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People operate with inconsistencies and even contradictions in their world views. This is perhaps no more apparent then when sports writers and reporters attempt to weigh in on moral issues. I experienced this first-hand the other day as I listened to ESPN-Radio.

Jeremy Schaap, the reporter from ESPN’s Outside the Lines, has become known for his documentaries on controversies within the sports world. In his recent commentary on The Sporting Life: Parting Shot he took aim at discrimination. Schaap’s point was that on the 65th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball we are reminded that discrimination is alive and well today.

Schaap used words  like “hatred,  bigotry, prejudice, racism, intolerance and discrimination” to make his point.

His witnesses were Tigers’outfielder Delmon Young and his recent arrest for a hate crime in New York, the Boston Bruins’ fans racial anger on twitter after their team lost, the Saudi Arabian government’s refusal to allow women to participate in the Olympics, and Nebraska assistant Ron Brown’s public opposition to an Omaha City Ordinance allowing increased protection for homosexuals.

Schaap’s contention was that discrimination is wrong. It has no place in sports or society.

The problem is that this is not the way it works. Everyone discriminates. Even Jeremy Schaap (rightly) discriminated against the former Penn State coach Jeremy Sandusky who was accused of horrific sexual crimes against children. Schaap called these things tragic and was all over ESPN reporting on it. He was quite vocal in his lack of support for Sandusky while reporting on the stomach-stirring details that were emerging.

I bring this up to show that everyone discriminates. The only question is whether or not you find someone else’s discrimination to be morally problematic. The answer to this is of course is how it intersects with your world view. In Schaap’s mind he has a big problem with people who would oppose homosexuality. It is contrary to his own moral grounding. However, and for the same reason, he is able to speak out against an accused pedophile. Schaap, and others, discriminate out of their own moral framework.

Instead of baldly saying that discrimination itself is wrong he should acknowledge the moral tension and stand on his own two feet. Go ahead and say actions and attitudes are wrong. Say that you don’t like them and that there should be consequences. Say and do something about it, don’t just hide behind an emotionally charged word like discrimination.

This however, is incredibly difficult and uncommon in our culture. It costs you moral capital to do it. It is far easier (and common) to wield the sword of tolerance than it is to make a moral statement. You can say that someone is not being tolerant but you can’t say they are wrong (Sandusky conveniently excluded). This costs you moral capital.

Where Schaap is intellectually inconsistent Coach Ron Brown, ironically is refreshingly consistent. He actually takes a moral stand and has the courage to call it wrong. You may not agree with him but at least he acknowledges the tension and is honest.

In a weekend letter to the Lincoln Journal Star Brown wrote:

Not all of my players have agreed with the Bible’s views. One example, of many, would be those choosing heterosexual sex outside of marriage. Though the Bible teaches this as sin, I haven’t penalized them with playing time or discrimination of any sort. Because I love them, I’ve invested in them even outside of football and gently asked them to consider God’s view on it.

If I coached a gay player, because the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, I would do the same. If he didn’t agree, I wouldn’t penalize him with playing time or any form of discrimination.

I have and will embrace every player I coach, gay or straight … but I won’t embrace a legal policy that supports a lifestyle that God calls sin.

So yes, Jeremy Schaap is right, discrimination is alive and well in our day. Some of it is for good reason and other times it is not. We would all do well to look for our blind-spots and try to be consistent; spend the moral capital and take the stand. It is far more intellectually honest and convincing than waving the foam bat of intolerance at every opportunity.

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12 thoughts on “Everyone Discriminates”

  1. Jim says:

    Good post. I find it humorous but slightly disconcerting when sports/political/etc. pundits speak to moral issues. They will not tolerate intolerance, unless it is intolerance of something they don’t agree with.

    1. Erik says:

      It is a real blind-spot for us today. When you start to press on it though people (most) will at least acknowledge the inconsistencies, while disagreeing with your conclusions.

  2. Eric says:

    I can’t think of anyone to state this point better of “costing moral capital.” It’s far too easy to have the moral argument of fairness, equality, or anti-discrimination. Once we find out what we actually discriminate on, and -why- we discriminate, I think we’d start shaping our worldviews much more consistently. Hopefully, that’ll resemble the Bible, because I do believe that God’s Word is consistent.

    1. Erik says:

      Good points.

  3. mamamartina says:

    The recent anti-gay legislation can have effect on our business if we are not careful as we have 1 professed (otherwise I would not have known) homosexual employee. If we fire him on the basis of shoddy workmanship, he could scream foul based on his homosexuality. I’m glad RB spoke out on how he does NOT discriminate when it comes to how his morally perverse students play the game, yet has spoken to them about considering God’s claims on their behavior. In this ever-increasing grey world where black and white are no longer, and the law of God is relegated to antiquity, its refreshing to hear trumpets of truth from our pulpits in the church and public.

    1. Erik says:

      Thanks for the comment. I can empathize with you guys all the more.

  4. Matt Fudge says:

    The issue of discrimination ultimately speaks to a person’s view of truth itself. If something is true, then itt has an ethical consequence, like it or not. What we see with Coach Brown is than nobody wants to face what is at the core of his stance on homosexuality: that God stands in judgment of their own lives and they seek to stuff a sock in God’s mouth, or kill then Son who He sends.

    1. Erik says:

      You have gotten more mileage out of Carson’s “Gagging of God” title than anyone on the planet.

  5. Ryan H. says:

    Discriminating against ONE person for committing heinous acts is not the same as discriminating against an ENTIRE GROUP of people for no reason.

    1. Erik says:

      If you are discriminating against someone for no reason then is it really discrimination? What is the basis?

      Maybe you mean to say that the reason is not a good reason. This is fine of course, but just know that you are saying that out of a moral framework and arguing my point precisely.

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Erik Raymond

Erik Raymond is senior pastor of Emmaus Bible Church in Omaha, Ne. He and his wife Christie have six children. You can follow him on Twitter.

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