Christianity And Equality 1: Why Bother?

One reason why people abandon Christianity: equality.

“Is it fair that God sends people to hell? If fairness means equality, that’s hard to say. But if fairness means God giving us what we deserve, then the answer’s easy: yes.” There are certain ways of thinking about justice and equality that undermine historic Christian doctrines. People embrace a new kind of equality and then champion a different kind of Christianity, too. Interestingly, pastors are more politically lopsided than their congregations, and seminary faculty even more so. This observation also makes sense, if what I’m saying is true.


What causes people to leave the church: evolution, the sexual revolution, or something else? Perhaps all of the above. In a series of posts to inaugurate this blog, I offer an additional reason why people abandon Christianity: equality.

Now not every kind of equality casts doubts on Christianity’s core doctrines, but some do. Take the most obvious culprit: equality of outcome. If justice demands that everyone receives the same share, then hell is morally intolerable. But equality of outcome has few defenders, even in the academy, so it’s hard to imagine people leaving the church over that.

Equality of opportunity is different. It’s widely embraced, though people mean very differentthings by it. Sometimes people simply want to say the most talented person should get the job. This kind of equality of opportunity poses no problems for Christianity and is, in fact, supported by it.

But sometimes people use the language of equality to say there is injustice in the inequality itself. Someone may say the problem isn’t that medical school was closed to people because of race, gender, or religion; after all, it isn’t. Doctors just make too much money compared to the rest of us. We don’t need income equality, the complaint runs. But wages need to be fair, or fairer.

This language of fairness highlights the variety of views we hold about justice and equality. InThe Righteous Mind Jonathan Haidt confesses that conservatives were not pleased with previously published research and told him so in forthright language. The problem? Haidt and his colleagues asked questions about fairness in terms of equality and equal rights. “We therefore found that liberals cared more about fairness,” he writes, “and that’s what had made these economic conservatives so angry at me.” Conservatives think liberals don’t care at all about fairness, as they understand it: “It was the fairness of the Protestant work ethic and the Hindu law of karma: People should reap what they sow.”

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