CultureWatch

Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

In Praise of Discrimination

Jun 23, 2009

Time was when a man could be praised for having discriminating tastes. It was a mark of being able to make fine differentiations. Discernment, judgment and careful evaluation also used to be regarded as virtues. But today of course the word discrimination has almost only bad connotations.

We are told we are not allowed to discriminate. Well, it all depends. There are plenty of things that we should discriminate against. We should discriminate against Nazis, paedophiles and arsonists. We should be discriminating when it comes to right and wrong. We should in fact discriminate all the time, in appropriate circumstances.

When I look both ways before crossing a busy intersecting, I am discerning, evaluating, discriminating. This is one clear understanding of the term. But the word discrimination also can mean a difference in treatment. I discriminate in favour of my children for example when I buy them ice creams but not all the other kids on the block.

We discriminate against rogue states – by means of economic sanctions for example – when they are not being responsible members of the world community. And all sorts of clubs, groups and institutions discriminate by allowing who they want in.

This is normally quite sensible and rational, and we do it all the time. We have normal Olympics, and we have para-Olympics. We have men’s events in the Olympics, and we have women’s events. We have spelling contests for those under a certain age, and for those over a certain age. For the most part no one has any trouble with this.

At least until recently. Now, because of various anti-discrimination laws and equal opportunity legislation, we are getting into all sorts of strife. And when you add religious vilification laws into the mix, then you really do have trouble.

Therefore all sorts of absurd cases of “discrimination” are being brought up when they never should have arisen in the first place. The classic case is marriage. Marriage has always been a social institution regulating sexuality between one man and one woman, and securing the wellbeing of the next generation from that union.

Thus up until recently no one even dreamed of yelling “discrimination” when a man and a horse wanted to get married, or three women, or a football team, and they were all denied. This was just plain common sense. But we have lost that big time in today’s age.

Now everyone is demanding rights to all sorts of things. They are being pulled out of the hat on a daily basis. I might as well argue that I have a right to always look like Brad Pitt, always sound like Guy Sebastian, always play golf like Tiger Woods, and always make wise decisions like Solomon.

And as I mentioned, this whole nonsense about discrimination especially gets bizarre when applied to religious situations. Consider this latest case of PC bedlam. A group of pagans in the UK are claiming the Catholic Church has discriminated against them for not allowing them to have a ‘Witches’ Ball’.

As one press account put it: “A Pagan group in Britain has accused a Catholic social club of religious discrimination for refusing to host a Pagan group’s Annual Witches’ Ball on the grounds it was ‘not compatible with the Catholic ethos’.” Sandra Davis, 61, a High Priestess of the Pagan group, asked, “Does the church check everyone’s beliefs before allowing them in the club?”

Well actually most do. Indeed, almost all religious groups discriminate. I am not sure of too many Pagan groups that would allow a devout Christian to be part of their leadership team. I am not sure of too many atheist groups that would look kindly on having to employ a theist as their publicity manager.

I am not sure of too many Muslim groups who would be happy with an orthodox Jew regularly presenting religious lessons at the local mosque. I am not sure of too many Catholics who would be happy with a Protestant shouting “discrimination” when not allowed to become the next Pope.

I am not sure too many Jewish groups would want some neo-Nazis conducting their Bar Mitzvahs. I am not sure too many secular humanist organisations would want me as their public advocate. I think you get my drift. Religious groups discriminate all the time, and rightly so.

But our increasingly anti-religious governments are meddling in religious affairs when they should not be. They are trying to dumb all religions down, reducing them to the lowest common denominator. Or they are using the old ‘divide and conquer’ tactic: pitting one religion against another.

But the truth is, governments should butt out of religion altogether, except for obvious extreme cases, such as when a religious cult is practising child sacrifice or some such thing. This case of witches crying foul is just the latest in a long line of loopy lawsuits based on loopy laws.

Where it will all end is anyone’s guess. But expect things to get worse before they get better.

www.ewtn.com/vnews/getstory.asp?number=96127

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39 Responses to In Praise of Discrimination

  • We can spend a lot of time debating in a philosophical and abstract way concerning the issues surrounding political correctness but at the end of the day it boils down to practicality. Let use instead the need not to discriminate but the need to use discretion.

