God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness”…So, God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them (Genesis 1.26a, 27a)
Q: Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?
A: I will, with God’s help.
(From The Baptismal Covenant, The Book of Common Prayer, page 305)
Dignity. The state or condition of worthiness, of having value.
I believe that human dignity, mine and that of all people, is derived from our creation by God; the One who possesses ultimate worth. (Indeed, the word “worship,” a contraction of “worth” and “ship,” literally connotes the intrinsic state or condition of being worthy.)
Therefore, I believe that neither I nor you can gain or increase our dignity by virtue of those humanly highly-valued attributes of wholesome intention, respectable behavior, and grand accomplishment. In a word, we need not strive for (for we cannot get for ourselves) what God already has given to us.
Therefore, I believe (and here’s some good news) that the converse also is true. Neither I nor you can lose our dignity when our intentions are unwholesome, our behavior disreputable, undignified, and our accomplishments little or wholly lacking.
There was a time – a long time – that I believed when someone, whether acting individually or institutionally, mistreated me, deferring or denying me a privilege or an opportunity because of my race, that person should respect my God-given human dignity.
My mind has been changed and my heart turned. I think and feel differently. In lesser part, because I (have had to) acknowledge that though I may commend that another who has ill-treated me regard me well, I cannot command it. Much less, can I control that person. And, in greater, indeed, greatest part, because my human dignity is God-given and, thus, cannot be taken away from me. Therefore, now, when someone mistreats me because of my race, I will pray that s/he, respecting her/his God-given human dignity, will repent and act accordingly.
(c) 2020 PRA
Illustration: The Creation of Adam (c. 1508-1512), Michelangelo (1475-1564)