|Dawn over Rochester with Henrietta in foreground and Lake Ontario and Irondequoit Bay in background|
In Christ’s family there can be no division into Jew and non-Jew, slave and free, male and female. Among us you are all equal. That is, we are all in a common relationship with Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:28 Translation from The MessageNothing can be clearer from reading the descriptions of the early Christian communities in the Acts of the Apostles and the various epistles than their fundamental orientation toward equality. The passage above describes the most basic differences between people and then makes clear that they make no real difference. Since all are in a common relationship through faith with Jesus and thus the Divine One, all are equal.
To situate this quotation in our own American experience, we could add other differences: race, sexual orientation, immigrant status, faith tradition, socio-economic status, class, income, political beliefs and others. No matter the differences, they make no real difference within the community. We are all equal in that common faith.
St. Albert the Great and his pupil, St. Thomas Aquinas, had a formulation that is important here. It is often stated as "grace builds on nature" although more properly it is "grace perfects nature." Our faith does not destroy our human nature; it does not require that we become somehow less human. Rather it enlivens us to reach toward the perfection of our humanity. This notion of egalitarianism is an example. An egalitarian community does not require us to somehow deny essential elements of our human nature but rather it recognizes that humans are at their best when they are in sustained community with one another, a community that helps each attain perfection.
Admittedly this is an ideal but we are Christians. Pragmatic idealism is our daily bread.