There is a Good Kind of Discrimination!

Oh, the agony of our nation as we contort ourselves into knots trying to get to the bottom of the sexual orientation “rights” issue.

The latest fight has to do with new laws being pushed to protect those who, “on religious grounds,” refuse to do business with the homosexual community.  The proponents of these laws argue that what is at stake is the freedom of religion:  a matter not only of having an opportunity to worship the god of choice, but, fundamentally, the ability to freely live out and practice one’s religion – and not be forced to go against it.  The opponents of these laws are furious because they view these laws as allowing discrimination against the gay/lesbian community.  To them it is an issue of “civil rights” and “equality”.

So what is the answer to all this mess?  What we really need in this country are people who can discriminate!   To be discriminating has more than one meaning.  The negative meaning of discrimination is the treating of certain people groups unfairly on the basis of prejudice.  But “discriminate” also (positively) means to make fine distinctions and judgments.  We all need to take a breath and focus for just a moment.

The important distinction that needs to be clear (the one that is not being made by anyone in the mainstream media that I have heard) is that this really has nothing (or should have nothing) to do with gay people, but everything to do with the services and products being provided.  As a Christian photographer, for instance, I have no problem serving a homosexual person.  If a gay individual comes to me for a portrait session, I will be so very happy to oblige.  Why would I not?  However, if a gay couple asked me to photograph their wedding, I certainly would appreciate having permission to say “No thank you.” without being sued and taken to court.  When I shoot a wedding I am definitely taking part in the celebrations.  My photographs are going to be plastered everywhere and my name will definitely be associated with something I believe is not according to the will of God.  This is my religion.  I am not a homophobe to say that I do not desire to provide my services for something against my religion.  It is not that I am evil and mean hearted.

To prove the point that the problem is not about doing business with gay people, let us say that a heterosexual mother came in and wanted to sign the contract with me to shoot her gay son’s wedding.  Of course I would still turn the job down – even though she is heterosexual.  It isn’t the “doing business with gays” that is the issue… The issue is providing services that are against one’s religion – no matter who is asking for them.  As a fellow blogger has pointed out:  “Jesus would definitely bake a cake for a gay man’s wedding – to a woman!”

The politics and direction all of this is taking in our nation is quite alarming.  For Christians it really is critical that we communicate these things clearly and winsomely in our every day lives as well in the arenas of power.  If individuals and businesses lose their right to practice their religion (by the dictates of the government), we really will be living in a tyranny, and we can well imagine that the church will not be far behind.

Prejudicial discrimination against anyone will only reward us with hatred and dysfunction in our human family.  But there is the most blessed reward of the good kind of discrimination.  If we can just stop our recriminations, take a breath, and understand this properly, there is just a sliver of hope that some reasonable understanding of each other might come about, some prospect of a happy consensus on this issue.  We could at least try!