THE DOGMA OF EGALITARIANISM

Written by Vladimir Moss

THE DOGMA OF EGALITARIANISM

 

Introduction

 

     “The idea of human equality,” writes Francis Fukuyama, “has deep roots; writers from Hegel to Tocqueville to Nietzsche have traced modern ideas of equality to the biblical idea of man made in the image of God. The expansion of the charmed circle of human beings accorded equal dignity was very slow, however, and only after the seventeenth century came eventually to include the lower social classes, women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, and the like.”  Until the eighteenth century, it was generally accepted that men were unequal in both the higher (moral and spiritual) and the lower (physical, psychological and intellectual) spheres. Moreover, they accepted that these inequalities justified different treatments or rewards, that the talented should be rewarded differently from the untalented, the industrious from the lazy, the good from the evil. 

 

     It was in the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 that the idea that all men are created equal was first proclaimed as part of a national ideology. 

 

     Egalitarianism is probably the most influential socio-moral-political idea of the modern world. It is also, with Darwinism, the most fundamental and axiomatic; for the Declaration of Independence, after declaring the “self-evident truth all men are created equal”, goes on immediately, in the same sentence, to assert “that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights…” In other words, the philosophy of human rights depends on the egalitarian dogma; the American Declaration of 1776 led naturally and ineluctably to the French Declaration of Human Rights in 1789, to the violent socialist revolutions of the twentieth century, and to the madness – this is not too strong a word – of the whole Human Rights agenda of the twenty-first century. 

 

     Most of the actions of modern politicians are justified on the basis of “human rights”, which in turn are justified on the basis of egalitarianism. Even after witnessing the vast upheavals and huge rivers of blood that have been poured out to force equality on the nations of the world since 1776, the world still loves the dogma, still worships it; some are even prepared to die for it. Moreover, recent advances in science have given an extra fillip to those who think they can iron out all differences leading to inequality, such as sexuality. Even many Christians, who should know better, regard it as an article of faith which they believe in with greater sincerity and passion than any other article, including the Holy Trinity or the Divinity of Christ.

The First Sceptics

 

     When it was first proclaimed, however, the egalitarian dogma was greeted with a healthy dose of scepticism. Thus the British Gentleman’s Magazine for September, 1776 ridiculed it: “‘We hold, they say, ‘these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal.’ In what are they created equal? Is it in size, strength, understanding, figure, civil or moral accomplishments, or situation of life?” 

 

     The answer to these questions is self-evident: in all these spheres, men are profoundly and persistently unequal…

 

     In 1843 the philosopher Jeremy Bentham declared that the authors of the French Declaration of Human Rights were sowing “the seeds of anarchy” and that the rights doctrine was “execrable trash… nonsense upon stilts”. As for Rousseau’s analogous idea that all men were born free, on the contrary, said Bentham, “all men… are born in subjection, and the most absolute subjection – the subjection of a helpless child to the parents upon whom he depends every moment of his existence… All men born free? Absurd and miserable nonsense!”

 

     “This was the case,” writes Joanna Bourke, interpreting Bentham’s thought, “when you looked at the relationship of apprentices to their masters, or of wives to their husbands. Indeed, ‘without subjection and inequality’ the institution of marriage could not exist, ‘for of two contradictory wills, both cannot take effect at the same time’. Bentham ridiculed the idea that rights belonged to ‘all human creatures’. In his words, this would mean that women would have to be included, as well as ‘children – children of every age’, because, his sarcastic analysis continued, ‘if women and children are not part of the nation, what are they? Cattle?’ For him, this was nothing more than ‘smack-smooth equality, which rolls so glibly out of the lips of the rhetorician.’” 

 

     Equality is especially difficult to discern in the higher, spiritual spheres, which alone could provide a basis for certain “human rights”. For, as C.S. Lewis writes, “equality is a purely social conception. It applies to man as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic; she reveals herself more to the few than to the many, more to the persistent and disciplined seekers than to the careless. Virtue is not democratic; she is achieved by those who pursue her more hotly than most men. Truth is not democratic; she demands special talents and special industry in those to whom she gives her favours. Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual, or aesthetic democracy is death…” 

 

     Human rightists see inequality, especially in social life, as a scandal. But the “scandal” for our ancestors was not so much in the obvious and inescapable fact of inequality in every sphere of life, as in the fact that life so often does not seem to distribute rewards in accordance with natural inequality: “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the learned, nor favour to the skilful” (Ecclesiastes 9.11). So life is unjust, not so much because it contains inequalities, as because the natural order of inequality is not rewarded as it should be… 

 

     However, the injustice of life was not a scandal to most religious people because they believed in “the God of justice” (Malachi 2.17) Who would put all injustices to right at the Last Judgement and reward all men according to their deeds. And this means unequal rewards for unequal men; for apart from the fact that some men will be sent to heaven and others to hell, even among those who are saved there are different rewards. For, as the Apostle Paul says, “there is one glory of the sun, another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star differs from another in glory” (I Corinthians 15.41).

