A few older people remember how the verb to discriminate once was a term of praise. He is a “discriminating reader,” or he has a “discriminating palate” when it comes to fine wines, or she has “discriminating taste” when it comes to her art collection. In all such expressions, while someone might react to hearing such praise by dismissing both the speaker and the object of his praise as snobs, the critic would at least know that the use of the word was not intended to disparage. He would know that the intention of the speaker was to praise. But within the last several generations the noun form, discrimination, has become a synonym for hate-filled bigotry.
But I would like to argue here, not that discrimination is sometimes okay, and therefore on such rare occasions lawful. I want us to see that the right kind of discrimination is essential, vital, good, and the sine qua non of holiness. Without the ability to discriminate, societies go mental. And given the fact that the secularist project has been one long sustained war against careful definitions, this would be as good a place as any to wish me luck.
Living in the Land of Smudge:
When there is a lack of discrimination, what happens? Everything runs together, that’s what happens. We begin living in the land of smudge, and can no longer tell the difference between things that are markedly and obviously different. Not only so, but if anyone makes an attempt to make a careful distinction of any sort, they are immediately dismissed as a hater and a threat to peace-loving citizens everywhere. What sorts of distinctions are we incapable of making any more? Here’s a list, by no means exhaustive:
Red ink/black ink. Citizen/alien. Man/woman. Art/non-art. Mine/yours. Boy/girl. Truth/lies. Justice/injustice. God/gods. Life/death. Health/disease. Conviction/condemnation. Law/grace. Sabbath/work day. Blessing/cursing. Wealth/poverty. Death with dignity/euthanasia. Discipline/abuse. Law of non-contradiction/pantheism. Wealth/debt. Music/noise. Math/feel good “math.” Let’s just put it this way: Wisdom/folly.
The Holiness of This and That:
Now there is a reason we are living in the land of smudge. There is a reason we do not and cannot make careful distinctions. We have backslidden, and are no longer disciplined and taught by the Word of God. Something that is holy is something that is set apart for a particular sacred task. A person who is holy, a saint, is someone who is likewise set apart. Something or someone is holy if they are set apart from common use, and dedicated to a particular God-ordained function. But in order to tell that something is holy, you have to learn how to discriminate between this and that. You have to be able to say that this is this, and that is consequently not that.
Not only so, but this task of learning how to do all this is altogether lovely. We are to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (1 Chron. 16:29; 2 Chron. 20:21; Ps. 29:2; Ps. 96:9). If holiness is separation and distinction, and if holiness is lovely, then this kind of separation and holiness is also altogether beautiful.
Here are just a handful of (many) places where the Scriptures talk about this sort of thing.
“And that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean;” (Lev. 10:10).
“Therefore thus saith the Lord, If thou return, then will I bring thee again, and thou shalt stand before me: and if thou take forth the precious from the vile, thou shalt be as my mouth: let them return unto thee; but return not thou unto them” (Jer. 15:19).
“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them” (Eze. 22:26).
“And thou shalt say to the rebellious, even to the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord God; O ye house of Israel, let it suffice you of all your abominations, In that ye have brought into my sanctuary strangers, uncircumcised in heart, and uncircumcised in flesh, to be in my sanctuary, to pollute it, even my house, when ye offer my bread, the fat and the blood, and they have broken my covenant because of all your abominations. And ye have not kept the charge of mine holy things: but ye have set keepers of my charge in my sanctuary for yourselves” (Eze. 44:6–8).
In short, God gave to the holiness code to the Israelites in order to give them rudimentary lessons in discrimination. He wanted them to adopt the discipline of making careful distinctions; He wanted them to know how to be able to define. All of it was training with pretty basic materials (oysters/non-oysters) so that they would grow up into an ethical maturity that would be able to tell at sight the difference between a righteous action and an unrighteous one. The law brought a basic tutelage and the resultant condemnation. Now that Christ has come, He offers forgiveness of sins and a liberation into a well-defined righteousness (Col. 2:13-14).
The Idol of Identification:
I have said several times already that we in our generation live in the land of smudge. What is that like? How did we get there? Who is the governor of this place? Why are the streets littered with all this garbage?
Biblical salvation begins by making a distinction between sin and righteousness, and in the call for repentance the gospel requires the unconverted sinner to pay close attention to the stark difference between iniquity and godliness. “God requires this kind of behavior from us, and you have been living out that kind of behavior instead.” When the person repents and is converted, he is turned away from the old way of life and embraces a new way of life—and pay attention to this—he embraces a new way of life INSTEAD. “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance” (Matthew 3:8, ESV).
True salvation therefore begins with a division. At the back of this is the recognition that there are two and only two possible ultimate destinations for all the children of Adam. We will either spend eternity with Christ in Heaven, or we will spend eternity shut out from the presence of the Lord, forever, without mercy, in Hell. This is an unbridgeable chasm, and it is the reason why the biblical faith cannot be incorporated into any humanistic scheme.
