Thursday, September 24, 2009

What's Charitable About Discrimination?

Here's this week's On Faith question from WashingtonPost:
Dozens of major religious groups and denominations are urging Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. to renounce a Bush-era memo that allows faith-based charities that receive federal funding to discriminate in hiring. SHOULD RELIGIOUS CHARITIES THAT RECEIVE FEDERAL GRANT MONEY BE ALLOWED TO DISCRIMINATE IN HIRING?

As a seminarian student seeking leadership in the church, I would have to say a resounding “No!” to the idea of any type of discrimination, religiously affiliated or not. The last time I visited a charitable organization that was run by a religious group, I do not believe the question “is there discrimination occurring here?” ever crossed my mind. And the reason for that is because religion, charity, and discrimination should never be in the same sentence together, in any order, in any way.

Obviously, governmental money cannot and should not ever be connected to any form of discrimination because of legal reasons, religious institutions should never be connected to any form of discrimination because of moral reasons. Church people just don’t seem to ‘get it.’ This type of hypocrisy is the very reason that the numbers of religious individuals in the country are dwindling.

I had the privilege of working at a charitable religious organization that was of a denomination other than my own. I was surrounded by individuals of different faiths, ethics, creeds, skin color, you name it. At staff meetings, I would look around me and realize that I had very little in common with the people surrounding me, but then it hit me: I was only looking at the surface. When I thought deeper about those sitting next to me, I realized we held the same core value: love of the neighbor. Suddenly those differences didn’t seem so jarringly obvious because the most important thing was our common compassion for those in need.

And that’s where the church needs to go. We as people of faith need to stop focusing on those ridiculous things that divide us and remind ourselves about what’s truly important. As a Christian woman, I am convinced that Jesus shows me that compassion and love of those in need is a core value. In Buddhism, compassion is a step along the way to enlightenment. In Judaism, the phrase “you are blessed to be a blessing” comes through loud and clear. In Islam, one of the core character traits of Allah is compassion. Why do we gloss over what’s truly beautiful and unifying in our religious beliefs? Why must we continue to idolize our differences rather than unify our voices towards the call of compassion? It’s time for the religious institutions to give compassion a try. Discrimination is never a word that should be used to describe anything religious because it is the complete opposite of faith, hope, or love. And that’s not charitable.


Midrashional Thinker said...

I love the line "idolize our differences rather than unify our voices", I think it is very fresh.

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