 

     In the meantime, if we wish to shine with any kind of true glory in the age to come, we have to accept the natural order or inequality or hierarchy of being, what Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida called “degree”:

 

Take but degree away, untune that string,

And hark what discord follows! Each thing melts

In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters

Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores,

And make a sop of all this solid globe;

Strength should be lord of imbecility,

And the rude son should strike his father dead;

Force should be right; or, rather, right and wrong –

Between whose endless jar justice resides –

Should lose their names, and so should justice too.

 

     But the humanrightists of the eighteenth century no longer believed in the age to come or in any kind of “degree” except the inequality between knowledge and ignorance, between enlightened people like themselves and the unenlightened traditionalists. They were intolerant of the idea that God creates the inequalities between men in accordance with a benevolent plan that is inaccessible to us mortals. They thought that they could take the place of the Creator and remove inequality by changing nature and nations through education and “benign intervention”.  For after all, they reasoned, people are what they are because of heredity and environment, and if the former cannot be changed at the present time, it may be fixable in the future, while the latter is fixable already… As for the traditionalists, with their scare-stories about an unchangeable “natural order” or hierarchy of Being, their real motivation was simply to perpetuate inequality and keep their place in the sun…

 

     Actually, there was a grain of truth in this last comment. In all ages, privileged individuals, classes and nations have sought to justify and perpetuate their privileges on the basis of natural inequality, their supposed innate superiority to those less privileged. Even the founders of the American Constitution, such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, did not go so far as to think that “self-evident equality” extended to the Indians or their black slaves … 

 

     So there was hypocrisy on both sides in the egalitarian versus anti-egalitarian debate… But the hypocrisy of a philosopher does not in itself invalidate his philosophy. There have been many unchristian Christians, but that fact does not invalidate the truth of Christianity – although it makes it less persuasive for those who base the truth of an opinion on the moral worthiness of the man who expresses it… So let us abandon ad hominem arguments and examine the case for the egalitarian dogma as objectively as possible. For in spite of what has been just said about the ubiquity of inequality, it remains true that most of us – Christians as well as humanrightists – still feel that there is some important sense in which all men are equal. But in what way? And on what basis?

 

Equality in Adam and Christ

     God said in the beginning: “Let us create man in our image and after our likeness” (Genesis 1.26). Insofar as only man is said to be made in the image of God, he is not equal to the animals, but superior to them. Man has many animal-like characteristics, but there is a “quintessence of humanity” that sets him apart from them. Now the Holy Fathers interpret this quintessence of humanity or image of God in various ways, but it is generally agreed to refer to freewill and rationality, and hence the ability to make moral choices, something that is beyond the capacity of even the most intelligent of animals. It is the equal capacity of every man made in the image of God to exercise moral choice and thereby attain, with God’s help, the likeness of God that constitutes the only real basis for the dogma of equality.

 

     So Nietzsche was right when he claimed that it is belief in God that is the main basis for the belief in equality. But he was wrong, of course, in his atheism: “The masses blink and say: ‘Man is but man, before God we are all equal. Before God! But now this God is dead.”  

 

     The Darwinian theory of evolution is a direct challenge to the concept of man as the image of God. If man came into being, not through a special creation of God and not in the image and likeness of God, but by chance evolution from the apes, then there is no reason to think of him as any different in essence from the apes. Moreover, Darwinism undermines any reasoning for treating each other equally or justly. Hence the doctrine of Social Darwinism, which is anything but egalitarian. For it may be defined, according to Norman Davies, as the idea that "human affairs are a jungle in which only the fittest of nations, classes, or individuals will survive".  

 

     As G.K. Chesterton writes: “The Declaration of Independence dogmatically bases all rights on the fact that God created all men equal; and it is right; for if they were not created equal, they were certainly evolved unequal. There is no basis for democracy except in a dogma about the divine origin of man.”

 

     Our common origin in Adam, “the son of God” (Luke 3.38), is the reason, according to the Prophet Malachi, why we should see each other as brothers and therefore treat each other with love: “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why then doth every one of us despise his brother, violating the covenant of our fathers?” (Malachi 2.10). Therefore Christian morality is based on Christian anthropology; we must love each other because we are all brothers in one Father, of one kith and kin with each other.

 

     A still stronger reason than brotherhood in Adam for treating each other equally is our brotherhood in the New Adam, Christ. In His Divinity is decidedly not equal to us; but in the womb of the Virgin He lowered Himself to make Himself in a sense equal to all of us in His humanity. And in dying on the Cross for each one of us equally He reinforced our equality between ourselves, since we are all equally redeemed by the Blood of our one Creator and God.

