Judge Not?

The last two weeks I have posted on transgenderism and abortion. I don’t believe in either, but neither do I hate those who do not believe as I do nor do I hate those who have partaken in these practices. I am not angry with or dismissive of those folks. I am not narrow-minded and I do not engage in activities targeting those groups, certainly not in the way described by our critics. Our critics are often rather harsh on us even though we care as much as they do about others in these groups. As I posted in a recent debate with critics (regarding transgenderism):

For raising concerns, he and I have been labeled “pathetic parents”, “ignorant conservatives”, “authoritarians”, “intolerant bigots”, and “pissed off conservatives” who can’t handle the truth. We don’t agree with these characterizations, but we accept the slings and arrows.

When you have to face your opponent: when you work together, go to school together, ride the same bus, sit in the same pew, etc., when that person becomes a real person, not a caricature, it is not easy to indiscriminately lob such ad hominem attacks. In all negotiations (debates, discussions), we have to separate the person from the issue (https://diplolearn.org/2013/05/21/4-principles-for-getting-to-yes/). Attacks never convince folks to change their points of view. Maybe such attacks make you feel better for a while, allow you to feel superior to your adversary, but what’s the point really if it doesn’t move the needle?

I try to give my opposition credit for being sincere in their belief. I attack the opposition’s logic, because I believe persuasion is the only way we should win a debate. Some take my attacks on their logic as personal but that’s because they don’t like the logical conclusions.

When folks learn you are a Christian it adds another dimension to the debate. Those in my Church have views close to my own; however, many outside of our church community have locked in their views of Christians. It is fine that they have a higher standard for us; I expect more of my fellow parishioners as well. We should do better following our own rules than those who don’t believe. However, our critics often know Christians who didn’t do well with the tenets of their faith. They see individual’s failings as failings of the religion. We all, both within and outside the Church, recognize these failings in others. We are often one among those folks. Despite falling continually ourselves, we (hopefully) try to do better next time. It’s a constant cycle. Where better for us to belong than the church? Who else can better help us back onto the right path? As our priest said last weekend: “God does not call the qualified; he qualifies the called.” Moses, Gideon, Jonah, David, and others were not ready when called, but they were brought along by God. They seemed unlikely candidates, but so are we all. It may not look pretty looking in from outside, but life is a journey; we don’t arrive in the promised land all at the same time nor in a straight line. All of us are still being perfected.

The one thing that loosely unites Christian denominations is the Bible. There are different interpretations (and often heated debates about small differences), but the various books and the basic messages are similar among all Christian denominations. Our non-believing critics like to quote scripture because they correctly expect us to follow the basic tenets. Sometimes, however, our critics misunderstand the text. The simple directive “Judge Not” is a favorite among Christian critics. Jesus said you shouldn’t judge me or judge others, they tell us. Christians are too judgmental, they say. Who are we to tell them what to do? We are no better than they are. I agree we are no better quality of people than they, but we believe in and we follow something better than ourselves. That’s what they are missing.

Too many today interchange the meaning of “judge” with “criticize” or “correct”. They think criticism or correction is bad, especially if it highlights some failing on their own part. But criticism is essential to improving ourselves. Judgment may be a synonym of a criticism, but in this context, it means something slightly different.

You don’t judge me and I won’t judge you, is a common refrain. Don’t criticize me and I won’t criticize you. This is moral relativism. Follow this path and we all become our own judges. How nice life would be were if it were actually this way. I would never fail if I can set (and continually change) my own standard. However, criticism and correction are a necessary part of our daily lives. We need the criticisms of our friends, neighbors, colleagues, family, fellow parishioners, and all the rest. Without their criticisms we stagnant and do not continue to grow. Criticism (judgment, if you prefer that synonym) is not only not forbidden; it is essential. We need a standard higher than our own and only God can provide that standard. The rest of us attempt to hold each other to that standard.

I may attempt to correct you and you may resent me for it. You may point to all my failings as well and say I am hypocrite for criticizing you. I have failed as often or perhaps more often than you, but I recognize I need correction. Do you? I should be as open to your criticisms as I hope you are to mine. Without our neighbors and our God to continually set us straight, we will fail. Rely on your own standard, ignore others criticisms, withdraw from your faith and your fellow faithful to follow your own “spiritual” path and you will without a doubt fail. This blindness, this moral relativism, is the great failing of our culture today. Those who rationalize abortion follow a human standard; this is their failing.