Every false religion hates this fundamental division, and fights against it in its own way. The secularist religion that is currently being crammed down our throats is a religion that demands an all-encompassing unity. They are sincere in demanding this, and it is one of the demands of their system. All things must come together, or so they think, and they have no final division—no ultimate divide. “Imagine there’s no heaven” was no accidental line.
The god of the system must be undivided, by definition. The true God, the living God, really is undivided—divine simplicity is a glory of the Trinitarian faith. But the humanist (for whom humanity is the deity) wants his god to be undivided as well. He insists upon it. Those Christians who divide humanity into the two categories of saved and damned are therefore insolent blasphemers.
And this sets up the problem. What happens when your priests, prophets, seers, and whatnot stand up and declare—wonderfully, harmoniously, soothingly, sweetly, and compellingly—that “we are all saying the same thing really?” We walk by different paths, but we all ascend the same mountain. This festival of agreement is disrupted in rather a jarring way when some rough-hewn fundamentalist in the back caws, like some crow with the croup, “No, we don’t.”
This is intolerable, and so he must be silenced. Not only must he be silenced, but he must be silenced in the name of universal tolerance. This is where totalitolerance comes from. He must be shut up, while we vigorously deny that we are shutting anybody up, because his very existence is a standing refutation of the humanistic scheme. And this accounts for why the opposition to Christians is irrational, furious, incoherent, and sad. It springs from a profound contradiction and so it cannot be anything else. The next time you see the sweetest Christian you ever met denounced as a slavering hater, meditate on this.
One More Thing:
Now before anybody fires up their twitter-indignation machines, I want to say plainly and bluntly that discrimination is not automatically holy. There have been, are now, and will be many instances of iniquitous discrimination. If a society makes it hard on group x, for no good reason, that is what theologians of another era would have called “sin.” But a society that loses the concept of righteous discrimination is in far worse condition. Not only so, but they are utterly unable to tell that they are in worse shape.
They can’t tell because they can’t discriminate between the enormities perpetrated in the land of smudge and the petty exasperations committed by sane and sinful societies.
This is a fallen world, and a society that discriminates will sometimes do it sinfully. But it would be better to live in a time when everything was right side up, with a few things tipped over, than to live in a society where absolutely everything was up for grabs. Those who deny this, those who claim that things are better now (when they manifestly are not), are like Hezekiah, evaluating everything based on peace and security for them, in the moment. They would rather live in a society where their chances of winning the lottery were one in a million, provided they were assured to actually win the lottery, rather than in a society where the odds were one in ten, but with them not winning.
Someone is going to say that Wilson is clearly pining away for the good old days of Jim Crow. Or he is longing for the time when women were trapped in their breeding cubicles that we quaintly called “homes.” Clearly I must be in love with those old-timey forms of discrimination because I am making some kind of allowance for them. No, no allowance for any kind of sin on my part. But I do prefer a society with standards, capable of identifying their sins and repenting them, to a society where absolutely anything (in principle) goes. I prefer that to a society that struggles to get through the XX and XY distinctions.
The legal theorist John Rawls modified the Golden Rule for those who would build societies in the abstract. Build the society as you please, but without knowing where you are going to be born into it. I think that is quite an even-handed rule. But those who think that women and minorities have it better now because of all the Progress that we all like to Shout About are people who simply won’t look at the data.
We have been told ad nauseam how stinking enlightened we are, with the milk of humanistic kindness just sloshing around inside us. But what were the odds for a black child in 1950 to be dismembered in the womb and then sold for parts? Were there about a million black men in the penitentiary in 1950, like there are now? Was ten percent of the entire black male population locked up back then? If anyone responds by saying that this just shows the propensity for crime that blacks exhibit, I would respond by saying that it shows the propensity to crime that fatherless boys tend to exhibit, and then I would wonder which social engineering geniuses—almost all of them in possession of two pale white knees—came up with the fatherless epidemic in the black community. “I know,” somebody said, “let’s create a welfare benefits system that makes it really difficult for a teen-aged black father to compete with the provision of the federal government. And then, when the mother takes the benefits which marriage would preclude, and the entirely predictable happens, and we have an epidemic of fatherlessness, then that will give us something else to study.”
“White children born in the 1950-1954 period spent only 8% of their childhood with just one parent; black children spent 22%. Of those born in 1980, by one estimate, white children can be expected to spend 31% of their childhood years with one parent, and black children 59%.” Source: Popenoe, David. Life Without Father (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 23.
And if we talk about women, we see the same thing. How many women have achieved escape velocity from the patriarchy, meaning that last year about 9.6 million mothers were bringing up children all by themselves. Good job, everybody. Is it time for prizes yet?
Lest anyone miss the point, the good old days did have their exasperating blind spots. They really did have a number of things knocked over that should have been upright. Oh, and one more thing. They were vastly our superiors.