This is a guest post by regular commenter Finn McCool
This very question has been percolating in my mind for many years now. I am a middle-aged man and I have never heard a sermon preached in any church which did not at least tacitly affirm the standard liberal view; i.e. that all discrimination is sinful. You may be wondering if I have any standing that would qualify me to speak on such a delicate subject. Well, I can tell you that I am an ordained presbyter, with orders in one of the conservative “alphabet soup” Anglican groups (e.g. ACC, ACNA, APCK, REC, etc.). I have an M. A. in Theology from a conservative, evangelical seminary, and I have been employed as a Bible instructor in a small Christian high school for close to ten years. I teach the Bible for a living, and in working through the scriptures I am daily reminded that the Triune God of the Bible is far tougher than the Unitarian god in whom “we trust” as Americans.
I will argue that it is not only possible for a Christian to discriminate (against people), but it is also necessary for a Christian to discriminate. But in order to justify my assertion (one that most of us have never heard affirmed from any pulpit), I first need to lay some scriptural foundations. So let’s begin near the beginning with the famous text from Genesis 11:1-9—The Tower of Babel.
Now the whole earth had one language and one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there. Then they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They had brick for stone, and they had asphalt for mortar. And they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth.” But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower which the sons of men had built. And the Lord said, “Indeed the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them. Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they ceased building the city. Therefore its name is called Babel, because there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.
Of course, this event takes place after the flood, and after the Lord had pronounced his somber verdict—“The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” (Gen. 8:21). Hence the flood did cleanse the world of its egregious sinners, but the sin principle; original sin; concupiscence; the flesh; all of these roughly synonymous terms still applied. Nobody had to train Noah’s son Ham to be a dishonorable perv; it just came naturally to him (and to us as well. I’m in the Augustinian/Lutheran/Calvinist tradition, so my Orthodox brethren need to bear with me). And when David confesses in Psalm 51, “in sin did my mother conceive me,” he may as well have been speaking for all humans save Jesus. (You R.C.s may excuse Mary, too.)
Okay, so what does any of this have to do with the Tower of Babel? The point I’m trying to drive home is this: When the people of Babel said, “Let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens; let us make a name for ourselves”, they were a united and fallen humanity. Notice that in the Genesis 11 passage there is no overt mention of any deity. They were a united people, conjoined to one another through original sin, seeking an autonomous existence apart from God, and they had a secular goal—“let us make a name for ourselves.” Read superficially, the Lord’s response makes it appear that he is afraid of the people. He says, “Now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them.” However; God is not afraid of them. He is afraid for them.
Do you remember P. J. O’Rourke’s famous quip—“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys”? Well, that’s what a sinful and purposefully united human race is; they are drunk and dangerous and for their own safety they must have their “keys” (i.e. their unity) taken away from them. That’s why a kind-hearted cop tells the drunken frat guys to shut up and go home. It’s for their own good.
And it is good, it is necessary, it is ordained by Yahweh himself that sinful mankind be separated by language, by race, by custom, by culture—and by tangible borders. Yes, all humans everywhere are naturally united by our common humanity. But this is a fallen humanity, and though our dispersal over the face of the whole earth is an example of God’s judgment, it is also an instance of his common grace. (For some reason that old Offspring song just popped into my head—“You gotta keep ‘em separated.”)
You may object to this, saying, “Father McCool, that doesn’t sound very spiritual. Doesn’t the New Testament say, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”? Friend, you’re right. The New Testament does say this (in Galatians 3:28). But notice that this is only true for those who are in Christ. Jesus is the unifying person, and principle, whereby we can lawfully and joyfully associate with the Other. After all, how else could the Tsarnaev brothers have had any real or sufficient common cause with Christian Americans? Tamerlan and Dzokhar did seem to like boxing, and girls, and soccer, and Mercedes-Benzes, and Dzokhar even enjoyed smoking the green bud (making him a very good Amerikan indeed). But these sorts of concrete particulars cannot overcome the legitimate boundaries which the good but tough God has given us. The Tsarnaevs are of a different language, nation, race, culture, and creed. And granting them and their worthless family access to America was utterly foolish and un-biblical. In fact, modern liberalism is tantamount to a satanic, rebellious reversal of God’s gracious judgment against Babel. Galatians 3:28 was written to Christians, and the redeemed are all adopted into God’s family (with Christ as our elder Brother). If you remove Christ from the equation you throw away the new humanity in Christ and throw us back into the old humanity that is united in Adam. And it’s precisely because of Adam’s sin that we need to keep the “unity” of man as rebel to a minimum.
If I’ve not proven my point, consider an example from the New Testament. In the book of Titus, St. Paul is writing to the bishop of Crete, his friend Titus. In chapter one he says,
To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior. For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I commanded you…(vss. 10-13) For there are many insubordinate…whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole households, teaching things which they ought not, for the sake of dishonest gain. One of them, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons. This testimony is true (emphasis mine). Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith.
In this passage we see St. Paul dealing with real people as they are. Paul is telling Titus that generally speaking, the people of Crete are violent, lying, overfed pigs. And forgive me for putting a few words in Paul’s mouth, but I can imagine him also telling Titus, “Look, man, if a true-to-form Cretan tries to sell you a piece of land, you mustn’t believe a thing he tells you! After all, you know how those guys are! You live in Crete.”So Paul begins with a theological principle (the fact of original sin), and with this principle as a key component of his interpretive grid he evaluates all things. He knows that the Christians of Crete, whom Titus ministers to, are brothers and sisters in Christ. But even the redeemed among them have many years worth of social pathology to overcome. They need help, and only a strong man with both eyes wide open to the Cretan temperament will really be able to help them. Remember—Paul says these sharp things about men in the church. Unity in Christ is real—we are members of Christ’s body and co-heirs with him of his kingdom. But in the meantime, while we are waiting for the Parousia, we must retain a hearty respect for the boundaries which God has established. If I don’t know a man’s faith, and I don’t know a man’s record of performance as a citizen, it would be the height of presumption and folly to give him a room in my house and access to my wife and kids. And if this is so in the microcosm of my own oikonomia, it is by extension also true of the macrocosm of American life. Chechens cherish their own Islamic culture of the honor killing and the vendetta. I as a Christian gentleman know this about Chechens, and while I can affirm the goodness of taking the gospel to Chechnya, I cannot, in good conscience, affirm the goodness of allowing un-converted Muslims into my own country. I discriminate against Muslims because I am a Christian.
Here is a little something extra for you Kipling fans:
The Stranger within my gate,
He may be true or kind,
But he does not talk my talk—
I cannot feel his mind.
I see the face and the eyes and the mouth,
But not the soul behind.
The men of my own stock
They may do ill or well,
But they tell the lies I am wonted to,
They are used to the lies I tell.
And we do not need interpreters
When we go to buy and sell.
The Stranger within my gates,
He may be evil or good,
But I cannot tell what powers control—
What reasons sway his mood;
Nor when the Gods of his far-off land
Shall repossess his blood.
The men of my own stock,
Bitter bad they may be,
But, at least, they hear the things I hear,
And see the things I see;
And whatever I think of them and their likes
They think of the likes of me.
This was my father’s belief
And this is also mine:
Let the corn be all one sheaf—
And the grapes be all one vine,
Ere our children’s teeth are set on edge
By bitter bread and wine.
Wise words from a wise man.