Jesus’ Gospel of Radical Equality
As we discuss in our Essay, Evaluating Jesus’ Teaching, Jesus preached a gospel of Radical Equality. Our main argument in this Essay is that an important aspect of Radical Equality called Radical Sharing simply doesn’t work. Radical Sharing is the second element of Jesus’ four-part message of Radical Equality:
- Radically Equal Security — Reject all forms of violence, even in self-defense. Security will come through non-violence, by morally disarming the enemy. (“Turn the other cheek.” Matthew 5:39)
- Radically Equal Consumption — Share all resources equally among all humans on Earth.
- Radically Equal Status — Level out all social distinctions of rank, so that all humans have equal power. (Jesus breaks bread with tax collectors and prostitutes. Mark 2:13-17)
- Universal Equal Love — Radically Equal Love of every Human being on Earth being equally. (“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-40)
Jesus said that if people would sincerely practice these Four Equalities, the Kingdom of Heaven would grow and flower as a giant mustard tree does from the tiny mustard seed. (Matthew 13:31)
The following two New Testament passages are clear statements of Jesus’ doctrine of Radical Equality:
- “Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple… In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.’” (Luke 14:25-26 and 33)
- “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” (Matthew 19:21; Luke 18:22; and Mark 10:21)
It is worth noting that the Four Elements of Jesus’ message of Radical Equality roughly correspond to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Five Human Needs. In this hierarchy, #1 is the most basic Human need, and meeting #1 is a prerequisite for realizing Need #2; Meeting Need #2 is a prerequisite for realizing Need #3, and so on. Each successive need depends on having already met the lower-numbered needs:
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
- Need for Air, Water, Food, and Warmth,
- Need for Security and Safety,
- Need for Love and Belonging,
- Need for Esteem,
- Need for Self-actualization
Builders of Continuing Creation say — We find that the dominant direction of G>O>D> is not toward radically equal sharing, peace, and love; but toward creativity, building, and increased complexity. As we see in our Essay, PRINCIPLES & PROCESSES OF EVOLUTION, evolution is driven by both competition and cooperation. Competition and cooperation interact to become Creation. The Processes of Creation weave the Pattern of G>O>D>.
Stated another way, there are Three Drives at work in the Process of G>O>D>:
- The Selfish-Aggressive drive (competition),
- The Selfless-Sharing Drive, (cooperation) and
- The Drive to Create and Build (creation).
Practitioners in G>O>D> conclude — that the Creative Drive is often a synthesis of the Selfish and the Selfless drives.
Like Continuing Creation itself, human nature contains all three Drives, and each of the three can be favored at times by Evolution, be it biological, technological, or cultural.
Jesus’ doctrine of Radical Equality tries to base all human conduct on Cooperation alone, with no weight given to Competition. This choice can never further the progress of Continuing Creation, because evolution – biological, cultural, technological – requires both cooperation and competition to function.
Radically Equal Security and some types of Equal Esteem are attainable goals, because all people have (or could have) equal human rights, and all are (or could be) equal before the law.
Love can be both widely shared and yet still fulsome, because the source of love is deep and self-renewing. Love may even be inexhaustible. But the practical resources needed to bestow love — time, energy, and money — are not inexhaustible. If they are radically shared, no one will have enough gathered concentration of them to do much good, nor will humanity as a whole.
What is “Radical Sharing” or “Equal Consumption?”
We will talk about Equal Security, Status and Love (pacifism, social levelling, and universal love) at the end of this Essay. For now, we want to talk in more detail about Radical Sharing.
The Platinum Rule
Here we are considering the more expansive, “multi-cultural,” version of the Golden Rule called the Platinum Rule, which says, “Do to others as they would want you to do.” Since the poor will naturally want the rich to fully share all their property, this Platinum Rule expresses the Morality of Radical Sharing.
The Platinum Rule, however, does not meet the standards of the Path of G>O>D>. The morality of Radical Sharing doesn’t work. It is impractical and suboptimal. Few individuals, and no nations, have successfully adopted this ethic.