    We need to encourage our children not to discriminate but to merely exercise discretion against sexual practices, that no amount of “safe – sex,” or compulsory sex and relationships education, will save them from the consequences of indulging in sex outside of marriage, as defined by the major faith groups.

    The Terrance Higgins Trust, the Family Planning Association, the Brook Trust and many others receive millions of pounds from the tax payers and it is having absolutely no effect in stemming the tide of teenage STIs, unwanted pregnancies and the rising numbers of teenage abortions – not to mention the societal miseries of children who live without biological parents, or who live in shifting and flexible families patterns that come ‘in all shapes and sizes.’ Such agencies are only pouring petrol onto a fire already out of control, – besides which, teenagers have no conception of their own mortality. We are dealing with a section of society that is still developing and extremely vulnerable to adult agendas. Children need protection, especially from those outfits like the FPA who would encourage them to play with sex as one would play with detonators and fuses.

    STIs are at a record level especially amongst men who have sex with men. In their refusal to accept blood from practicing homosexuals, are we really going to accuse the National Blood Service of discrimination instead of discretion? In their desire to protect their children are we going to accuse parents of discrimination instead of discretion? Is the use of discretion a crime?

    Will science text books for schools that deal with reproduction be forced to include sectional drawings of the penis entering the anus? Will the kinds of images shown in the Terrance Higgins Trust now find their way onto the school desk and overhead projector, with parents standing by, helpless to protect their children?
    http://www.lifelube.org/docs/belowthebelt3rdedition125.pdf
    http://www.lifelube.org/docs/bottomlinethirdedition124.pdf

    The zeal with which Gordon Brown wants the public to be prosecuted for inciting hatred for simply asking homosexuals (or anyone for that matter) to refrain from certain sexual conduct or practices is not to be wondered at when we see him personally championing the work of the Terrance Higgins Trust: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mC_NK72YfVw
    It is significant that Danni Minnogue who appears here as the wholesome heterosexual has proved to be otherwise.
    http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/showbiz/a72967/minogue-lesbian-lap-dance-pictures-leak.html.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Discrimination is essential for the good order of society. I am thankful that those not trained as medical doctors are discriminated against and not allowed to practice medicine.
    There will always be people who want to make a point and get their names in the news. There was the case of a Satanist inmate who used the insane Victorian anti vilification laws to take the Salvation Army to court. These cases generally collapse but they cost the defendants a lot of money in legal fees. As the church increasingly comes under this kind of persecution and hostile groups use government inspired anti discrimination and vilification laws to take the church to court, more money will be needed to be set aside in church budgets for legal fees. Proponents of this kind of legislation know it can be used by their friends to bleed the church financially. Money given to extend the Kingdom of God will progressively more have to be used to defend the church from militant and well healed homosexual lobbies.
    Thanks for the article
    Des Morris

  • Discrimination is not a dirty word as imagined by ideologues. Discrimination is a good thing because it is not about uncharitable preferment nor uncharitable exclusion. What it really is about is upholding the integrity of people and institutions in terms of their identity and of the nature and truth of things.
    The cry of ‘diversity’ and ‘inclusion’ is often a way of some people and groups to exercise power through strategically employed passive hostility games so as to undermine Christian beliefs and the structures and doctrine of the Church and of the institutions of each nation.
    Michael Webb

  • This is a topic I’ve thought long and hard about, and here is my conclusion:

    Discrimination is not the problem: prejudice is.

    Now if only our “anti-discrimination” laws were restructured as “anti-prejudice” laws, I’m sure most would find this workable, and we would not be seeing this slide into utter folly.

    Think about it: discriminating between job applicants on the basis of skills, education, or even personality (if the job requires it) is fine. However, exercising prejudice (i.e. prejudging someone) on the basis of their race, sex, age, or even religion is clearly not something we would want done to us (and so, following Jesus guide, should not do to others).