 

      This was beautifully expressed in the seventh century by St. John the Almsgiver, Patriarch of Alexandria: “If by chance the blessed man heard of anybody being harsh and cruel to his slaves and given to striking them, he would first send for him and then admonish him very gently, saying: ‘Son, it is come to my sinful ears that by the prompting of our enemy you behave somewhat too harshly towards your household slaves. Now, I beseech you, do not give place to anger, for God has not given them to us to strike, but to be our servants, and perhaps not even for that, but rather for them to be supported by us from the riches God has bestowed on us. What price, tell me, must a man pay to purchase one who has been honoured by creation in the likeness and similitude of God? Or do you, the slave’s master, possess anything more in your own body than he does? Say, a hand, or foot, or hearing, or a soul? Is he not in all things like unto you? Listen to what the great light, Paul, says: ‘For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, for ye are all one man in Christ Jesus’. If then we are equal before Christ, let us become equal in our relations with another; for Christ took upon himself the form of a servant thereby teaching us not to treat our fellow-servants with disdain. For there is one Master of all Who dwells in heaven and yet regards the things of low degree; it does not say ‘the rich things’ but ‘things of low degree’. We give so much gold in order to make a slave for ourselves of a man honoured and together with us bought by the blood of our God and Master. For him is the heaven, for him the earth, for him the stars, for him the sun, for him the sea and all that is in it; at times the angels serve him. For him Christ washed the feet of slaves, for him He was crucified and for him endured all His other sufferings. Yet you dishonour him who is honoured of God and you beat him mercilessly as if he were not of the same nature as yourself.” 

 

     Love is the great equalizer; it does not remove the natural inequalities between men, but in a sense makes them irrelevant. For while it is of course true that men are not equal “in size, strength, understanding, figure, civil or moral accomplishments, or situation of life”, as the Gentleman’s Magazine put it, this should not alter our love for them, if our love is truly Christian. We should not love a man more or less, or treat him more or less as a brother, because he is more or less tall, or fat, or strong, or wise, or beautiful, or powerful, or rich. Differences in “moral accomplishments” are a different matter, to which we shall return later. But differences caused by genes or environment are morally neutral or irrelevant in the sense that our attitude to their bearers as people should not be influenced by them. Nevertheless, they are real differences, and, as we shall argue later, they cannot and should not be ignored as if they did not exist, still less subjected to processes of social or (as is becoming increasingly possible) genetic engineering in order to bring the human race back to a supposed condition of “original equality”.

The Origins of Inequality

 

     So were not men equal in the beginning – that is, before the Fall? They were indeed: in the beginning there existed a man and a woman who were as similar and equal to each other as any man and woman – or perhaps any two human beings - in history. After all, Eve derived her whole nature from Adam, without any other parent, and their environments were virtually identical. 

 

     And yet even in Paradise there was not complete equality in the sense of identity of nature. For there was this difference: that Adam was a man, and Eve was a woman. But the difference was so small that the words for the two sexes are almost the same in Hebrew (“isha” as opposed to “ish”), a similarity that, among modern languages, is mirrored only in English (“woman” as opposed to “man”). Moreover, it is not recorded in what that difference consisted in the prelapsarian state. We cannot assume that then, as now, after the fall, it consisted in the difference between “XX” and “XY” chromosomes. All we know is that she was created to be “a helper like him” (Genesis 2.18), not the other way round – that is, she was meant to be a follower rather than a leader.

 

     But it was precisely this very small difference – a difference in role rather than nature – which Satan exploited to widen the gap and lead to a difference also in nature. First, the sins that Adam and Eve committed were subtly different. For “Adam was not seduced; but the woman being seduced, was in the transgression” (I Timothy 2.14). So in spite of their commonality of nature, which made them equal from a natural point of view, Eve was deceived, but Adam was not. Adam sinned also, of course, but in a different way: instead of following God and leading his wife, he allowed her to lead him into disobeying God. Then God gave the couple “garments of skins” (Genesis 3.21), which, according to the interpretation of the Holy Fathers, signify the opaque, coarse nature of our present, postlapsarian bodies, together with the fallen passions that are associated with such bodies: gluttony, lust and anger. Their bodies were now more different from each other than they had been in Paradise because of the new demands placed on them in order to survive both as individuals and as a species. In particular, the man’s body was modified in order to carry out hard agricultural work and in order to beget children, while the woman’s body was modified in order to give birth to and raise children. Moreover, the difference in their roles was sharpened. The woman, instead of being simply a “helper” to the man, was placed in definite subjection to him: “thou shalt be under thy husband’s power, and he shall have dominion over thee” (Genesis 3.16).

