you want to be in? Don’t you want to be with Jesus?