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Some of our children used to love to play a somewhat morbid game called, “Would you rah-ther?” That is “rather” but with an exaggerated British accent. They would ask each other questions such as, “Would you rah-ther have no hands or no feet?” and “Would you rah-ther live through war or plague?” I admit that we did not relish the speculation on, “If one of them had to die tomorrow, would you rah-ther it be Mommy or Daddy?” The questions often led to long discussions as the participating daughter explained her answer.
Here is a question that I think is worth asking yourself and those around you. “Would you rah-ther have freedom or equality?” In many cases, freedom and equality are mutually incompatible values. We can’t have both. If equality is the goal, for example in the boardroom, then a company cannot have the freedom to search for the best candidate. Instead of making the wisest decision, the business needs to check the proper gender and ethnicity boxes along with whatever other criterion are deemed needing equal representation. If freedom of choice is the priority, for example in the classroom, then the computer science department at a university might well be overwhelmingly male and Asian. There wouldn’t be a great deal of equal representation to be seen.
Our government keeps expanding and enshrining the understanding of equality, most recently wanting to include sexual orientation as a category needing its intervention. Consequently, our constitutionally protected freedom of religion is under attack. In the economic arena, the freedom to succeed requires allowing economic inequality. Both freedom and equality are nice sounding words. However, while they can co-exist peacefully in the abstract, they dance a delicate waltz in real life.
In our imperfect world, both freedom and equality lie on a spectrum where too much or too little of either one is disastrous. Unrestrained freedom leads to the law of the jungle, where the most vicious and strongest rules. The result for most people will be a decided lack of freedom. Total equality is an unattainable fantasy that leads to misery and servitude for the majority, under the lash of those who, inevitably, unequally hold the reins.
Around 150 years ago, the United States fought an incredibly bloody war to end a terrible institution that made a mockery of both equality and freedom. About 100 years earlier, the country’s founding highlighted the same concepts. This Thanksgiving, as the uneasy truce between equality and freedom seems to be reaching another crisis point we should express gratitude to God for the wonderful country in which we live and reaffirm our commitment to keeping it so.