Progressivism is an ideology utterly devoid of intellectual integrity and coherence. It rides a certain argument like a train to Point A and denies there is a Point B, even though Point B is only a mile or two straight ahead and they already built the tracks that will take us there. Of course, Point B is always more horrific than Point A, and Point C more than Point B, so despite the incoherence and dishonesty of it, you don’t necessarily want to stop them from hitting the brakes.
A real world example: It is ridiculous that liberals support abortion but (usually) recoil at infanticide, or any other kind of -cide. If human life is not worthy of basic legal protections from the moment it is conceived, then there is nothing inherently sacred about it. If it can be cut out and disposed of like a plantar wart at 8 weeks or 12 weeks or 20 weeks, then by its very nature it is not fundamentally special or important. Its importance is entirely relative to how useful or desirable it is to others. If that’s the case, then infants — who, next to college students, are the most helpless and unproductive human beings in existence — should not be protected from termination. Neither should the elderly. Neither the sick. Neither the disabled. Neither the Kardashians. And so on.
But do I actually want progressives to follow their principles consistently here? No. Indeed, I live in fear of the day when they decide to be honest on this subject. They’re already starting to apply their pro-homosexual “marriage” arguments more universally, and now we have the mainstreaming of incest, bigamy and pedophilia. They’re taking their “transgenderism” arguments to their inevitable ends, and now we have perverts pretending to live as six-year-old girls and psychotics cutting off their nose and ears to live as dragons. I think I much preferred the more slapdash, incomplete version of progressivism.
Yet, at the risk of giving them ideas, I think we should try to make liberals understand what they’re arguments necessarily justify when taken to their logical conclusions. Not because we desire those conclusions, but because, hopefully, they don’t either.
So what happens when we bring the progressive enthusiasm for “anti-discrimination” laws to completion?
As you’ve heard, several states including Mississippi and North Carolina have recently passed religious freedom laws protecting, among other things, a Christian’s right to follow his conscience in determining who he will do business with, and what that business will entail. Other states like Georgia have attempted to pass similar laws only to have their efforts flaunted when their governors caved to outside pressure. Usually that pressure takes the form of boycotts and other economic threats from prominent figures, major corporations and even the federal government.
The boycotts are what I find especially interesting. Many companies have said they will not conduct business in states where the conscience rights of Christians are protected. PayPal, for example, announced last week that it’s canceling its plans to open an office in Charlotte due to the state’s “anti-LGBT” law. The NFL, Apple, Disney, NBC, etc., have made similar promises.
A few days ago, Bruce Springsteen canceled a show in North Carolina, which caused great distress and disappointment to 65-year-old white dads across the state. Someone named Bryan Adams also announced he will not be performing his two songs in Mississippi. In response, thousands of confused Mississippians typed “Bryan Adams” into Wikipedia. (He’s the “Everything I Do, I Do It For You” guy, by the way, so Mississippi really dodged a bullet.)
The irony here is so thick I might choke on it. These are people and companies choosing not to provide services to a group of people as a means of protesting a law that allows people to deny services to groups of people. They are following their conscience and boycotting to overturn a law that allows people to follow their conscience. They are exercising their First Amendment rights in order to make a statement against First Amendment rights. They are discriminating in response to “discrimination.” What’s next? Will they fly a private jet around the world to lecture people about the dangers of fossil fuel? Oh, never mind.
The contradiction here is impossible to overlook. If the underlying principle is that we may not “discriminate” and deprive others of “services,” then PayPal certainly should not be legally permitted to deprive North Carolinians of jobs because it disagrees with the politics or faith of many of the state’s residents. Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams should not be allowed to impede a person’s access to annoying music just because they disapprove of certain religious practices. A Bryan Adams concert is about as necessary and lifesaving a product as a wedding cake. If a baker cannot withhold his services because of his conscience, why should the singer be allowed to withhold his for the same reason?
If progressives wished to be consistent, they’d advocate that these religious freedom laws be abolished, but they’d also insist that, in the meantime, federal law enforcement officers barge into Bryan Adams’ townhouse and Bruce Springsteen’s retirement community and drag both men to their respective concert venues at gunpoint. If homosexuals have a God-given right to pastries and photography, then your aunt in Mississippi certainly has a God-given right to stand teary-eyed in the third row and listen to Bryan Adams croon about the summer of ’69.
But, OK, if the guns and the FBI agents seem a tad like overkill, at least progressives must agree that Adams and Springsteen, along with PayPal and every other offending company, ought to face fines and other financial penalties for greedily withholding their services from an entire group of people. We can’t let folks just follow their conscience all willy-nilly, can we?
As I see it, there are only two ways you can try to make a distinction between Christian business owners choosing not to provide services to gay weddings and liberal businessmen/80’s singers choosing not to provide services to entire states:
1. You can argue that one is discrimination and the other is not.
Let’s check with Webster. The definition of “discrimination” is “an act or instance of discriminating, or of making a distinction; treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit.”