 

     Since the original sin of Adam, together with its consequences in death and corruption, extended to all subsequent generations, the differences and inequalities between men have multiplied – that is, political, social and economic inequalities. But the most fundamental inequality was revealed already in the first generation after Adam, in his sons Cain and Abel. This was the moral inequality between those men who love God and those who love only themselves. Now this inequality is not a difference in nature; men are not made good and evil, saints and sinners, in the sense that they cannot help belonging to this or that category (that is the error of the Calvinists). True, evil is mixed with our nature from our conception – “I was conceived in iniquities, and in sins did my mother bear me” (Psalm 50.5). But all men still retain in themselves that image of God – freewill and rationality – that enables them to choose good over evil. The image has been darkened, and our freewill has been weakened (“the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26.41)). But by exercising the good that still remains in our nature, we can, with the help of God, overcome the evil that flows from the original sin of Adam and Eve. So the first, most fundamental inequality between men is the moral or spiritual inequality that is expressed in the different ways in which they freely direct the nature they have received from their parents – towards God or towards the devil.

 

     From this first, moral inequality flow all the others; for none of these would exist if sin had not entered the world and the whole world did not lie in sin. These less fundamental inequalities can be divided into those that are based, on the one hand, on the entrance of death into men’s genetic inheritance, causing the degeneration of the gene-pool and the appearance of destructive mutations that are passed down the generations, so that some are born as geniuses and with various talents and abilities while others are born with crushing physical and mental disabilities; and on the other hand, on inequalities in environment and social station, so that some people are born in crushing poverty or slavery, while others are born with all the advantages of wealth and education. The very struggle to survive in a fallen world creates man-made inequalities, the hierarchical structures of families, tribes and states that institutionalize inequality. For without some such distinctions and inequalities society as a whole could not defend itself against invaders from without or criminals from within. Again, the need to survive and reproduce and prosper, both individually and collectively, explains why strength and beauty and intelligence are rewarded, while the lack of these attributes is penalized.

 

     So we are not equal by nature, and the nature of the fallen world is such that there is no way in which these inequalities can be ironed out. But this has not stopped all modern societies from trying to do just that – that is, re-engineer human nature and society through the elimination of all inequalities of every kind, returning it to some golden age. Not that modern societies believe in Paradise. On the contrary, the socialist experiment (for that is what this striving for unnatural equality is) rejects all such “religious myths”; it sees the subjection of man to God as the first and worst of all inequalities generating all subsequent inequalities, such as the divine right of kings to rule over their subjects. Thus the most thorough-going and famous socialist experiment, that of the Soviet Union, began its attempt to wipe out the natural inequalities of human nature and society by killing the Tsar and all belief in God – and ended up creating the most hideously unequal society in world history… 

Inequality and Socialism

 

     However, what has been said so far will be unlikely to convince die-hard egalitarians, and especially those with a Christian background who believe in the “Social Gospel” – that is, that it is God’s command that we help the poor by ironing out differences in wealth, power and privilege through democratization, redistribution and social engineering. Such people will not be deterred by the example of the Soviet Union, a “mistake” that could have been avoided, in their opinion, if the Soviets had followed the path of German welfare socialism rather than Marxist revolutionary socialism. They fail to draw the deeper lessons from the collapse of communism in 1989-91, which is probably why there has been so little comment on, or study of, that epochal event in the last twenty years.  

 

     Let us put the argument for Socialist Christianity in a different way: “Since the radical inequalities that exist between men are consequences of the fall, is it not right that we should seek to reverse these consequences as far as we can?” This argument rests on the assumption that the consequences of the fall, in the form of social, political and economic inequalities, are evil in themselves. But this assumption is false. In fact these inequalities are like bad-tasting medicine administered to us by the Providence of God for the sake of our moral health. For “all things work together for those who love God” (Romans 8.28); and so if we love God, all the crushing inequalities that follow from the fall – poverty, illness, slavery – can, if borne with patience and gratitude, contribute to our ultimate goal, which is the acquisition of the Holy Spirit. It is this goal, rather than the abolition of inequality, that constitutes the true reversal of the fall. For the evils of this present fallen world are inflicted on us in order to humble us, to subdue our passions, and thereby to make us fit vessels for the reception of God’s Grace, the same Grace that Adam and Eve lost when they refused the light burden of obedience God placed upon them.   

 

     “So are you saying,” objects the Socialist, “that it is good that the rich should continue to oppress the poor?!” Of course not! - the point is that economic inequality is allowed by Divine Providence as a challenge and a means of healing for both the rich and the poor. If the rich man stops worrying about his own well-being and opens his heart to help the poor, then he tramples upon avarice and comes closer to God. And if the poor man bears his poverty with patience, and prays for his rich benefactors, then he, too, comes closer to God. Thus inequality can help both rich and poor towards the Kingdom. 

 

     For, as Bishop Nikolai Velimirovich wrote, “it is God’s desire that men be unequal in externals: riches, power, status, learning, position and so forth. But he does not recommend any sort of competitiveness in this. God desires that men compete in the multiplying of the inner virtues.”  

