Discrimination is Un-Christian Too

The awesome Kathryn Pogin, writing in The Stone.

Much to the chagrin of women’s rights advocates, Hobby Lobby has won its legal battle — but claims of “victory” for religious freedom must be emended. Make no mistake: This is no victory for the freedom to exercise Christian principles. Though employers like Hobby Lobby are now free to deny women access to contraceptives through their employer-subsidized health plans on the basis of religious objection, they will be violating their own purported Christian principles if they do. While Christians are not compelled by their faith to engage in religious practices that impose upon the freedoms of others, they are compelled — by their belief that all persons, men and women, are created in the image of God — to oppose discrimination.

10 thoughts on “Discrimination is Un-Christian Too

  1. Maybe it’s good to make this kind of case to Christians, and maybe some varieties of Christianity require it. There are surely prudential reasons for making this case. But if there’s something I’ve learned about religion, it’s that it’s pretty open-ended. Holy books (and holy tradition, in many cases) are usually vague enough that you can push them in almost any direction you want. There’s probably no such thing as a set of bedrock Christian principles. So discrimination probably isn’t “un-Christian,” on some understandings of Christianity.

  2. As an atheist, I find these sorts of arguments a bit hard to stomach, since they imply that “un-Christian” is unquestionably bad and “Christian” is unquestionably good. However, I’m glad this case is being made for pragmatic reasons, since it may encourage the best varieties of Christians and Christianity.

    As an atheist who happens to deeply respect many of my religious acquaintances of very disparate faiths (and disparate traditions within Christianity I also find these “you’re not a real Christian” sorts of arguments a bit offensive. I’m incapable of having religious beliefs because they concern such inscrutable and unverifiable matters, but for that reason it seems uncharitable to treat religious identity as clearly delineated in a way that would permit such an easy resolution of disagreements within a tradition into true faith vs. heresy.

    And, of course, given the long, complicated histories of most religions and their sacred texts, they contain many seemingly contradictory values, beliefs, and claims. Anyone can cherrypick the bits that defend their version. This is especially true of Christianity, thanks to its awkward fusion of the old and new testaments. By attaching himself to an older tradition (as well as by letting Paul be his Plato), Jesus guaranteed that he wouldn’t be the sole decisive authority over the content of his religion. And it is, of course, always Jesus that progressives have in mind when they try to equate their politics with Christianity.

    Again, I’m in favor of these sorts of arguments for pragmatic reasons, since I share the politics they’re usually used to promote. But I must admit I feel a bit of bad intellectual conscience over them.

  3. Within Christianity (as within every religion), there are of course a variety of interpretations on many matters–but the Imago Dei doctrine is Christian orthodoxy.

  4. philodaria, yes, but the issue isn’t the Imago Dei doctrine, but the interpretation of its moral and political consequences, about which Christians can and have reasonably disagreed.

    To clarify my earlier critical comments: it’s a well-written, well-argued article, but I find the framing a bit troubling. It’s one thing to say: “Christians, here’s a carefully reasoned argument about why we should draw the following moral conclusions from Imago Dei.” It’s another to imply, “If you don’t draw these conclusions, you’re a bad (or not a ‘real’) Christian.”

  5. Anon, sorry for the confusion, that wasn’t directed at you–that was directed at Matt Drabek who said, “There’s probably no such thing as a set of bedrock Christian principles.” My comment was meant to indicate that at least as far as orthodoxy goes, there are such bedrock principles. And then we can argue about what those principles entail.

  6. Does this mean that if a secular business does not want to make a donation to an employee’s house of worship or to their favorite strip club, they, too, are guilty of (wrongful) discrimination?

  7. Eleanor, can you explain a bit more? I’m not sure I follow how that would be wrongfully discriminatory.

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