Teaching Children to Discriminate

With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on homosexual marriage and recent efforts to claim certain legal rights for the “transgendered,” states and cities have responded with proposed laws and ordinances of their own.  Proponents have argued that these are attempts to protect traditional Christian definitions of marriage, as well as the freedom of religion.  Opponents claim these are simply fearful and malicious actions that give Christians the right to discriminate against people who are different.  Some have even gone further to say that particular states are producing new “Jim Crow laws” against the LGBT minority, which is teaching the next generation to discriminate.

So how are Christians to respond to the accusation of discrimination?  Certainly, we don’t want our children to grow up learning to discriminate!  Or, do we?  As is often the case, definitions are essential to answering this ticklish question.  Consider the common definition of discrimination:

To discriminate is to make an unjust or prejudicial distinction in the treatment of different categories of people or things, especially on the grounds of race, sex, or age.”

If this is what is meant by discrimination, then by no means should Christian parents teach their children to discriminate.  To make an unjust distinction in the treatment of people of different nationalities, skin color, sex, or age goes against God’s Word and violates the royal law of love for others.  But then, there’s a second, more basic definition:

To discriminate is to recognize and discern a difference.”

According to this definition, we would actually want our children to learn to discriminate–from a decidedly Christian worldview.  More importantly, we are responsible to teach them to discriminate so that they can truly love God, love others, and practice true justice and mercy.

With this definition in mind, consider some examples of discrimination that our children need to learn:

  • To discriminate between human beings and animals. Humans are made in the image of God, while animals are not.  We are to treat ALL people with love, honor, and dignity—even people who are yet unborn.  As much as pets and animals can be enjoyed, they may not be granted equivalent rights as humans, or be thought of as superior to humans.  It’s a sad thing when children love animals more than they love people!
  • To discriminate between Christians and non-Christians. Without discernment, children tend to see all people as basically good or even Christians.  Yet, there a two different sorts of people in this world—those who love Jesus and those who reject Jesus.  And, how do we teach children to live out this discrimination?  Non-Christians are to be loved too; yet they are also to be evangelized and called to faith and repentance.  In this way, we treat non-Christians differently, from a heart of love for God, not a heart of fear or hatred.  We desperately long for them to come to Jesus!
  • To discriminate between true and false religions. Our children need to know that Christianity is the only true religion, which makes all other false.  False religions are not to be tolerated or approved, but their followers are to be pitied and evangelized.  Christianity is the only religion of peace, since it is the only way to peace with God.  Religions (like Islam) that claim to be peaceful are not, because they are hostile to the Lordship of Christ.
  • To discriminate between God’s law and human laws. God’s law instructs the believer to obey man’s laws—unless they violate God’s law.  And, just because something is legal, doesn’t mean that it is right or pleasing to God.  Abortion is legal, but it must be opposed since it is murder.  Gay marriage is now a law in this country, but it also goes against God’s establishment of marriage between one man and one woman.  While Christians must submit to our governing authorities, we also must obey God rather than men.  Children must learn that God’s law is higher than man’s law.    
  • To discriminate between sinful choices and so-called normal behavior. God determines our sexuality and gender; we do not.  It’s a sinful choice to assign ourselves a gender that is contrary to our created sex.  As the world declares more and more sinful behavior as either normal or genetic, we must teach our children to discern the difference.  And, as they learn discriminate in this way, they must learn to Biblically confront their own sin as well as the sin of others.

If we are teaching our children to hate others and to treat them unfairly and unjustly, then we are not parenting them Biblically.  Yet, if we do not teach our children to discriminate between good and evil, right and wrong, and between God’s ways and man’s ways, then we are doing them an even greater injustice.  While the sinful human heart is bent towards fear and unbiblical prejudice against people who are different, it is also tempted to call what is good, evil and what is evil, good. In the end, we must teach our children to discriminate through the lens of Scripture, so that they can act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly before our God (Micah 6:8).

John C. Kwasny  is Director of Discipleship Ministries at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Ridgeland, Mississippi. John has received his M.A. in Counseling and his Ph.D. in Christian Education. He is also the Worldview Integration Specialist at Christ Covenant School, an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson), and Director of One Story Ministries, authoring Children’s curriculum for the church, school and home. John and Martie have eight children. He has a regular podcast called, Biblical Counseling Today.