Serving No Sovereign in America
Recently, while in Philadelphia, I met and talked with a man who was visiting from another country. In the course of our friendly conversation, he told me that I was “an ordinary person.” I did not like him calling me that; so I kindly replied, “In American political philosophy, there is no such thing as an ‘ordinary person.’” As the early American colonists often said, “We serve no sovereign,” referring to kings and queens. In fact, even the highest office in the land, the President of the United States, is not a royal office. Nor are the members of his family regarded as royalty.
Attaching Divine Dignity to the Human Person
To use theological language, with God, there is no ordinary human being. The reason is that to be human is to be elevated by the Creator to a divine-like status, namely, as a god or goddess. That is one of the highest callings and honors imaginable to a human being. Thus, he or she is to be accorded a special kind of dignity and, therefore, honored or respected as a person for being the most divine-like creature on earth.
Viewing a Human as an Extraordinary Creature
The unique value of a person is the basis for treating all people with respect. As C. S. Lewis, an Englishman, rightly observes,
“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal…. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
Each human is a unique form of “being in the world,” that is, an absolutely extraordinary, one-of-a-kind, non-repeatable, non-replaceable person. There is, then, nothing “ordinary” about being human. What is, however, ordinary is that most people do not even realize just how extraordinary they are. They need to be reminded that their lives matter. They are significant and, therefore, inferior to no one.
C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses, rev. ed. (New York, N.Y.: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1980), p. 19.