    Is it prejudice for a church to deny a group of pagans the opportunity to hold a pagan ball on church property? Or for a church to refuse a position to someone with religious views opposed to theirs? Hardly, the church knows full well what it is denying, and there is no pre-judging involved, merely sober, sensible, careful and good discrimination. The church, after all, is thoroughly involved in the realm of religious issues, and the religious position of people is legitimately of utmost concern to it. There is no prejudice involved here, though if we were talking about a secular organisation there may be, since a secular organisation is, by definition, unconcerned with religious issues. Of course, if a pagan ball involves activities that the secular organisation frowns on for its own reasons (for example, they make hall maintenance far more expensive), then the pagans might find themselves still out of luck, and with no prejudice involved.

    The confusion between discrimination and prejudice is an excellent example of the importance of terminology and the use of words. Sloppy terminology leads to sloppy thinking, which leads to, in this case, sloppy morals.

    Malcolm Lithgow.

  • The PC crowd are utopian in their stiff-jawed determination for a secular evangelism. The best we can hope for is an increase in personal and cultural Christian charitableness by playing our part. Laws cannot cover all bases nor make us good in terms of eliminating prejudice- real or contrived. The best our laws can do is to reduce their incidence. Modern day anti discrimination laws have some good and some bad influences within them. We need a reform in them so as to remove the PC bias and move on.
    Michael Webb

  • Hi Malcolm,

    I agree with you that there is a difference between “discrimination” and “prejudice”. I also agree that it is the duty of the individual Christian to eliminate prejudice from his own thoughts and actions. I disagree, however, that it is the Biblically mandated role of government, or the individual Christian, to attempt to eliminate prejudice in others through anti-prejudice laws or any other coercive means.

    Jesus did tell his followers to do to others as you would have them do to you. He did not tell them to coerce others to do to others how you would have them do to you.

    Anti-prejudice laws as you suggest would ultimately end up contravening the eighth commandment by effectively denying full ownership of business capital by placing extra-Biblical restrictions on its use.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • That claim by the Pagans is just bizarre. On what planet should anybody be forced to have their private facilities used for things they don’t approve of? Oh wait, I forgot, this planet sadly.

    Why doesn’t commonsense prevail here? I suspect if the cases got to court precedent would be set along the lines of common sense and that would put paid to a lot of this rampant idiocy.

    Of course, knowing some of the morons that are in judicial office today (or should I perhaps use the more appropriate Greek work moronos) this might be a dicey approach.

    Jason Rennie

  • It is interesting to reflect how such a gross distortion of the concept of “discrimination” in the West has come about. I suspect it went something like this:

    The “grand-children” of the reformation, adopting the morals of the Bible without really believing it to be the word of God still saw that the mannishness of man required that equality of opportunity for all was generally a good thing. Without the knowledge of the Spirit of God who works and changes the heart of man, however, they transferred the role of achieving this aim to the State and set about gradually implementing coercive Government policies to enforce this.

    In time, large government departments, non-government organisations and reams of government policy were produced to police and organise this program. As society, and individuals passed into the age of the “great-grand-children” of the reformation, the disbelief in God was continued, but added to this was the rejection of the Biblically based morals of their “parents”. The goal of equality of opportunity was replaced by aggrandisement of the original special groups (e.g. women, blacks).

    These goals of equality of opportunity and aggrandisement were practically indistinguishable until equality of opportunity was achieved (some decades ago in the West). Since then the aggrandisement motive has been disguised first through changing the aim to “equality of outcome” (obfuscating the meaning by just referring to “equality”) then, when that was largely achieved to more and more obscure terms like “discrimination” and “diversity”. To bolster the perception of striving after equality, new favoured groups have been added, but always in keeping with the anti-God worldview (e.g. homosexuals, muslims)

    Where to from here? The ideal, of course, would be a return to the Bible and a realisation that there is no role for civil government in any of this business. Or else we will reach a stage where things reach such a head that the long-suffering groups will rise up, or be pitied sufficiently to cause the original organisations to be swept away and replaced with new “equality producing” organisations to start the process all over again.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Dear Mansel

    I agreed with most of what you have just said. There is however, your claim that there should be no restrictions on business capital and ownership. That doesn’t sound right to me because if we follow this to its logical extension that would mean that business owners should be unencumbered by even minimum standards on wage rates, occuaptional health and safety requirements , and more things besides that are obviously a cost. Further as a home owner if I said that I have absolute ownership and total rights to my land and therefore refused to pay my council rates I would be laughed at and rightly so. Or if gold or iron ore was found on my land and I told the Government that they cannot have it, not even for Royalties to be paid to me and that i would just like to sit on it, you know the rest of the story…

    Michael Webb

  • ‘Render to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ comes to mind re: contributors who wish to eliminate unprudentially too much from the role of civil government.
    Michael Webb

  • Hi Michael,

    I sense we disagree quite markedly on the role of the civil government! To better explain my position, I should state at the outset that I believe the role of government should be limited to what is mandated in the Bible. Now even Christians of this persuasion can legitimately argue over what is mandated and what isn’t so I’m not claiming that every question is cut and dried!