If we followed the Christian ethic of Radical Sharing, we would share all our wealth with others, and others would share all their wealth with us. The result would be a radical leveling of wealth throughout the world. The difference between rich and poor would disappear, and everyone in the world would have “one room to live in and one pot to cook in.”
In today’s world, we can actually approximate what Radical sharing would mean for people across the globe. If we google “average income in the world, we read that the total value of yearly world income is closing in on $70 trillion per year. Since there are 7.4 billion people in the world, we can calculate the average income per person — only $9,459 per person per year. (Where are you on the global pay scale? – BBC News www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17512040, Mar 29,2012.
While it is true that the reach of human sharing has generally moved outward over the last few millennia, Earth still hosts many tribal societies, and many theocratic and/or dictatorial nation-states that limit sharing to people within their own societies. But in the one-world vision of modern western-educated liberals, wealth should be extended to all of humanity right now. This modern ethic derives from Christianity’s doctrine of Radical Sharing.
Most scholars believe that Jesus and his Apostles lived a communal life style, because by definition a commune shares all goods and services equally among its members, according to need. Communes have been tried throughout history, but few survived for more than a few decades. Many kibbutz collective collectives begun in Israel in the early 1900s still survive, but their practices have become increasingly free-market oriented. Still, in 2011 the Fellowship for Intentional Community lists 186 communes worldwide. Some of these are religious institutions such as abbeys and monasteries. Many modern communes are part of the New Age movement. (“Commune Directory – List of Communes”. FIC Online Communities Directory. Fellowship for Intentional Community. 2011-08-18. Retrieved 2011-08-18.)
In the past 100 years, various Communist Governments have tried to undertake larger, nationwide Radical Sharing, including the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, Venezuela, and Cambodia (under Pol Pot). All of them have failed, although North Korea does survive by means of brutal repression and total control of all media.
Problems with the Radical Sharing.
There are three major problems with Radical Sharing:
- First, the Gospel of Radical Sharing is inconsistent with Human sociobiology.
- Second, distributing the same amount of wealth to all individuals is not the best thing for Continuing Creation as a whole, for several reasons which we will look at below.
- Third, Radical Sharing detracts energy and resources from caring for Earth’s Biosphere (environment and ecology).
First Problem: Radical Sharing is inconsistent with human sociobiology.
Humans naturally care more for the members of their immediate family than they do for non-family members. Our level of care naturally decreases as we move outward from the family circle, to neighbors, then to tribes and interest groups, then on to citizens, and finally to the outermost circle of non-citizens.
When we try to deny our own family-centered biology, we risk undermining the foundation of our Human culture, our ability to transmit culture and love to the next generation.
We have noted that attempts to achieve Radical Sharing through communism have failed. Why? Because human beings like to work hard for their families, not for the state. This explains why corruption is so rampant in communist societies – people try to get around “equality” radical sharing rules so they provide more for their own families.
But Jesus’ Twelve Apostles, most of whom were married men, were called away from their families. (Matthew 8:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5-6, Acts 21:9). But is it really moral to leave your family in the lurch and go off with some guru to seek spiritual or political revolution? Most of us would say no. Perhaps Jesus believed that the Kingdom of God – God’s overthrow of the Roman Empire and God’s rule of Earth – was at hand. If so, families and child-rearing were not going to be needed.
In fact, there is little in Jesus’ message about family values. Whatever family values are in the New Testament were added decades after Jesus’ death by St. Paul.
Little wonder then, why practically-minded fathers and mothers, sitting in the Christian pews over the centuries, have not seen fit to abandon all their goods just because Jesus said “It is easier for wealthy people to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to enter the Kingdom of God.” Today, millions of people profess to be Christians, but practice “family values” instead.
Second Problem: Distributing the same amount to all people is not the best thing for the Growing>Organizing>Direction as a whole.
There are several aspects of this truth:
a. When wealth is concentrated, it can be invested:
But when wealth in concentrated, it can be invested; and when invested, it will create new and larger wealth in the future. This is true of both wealth in goods and services, and of wealth in knowledge.
