Discriminate for mum

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
9th May 2008

Tagged: discrimination motherhood

Related:

Return to the articles index.



Most people believe in discrimination. You need to in order to be just and fair, to say nothing of merciful and kind.

We discriminate in the sense of having taste and discernment. But we should also discriminate by treating people differently. It is important that we give extra help to some people. We should support the weak and vulnerable—the blind, the lame, the widow and fatherless.

Even within the family parents treat different children differently. They have to, in order to be just and fair.

This discrimination must not be based on favouritism. It must not be based on irrelevant considerations like race or good looks. But discrimination is normal. It is an important part of a just and civilised society.

Inevitably to support one group means to disadvantage others. Even to support one person means others miss out. But if the reason for the support is right: the discrimination is just. And if any person in a similar situation would be given the same support then there is no favouritism. This is discriminatory justice.

In this world it is impossible to treat all sin as criminal. If we did, then we would all be in prison. We choose to accept some sins as tolerable and punish other sins as intolerable.

So we do not tolerate theft but we tolerate adultery. We tolerate dishonouring parents but we will not accept murder. We tolerate lies except when given on oath.

There are bad consequences to these sins that we accept. But in general we see the consequences as punishment enough. There is no reason for the police or courts to get involved.

Some of the things we tolerate create misery. They also cost the people involved and the society enormously in money, emotion and psychiatric turmoil. But we think that making sin a crime will cost us more. The classic illustrations of this are drunkenness, adultery and gambling. They are all sin, they all create misery but they are not crimes.

So our society has become “permissive”. We do not approve of pornography but we permit it. We decriminalised it. There is no agreement whether such a choice was wise. In the later half of the twentieth century many sins were permitted.

But decriminalisation should not mean approval let alone promotion. We may not treat adultery as a crime but we should not encourage it or teach it in our schools. Society is benefited by people remaining faithful to their spouse. Parents staying together is basic to good child raising. The cost to society of family break up is enormous.

Society is built upon stable families. Governments do not create society. Families build nations and culture. It takes more than one generation. It is from the members of society reproducing and raising their children that a culture is built and maintained. The way we help families is a sign of the value that society places upon its own culture and future and indeed life itself.

This is why we must discriminate in favour of mothers. Especially those mothers with small children. For mothers are very vulnerable because of their huge responsibility.

This discrimination must be for more than the childbearing years. The great sacrifice of those years does not end when the children leave home. It takes so long to raise a family that the mother's life remains economically disadvantaged, long after the children leave. This is especially true of widows.

Yet we cannot discriminate in favour of families and, especially mothers, without discriminating against single people and couples who have no children, and men. To discriminate against us is just and fair if it is discrimination in favour of mothers.

The blessing of God on the Israelites was twofold: the provision of children and remaining in the Promised Land. These two things were linked together as the apostle Paul reminds us: “Honour your father and your mother (this is the first commandment with a promise), that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.” (Ephesians 6:2-3).