 

     Again, St. John Chrysostom writes: “Should we look to kings and princes to put right the inequalities between rich and poor? Should we require soldiers to come and seize the rich person’s gold and distribute it among his destitute neighbours? Should we beg the emperor to impose a tax on the rich so great that it reduces them to the level of the poor and then to share the proceeds of that tax among everyone? Equality imposed by force would achieve nothing, and do much harm. Those who combined both cruel hearts and sharp minds would soon find ways of making themselves rich again. Worse still, the rich whose gold was taken away would feel bitter and resentful; while the poor who received the gold from the hands of soldiers would feel no gratitude, because no generosity would have prompted the gift. Far from bringing moral benefit to society, it would actually do moral harm. Material justice cannot be accomplished by compulsion, a change of heart will not follow. The only way to achieve true justice is to change people’s hearts first—and then they will joyfully share their wealth.”  

 

     In another place, St. Chrysostom says that God did not make all men equal, because then there would be no place for love. But love covers the gap. You are rich, for example, and your neighbour is poor: love him, and fill up his need…

 

     When Mary poured the oil of spikenard over the head of Christ, Judas complained that the oil could have been sold for a lot of money and the money given to the poor. But “this he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box, and he used to take what was put in it. But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; she has kept this for the day of My burial. For the poor you have with you always, but Me you do not have always” (John 12.6-8).

 

     This story illustrates several things. First, it shows that those who seek to eliminate poverty and inequality, like Judas, are in fact the enemies of the poor and traitors to Christ. Judas can be seen as the first egalitarian reformer, the first preacher of “the Social Gospel”.

 

     Secondly, the motive in almsgiving is all important. The call to help the poor may proceed, not from compassion towards the poor, but from greed and envy towards the rich. In almost all socialist revolutions, the poor end up much poorer than before, while the revolutionaries end up by destroying, not only economic inequality, but every kind of superiority of one man over another. 

 

     For, as C.S. Lewis writes, “the demand for equality has two sources; one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest, of human emotions… There is in all men a tendency (only corrigible by good training from without and persistent moral effort from within) to resent the existence of what is stronger, subtler or better than themselves. In uncorrected and brutal men this hardens into an implacable hatred for every kind of excellence…”  

Inequality, Slavery and Monarchy

 

     Let us look a little more closely at one kind of social inequality whose supposed abolition the liberals and socialists point to as an undoubted achievement and triumph of Christian morality – the abolition of slavery. Now Christianity has never endorsed slavery, and has always considered the emancipation of a slave by his master as a laudable act of charity. But on the other hand it has always called on slaves to obey their masters, and has not endorsed violent wars to destroy the institution. 

 

     Thus St. Paul is profoundly conservative in his social teaching: “Let each one remain in the same calling in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not be concerned about it; but if you can be made free, rather use it. For he who is called in the Lord while a slave is the Lord’s free man. Likewise he who is called while free is Christ’s slave. You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, let each one remain with God in that state in which he was called” (I Corinthians 7.20-24).

 

     As Archbishop Averky of Jordanville writes: “The epistle [of the holy Apostle Paul] to Philemon vividly witnesses to the fact that the Church of Christ, in liberating man from sin, does not at the same time produce a forcible rupture in the established inter-relationships of people, and does not encroach on the civil and state order, waiting patiently for an improvement in the social order, under the influence of Christian ideas. Not only from this epistle, but also from others…, it is evident that the Church, while unable, of course, to sympathize with slavery, at the same time did not abolish it, and even told slaves to obey their masters. Therefore here the conversion of Onesimus to Christianity, which made him free from sin and a son of the Kingdom of God, did not, however, liberate him, as a slave, from the authority of his master. Onesimus had to return to [his master] Philemon, in spite of the fact that the Apostle loved him as a son, and needed his services, since he was in prison in Rome. The Apostle’s respect for civil rights tells also in the fact that he could order Philemon to forgive Onesimus [for fleeing from him], but, recognizing Philemon’s right as master, begs him to forgive his guilty and penitent slave. The words of the Apostle: ‘Without your agreement I want to do nothing’ clearly indicate that Christianity really leads mankind to personal perfection and the improvement of the social legal order on the basis of fraternity, equality and freedom, but not by way of violent actions and revolutions, but by the way of peaceful persuasion and moral influence.” 

 

     Thus Christianity is morally radical, but socially conservative. The result, paradoxically, was the profoundest revolution in human history. For the world changed more profoundly and more permanently when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman empire than as a result of any modern revolution.

 

     “That is all very well,” say the socialist. “But this conservatism applies to individuals, not states. States must be occupied with abolishing inequality through social reform and redistribution. It is a scandal that there should be poor people in our modern societies when the State can easily abolish poverty through legislation.” 