The Book of G>O>D> says –– Giving away all our wealth to the poor would leave Earth’s assets so diffused that capital could not be gathered for investments, and there would be no technological progress. Civilization would not have the concentration of wealth necessary to advance science, invent new technology, explore space or the oceans, maintain institutions of safety and law, or create great art. In short, the essential creating process of G>O>D> in the realm of Human culture would be stunted or even halted.
Is economic evolution (which is part competition and part cooperation) immoral because concentration of wealth for investment leaves some of the population poor? No. Because the concentration of wealth for investment is required to create more wealth. This process — Capitalism — is the best engine for creating overall long-term prosperity and reducing poverty.
However, not even capitalism may be able to keep pace with the exploding human population.
Also, we must say that un-regulated capitalism can lead to over-concentration of wealth, and over-concentration of power. Directed, regulated capitalism is the best system for providing goods and services because it harnesses the profit motive, which is already harnessed to the strongest human urge – the urge to provide for one’s own immediate family.
b. “Feed a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day; teach a man to fish and give him a pole, and he’ll eat for a lifetime:”
This well-known saying is a folksy description of the power of investing immediate today’s time and money into investments for the future. It says that Radical Sharing only solves the problem in the short term, never in the long term.
Robert D. Lupton, in his book “Toxic Charity,” tells of a village in Africa that received a water pump from on charitable agency. “This was great, because it saved the women from having to walk miles to a neighboring village with empty plastic water jugs, fill them, and walk all the way back. However, after about a year, the pump broke. The villagers had no spare parts, no skills, and no contacts to call to bring those things in. But after a second year, the agency replaced the pump with a new one. Which also broke. After a number of years, a different agency reformed the entire pump system, including training, tools, parts, and a list of part suppliers to call. Now the village has a pump that operates all the time.”
“Social research over the last decade or so has reinforced the point that… if you can’t help people become more resilient, conscientious, or prudent, then all the cash transfers in the world will not produce permanent benefits.” (– Walter Mischels experience and Carol Dweck’s experience. Quote from article in NYT, Friday, August 1, 2014. [need title of the article] [Also re Angela Duckworth, et al in “The Character Factory,” article by David Brooks]
c. Resources should go to their “highest and best use:”
Aristotle’ definition of justice was, “When people get what they deserve.” He explained what he meant by asking the question, “Who should get the best flutes in the city [of Athens]?” But we’ll make this question more about modern economics by asking, “Who should get the latest and best lasers for cutting sheets of tungsten?
Should we give the lasers to:
- The winners of a lottery, because that’s the ‘fairest’? Or,
- The poorest or least-skilled workers, because we want them to prosper? Or,
- The highest-skilled workers, because they will be use them in the most creative and productive ways?
Aristotle would say that only the last alternative achieves justice. Not only because the best workers will use the best lasers to make the best products, but because the best workers deserve to get the best tools. Giving them the best tools honors the best workers for their skill. (From TED talk by Michael Sandel, “The Lost Art of Democratic Debate”)
Followers of G>O>D> say — Aristotle’s view (bullet #3) is the G>O>D> centered point of view, because the new lasers will best further the progress of G>O>D> if they are used by the best laser-workers.
Clearly, this G>O>D> centered view is also what many would call the politically conservative point of view; and what many would call an elitist view. However, if all children who are born receive equal educational and training opportunity, the system is not elitist. It is perfectly fair: the lasers will not go to the socially elite workers, but to the most-skilled (most-trained) workers.
Graduated distribution of wealth may derive from natural laws
In the natural world, many things are not distributed equally. There are some individuals who are much smarter than others; and individuals who are much stronger than others. Intelligence and strength are distributed according to the well-known Bell-shaped Curve, also called a normal distribution, where most people are clustered at the average.
Example: Zipf’s Law
Other things in nature are distributed more severely – according to the so-called inverse power laws, which include Zipf’s Law. One such thing turns out to be income earned in a free market system.
