How do we decide who is valuable?

Author: Sarah Dickson

Photo: Jeff Buck

How do we decide who is valuable?

As immigration dominates political debate on both sides of the Atlantic, Sarah Dickson considers how a Christian should view others and their value to society.

Over the past few weeks and months our newsfeeds and TV screens have been drip-fed with policies and events that seem to foster division in our communities; put one group of people above another or decide that entire communities are ‘not welcome here’.

This division can be seen most prominently in immigration debates.

We’ve seen new policy proposals requiring companies to list foreign workers, discussions since Brexit around potentially adopting an Australian-style points-based immigration system and, over in America, we’ve heard announcements of walls being built to restrict entry from Mexico.

There is a sense that those in positions of power are valuing certain groups over others. Those that aren’t considered valuable are being pushed out, both metaphorically and literally.

Growing up, my Sunday evenings were often spent (reluctantly) watching people take their possessions for valuations by experts on the well-established British TV show, Antiques Roadshow.

The experts seemed to have a rough idea about what was valuable and what was not based on, usually, quantifiable factors.

But when we apply a process of valuation onto people, the lines are all much less clear and the process exudes dehumanisation. So how do we decide who is valuable?

A Biblical view

A perspective based on scripture can be radically transformative in answering this question. If our starting point is like humanity’s starting point in the Bible - that all people are made in the image of God (Genesis 1) - then the way we view people, communities and individuals, changes.

In God’s eyes, people are equal, equally wonderful and equally valuable, no one is ranked above another in the pecking order of humanity. And, of course, we are called to love one another equally as God loves us all.

Although simple, these Biblical lessons could drastically change the way our immigration systems work and the tone of so much of our present public debate.

If this Biblical view underpinned all the systems and processes that decide people’s immigration statuses, the question of ‘who is valuable?’ could be transformed.

Being human

Instead of searching for what we ourselves can gain, we might start to instead look for what is best for others. People would be seen as human beings rather than as their nationality, race or immigration status and our starting point would be their best interest rather than our own.

In the past few weeks, this video of a 6 year-old boy called Alex in America viewing a Syrian refugee as an individual, a life, and a friend has been doing the rounds on Facebook and Twitter.

If our public discourse and policy debates learned from Alex and shifted their focus from casting our own judgements on the value of other people to appreciating that everyone is equally valuable, the tone of our social media and newspapers could be completely different.

Perhaps we would see more of stories like Alex’s and fewer toxic, divisive headlines.

To change systems and attitudes is hard. But it all starts with showing up. Sign up to Christians in Politics to hear more about how you can show up in public life.

  • Sarah Dickson is on the Management Team of the all-party, non-denominational group Christians in Politics, and Director of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.

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