    Also, I did not say that there should be no restrictions on business capital and ownership – but only restrictions which are not extra-Biblical.

    Regarding your examples, I do not believe there is a Biblical mandate for legislating for minimum wage rates or minimum occupational health and safety standards – these laws would contravene the eighth commandment. Furthermore, I believe that such laws are unwise, creating unnecessary unemployment and artificially limiting the size of the economy. Note I am not saying that employers should be negligent in this area – it is the duty of every man before God to care for his fellow man and be generous – but it is not the role of the state to enforce this.

    As for paying council rates, this is explicitly Biblically mandated (Romans 13:6-7), but as for gold or iron ore on your land it depends on what you bought. If you have an older title which extends to the centre of the earth bought at the time when there was no compulsory acquisition legislation, then the government has no legitimate authority to force you to give it up. If not, then when you bought the land, you paid a price consistent with the extent of the rights you have to it.

    And finally, the context of rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s is very clearly the paying of taxes (Matt 22:17, Mark 12:14, Luke 20:22). Here Jesus legitimises the tax raising powers of civil governments, but he doesn’t legitimise any other powers.

    Mansel Rogerson

  • Hi Mansel

    Yes we do have different views as you say. That’s allright, we are discussing this topic charitably and that is good.

    Yes, I know what you mean when you clarify by saying that not everything is restricted. But what is extra- biblical, so long as it not be contrary to Scripture, isn’t always an error.
    You know that the workers in the Lord’s Vineyard in the Gospel is referring to God’s generosity and is not a statement on industrial relations. It is all about going beyond the old calculations used under by the Jews under the Old Covenant whereby if someone gives you something good or bad you return the favour in equal measure. Our Lord in the New Covenant of His Blood goes above and beyond this to fully disclose to His hearers (that is us) that we too must be generous and go beyond what even the pagans are capable of.

    To pay decent wages, overtime and other matters are I would contend not extra-biblical but actually biblical and also fall within the whole biblical schema of justice. To deprive workers of their wages and/or of fair wages is one of the sins listed in the Old testament which cry to heaven for Vengeance. As our talents and our property are given to us by God to the extent that we have earned we should receive our due and as those who work for employers should both give a proepr day’s work for a likewise proper day’s pay and so forth. So the minimum bibically is justice topped up with generosity in due proportion ( virtue of prudence..ie prudential judgments we all must make).
    Another example , if a man takes a banana off of a tree of a rich landowner and eats it and cannot pay for it, it is not a sin against the 8th commandment if the man is starving and without a penny. The rich man who didn’t even give the scraps of his table to the poor man ended up in Hell.
    If lazarus had taken those crumbs to stay alive, he would not go to Hell for doing that.
    Michael Webb

  • Thanks Michael

    But now you are starting to drift into dangerous territory. Are they 10 Suggestions, or 10 Commandments? Stealing is stealing. Sure, we want to be sensitive to the needs of others, and if, say, a believer stole a banana to stay alive, in his defence he should not say, “Well this commandment is relative, and can be bent in certain circumstances”. What he should say (to the judge, or whoever), is “Yes, I did steal, and that was wrong, but I am also very needy, and I ask for your understanding and mercy” or some such thing.