- For example, the second-most frequent word in any large book always appears approximately half as many times as the most frequent word. The third-most frequent word appears one-third as often as the most frequent, and so on.
- Similarly, the tenth-smallest lake in a land with many lakes (say, the state of Minnesota) will be nearly one-tenth as big as the largest lake.
- In a free-market society, income is distributed according to this same Zipf’s Law. “Thus the second wealthiest person in a society might own half as much as the richest, with the tenth richest possessing only a tenth as much.” So, while a CEO might earn $4,000,000 a year, the 100th-ranked worker will only earn about 1/100 of $4,000,000 = $40,000 per year. (paraphrased from Brockman,368)
Since Zipf’s Law is so ubiquitous, it can be called a “law of Nature.” (Fagan, Stephen; Gençay, Ramazan (2010), “An introduction to textual econometrics”, in Ullah, Aman; Giles, David E. A., Handbook of Empirical Economics and Finance, CRC Press, pp. 133–153, ISBN 9781420070361. P. 139)
Why is it that the top item in a Zipf’s distribution so very much outranks the items near the bottom? No one knows. According to Rudy Rucker, “Inverse-Power Distributions Law is a fundamental law about the behavior of systems. They are “as inevitable as turbulence, entropy, or the law of gravity.” (Rudy Rucker, Inverse Power Laws, in Brockman 367-369)
Unfortunately, in the U.S. in 2016, it is not uncommon a CEO to earn as much as $10,000,000 a year while his or her 100th salary-ranked worker earns only $30,000 a year. In these cases, the tenth-lowest pay is not one one-hundredth of the COE’s pay, but only three one-thousandths of the CEO’s pay. Clearly, income is so concentrated in America today that it is out of whack even with the laws of nature.
With the world’s richest 10% owning over 70% of all human wealth (as reported by the Congressional Budget Office), a great deal more sharing could be done than we do now. (Jeanne Sahadi, “The Richest 10% hold 76% of the Wealth,” CNN Money, 8-18-16. http://money.cnn.com/2016/08/18/pf/wealth-inequality/index.html.)
And if human overpopulation could be reduced, Earth would be able to provide everyone with a good standard of living.
Social Safety Nets
Despite these natural statistical distribution laws, societies may collectively (governmentally) decide to move toward having minimum standards — a “social safety net” — under the entire human population of that society.
Still, Social Safety Nets are not as extreme as “Radical Sharing,” which is a fulsome leveling out of all wealth.
Some People Choose Radical Sharing
Of course, a good number of people across the globe elect to share nearly all their time, effort, and resources to charity. For example, some crusading lawyers choose to spend their entire careers working for legal-aid organizations at very low pay. Certain orders of nuns care for the sick, and take a vow of poverty. Buddhist and Christian monks and Hindu sadhus also take a vow of poverty, and devote their lives to prayer and meditation.
Weavers of G>O>D> say — Nuns who care for the sick are certainly living moral and honorable lives. However, it is wrong when the Old Religions hold such people up as the paragons of virtue which all of us should emulate. History teaches us that people such as Thomas Edison, Louis Pasteur, and Frank Lloyd Wright are just as important – perhaps more important – to the Growing>Organizing>Direction of the Universe than are nuns who care for the sick. In the longer run, Creating is more important than sharing. Only Creating brings for the new; only Creating progresses the Pattern of G>O>D>. As for monks who only meditate and never teach meditation – they are leading, at best, morally neutral lives, since they contribute little to the furtherance of Continuing Creation.
Third Problem: Radical Sharing Shortchanges the Biosphere of Earth
The third major problem with Radical Sharing is that it diverts resources from caring for Earth’s environment and ecology.
In Human hunter-gatherer societies, sharing seldom extended beyond family, clan, and tribe.
As we have described, Jesus preached extension of sharing outward to include all of Humanity.
Today, we must extend more of our time, energy, and resources not to cover all Humanity, but to cover all the creatures and all the interlocking systems of our biosphere. Without a healthy ecosystem, the planet will not sustain human life.
