Have the recent debates about affirmative action, racial quotas, and preferences brought us any closer to solving the problems of racism and discrimination? One side claims that an end to affirmative action will catapult us back to slavery. The other side claims ending quotas and preferential treatment is right; everything will be fair and equal; ending affirmative action is enough. Both views are wrong because they are not based on Biblical faith. Our only real hope of ending the racial divisiveness and beginning to address the problem is God's law. We must not overlook that in Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). This leads us to God's law where we find the ability to solve any problems (2 Tim. 3:16,17).
What is affirmative action? Affirmative action means government-sanctioned and -enforced policies that give preferential treatment to select individuals.
Specific failures can be found on both sides. The policies of preferential treatment have failed, in short, because the basis is not Biblical (Pr. 3:5-7). Since supporters can't punish offenders in the past, they punish those in the present who they believe resemble past evildoers.
Those who support affirmative action show a lack of faith in God. They show more faith in the laws of man than the laws of God. They do not "Trust in the Lord with all their heart; and lean not to their own understanding. . ." (Pr. 3:1-3).
Knowing "better than God," they create their own concept of justice (Gen. 3:5). They continue to cry for security through government programs (intervention). Just as the slave looks to his master for provisions, so, to, too many people today look to the state to provide for them. A slave mentality will always develop in a people without faith in God (Jn. 8:34). We don't have to look far in the Bible to find similar situations. During the Exodus, we see a people that have been given their freedom, but who look back longingly on their days of slavery (Ex. 14:11, 12). There is security in slavery. Those who want only security are willing to sacrifice their freedom, because with freedom comes responsibility, and uncertainty for covenant-breakers.
In addition, affirmative action attacks private property. Is it not lawful for a business owner to hire or fire whomever he wishes for whatever reason (Mt. 20:1-15)? Granted, businessmen may make bad decisions (i.e., not hiring the most qualified or turning away customers), but that is a part of a free-market economy. Those who are concerned about sanctions against businesses that discriminate must realize that for a businessman "to ignore these decisions of the consumer is economic suicidewitness the demise each year of business firms which were guilty of ignoring or misjudging the consumer."1 Remember that all sins are not crimes. We cannot make actions we do not agree with crimes unless God has authorized us (Rom. 12:17-19).
People that support affirmative action don't believe in a just God, who will justly treat the just and unjust (Rom. 12:19). They act as if all past wrongs must be rectified in their lifetimes. Attempting this they violate God's law (Pr. 3:5-7). The foundation of their policies punish one man for another man's sins (Dt. 24:16). Affirmative action provides government-sanctioned benefits for certain individuals at the expense of others, due to past injustices. Supporters believe that past discrimination justifies present discrimination, a form of payback (Lev. 19:18). This policy is a contradiction, using discrimination to combat discrimination, a thoroughly unbiblical concept (Dt. 1:17; 2 Ch. 19:6,7; Lev. 19:15). The lesson here is that one should judge using God's law, not man's law, which is rooted in externals, or he will become a fool (Pr. 16:2, 25).
This leads us to the opposition who use reverse discrimination as their point of attack. A major argument of those who oppose affirmative action is ending reverse discrimination. Although they are right to oppose discrimination, I believe they commit sins of omission, because they refuse to address the real problems. They see the elimination of quotas and preferential treatment as the "silver bullet" solution to racial problems in the country. They are partially right; but unless they deal with the real issues, they will fight a hopeless battle.
We have a poor education system that produces high school graduates who lack any moral foundation and can't read, write or compute. This lack of education makes it difficult for them to enter the job market earning a living wage. However, we shouldn't blame the education system. Today, parents are intimidated by so-called education experts (administrators, teachers, counselors, etc.), even though these experts are not providing what parents want and students need, a good education. This happened only because parents were willing to relinquish their authority to the state. God clearly tells us that parents are responsible for the education of their children (Dt. 6:7). Whether it be through home schooling or choosing a private school, parents are ultimately responsible for the education of their children.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is the oppressive regulations which will not allow a man to provide for himself and his family. A Biblical society would want to see as many families free and independent of state welfare as possible. Scripture states that an employer "shalt not oppress an hired servant that is poor and needy. . ." (Dt. 24:14). The principle here is that an employer should not hinder a man's ability to provide for himself. Although speaking to the employer, I believe this principle also applies to civil government (Pr. 14:34). God holds every individual and organization to the same moral standard (Ac. 10:34-35), i.e., individuals shall not murder their neighbor, so are governments not to murder the citizens (Pr. 16:12; Ex. 20:13). Today civil government has effectively declared war on the small (family) businessman. It makes it difficult , if not impossible, for family businesses to survive. Businesses have to deal with increasing government- imposed costs that have nothing to do with market forces. For example, any family that considers starting a business must confront the following barriers: inheritance taxes, minimum wage, social security, sales tax, utility tax, FDIC, worker's compensation, IRS, permits, licenses, EPA, OSHA, etc. Family businesses must spend more time pleasing the civil government than customers. This makes it difficult since government doesn't buy products from small business. I call these barriers the New Jim Crow laws because they effectively bar the poor from the market.
Excessive taxation is another major issue. The government's confiscatory tax policies make it almost impossible for an average family to survive on a single income. When government does not perform its God-ordained function, it is no better than a thief (Rom. 13). If civil government administered in the sphere God has authorized, it would be very limited, a terror to evildoers, not all its citizens. A Biblical civil tax would be equitable. It would not punish the rich or oppress the poor. An example of such a just tax can be found in Old Testament Israel. It was a poll tax that was the same amount for every citizen (Ex. 30:11-16).2 With civil government taking a smaller portion, men have more money to support their families or save money to start a business. If these issues are addressed, I believe a marketplace with abundant opportunities will be created for those oppressed and Biblical discipline of those who continue to discriminate.
Both sides of this issue are in error. Those who support mandated quotas and preferences stumble by supporting immoral laws. Those who oppose affirmative action appear to be blind by not addressing the real issues. How do we implement the Biblical solution (2 Ch. 7:14)? We must realize that a Biblical affirmative action will benefit all of society, not a chosen few. We must realize that only Jesus Christ can save us from the situation in which we find ourselves (Jas. 1:5-6). A people without faith in God will be foolish and aimless (Pr. 29:18). Acknowledging that fact, we should pursue policies that free families from the oppressive yoke of civil government. First, eliminate all the humanistic policies that are in place. Second, implement a godly affirmative action policy. Parents must assume ultimate responsibility for their children's education (Dt. 6:7). Tjird, we must fight for smaller civil government and lower taxes (Rom. 13; Ex. 30:11-16). Government authority versus the family is a zero-sum game. As the family government relinquishes its God-given authority, civil government will step in to fill the void. Until we have godly families exercising authority, we will have big civil government. Fourth, we must protect the private property rights of individuals (Ex. 20:15,17). No society can long endure when theft is tolerated by it citizens. Last, we must support an individual's right to contract (Mt. 20:1-15). This is just a more specific situation with respect to guarding private property.
This is a good, Christ-centered start at attacking the affirmative action problem and building a godly and just society.
1. Curtiss, W.M. "Serving Consumers," Free Trade: The Necessary Foundation for World Peace (The Foundation for Economic Education, Inc., 1986), 12.
2. For a more detailed study of the poll tax see Rushdoony's The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1, 281-284.