"Except the Lord build the house they labour in vain that build it." --Psalm 127:1

Discrimination

The following is from the February 1956 issue of “Progressive Calvinism” published by the “Progressive Calvin League.” Many more articles from this publication are available at: http://www.contra-mundum.org/journals.html. This particular article is by “PCL” Founder Frederick Nymeyer. Dr. RJ Rushdoony called my attention to this publication and sent me a few bound volumes of it many years ago, for which I am grateful — J.L.

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Whereas liberty is a prerequisite to happiness, the unrestricted right to discriminate is in turn a prerequisite to liberty. The right to discriminate is the right to choose according to your own good pleasure (except you may not commit an injustice, that is, violate the Decalogue).

The word discriminate means to choose or select. It is a broad term. It is necessary and unavoidable to choose and select - to discriminate - in this finite world, in which everything is varied and limited. It is not possible to be considered human and not to discriminate. It is even possible to say that plants “discriminate.” A sapling standing in the shade of other trees “struggles” for sunlight by growing unduly tall and slender. It “discriminates” - chooses - seeks - the sunlight. It “discriminates” against the shade. Every positive choice has a negative counterpart; every preference involves a discrimination against something.

The word discriminate has in late years acquired a bad flavor. There are three kinds of discrimination which are under special attack: discrimination on the basis of religion, discrimination on the basis of race, and discrimination on the basis of nationality. We wish to challenge the validity of objections to these discriminations. We see no reason why men should not discriminate on grounds of religion, race, or nationality, if they wish. We wish to present the case for the right of any and all discriminations except discriminations which involve injustice (violation of Second Table of the Law).

The anti discrimination campaign in the wide world is, in a sense, led by or promoted by communists. (Some churchmen rather glibly repeat what the communists say.) But this anti discrimination campaign by communism is a false front. It is easy to decry religious discrimination among the denominations, when in fact you yourself deny the validity of any religion; that is a discrimination (choice) against all religion and is as much a discrimination as any choice among religions. It is easy to decry race discrimination and be known to have liquidated about two million kulaks farmers) who did not wish to be collectivized. It is easy to decry national discrimination and be a government which is discriminating against and systematically exploiting all its satellites. The anti-discrimination campaign of the communists is nothing else than a discrimination campaign of its own kind. But its own discrimination campaign is masked under the pretense that it is nondiscriminatory. Every person alleging that he is nondiscriminatory is self-deceived or insincere. The communists are not deceived; they are insincere. It is impossible not to discriminate. The conditions of life require discrimination.

What, if any, discrimination is forbidden? The discrimination that is forbidden is the discrimination that involves injustice. And in our thinking injustice is discrimination which involves coercion, fraud and theft. All other discriminations are, we submit, permissible. We definitely favor discriminations based on religion. We see no reason why someone else may not discriminate, if he wishes, on grounds of race or nationality. That is their proper freedom - avoiding always injustice. Whether we would be willing to go along with them or not is an entirely different problem.

Why should not someone discriminate against (choose against) neo-Calvinism or Progressive Calvinism or against any Calvinism if he wishes? Why should not neo-Calvinism oppose Progressive Calvinism if that is the inclination of the neo-Calvinist? Why should not a Calvinist favor a Calvinist, if he wishes? Why should not a Jew favor a Jew, if he wishes? Why should not a Catholic favor a Catholic, if he wishes? Why should not a native favor a native, if he wishes?

Why should a Catholic be urged to hire Protestants and Jews and Mohammedans, if he prefers Catholics? Why should not a religious man be permitted to favor a religious community, and why should not an irreligious man be permitted to favor an irreligious community?

All churches who truly believe their religion has real meaning actually do discriminate on the grounds of religion, that is, on the grounds of their own specific rules and practices. You cannot get into the Catholic church on your terms; only on hers. You cannot get into a vital Protestant church on your terms; only on her terms.

