My friend and former student, Ashley, is marrying Kevin today. I expect that the wedding celebration will be chock full of ‘different’ sorts of people. I will encounter nonwhites, whites, Hispanics, gays, straights, first-generation Americans and Americans from long-established families, Butler fans, IU fans, Purdue fans and Notre Dame fans. The list can go at length for the different people who will rejoice together.
I suspect the reason for such a diverse crowd has something to do with their sense of human spirituality: We are all God’s children and, therefore, in our most important aspect, we are alike.
The view is consistent with the world’s religions.
The Old Testament states that we are made in God’s image. The thought of each person as an imago Dei, an image of the divine, suggests spiritual equality even regarding what many see as the biggest difference in human beings, between men and women. That understanding of the Old Testament account of creation – that all human beings are spiritual equals – was put forth by Augustine 1,600 years ago.
As many scholars have pointed out, Augustine’s understanding of spiritual equality is found in Islam: ‘I shall not lose sight of the labor of any of you who labors in My way, be it man or woman; you proceed one from another . . .’ (Quran 3:195) Galatians 3:28, one of the passages in the New Testament that guides my ethics classes, says, ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female in Christ Jesus.’ Hinduism says that ‘the atman is the brahman and the brahman is the atman.’ (The self is the divine and the divine is the self.) Perhaps that is what Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, had in mind when he referred to ‘the dignity and sanctity of every individual’ 11 years ago.
The most appropriate response, therefore, to people who are ‘different’ may be a loving acceptance of another creature of God. Skin color, sexual orientation, ethnic origin, sex and other temporal differences are less important than the spiritual identity of being human.
I dare say that peace and harmony would be likely to occur on Earth if people were to see in other people beings like themselves, namely, children of God.
We may be diverse, but in our spirituality, we are alike. Ashley and Kevin know that; their guests will celebrate together.
. Richard McGowan teaches ethics at Butler University and lives in Indianapolis.