    In your scenario you wipe our absolute morality and make everything conditional. That is situation ethics, a la Joseph Fletcher, and not biblical ethics. Of course the Marxists simply notched up your scenario a few levels: “The capitalists are robbers who are oppressing people, so if we simply ‘expropriate’ (read: steal) their assets, it is the just and right thing to do”

    And of course the Latin American liberation theologians argued the same things as well, based on Marxist praxis and dialectics. They too appealed to “social justice” as they sought to justify theft.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Non-discrimination leads ultimately to the one party state – to totalitarianism. Not only will it be demanded that Satanists and homosexuals practise in Churches but that political parties include members of the opposition.
    David Skinner, UK

  • It has only dawned on me recently how disengaged and out touch we Christians and those of us of an older generation are with mainstream life. We just have not got it; the penny has not dropped. No wonder we are so confused and perplexed. Do we not understand that people no longer believe in absolutes or in antithesis so that that if anything is true, the opposite is false – and in morality, if one thing is right, its opposite is wrong.

    When people say that we must not discriminate we agree but we are naively thinking that when they say that, they mean it in the sense that God loves us all indiscriminately as: “he makes his sun rise on both evil and good people, or he lets rain fall on the righteous and the unrighteous. Or we might think they mean that Christians all have the same status under God; we are all equally saved, as it says in Galatians 3:28, where there is no discrimination regarding race, economic status or gender: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

    But this does not mean that there is no distinction between categories such as those based on gender, age, ability, or the difference between a little finger and an eye. Though equally valued by God, they all have different roles to play – often of a complementary nature such as that between the thumb and the finger or between a man and woman.

    To quote Schaeffer: “Much modern homosexuality is an expression of the current denial of antithesis. It has led in this case to an obliteration of the distinction between man and woman. So the male and female as complementary partners are finished. This is a form of homosexuality which is a part of the movement below the line of despair. In much of modern thinking, all antithesis and all the order of God’s creation is to be fought against – including the male – female distinctions. The pressure toward unisex is largely rooted here. But this is not an isolated problem; it is part of the world-spirit of the generations which surround us. It is imperative that Christians realize the conclusions which are being drawn as a result of the death of absolutes.

    C.S. Lewis said, ‘the most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature (such as in this case not to discriminate) and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. You might think love of humanity in general was safe, but it is not. If you leave out justice you will find yourself breaking agreements and faking evidence in trials ‘for the sake of humanity’, and become in the end a cruel and treacherous man’, Mere Christianity, Chapter II.

    Canadian Michael D. O’Brien says ‘How long will it take for our people to understand that when humanist sentiments replace moral absolutes, it is not long before very idealistic people begin to invade human families in the name of the family, and destroy human lives in the name of humanity? This is the idealist’s greatest temptation, the temptation by which nations and cultures so often fall. The wielder of power is deluded into thinking he can remould reality into a less unkind condition. If he succeeds in convincing his people of the delusion and posits for them an enemy of the collective good, then unspeakable evils can be released in society. Those who share a mass-delusion rarely recognise it as such, and can pursue the most heinous acts in a spirit of self-righteousness.’

    http://protectisabella.com/faqs.php

    David Skinner, UK

  • As I tend to agree with the ideas expressed by Mansel regarding libertarian, small government, perhaps I should clarify my comment on hypothetical anti-prejudice laws.

    I guess the best that could be said is that these would not be as corrosive as anti-discrimination laws.

    Of course, even my examples above show how hard (read, impossible) it would be to properly draft such laws, because prejudice is a “thought crime”, and legislation is, ultimately, incapable of addressing such issues.

    So, yes, such legislation doesn’t belong on a sensible governments law books. If prejudice is a concern (and it probably should be, see the book of James for a good description of the Christian concern with prejudice), then there are two powerful ways to fight this (like any other true evil): 1) moral education and exhortation, 2) allowing consequences to freely run their course under a just government (one that punishes prejudice in the practice of its justice — an area where prejudice should never be tolerated).

    Malcolm Lithgow

  • With regard to governments, I was struck by how radical and humane the laws laid down in Exodus, Leviticus and Deuteronomy are. For anyone to suggest that we revisit these laws, even allowing for seeing them in the perspective of Christ’s death, would evoke cries of outrage. How primitive, barbaric and unjust etc! I am not able, I must confess, to say precisely how, but I sensed that we in the 21st century have got nowhere near righteousness and justice.
    David Skinner, UK

  • I believe you have zeroed in on this with accuracy. Without discrimination, each generation becomes more indiscriminate in morals, views, and social standards.

