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  • Writer's pictureBryan Jun

comparison & superiority

A core component of Christianity, at least in my understanding of what "sound theology" should be is the idea that under God, we are all equal. More specifically, we are all sinners with no sin being any better than the other, equating to the logical conclusion than no sinner is any more righteous than another. This is actually one of my favorite parts of Christianity (and ironically a significant argument against it) - I think it falls right in line with the idea that the divine being we know as God is not someone that has the same standards as man (this being us). Otherwise, I'm not really sure if I would have faith in an entity that is supposedly powerful and all-knowing beyond our imagination who somehow operates under the same rules as us and rates His creations based on a grading rubric that we subscribe to. I am completely aware that this is one of Christianity's hardest pill to swallow - the analogy I often give is that we don't consider one microorganism nicer than another microorganism based on how many times they brush up against each other or poke each other; take that and imagine the degrees of separation between us and that microorganism is minute compared to that between us and God. But this post isn't about this aspect of Christianity nor is it really an attempt to discuss sound theology, but more as a reflection of my own hypocrisy and whether or not what I am about to discuss is truly resolvable.

If we assume what is noted above to be true, the fact that everyone is the same under God's eyes, that we are all sinners and deserve hell but ultimately by grace we are saved, and finally that this grace falls on us under the assumption that we are indeed sinners all at the same level of punishment, then the logical conclusion is that there really is no relative scale for comparison amongst human beings. There definitely are those that are taller, smaller, faster, richer, fitter, prettier (controversial!) than others, now including having "more followers" than others, but in the eyes of the Lord, these are human standards. In fact, in the most obscure way, this is weirdly in line with a relatively atheist view that human norms and societal standards are quite literally society built and is more of a function of today's culture and an aggregation of people's ever changing perception of what defines "good" or "decency." We are introduced to this concept, which probably doesn't even feel like a concept at this point to most of us, of surrounding yourself with "good quality people." Your own grading scale for what constitutes a good quality person may (and most likely will) differ from the person next to you, but I'd also argue that as a general whole there's probably a handful of standards that most of the world would agree on. This is a non-bullet-proof argument that I always make in conversation, but the basis for my previous sentence relies on a theoretical experiment that if you asked the ~8 billion people on Earth to decide between person A and person B, each with distinct qualities on who's a "better person", I think it'd be shocking for most cases that there would be a close to 50/50 even split. In most circumstances, my assumption is that there would be a significant majority that decides (based on their upbringing, recent revelations, religion, etc.) that one person is clearly a "better person" than the other.

You could argue that this is a function of western dominance and the deep immersion of Judeo Christian value deep within our society and its determining hand in how we perceive "good." Others may note that there is something innate about human beings, under the assumption that we are just another beast roaming the world, that make us favor certain qualities over others. Regardless, it is noteworthy that from a very early age, we are taught to be careful in who befriend and often run into situations where our parents or those who care about us probably prefer that we don't hang out with who we are now because "they aren't the best quality." As you grow older, some of these things become more explicit - this is where it gets difficult as you can either view this as people who are similar just tend to relate better so they start to hang out together or you can see this as people purposefully infiltrating or departing social circles - and whether you're active or passive in the approach of choosing who to surround yourself with, you slowly but surely recognize the changes in your social circle as you progress and others take other roads.

To bring it back to my struggle - the idea that we are all sinners under God and that we must never see ourselves as any better than that must ring true throughout our life if we truly believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior. Put differently, there can't exist a person that somehow lies in between God and rest of humanity, even at an incremental level, if such a scale existed for "decency" or a "good person." However, because of our various upbringings, humanity's hyper focus on comparison (only propelled by today's culture) and perhaps something innate within our animalistic instinct to find what's best for reproduction, it's impossible to disassociate this idea that there are "better people" and "people you should stay away from." But could we truly say this is the case as we look up to and theoretically worship a being who pushed away pharisees (think of the "successful people") and preferred to enjoy the company of short-tempered fishermen, hated tax collectors, and prostitutes that were looked down upon in ancient Israel?

I do think there's a distinction between befriending someone and looking down on someone in that no one is called to be actively social or spend time with every single person. While Jesus (even at a historical perspective) was a revolutionary figure for reaching out to those often marginalized, he had his close 12 buddies as well as second tier friends. I'm sure, if we are now looking at this in a religious lense and understand that Jesus is God, his perception of what a "friend" is vastly different from us, but at a surface level even He was not constantly meeting everyone on Earth. I discussed this idea with a friend last night and it's more than possible to love someone or consider them to be an "equal" under the eyes of God, but not have them be your best friend. The difficulty is that we often are inclined to compare ourselves and project superiority onto those closest to us as we know them best and there's more on the line for you to feel like you're "better" than them.

There's no purpose in having such thought trains without application and I think I'm going to spend the next quarter trying my best to implement this ideology that I am indeed not better than anyone else. Obviously having a blog makes me cooler though.

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