 

     It is true: rulers can, unlike private citizens, occupy themselves with a certain degree of social restructuring and redistribution. Nevertheless, even the most radical such measures in Orthodox lands never went so far as to seek to abolish classes or the very existence of poverty. For example, in 1861 Tsar Alexander II abolished serfdom in Russia, freeing 22 million serfs from their noble landowner masters in the greatest single act of social reform in world history. And yet poverty and inequality were not thereby abolished; nor was that the aim. The peasants remained peasants, and the nobles remained nobles, even if their relationship in law had changed.

 

     Moreover, because people are people, and there are losers as well as winners in every social reform, the results even of this great act were by no means unambiguous.   Emancipation changed the relationship both between the state and the landowners, and between the landowners and the peasants. As the nobles began to lose their feeling of duty and obedience to the state, the peasants, correspondingly, began to see their obedience to the nobles as a burden that was not justified, as in the past, by the defence of the land. As such, the formal structure probably had to change in view of the change in its spiritual content. But the change in formal structure from patriarchal to civil meant that the sanctifying bonds of obedience broke down still faster than they would have done otherwise. To that extent, the reform, though rational from a politico-economic point of view, was harmful from a moral one. As Schema-Monk Boris of Optina said: “The old order was better, even though I would really catch it from the nobleman… Now it’s gotten bad, because there’s no authority; anyone can live however he wants.”  Indeed, so self-willed had emancipation made the peasants that the sons and grandsons of those liberated by the Tsar set about murdering him and his successors and enslaving the whole population in their new communist paradise – all in the name of freedom and equality! 

 

     Archpriest Lev Lebedev writes: “Later critics of the reform also justly point out that it suffered from an excessive ‘slant’ in one direction, being inspired most of all by the idea of the immediate emancipation of the serfs from the landowners, but without paying due attention to the question how and with what to substitute the guiding, restraining and, finally, educating function of ‘the lords’ (the landowners) for the peasants. Indeed, delivered as it were in one moment to themselves, to their own self-administration (after 100 years of the habit of being guided by the lord), could the Russian peasants immediately undertake their self-administration wisely and truly, to their own good and that of the Fatherland? That is the question nobody wanted to think about at the beginning, being sometimes ruled by the illusion of the ‘innateness’ of the people’s wisdom!… 

 

     “They began to think about this, as often happens with us, ‘in hindsight’, after they had encountered disturbances and ferment among the peasantry. All the indicated mistakes in the reform of 1861 led to the peasantry as a whole being dissatisfied in various respects. Rumours spread among them that ‘the lords’ had again deceived them, that the Tsar had given them not that kind of freedom, that the real ‘will of the Tsar’ had been hidden from them, while a false one had been imposed upon them. This was immediately used by the ‘enlighteners’ and revolutionaries of all kinds. The peasants gradually began to listen not to the state official and the former lord, but to the student, who promised ‘real’ freedom and abundant land, attracting the peasant with the idea of ‘the axe’, by which they themselves would win all this from the deceiver-lords…

 

     “But in spite of inadequacies and major mistakes, the reform of 1861, of course, exploded and transfigured the life of Great Russia. A huge mass of the population (about 22 million people) found themselves a free and self-governing estate (class), juridically equal to the other estates. This immediately elicited the need to build its life and activity on new foundations…” 

 

     In 1863 Abraham Lincoln emancipated the American black slaves. He imposed it at a cost of 600,000 lives. And the result? Poverty for the newly emancipated, and bitterness between whites and blacks, North and South, that lasted for generations… 

 

     J.M. Roberts compares the Russian and American emancipations as follows: “In retrospect [the emancipation of the Russian serfs] seems a massive achievement. A few years later the United States would emancipate its Negro slaves. There were far fewer of them than there were Russian peasants and they lived in a country of much greater economic opportunity, yet the effect of throwing them on the labour market, exposed to the pure theory of laissez-faire economic liberalism, was to exacerbate a problem with whose ultimate consequences the United State is still grappling. In Russia the largest measure of social engineering in recorded history down to this time was carried out without comparable dislocation and it opened the way to modernization for what was potentially one of the strongest powers on earth…” 

 

     It is ironic and instructive that the most successful social transformations have been carried out, not by secular socialists fighting for equality, but by traditionalist Christians who believed in the natural order and hierarchy of being. Thus Tsar Nicholas II as an individual was one of the most charitable rulers in history. Even as a child he would give his shoes to the poor, and throughout his life he was secretly giving alms to the people, not to mention the huge benefits, spiritual and material, that he gave to the nation as a whole, including the reform of Church-State relations, an agrarian policy that released millions of peasants from poverty and a system of labour legislation that was hailed by American President Robert Taft as the most enlightened of its time. The result was that Tsarist Russia was not only the fastest-developing nation in the world, but on the way to becoming one of the most just. 

 

     But even Tsar Nicholas did not attempt to destroy the class system in Russia or radically overturn the foundations of society. For he understood that inequality is built into human society by God Himself, and that the ruler’s task is not to revolutionize society, but to mitigate, as far as possible, those evil consequences introduced into it by evil men. Too late did the Russian people who overthrew the tsar understand that, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “the old authority in kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience in subjects, laymen, wives, and sons, was [not] in itself a degrading or evil thing at all.”  