    This is how the daughters of the 1960’s generation have their own daughters putting naked pictures of themselves on-line and in picture messages to teenage boys’ cell phones they don’t, or hardly, know.

    Their moral trajectory is heading off this planet, into the vast emptiness of space. Which is what they take up in a morals class in school – space.

    Jeff Miskin

  • Thanks Bill, I am going to print this article and bring it along to my small group tonight, I would wait for you to respond giving me permission but I really feel my small group could do with reading this.

    Thanks in advance

    Keith Jarrett

  • And that I think you wouldn’t mind, let me know otherwise for in the future.
    Keith Jarrett

  • Thanks Keith

    Yes, go for it. It is all freely available for any good use.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • When was the last time a christian cried discrimination and won??? What happens when someone slanders christian ethics? We are told to sit down, shut up and go with the flow. How about America’s Philadelphia 11? They had a right to peaceful protest, they kept their distance, they were beaten on, but no one paid any attention to their rights under free speech! How long until Australia has the same discrimination??
    Ali Murphy

  • Hi Bill

    No intention for the ten commandments to be reduced to suggestions.No suggestion that a starving man who needs to eat is a relativist. I also don’t suggest liberation theology. What I said actually predates liberation theology. Killing is killing but not imputed as murder as we all know in self defence. Stealing and theft are looked at in the light of the primordial universal destination of goods before private proerty rights. See the CCC on in my Church, the seventh commandment:
    http://www.vatican.va/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a7.htm

    In the abcense of food relief from any source- private or govtre and in poor nations if all avenues were exhausted and if say in a district a rich landowner refused to provide the bare essentials to say a family in a humpie who were literally starving to death, could you tell me what the poor family and the father of that household should do. Should he and his family just accept ‘fate’ and lay down and die?
    If the father of the starving walked past the landowners estate and took some bananas just to live- not for greed, not to profit, but just to live- what would you tell him he must do?
    Bill, I am not talking about capistalism vrsus socialism nor of appropriating lands etc. I don’t believe in State control of everything. I believe in family farms and private large farms living in harmony with sensible rules for all players.
    In the link I provide, please note the citations of Scripture and of some saints.
    Michael Webb

  • Thanks Michael

    No, I did not suggest a starving man was a relativist. I did suggest you were a relativist for writing what you did. And I already said he could take the banana, acknowledge the wrong in it, but proceed from there.

    The Marxists have always said morality is whatever advances the cause of the proletariat. The religious left tends to argue that morality is whatever advances the cause of “social justice,” whatever that means. Both relativise morality, and come up with plenty of hypotheticals where we can bend the rules.

    Sure, there may be times when moral absolutes conflict – or at least seem to, and one must then choose a lesser of two evils. Thus Bonhoeffer could recognise that tyrannicide is generally wrong, but allowing Hitler’s evil to go unchecked was even a greater wrong.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Thanks Bill. I take your point about lesser of two evils.

    I was wondering though Bill, if the poor man eats that banana and I do take your point that he should do so, based upon universal goods of the earth coming ‘a priori’ would yo also agree that that man has not sinned?

    I say that he has not met the three conditions for sin to be imputed. Three conditions must be together present.as the conditions of free will ( one cannot choose to commit a moral evil ie choose to die over lack of food when food can be taken to live) and free consent( ie he had no other valid choice).
    three conditions must TOGETHER be met: Sin whose object is matter and which is also committed with FULL knowledge and DELIBERATE consent.

    If only one condition is absent, no sin can be imputed.
    Do you share this understanding on sin or have a different take theologically?

    Michael Webb

  • Thanks Michael

    I would say he still is sinning, but the thing to do is to acknowledge that sin and repent, just as presumably Bonhoeffer did after seeking to do what he regarded as the lesser of two evils.

    Your threefold test is of course an exercise in moral theology – and helpful – but not a strict extrapolation of Scripture. But it is a hidden assumption of yours that is more problematic for me – namely that there is some bibilcal command or right to self-preservation.

    Of course suicide is out, as is murder. We are not to take our own life, or unjustly and illicitly take the life of another. But we have no command to preserve our life at all costs. That is not a biblical summon bonum.