If that freedom to set terms is denied any organization, then there is a denial of sphere sovereignty. According to the doctrine of sphere sovereignty, every group is a sovereign sphere in its own matters. According to that brand of sociology, a social sphere can decide and do what it pleases (except violate the Second Table of the Law.)

But, it will be alleged, there is an injustice involved in the setting of standards which admit one and exclude the other. Some people because of those standards become “second-class” citizens. Fortunately, we are all in some regard second-class or tenth-class citizens. Let us be thankful that our neighbors have some qualities we do not have, and that they can have the satisfaction of doing something we cannot do. That sustains their morale.

Consider a choral society. Say that I wish to join. Suppose I consider myself to be a wonderful prospect for the choral society, although the fact is that I cannot carry a tune and have no sense of rhythm; (these happen to be the facts). Aside from that, I am a wonderful singer! The choral society is, however, discriminatory. They have arbitrarily set up the standard that members must be able to carry a tune and keep time. Those discriminators! They have made me a second-class citizen! Call the police! Injustice is being done me!

But is it not all absurd? God made us all different; (let us avoid the unpleasant term, unequal). Why should I not be willing to stay out of that choral society? But if a great campaign is organized that there shall be no discrimination on the ground of religion, race, nationality, or musical ability, it will not be long before the choral societies will decide that they must accept me, or otherwise they will be perpetrating an injustice on me and making me a second-class citizen.

Discriminations are of two kinds:

  1. Discriminations against something you do not like which is alterable in the person who has that characteristic.

  2. Discriminations against something you do not like which is unalterable in the person who has that characteristic.

Men will generally say that it is just to discriminate against the alterable characteristics but that it is unjust to discriminate against unalterable characteristics.

Assume a girl is dirty, unsanitary, smells. You stay at a distance from her. You discriminate against her company. Most people will say that your attitude is not immoral: “Let her take a bath. We do not blame people for avoiding her.” And so people declare no injustice has been perpetrated. Her uncleanliness was correctable; her plight - unpopularity - is her own fault. In fact, all improvement among men depends on fellowmen showing their disapproval - discriminating against - unattractive alterable characteristics. The churches discriminate against sin. When they stop discriminating against sin, they might as well disband, except to perform weddings and officiate at funerals.

But the moral crux of the problem of discrimination is the discrimination against unalterable characteristics. Is it moral to discriminate against unalterable characteristics regarding which a man is helpless? Here is where the race problem becomes so sensitive. A man with a white skin cannot do anything about it; a man with a black skin cannot do anything about it. Why discriminate against (choose against) a man for that for which he has no remedy, for an unalterable trait that is unattractive to you and maybe others? Here is where cruel injustice appears immorally to intrude itself into the situation. But is it injustice?

If the writer has made an earnest effort to carry a tune and keep time (which he has) but is unable (which happens to be the fact), is an injustice done h i because he is “discriminated” against by a choral society which discriminates against a trait he had which is unalterable for h i ? Of course not. Justice does not consist in denying reality or the facts of life; injustice is not identical with recognizing reality (that I cannot sing).

And so we hold - in the name of happiness, and in the name of liberty, and in the name of the right to discriminate - that there is no more “injustice” in discriminating against an unalterable trait than against an alterable trait; neither is an injustice. For us, every discrimination is valid except a discrimination involving injustice.

And whoever believes in sphere sovereignty also must believe in liberty to discriminate against either alterable or unalterable traits.

We aim at happiness and insist on having liberty and the universal right to discriminate. We believe in freedom to discriminate on the basis of religion, race, nationality, ability, age, sex, industriousness, thrift, beauty - on every basis that the human mind can think of, except injustice.

One thing should be noted extraordinarily carefully. We have not declared ourselves in favor of all specific discriminations; we have only declared ourselves in favor of freedom to discriminate except to discriminate unjustly.

We recommend to all Calvinists that same attitude toward complete freedom in regard to discriminations.

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