 

      Besides, even in fallen men there is a secret desire to look up and admire, even if the object is not admirable: “where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters.”  Since inequality is so deeply ingrained in human nature and society at every level, simply destroying an institution or even a state that embodies it solves nothing. Deep in their hearts, men know that they are not equal; and if their hearts are not filled with greed and envy, they delight in the honour given to their superiors; which is why monarchy survives and prospers even in such a liberal and socialist society as contemporary England. Even such a convinced democrat as C.S. Lewis could write of the monarchy as “the channel through which all the vital elements of citizenship - loyalty, the consecration of secular life, the hierarchical principle, splendour, ceremony, continuity - still trickle down to irrigate the dustbowl of modern economic Statecraft".  Even today, hysteria can seize the nation on the death of a princess, for little other reason than that she was a princess… 

 

     Roger Scruton has spoken of the English monarchy as “the light above politics, which shines down on the human bustle from a calmer and more exalted sphere. Not being elected by popular vote, the monarch cannot be understood as representing the views only of the present generation. He or she is born into the position, and also passes it on to a legally defined successor. The monarch is in a real sense the voice of history, and the very accidental [sic] way in which the office is acquired emphasises the grounds of the monarch’s legitimacy, in the history of a place and a culture. This is not to say that kings and queens cannot be mad, irrational, self-interested or unwise. It is to say, rather, that they owe their authority and their influence precisely to the fact that they speak for something other than the present desires of present voters, something vital to the continuity and community which the act of voting assumes. Hence, if they are heard at all, they are heard as limiting the democratic process, in just the way that it must be limited if it is to issue in reasonable legislation. It was in such a way that the English conceived their Queen, in the sunset days of Queen Victoria. The sovereign was an ordinary person, transfigured by a peculiar enchantment which represented not political power but the mysterious authority of an ancient ‘law of the land’.” 

 

     Monarchy represents the summit of inequality among men. As such, it is an image of the infinitely greater distance separating all men from God, the King of kings. So veneration of the monarch facilitates the worship of God, and vice-versa; which is why its destruction inevitably leads to that falling away from God that we see in all the nations that have killed their kings…  

Inequality and Gender

 

     The 1960s were, as is well-known, a period of moral degradation when all kinds of sexual sins condemned by most civilized societies throughout history, became permitted in law. The most notorious of these was homosexuality, and it became obligatory for all “progressive” people to defend this most unnatural of vices. Traditional old-style socialism in the West now began to metamorphose into what is often called Cultural Marxism. The obsession of this movement was still the abolition of inequality, but the kinds of inequality now warred against were more varied and more profound: not just differences in income level or education between classes, or discrimination against non-white races or women in the workplace, but the biological differences between the sexes (or “gender”). By the 1990s the Cultural Marxists had moved from attacking discrimination against homosexuals to attacking all defenders of traditional marriage and Christian morality; not only was “gay marriage” permitted, but any criticism of this “life-style” was a “hate-crime”. 

 

     However, this was only a prelude to the truly unprecedented attempt to abolish gender differences altogether that we find now, in the twenty-first century… “The enemy on this particular battleground,” writes Melanie Phillips, “is anyone who maintains that there are men and there are women, and that the difference between them is fundamental.

 

     “The ‘binary’ distinction is accepted as a given by the vast majority of the human race. No matter. It is now being categorised as a form of bigotry.” 

 

     This revolution has been made possible – supposedly - by the invention of new sex-change technologies enabling men to become women and women to become men. “Trans-gender” now occupies the favoured place in the ideology of Cultural Marxism that homosexuality had in the previous generation. And anyone – even the famous feminist ideologue Germaine Greer – who claims that transgender men who become women after medical treatment are still men are subjected to attack.

 

     “The Commons Women and Equalities Select Committee has produced a report saying transgender people are being failed. The issue is not just whether they really do change their sex. The crime being committed by society is to insist on any objective evidence for this at all. According to the committee, people should be able to change their gender at will merely by filling in a form. Instead of requiring evidence of sex-change treatment, Britain should adopt the ‘self-declaration’ model now used in Ireland, Malta, Argentina and Denmark. To paraphrase Descartes, ‘I think I am a man/woman/of now sex, therefore I am.’

 

     “The committee’s chairwoman, the Tory MP Maria Miller, says there’s no need for gender categories on passports, drivers’ licences or other official forms because gender is irrelevant. ‘We should be looking at ways of trying to strip back talking about gender’, she says. But it’s people like her and her committee who have made it a frontline issue.

 

     “In 2004, Parliament passed the Gender Recognition Act’ in 2010, the Equality Act made gender reassignment a protected characteristic; in 2011, the government published its ‘Advancing transgender equality’ action plan.