    Just take your scenario and expand it a bit. It is right for me to pinch a banana to keep from starving to death? Probably. But is it right for me to commit adultery in order to stay alive? Or betray a brother in order to stay alive? Do I have a right to stay alive that trumps all other moral claims?

    Your assumption seems to be that a person has such a right to self-preservation that stealing bananas becomes morally acceptable. But what about some of these harder issues? And these are not mere theoretical concerns. For example, prisoners in Nazi Germany sometimes had to choose between committing adultery with a guard, or seeing a son or daughter killed. Most Christians may have opted for the adultery to save a loved one, but they would still recognise the adultery as sinful, and not claim it was not sinful because of some greater good.

    But admittedly these can be sticky areas here, and the moral reasoning involved can become quite complex. Sober reflection on Scripture and much prayer are often needed in such cases. And in many of these areas, Christians may well have to agree to disagree.

    (Of course we are getting a bit off topic here however!)

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • On page 41 of the June 2009 issue of “Touchstone” there is a news item about a clergyman in Holland who has admitted to being an atheist, presumably while working as a clergyman. Church authorities are declining to discipline him as “it would lead to a protracted discussion about the meaning of words that in the end will produce little clarity.”
    Haven’t got the full details yet but I wonder if “non-discrimination” is involved.

    I agree with what Bill says about discrimination. This reminds me of that hypocritical twaddle in the seventies about not being judgmental. That “principle” was double talk for censoring some forms of judgment but allowing politically correct ones.
    John Snowden

  • I really appreciate your well thought out reflection here Bill.
    Yes I too see that the adultery example to save a loved one is a difficult one.
    I am no theologian but I would say that self preservation is never the be all and end all. I believe one must never murder anyone else even if say one was being commanded to do so eg by the Nazis. I also believe that one should accept being killed if we are forced to choose between being raped or shot for refusing. Of course if it is our loved ones, that makes it a difficult one and heart breaking Dilemmas ! The Nazis did those demonic things to break people.
    Yes, I am getting off topic. Sorry.
    Michael Webb

  • Thanks Michael

    To wrap up our particular discussion, I would simply recognise that there has been a very rich and deep tradition of moral theology within the Catholic church over the centuries. They have thought long and hard about many of these moral issues. Sadly we Protestants – or at least we Evangelicals – have not always intellectually and theologically wrestled as much in these areas. But there are a number of excellent Protestant ethicists and moral theologians out there who are doing a good job nonetheless.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Cheers Bill. Thanks for acknowledging the Catholic Tradition. I acknowledge your good Protrestant thinkers working hard on these questions too.
    You are my favourite ‘Baptist boy’ ( said of course with a southern drawl) haha.

    Regards

    Michael ‘the Mick’ LOL

  • Hi Bill,
    The discussion seems to have drifted from the initial subject. To make a complex subject simple:
    The state subscribes to the principle of separation of church and state. The state should therefore not interfere with the church’s refusal to accomodate a witches’ function, just as the church or churches do not tell them who may sit in Parliament House. If the witches applied to hold their function in the visitors’ gallery of said House, let us see if the government did not discriminate against them. “Contempt of Parliament” is (in their view) a serious and punishable crime. Contempt of the Church is likewise a crime but not a civil one. The latter crime, being against the Holy Spirit, has a much longer sentence attached.

    Regards,
    Eric Miller

  • So fundamental and radical are the changes to our society that the British government has embarked on far reaching diversity and non-discrimination training for all – from the child in the nursery to the elderly in the nursing home. But the government’s ultimate tool for change is fear. In this, the government has been spectacularly successful; by deliberately creating a climate of doubt and anxiety that puts the public at a severe disadvantage. Having been ordered to abandon our Judeo Christian conscience against which we were able to tell pretty well whether something was proved good or bad, right or wrong, we are totally dependent on the subjectivity of a magistrate or Attorney General. Never knowing whether what we will say will land us in court, we, the public have become compliant and silent. We are not prepared to gamble on being deemed as having committed a discriminatory and homophobic act when, with the threat of seven years in prison, the stakes are so high. This policy of creating doubt, uncertainty and unknowing is being deliberately and relentlessly pursued by the British government.

