Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Judgmentalism: More Secular Than You Think

We Christians are often accused of being judgmental.  "You people think everything is a sin," the secularists and modernists say.  Now, for one thing, I would question someone's creativity if the majority or entirety of everything fun or good they can think of falls under the banner of what we Christians would call sin.  It seems to me that if you must dip into sin to have a full life, you're doing something wrong.  Because the reality is that the number of things the Church and scriptures teach to be sinful is dwarfed by the number of things that are beautiful, good, and desirable.

But that's beside the point.

Get it?

I would argue that defining and identifying sin has nothing to do with being judgmental in the way that the word is usually used.  Usually when someone makes that accusation, they believe that we are judging people.  In fact, only God can do that, and Christians have taught that for centuries.  What we can do is judge actions, and point out that these actions lead to material and spiritual doom if left unchecked and not repented.  But actually, we are called specifically to not judge the sinner himself.  We are supposed to forgive.  That doesn't mean that, in certain cases, there are not consequences for sin, but it means that we do not hate nor loathe the sinner--not least of all because we are sinners too, and have no right!  If a Christian ever says of anyone, "He's a monster for what he has done!  He's disgusting!" then he is out of line, because all sin is a horrible offense against God, so we may as well be looking in the mirror and seeing a monster too; and if we do, then we've no right to turn up the nose at that "other" monster, if that's how we're so determined to define another human being; which we shouldn't in the first place.

Even so, the secularists and modernists paint a picture of Christians as looking down on everyone who sins.  They claim to be more enlightened, more merciful.  The basis of this is that they, or so they say, are not so quick to judge actions as wrong.  If you feel that something is right for you, whether it's getting drunk on weekends, or having sex with whomever you want, divorcing the spouse to whom you vowed yourself for better or worse because you "just don't get along anymore," or whatever else, the modern "enlightened" world tells you "You do what you have to do to be happy.  No one can say it's wrong."  And from this, they say they are more forgiving than we terrible, bigoted Christians.

There's an obvious flaw with this logic.  How can you "forgive" something that you haven't even judged as wrong?!  If I don't even think the man and woman who have a premarital fling are sinning, how can I forgive them?  You don't forgive someone for doing something that's morally permitted in the first place; you can only forgive them precisely because there is something wrong to forgive.

The truth is, when it comes to someone who does something they do think is wrong, the modern world is more cold and unforgiving than a Puritan in Salem.  Think about it.  The biggest things that our open-minded society still condemns are those things which "infringe on someone else" in some way, especially those things that both infringe on someone else and are illegal.  And once you cross those lines, our society turns its back on you just as quickly as the leaders of one of those cult compounds surrounded by walls and barbed wire fences.  You are labeled a monster; the media openly remarks on how disgusting you are; the internet is aflame with calls for your death, preferably not before you've first been tortured in ways that would make crucifixion look tame.

Unless  you happen to be a filthy criminal offender.
Then we'd rather you "NOT EXIST".  Sorry 'bout that.

But the worst thing is this:  We Christians are often affected by it.  We buy into it too.  I've been guilty of it myself.  Think:  You can probably think of at least one crime, probably several, that makes you think of the perpetrator as vile, as a monster.  There's probably some wrong deed that immediately pops to your mind as you read this, that makes you think "Well I know that I and my loved ones are better than that!"  It's as though we need someone to look down on.  In the modern world, where we are progressively more understanding and compassionate toward sinners, which is a good thing as long as we still recognize the sin as sin, we still reserve a certain place in the darkest spots of our minds for those other sinners.  They are the sinners that we gauge as being in a totally different category from most.

In the most extreme cases of our judgmental attitude, and that of the secular world as well, we will judge sinners as monsters whose motives or intentions are not even all that different from ours, but just happen to be oriented toward a sin with greater consequences and more tragic effects.  There are sinners in prisons--and some rightfully so (to send some people to prison can be necessary to protect society, and is not inherently judgmental if it isn't coupled with disgust and hatred)--who never desired to harm anyone, whose deeds did not even arise from cruel intent or a lack of empathy, but who were simply addicted to certain sins, just like any of us; but the sins to which they have the distinct misfortune of being addicted happen to hurt people in more obvious ways than ours do.

Instead of realizing that we were simply blessed that our own temptations and struggles happen to have less obviously dire consequences, we fill ourselves with pride:  We are not merely blessed; we are better people than those terrible, vile criminals.  We would never do that.  Never mind the fact, of course, that often we don't have the faintest notion of what it's like to be tempted to do "that."  And strangely, insanely, we think that our not being tempted gives us even more of a right to look down on those who are!  As if our not being tempted is something we accomplished, and not a gift from God, "lest any man could boast!"  How prideful, how arrogant, can we be?

And what about those sinners, even, who have had harsh or cold intentions, but who have since repented?  Can any of us say we have never had cruel or spiteful motives?  Most of us, if we are honest, have probably entertained thoughts we would be horrified to have made public knowledge, in moments of anger.  Ironically, we ourselves often lack empathy toward those who commit crimes we consider especially heinous, and some of us entertain, with sadistic passion, fantasies of them "getting their just desserts."  Would we wish to be forever "branded" by those moments?  We serve a God Who once said that to sin in the heart is to have truly committed the sin (although surely to do it in actuality would be to repeat it, so that doesn't mean we "might as well do it"), so we too are guilty.  Should we not show the mercy toward even "those" sinners, as we desire mercy?

How much grace we could share with the world if we lived up to a higher standard than that of the world!  What if we Christians were truly radically forgiving, loving sinners that even the world, with all its notions of "tolerance" and "open mindedness," rejects and demonizes?  What if we could visit the "worst" sinners in prison and, although we were wise enough to protect ourselves from those clearly not yet freed from their harmful vices, we would not nurture disgust for them, but rather pity and empathy, the recognition that "If only my temptations had been different, that might have been me?"  If we did that, then perhaps we would do what the earliest Christians did:  Attract souls from the truly most marginalized and rejected members of society whom no one in the world of unbelievers was willing to love.

No comments:

Post a Comment