Since resources are limited, we must therefore reduce the resources now devoted to humanity-as-a-whole, principally by limiting the growth of the human population through birth control.
But that sharing resources with the biosphere can never be as strong as sharing with our families.
We have finished our discussion of Radical Sharing. Before closing this Essay, we want to talk briefly about three of the remaining elements of Radical Equality – Equal Security, Equal Status and Equal Love.
Equal Security — Radical Pacifism, or Radical Non-Protection
Jesus advocated achieving Equal Protection in an unusual way. He taught that we all should have no protection whatsoever against enemies and evil. Jesus’ instructs his followers to be radically pacifist in Matthew 5:38-40 (also Luke 6:29):
“You have heard that it was said [in the Old Testament], ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well.”
But in real life, what should we do when confronted with violence? With life-threatening violence? In the modern world, most of us would call for the agents or safety – police, soldiers – to come to our aid. But suppose those agencies are not nearby, and the threat is immediate?
We Architects of G>O>D> say – While a minority of us may elect to adopt non-violence, (as do members of the Amish and Quakers), the great majority of us recognize that this is not consistent with our fundamental biological drive to protect ourselves and our families.
We Architects of G>O>D> also say — Still, Jesus’ doctrine successfully established our very practical idea of Equality Before the Law. For most of us, the ideal Moral Precept takes practical shape in our evolved pattern of common law, which divides violence into categories that include Moral classifications such as “self-defense,” and “just warfare.” Like most things that are practical, the morality of evolved law takes a great deal of thought and work. The Path of G>O>D> has no easy answers. (We talk more about warfare in our addendum to the Essay on LEADING A MORAL LIFE, “Moral Precepts for Societies and Governments.”)
We Builders of G>O>D> say — We note that security-and-safety, like goods-and-services, cost time and effort. Therefore, it is biologically natural and moral that we should devote the greatest portion of our security and safety to the people we love the most – our immediate families. From there, we extend security outward by means of law and administration.
However, today we once again see that the survival of our species requires us to provide as much protection to the biosphere as we do to humanity as an abstract whole.
Equal, Universal Love — Radical Extension of Love to All Humanity
In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark12:31)
This commandment is clearly unrealistic. If a person has an immediate family, that family has first claim on a full measure of the person’s energy, and resources… and on the person’s love.
Nevertheless, agape, the Greek word for non-sexual love of one’s fellow humans, can be extended far beyond the boundary of one’s immediate family. Agape — Brotherly love — is not a scarce commodity as are goods and services. It is freely flowing and renewable. However, the practical extension of brotherly love is limited. It is limited by one’s resources of time, energy, and wealth.
Brotherly love expressed as courtesy, sympathy, and empathy can and should transcend the boundaries of family, tribe and nation. But the intense familial love one has for family members and close friends almost never goes that far. Human biology tells us that love within the family is stronger than brotherly love.
The Practice of G>O>D> shows us that there are Concentric Circles of Concern around each individual human. We see a gradation of care when we move from the outer ring to the inner ring: obey the law, do no harm, courtesy, friendliness, helpfulness, empathy, sympathy, concern, agape, friendship, love.
And while it is well and good to extend universal brotherly love, for the vast majority of us, brotherly love cannot and should not be all-consuming.
Despite the problems with trying to extend Love equally to all humans, this Christian concept does prepare the way for the more workable legal concept of equal rights – Human Rights — for all people.
Craftsmen of G>O>D> say: While charity of time, effort, and money are limited and must be prioritized, extension of kindness and empathy can be – and should be — free and flowing. We can all be philanthropists of kindness and empathy. It requires not more resources, but simply a different attitude. Kindness and Empathy are part of a Virtuous Life, which we take up in a later Essay.
However, we are currently extending insufficient love to the Earth and its biosphere. Some of the love (and resources) we extend to for our fellow humans needs to be redirected to our Natural World and its creatures.
