Discrimination is one of those words in the English language that seems to have a negative connotation forever. It is a principle that is enshrined forever in American jurisprudence: that government shall not discriminate based on race, religion, gender, or national origin. Whenever we see on the news someone being treated unfairly all because of their race, religion, or national origin, we cry foul. When we even just hear the word, we shudder and cringe. We may even remember a time when we were the victims of some sort of discrimination, especially if it was ethnic or gender.
Discrimination is rooted in our sense of fairness. And that fairness means equal treatment before law, no matter the consequences. Our sense of fairness states that one group of people should not be treated differently simply because of a feature that they cannot change – race or gender. Same goes for religion (although you can change religions, but that’s not the point).
However, discrimination is not all bad. Consider the older way people used that word: he has a discriminating palate. Translation: this man can taste the difference between good food and bad food. No one gets up in arms; no one shudders. In fact, this is actually a compliment. In the modern vernacular: “hey man, you got good taste buds.”
Or how about: “discriminating eye“. Translation: this man can really see what works, what doesn’t, the attention to small details, and good judgment.
Perhaps the most subtle form of discrimination is in religion. I am not talking about persecuting people simply belong they belong to one religion or sect. I am talking about membership in religion. Simply put, religion is inherently discriminatory and in the best sense of the word. You are either in, or out. (To quote George Clooney in Ocean’s 11). You either adhere to 100% of its tenets, or not.
Whether you profess Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or Buddhism, it really doesn’t matter. All in, or not at all. If you say you are X, you are implying that you believe in all of it.
So why are people so confused today? Is it because of the iPhone and Android phones culture- where you download the apps you want and delete the ones you don’t? Are we trying to choose certain aspects of Christianity or Buddhism or Islam that we like and reject those that make us uncomfortable? I see that a lot in Christianity: we like God for His love and peace and get uncomfortable about the notion of hell and damnation. We like the peaceful nativity scenes of Christmas, but are uncomfortable of the soon and coming King and Judge.
You know what I call people who say: “I like this part about this _______ but not sure about that part?” Confused. You’re not ignorant. You’re not stupid. You’re just confused but confusion has a cure: inquiry. Ask. Ask why are you doubting. Ask why do you reject that part. Ask people who do believe wholeheartedly. Sometimes, the confusion lies in your misinterpretation or misunderstanding. Sometimes it lies in your own baggage and worldview. Keep asking.
Because there is a synonym of discrimination that is a virtue: discernment. Discrimination in its best sense and discernment imply a person who is able to tell right from wrong, good from bad, and truth from lies. It can also separates the true believes from the seekers and yes, even the heretics and heterodox.
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