    Soon to be in your area: http://www.christian.org.uk/news/20090624/failure-over-gay-rights-may-harm-police-career/

    David Skinner, UK

  • Hi Bill,

    You are so right, discrimination is necessary in everyday life. It is part of discernment. Why does the Victorian Equal Opportunity Review seem to mainly target Christian beliefs and values. Surely there are other areas where exemptions currently apply that should also be reviewed. Let’s think of all the areas where discrimination occurs, maybe we could fix those up too!

    · That car salesman let Kevin Rudd use one of his utes. He didn’t loan one to Malcolm Turnbull as well. Unfair!
    · The Premiers get together for the COAG meeting and distribute (our) money discriminately – more to this State for road infrastructure because they need more roads. That will have to stop. It must be equal dollars to each State, in future. Or should that be equal amounts per capita? This could get confusing.
    · Public toilets always have more women’s cubicles than men’s. Men you’ve been cheated!
    · The local clock faces East and West, not North and South. Must complain to the Council.
    · Shopping Centres in the Big Smoke have Maccas, Red Rooster and KFC but in country towns citizens don’t have access to these fast food outlets. Who is to blame?
    · The local Masonic Lodge only has high windows. I can’t see in, like I can with the house next door.

    I’m warming to this Equal Opportunity stuff. I can see it has great possibilities. Bill, I’m thinking of starting a PEOPLE Campaign (Push Equal Opportunity Personally, Liberate Everyone). Just think of all the things we could get made bland and insipid with PEOPLE power. I’m working on the logo, it has to be something to imply that we are “anti-choice”, because to choose means to discriminate.

    Please Bill, you’ve gotta come on board – oh and all you readers, you have an equal opportunity too. I don’t discriminate.

    Jane Munro

  • Taken to its logical conclusion it will mean that the Labour party will be forced to be led by members of the opposition parties and that the parties themselves will have to include Liberals, Nationals, Greens and Queenslander Billabong Diggers – this is not mention those parties that represent the black, left legged lesbians. Likewise with the Liberals and all other parties. There must be no discrimination, no distinction – the one party state. Welcome Marcuse, Marxism and Obama.

    David Skinner, UK

  • “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Yes, but we in Britain have nowhere to flee.

    http://www.christian.org.uk/news/20090623/new-commons-speaker-is-religious-liberty-critic/

    David Skinner, UK

  • “Marriage has always been a social institution regulating sexuality between one man and one woman” is a bit of a stretch. Even the data in our own Scriptures doesn’t support that – whilst i completely agree that God’s plan is one man, one woman, for life, there are plenty of instances of deviation from that in Scripture that God seems to turn a blind eye to (e.g. Jacob & co, Elkanah & co) or even initiates (Hosea).
    Paul Gear

  • Thanks Paul

    But the fact that the ancient Israelites sometimes imitated the customs of their neighbours in the Ancient Near East does not mean that Yahweh either condoned or approved of such practices. Deut. 17:16-17 was a clear warning about taking on extra wives, a practice quite common and widespread in the ANE.

    And of course the special, one-off instruction to Hosea was meant as a very strong, symbolic message to Israel concerning its unfaithfulness, and in no way detracts from God’s intention that marriage between a man and a woman was to be the only legitimate means of sexual relationship.

    Also, I present a small sampling of the evidence for the historicity and universality of marriage here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2004/11/20/so-what-is-a-family/

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  • Paul Gear, may I also add that the Bible does not attempt to disguise reality. It portrays human nature as it is. The fact that it describes King David’s ‘indiscretion’ with Bathsheba, subsequent murder of her husban Uriah and then attempted cover-up is not meant to set us an example to follow. Quite the opposite. What the Bible does show is that Jacob, by having two wives allowed discord, jeolousy and resentment to build up in his family and were it not for the fact that God overruled in that situation, history would not have panned out the way that it did.

    David Skinner, UK

  • Closer to home, there was an outcry when the Wynyard Baptist Church in Tasmania found that a seniors’ exercise class being held in their church hall was now being called a ‘Tai Chi’ class.
    When the church said that wasn’t compatible with their Christian beliefs – and also offered to help them find an alternative venue, the group complained to the media!
    It’s only a short step to actual claims and complaints of discrimination’!..
    See http://www.news.com.au/story/0,27574,25442458-29277,00.html
    Jenny Stokes

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