Morality, Human Progress, and Team Sports
Jesus laid out a way of life which is not satisfying for most people. That way of life is Jesus’ path of universal love, yielding before enemies, radical sharing, and communal living. Of course, a small minority of people do choose to follow this way – e.g., Christian and Buddhist nuns and monks. And those volunteers are certainly worthy of respect and honor.
The problem is that Jesus’ way is too often held up as the ideal; as the perfect life that all people should aspire to and try to follow. Our Human evolution, our biology, tells us that Jesus’ path is a side stream, not the main course of the Human river.
Humans are part of the evolutionary interplay of competition and cooperation. We know in our DNA that family comes first; universal sharing is a false dream. Most of us yearn to build, not redistribute. We seek to find new knowledge, not drift off in a spiritual reverie, or spend all our energies splitting up knowledge and wealth that already exists.
As we said earlier, technological and economic evolution is not immoral. Capitalism is the best engine for creating overall long-term prosperity and reducing poverty, (although not even capitalism can keep up with the pace of the exploding human population).
However, capitalism must be closely regulated, for two reasons: (a) to keep the rich from cheating the poor and (b) to keep the rich from accumulating a disproportionate share of total wealth even if they use only honest means.
So, if “regulated competition,” i.e. the interplay of competition and cooperation, is the main current of G>O>D>’s evolution, why haven’t humans established a spiritual practice centered around it?
We have done this – through our organized team sports.
Team sports – soccer, basketball, hockey, lacrosse and many others – are a deliberate mix of cooperation and competition. We cooperate closely with our team mates, and we compete against the other team.
The competition in team sports is constrained and framed within rules. The rules are clear and closely enforced. The rules are an embodiment of an underlying spiritual ethic – the ethos of Fair Play and Good Sportsmanship. The ethos of Fair play says that only by confining and controlling both competition and cooperation (you are not allowed to cooperate with the opposing team) can the best outcome evolve.
In organized sports – what is the best outcome? It is the most exciting, the most well-played, the most beautiful game. For the participants it is thrilling, rewarding, and character-building.
Interestingly, all of the major team sports are — by design — non-violent. Soccer, baseball, basketball, and even ice hockey are all designed to be non-violent. Only rugby and American football require violence, and even here the violence is circumscribed. Some violence has crept into ice hockey and basketball, but is clearly not called for in the design of the game.
Team sports teach cooperation and competition. Both are required for a “well-rounded” child, because humanity has a split nature – we are a mix of cooperation and competition. The Taoists represented this mix with the Yang and Yin symbol.
This is why millions of parents in the United States care as much or more about enrolling their children in team sports than in Sunday school. Team sports teach a real-life ethic; Sunday school teaches an impractical and other-world ethic.
Adults also participate in team sports as spectators – millions watch the games in stadiums and on television all over the world. True, they only participate mentally; but attending church is also a largely passive activity.
Indeed, for most people who do attend church in the U.S., Christianity is small part of their belief system. They love people outside their close family and friends, but only a little bit. They share with other – but only a little bit. They don’t live in communes. They don’t forgive all their enemies.
Could we not have a spiritual activity that has a good interplay of cooperation and competition, but which also actually creates things? We do – Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Campfire Girls, science fairs, robot team competitions. They cooperate to earn merit badges; they compete to earn merit badges, and they make things – ham radios, nature trails, robots, home repairs for the poor.
Business enterprises, operating in a free enterprise economic system, are another form of melded cooperation and competition. And here, of course, products and service are clearly created. There is, however, more hierarchy than there is in a sports team (although coaches can wield power that rivals the power of a business owner or CEO).
In the “game” of free enterprise, the best outcome is the furtherance of G>O>D>’s progress, if that has been defined to include the welfare of the Earth. In the game of free enterprise, the ‘rules” are the evolved principles of commercial law, as developed over the centuries by decisions at trial and by government regulations.
The goal of life, for the vast majority of people in modern societies, is not to dedicate one’s life to meditation and contemplation, but to contribute to the progress of G>O>D>, while finding periods of meditation and contemplation within what Theodore Roosevelt called “the strenuous life.”