What is discrimination? In our day, we often use the term to denote unjust, corrupt, and perverse standards of judgment being applied; persons who are being maligned or passed over for reward and recognition are said to suffer from discrimination. When discrimination is racial, we say that the person guilty of engaging in this form of prejudice is evil, ignorant, and a malignant tumor on society. When some other characteristic like gender, sexuality, or religion is the basis for discrimination, the person guilty of this sin is castigated and derided. They are driven out of polite society, with a loss of their professional and social standing a given, abdicating whatever political position they hold the natural and unalterable course.
There is an older definition of the term, however. And when this more ancient sense is recalled, we are reminded that discriminating persons used to be lauded. They were held up as examples of good taste and manners. And the reason for this is that they were known for distinguishing and perceiving meaningful, qualitative differences between disparate things. They knew good from bad, right from wrong, and truth from falsehood. Discriminating persons recognized one sight, sound, or sentiment from another, and chose what was better over what was worse. And, whenever possible, they preferred what was best over what was merely adequate or even sub-par.
The meaning of a word changes over time based on common usages, and this is well-known. Why the understanding of a particular term might evolve from time to time is beside the point. Since we all recognize and accept that effective communication is predicated on shared meaning, we accept that certain words mean different things depending on our audience. And the crafting of messages proceeds accordingly. This person is offended when I employ this phrase, but that one over there is delighted. Unless I am going out of my way to let everyone know I do not care about offending them, I will avoid the unnecessary tripwire when it becomes apparent.
All the same, sometimes the meaning of one synonym is given a positive connotation while a negative association is ascribed to another word which means the same thing, or near enough. And when that happens, those discriminating persons who can still be found in society will find themselves puzzled.
Take for instance the prominent case of the word ‘Critical’. Cropping up in news piece after scandalous news piece in the context of ‘Critical Race Theory,’ how many of us are pausing to consider the oddity that discrimination is bad, but criticality is apparently good? Moreover, for a theory about race to be ‘Critical’ is such a good thing that all our children must be taught from little on up about it. Only do not dare discriminate.
For a person to be highly critical is not typically an admirable trait. Negative, complaining, whiney, particular, and fussy people who want to let everyone around them know about their unceasing complaints are obnoxious. Hear them tell you who now has failed to meet their own personal standard and how, and when. Then watch everyone around them recoil in disgust at their conceit. The world cannot revolve around all of us that way. Therefore, those critical people are not the center of the universe either. Only they do not seem to know it. And good luck telling them. They will criticize you for that too.
Even so, sometimes criticality is useful. When it is constrained to efforts at helping others, we use the term ‘constructive criticism.’ And we welcome that kind of critical person who is genuinely trying to improve the lives of those around them with kind, considerate, helpful, and practical advice and direction designed to build up rather than tear down.
Yet there we must concede that we do not usually call persons who frequently engage in truly constructive criticism ‘critical people’ out of a desire to be clear. We do not want to give the wrong impression – to those angels among us, or others who know them – that we regard them as malicious complainers. On the contrary, in another time we might have called these men and women ‘discriminating.’
The misnomer concerning Critical Race Theory is that it is not discriminating in the best sense of the word. It does not help us know and choose right from wrong, good from evil, or truth from falsehood better than we were able to before CRT came along. In fact, we are less capable of distinguishing between these when we embrace this kind of criticality because it is predicated on entirely the wrong basis of judgment.
“Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement,” Christ says. And when we listen to the teachings and commands of Jesus and live by them, we acquire the ability to discriminate in the older sense of discrimination. We become lovers of what is good and haters of what is evil just like our Savior was – and is. What is not like Jesus, however, is a blanket, broad-based criticality to no good end.
Moreover, the standards of right conduct, truth, and Biblical justice we find in the Lord are not such doggerel as “Eat the rich,” or calls for everyone to repent of their whiteness. We do not find in the Scriptures these strident denunciations of material inequity as invariable proof of malice, injustice, and wickedness – or, in a word, oppression. We find that sometimes inequality of outcome is due to fraud and theft and conspiracy, but not that it is always ever and only proof of those things.
Here, then, it is more the pity that those arguing loudest for teaching our children and church people to embrace Critical Race Theory and Critical Theory are not themselves more critical of this model of understanding – or more truly misunderstanding – economics, politics, and culture. I wish they were more discriminating, and practiced discrimination in the more classical sense. But instead we find that they practice discrimination in the newest, darkest sense of the term.
Touting their anti-racist bona fides, these CRT champions are among the ugliest racists I ever dreamt of meeting in my lifetime. And in the name of Social Justice, these warriors are the most unjust, capricious, dishonest, and malignant abusers of mankind we have seen in America in quite some time. But the worst thing is that you cannot reason with them. You cannot talk them out of it. They confine your options to surrender or die, and they appear ready to die trying to keep your options binary along those lines.
If you cannot or will not see all of history through their Marxist lens, you are part of the problem. You are one of the oppressors, and complicit in the sins and injustices inherent to our current system. The unspoken assumption which is all the while passed over uncritically is that our fault lies with our stars and systems, not with us. If we do not have what we want, it is not because we have not earned that thing. It is not that we have earned something else due to our actions and inactions. No, we do not have what we want because someone else is withholding it from us.
And just like that, it becomes impossible to bear false witness against our neighbor or covet anything that belongs to him. Nothing we could possibly want rightfully belongs to our neighbor. Anything he has which we do not have, but which we would like to have – it must have come to him unfairly and been meant for us instead. There is literally no limit to the scope of unevenness which CRT now and in the future licenses a plundering to restore. So long as our friend belongs to the class of supposed oppressors, it matters not what evidence we are asked to produce establishing his individual guilt. He is guilty by virtue of having what we want and possessing exactly the wrong kind of intersectionality.
If we were more discriminating, and better at it, we would not fall for these shell games. The sleight of hand would not trick us. The winds and rains have come and all the houses built on the shore must be tested now to see what sort of foundation they were built on. But those who do not know and refuse to learn how to critique along the correct lines – moreover rejecting the idea that there is any such thing as ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ – will find that their homes were built on shifting sands and fall accordingly.
What is needed is not a new and better theory for understanding class struggle and inequity from 30,000 feet. Very ancient, even eternal, principles of planks and specks are what we need to recall. And on these we predicate the right judgment Christ told us to judge with.
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