To make a distinction based on group, class, or category. Are Bruce Springsteen and Bryan Adams and PayPal and all the rest making a distinction between states that protect religious liberties and states that don’t? Yes, clearly. Can the residents of a state rightly be considered a “group” or even a “class?” Yes, without a doubt. Have these entities made an unfavorable distinction, a distinction against the group? Again, yes. So they have discriminated. By the literal definition of the word, they are guilty of discrimination.
Of course, you’re also guilty of discrimination. You’ve probably discriminated 75 times today already. By nature of the fact that you have a mind capable of discernment, you engage in discrimination — that is, making distinctions based on group, class, or category — constantly, every day, all day, all the time. When you choose what to eat, what to wear, who to date, where to work, where to live, who to befriend, who to avoid; when you make a decision to do anything, go anywhere, engage or not engage with anyone, for any reason, you are discriminating. You are making distinctions for or against based on the group or category to which these people and things and events belong.
2. You can argue that some discrimination is bad and some is good.
This is true, actually. It’s simply absurd to talk about “discrimination” like it’s some sort of universal evil regardless of context. Saying you’re “anti-discrimination” because you’re opposed to certain kinds of distinctions being made against certain kinds of groups is like saying you’re “anti-speaking” because you don’t approve of curse words. You’ve come out broadly against a basic and necessary human function all because you disapprove of some very specific and particular application of it. This would make you a member of a group called “nitwits,” and it is a group that I discriminate against all the time.
There is bad discrimination and good discrimination and neutral discrimination. The question is in which column do we place each form. I would say a baker or pastor who refuses to participate in a gay wedding is engaging in good discrimination.
It is discrimination because it makes a distinction against something based on the category to which it belongs. It’s not discrimination against an individual, per se, but against an event where certain sorts of individuals do a certain thing. It’s the thing — the “marriage” — that is the real problem, not the individuals. If this same collection of people were getting together for a Parcheesi tournament, I doubt many Christians would object to making a “Congratulations On Your Parcheesi Victory” cake for the occasion. Although, being a ruthless and callous son of a gun, I do believe any American should have the right to refrain from making the Parcheesi cake, or any other kind of cake, for any reason at all.
In my opinion, Springsteen, Adams, PayPal, etc., are engaging in bad discrimination. It’s not that they’re refusing to participate somehow in a celebration of the laws and beliefs they abhor. That’s what the bakers, photographers, and pastors are doing. But the governor of Mississippi did not try hire Bryan Adams for a religious freedom bill signing party, although it would’ve been funny if he had. No, Springsteen and Adams refused to perform for the people of a state because they hate a law that many people in that state support. This is really most analogous to a baker putting a sign on his window saying “WE WILL NOT SERVE ANYONE WHO SUPPORTS GAY MARRIAGE.” Again, I believe he ought to have that right, but I don’t think he’d necessarily be right in doing it.
These liberal entities are really discriminating against Christians. They don’t have a problem with religious freedom generally — they say as much themselves — but they do have a problem with how certain people in certain religions take advantage of that liberty. They wouldn’t object if a Christian photographer cited his religion in refusing to take pictures at a drug-fueled, skinhead orgy, but they do object if the Christian photographer cites his religion in refusing to take pictures at a gay wedding. It’s the belief they despise, and it’s a belief essential to Christianity, which means they despise Christianity and anyone who follows it faithfully.
You might say a religion is different than a sexuality, and I would agree. Faith is more ingrained, more encompassing, more fundamental. Homosexuality is just a proclivity. Christianity, on the other hand, is an identity. It is worse to discriminate against a faith than it is a proclivity, particularly when the belief is beautiful and true and the proclivity is disordered and leads a person to sin.
But that’s just my belief, you might say, and you’d be right. My belief happens to be correct in this case, but I’m aware that the majority of the country refuses to acknowledge it. As is their right. I have my ideas about what sorts of discrimination are good and what sorts are bad, and you have yours. I have my ideas of how a person should follow his conscience, and you have yours. I have my ideas about which ideas are true and which are harmful, and you have yours.
It seems, then, we need the government to come up with a definitive guideline outlining acceptable ideas and acceptable forms of discrimination and acceptable acts of conscientious objection and acceptable reasons to withhold services. Maybe we can have a vote to finalize the list of things we’re allowed to legally think, say, and do. Or maybe the president can write it on his own (I’m sure that’s how he’d prefer it), and then when we get a new president, he or she can make a new list. So, under President Obama, bakers will not be allowed to object to gay marriage. But if I’m elected president one day, maybe aging pop stars will not be allowed to object to people objecting to gay marriage.
Or there’s the other option. We could respect PayPal’s right to take away jobs from North Carolina if they disagree with North Carolina’s conservative values, and we could respect a baker’s right to withhold his cakes from a gay couple if he disagrees with the gay couple’s attempts to desecrate and subvert the institution of marriage. I can yell and scream at PayPal, and you can yell and scream at the baker, but in the end they each can follow their conscience and do what they wish with their own products and their own services.
Yeah, I kind of like that second option.
Let’s do that.
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