 

     “The NHS has a National Clinical Reference Group for Gender Identity Services. The National Police Chiefs’ Council has a National Policing Lead on Transgender. Last November, the Department for Education flew the transgender flag to mark the Transgender Day of Remembrance…” 

 

     Phillips continues: “Gender politics is all about subjective feeling. It has nothing to do with fairness or equality. It embodies instead an extreme egalitarianism which holds than any evidence of difference is a form of prejudice.

 

     “If people want to identify with either gender or none, no one is allowed to gainsay it. Objective reality crumbles under the supremacy of subjective feeling. Those who demur are damned as heartless.

 

     “In fact, gender fluidity creates victims. Professor Paul McHugh is the former chief psychiatrist at John Hopkins hospital in the US. In the 1960s this pioneered sex-reassignment surgery – but subsequently abandoned it because of the problems it left in its wake. Most young boys and girls who seek sex reassignment, McHugh has written have psychosocial issues and presume that such treatment will resolve them. ‘The grim fact is that most of these youngsters do not find therapists willing to assess and guide in ways that permit them to work out their conflicts and correct their assumptions. Rather they and their families find only ‘gender counsellors’ who encourage them in their sexual misassumptions.’

 

     “In two states, any doctor who looked into the psychological history of a ‘transgendered boy or girl in search of a resolvable problem could lose his or her licence to practise medicine.

 

     “In line with such suppression of medical freedom, Miller’s committee also wants to dump McHugh’s ‘medicalised approach’. The MPs claim it ‘pathologises trans identities’ and runs ‘contrary to the dignity and personal autonomy’ of trans people. They note that a UK survey found about half of young and a third of adult transgender people said they had attempted suicide. The committed does not suggest this is most likely because of the unbearable mental conflict over their sexual identity. Instead, it blames ‘transphobia’ for driving them to this despair…” 

 

     So the egalitarians are going to have to rewrite the Biblical account of creation to eliminate the differences, not only between man and the animals, but also between men and women: not only the phrase about being created in the image of God, but also the phrase “male and female created He them” will have to go. This is a “recreation” of human nature by totalitarian decree… As Phillips concludes, “Gender cannot be at real risk because it is anchored in an immutable reality. What is on the cards is oppression, socially engineered dysfunction and the loss of individual freedom. Conservative politicians who are helping wave the red flag of revolution…” 

Conclusion

 

     There is a Hierarchy of Being, and it extends all the way from God at the peak to the lowest unit of inorganic life. By the very nature of hierarchy, it encompasses and preserves a vast variety of distinctions, differences and inequalities. But all these inequalities are harmonized and reconciled by the One Who created the whole and Whose infinite superiority to all the lower levels of the hierarchy is incontestable – God. Many injustices in human history may have been justified on the basis of inequality, but it remains a fact of life. And so true justice can only be attained when everybody knows, and is reconciled with, his true place in the Hierarchy…

 

     It was Satan who first whispered the egalitarian dogma – or rather, heresy - into the minds of our first parents, saying: “You shall be as gods”. His motivation was envy – “Long ago the crafty serpent envied my honour”, “Of old the enemy who hates mankind envied me the life of happiness that I had in Paradise”.  By offering the bait of equality with God, he wanted to separate man from God and bring him into equality with himself – an accursed equality on the bottom rung of the Hierarchy of Being, filled with unutterable pain, bitterness and shame.

 

     Such is, and always will be, the motivation of those who dangle the unattainable mirage of equality with God before suffering mankind. Their goal is in the literal sense of the word satanic, being the goal of Satan himself when he was cast from heaven: “How are thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cast to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.  Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit…” (Isaiah 15.12-15).

 

     And yet the paradox is that God does want us to be “as gods”, “partakers of the Divine nature” (II Peter 1.4). “God became man”, as St. Athanasius said, “that men should become gods”. His will is that when He comes again at His Second Coming “we shall be like Him” (I John 3.2), having transformed the fallen, muddied image of God in us into a true and radiant likeness, wholly suffused by Grace. 

 

     However, the key to this exaltation of human nature is that we follow the example He gave at His First Coming. Then, “being in the form of God, He did not consider it robbery to be equal to God, but emptied Himself, and took upon Himself the form of a slave, and was made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2.6-7). Thus God the Son, although fully equal to God the Father by nature, renounced, as it were, this lofty equality, and made Himself equal instead to the infinitely lower nature of man. And, moreover, “being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross…” (v. 8) So equality of a Divine, paradoxical kind is attainable, and exaltation to unimaginable heights is possible – but only through voluntary self-humiliation to the depths of the created hierarchy, and the patient acceptance of all the inequalities – physical, psychological, social, political, economic, and above all moral and spiritual – that exist in the real, fallen world. 

 

March 6/19, 2012; revised August 12/25, 2013 and July 24 / August 6, 2016.

 

 

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