Every single person has dignity and worth. Daniel Darling takes the reader on a journey to face some of the toughest issues of our generation that can undermine the dignity of individuals who are made in the image of God. This includes racism, abortion, human trafficking, sexuality, pornography, justice systems and prisoners, the refugee crisis, euthanasia, end-of-life care, illness, disability, the role of technology and many other topics that are sure to challenge but hopefully call us to greater action with compassion, respect and gentleness.
In the introduction, Daniel writes of how ‘every human being – no matter who they are, no matter where they are no matter what they have done or have had done to them – possesses dignity, because every human being is created in the image of God.’ (pg. 16). He covers themes experienced across the world, but writes from the experience of living in America, mentioning the death penalty, gun crime, racism and left/right wing politics. However, the chapters are applicable to audiences from around the world and calls on Christians to not be passive, but to fight for humanity and stand up for human dignity.
From the beginning of the book, we begin to think about dignity and it is interesting to note that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that “recognition of the inherent dignity… of all members of the human family” written by the leading thinkers and ethicists of the time could not articulate why human dignity matters. Daniel says:
‘…there is no basis for human dignity without a connection to God. Without taking account of the divine, we are left with a view of a human’s dignity based on the individual’s merit or excellence, based on some societally-agreed or government-imposed yardstick; and if the last century teaches us anything, it is that this shifting metric is dangerous.’ (pg. 21).
This is important to recognise because if the worth of a person is determined in this way, it can pave the way for some groups of people to be less worthy and be treated with less dignity than others. However it’s never enough to simply understand this – there needs to be action. For Christians, telling people the gospel has to go hand-in-hand with practically loving and serving our neighbours. It should move us to speak up against injustices and to use our voices for those in society who have no voice.
Daniel carefully addresses different sides of the issues he mentions, realising that readers will have their own opinions and experiences. He shares Bible verses throughout which help to centre our eyes back onto God knowing that as we grapple with the hard realities of our world, there is a certain hope and a future found in Jesus Christ.
This book challenged me on my lack of action in many areas – will I do more than share a cause on social media? Am I willing to use more of my time, money and open up my home to make a difference to the most vulnerable? Daniel calls churches and individuals to recognise the vulnerable, the isolated, the poor, the lonely – and do something to make a difference.
‘We might begin by spending intentional time in prayer, asking God to make clear where he is leading us, repenting of ways we’ve ignored the vulnerable, and asking him to make clear where he would like us to serve him in his mission in the world. Our work for the kingdom is not about us changing the world, but about joining what God is already doing in the world.’ (pg. 145).
We can make a difference right where we are and joining in with our local church in supporting those around us. Whether befriending the homeless, volunteering our time, tutoring someone with special needs, visiting a caregiver or spending time with the lonely or sick – small acts like this show people that they have worth, that they matter and that they are made in God’s image.
A particularly touching story Daniel shares is of a friend who took some teenagers from his church to some residential homes each Easter to share the Easter story and give a gift. One of the teenage girls gave an elderly lady a hug and spoke with her which brought this lady to tears – she had very few visitors. This demonstrated that she was worth it – caring for the elderly is one simple way to share the love of Jesus.
Daniel gives practical advice throughout on things we can do to practically treat every person with dignity. I strongly recommend this book for anyone who wants to make a difference in the lives of anyone and everyone – paying particular attention to those that society often marginalises. It’s a call to do something, to speak up for the voiceless and to share the love of God with all people – people are people. Prepare to be challenged by those topics that make uneasy reading where debates rage, heated words are often exchanged and emotions can rise. For the Christian, we should be confident in the gospel which should lead us to action as we seek to love all people – but be prepared for opposition.
‘…a gospel so safe that it experiences no friction with prevailing norms and worldviews is a half-gospel that stays cloistered within the four walls of the church, failing to move God’s people to love their neighbours, to care about human flourishing, or to embody the ethics of the kingdom.’ (pg.207).
You can order The Dignity Revolution from The Good Book Company
Daniel Darling is Vice-President for Communications of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and Pastor of Teaching and Discipleship at Green Hill Church, Mt Juliet, Tennessee. He writes regularly in a range of publications, including The Washington Post and Huffington Post, and hosts the weekly podcast The Way Home. Dan is married to Angela and they have four children.Visit his website: danieldarling.com