Judging Others

Jesus’s basic tenet to “Judge Not” or “Do not judge” comes from his sermon on the mount, covered in Matthew, Chapters 5 through 7. His sermon contains many famous phrases like “turn the other cheek”, “go the extra mile”, and the most difficult of all “love your enemies”. Many refer to these three chapters as the Christian handbook; Jesus summarizes, in just a few pages, what it means to be a Christian. I like to re-read these three chapters often. If you live the message outlined in these chapters, you are likely living your faith well. In any case, here is the passage on judging:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

So What’s it Really Mean?

I tried to address this question first in my post last October on abortion. I reprint that argument below (with a few additions): seek-the-truth-never-again.

The unborn child is the most vulnerable in our society. That child cannot speak for itself, cannot defend itself in any way, and the one who should be that child’s protector is the very one who abandons that child in its time of need. There is no polite way to completely soften this criticism and my conscience demands it be said; however, the question I still ask myself is: does this hard line view square with Jesus’s dictates in Matthew 7? Did Jesus Himself ever take such an uncompromising position as I have staked out?

Let’s examine two sides on the issue. Let’s look at a modern philosopher/journalist and consider what might be Jesus’s take on this person’s view. In other words, what would Jesus say about the point of view of the following article?

https://www.theodysseyonline.com/100-okay-with-abortion

Choosing not to bring a child into your life, at any time of your life, does not make you less of a woman. There are women who find themselves pregnant at an older age and feel that they cannot carry a child at that time of their life. Whether this decision is made because of health concerns, or simply because the pregnancy is unplanned, choosing abortion is still perfectly okay.

Choosing abortion is okay. Not choosing abortion is okay.

Believing abortion is wrong is okay. Believing abortion is a woman’s right is okay.

Shaming a woman for choosing, or not choosing, abortion is not okay.

Shaming a person for their beliefs regarding abortion is not okay.

A woman’s reason for abortion is her own business, not yours.

Next time you find yourself in a discussion about abortion, I hope you will remember to consider the feelings of the person sitting opposite you. We all have personal reasons for the beliefs we hold on this topic and we should all be considerate of others’ beliefs. Next time you find yourself judging a person for their opinions on abortion, remember that whatever a person believes, it is okay.

The author herself article clearly sees no harm in abortion, but she remains open minded and grants that others might have a different view. She tries to find some middle ground on the issue, some view that should unite us all, but it doesn’t quite work. Compromise is sometimes a good thing, but there should be no compromising when it comes to the life of a child or the horrible nature of abortion. Would you seek compromise with Dr. Mengele and his evil boss or would you simply attempt to destroy their points of view on modern medicine and experimentation? Would Jesus allow that everyone, including the Nazis, ought to at least have their points of view considered and their standard be given as much weight as our own American ideals? This is moral relativism run amok. We wouldn’t seek compromise with the Nazis and we shouldn’t compromise with pro-choice advocates either, no matter how good their intentions, how much they care about others, or how nice they themselves are.

Judgment, in the author’s view, is a very bad thing: inflexible, uncompromising, and intolerant. She tells us we must be understanding of each other, so we can get along; live and let live. Ok. That seems reasonable on the surface. However, would Jesus withhold his own opinion in the face of this challenge or would he be heard in any case? I will let you answer that on your own.

The author references feelings, as if feelings are the deal breaker here. How about the soul of the person next to you? Wouldn’t Jesus be more concerned about our souls rather than our feelings? Our souls are eternal, but are feelings are ephemeral.

For the author, abortion is just another choice, one choice among many. She appears to be high minded by allowing others their opposing views, but as soon as we point out that not all choices are good, we run afoul of her. She tells us if we don’t criticize her views, she won’t criticize ours, but the choice she advocates is to take the life of another. How can we possibly look the other way?

Moral relativism, what she is advocating, is the true danger of our time. Our culture would like to eliminate all forms of judgment. This idea sells because many believe it allows us great freedom. As long as we don’t directly harm another, we can live our life free of criticism. Nevertheless, we cannot avoid the consequences of sin and poor choices. We will eventually suffer from our bad choices, abortion among them. These choices eventually bind us in chains and ultimately rob of us of our freedom. It may take a long time to realize the consequence in your own life or tie your suffering with the choice made. Perhaps many never realize it, but it is still true.

Still, the moral relativists don’t like us raining on their parade. Those who judge, people like me, for example, people who offer an opinion on right and wrong, we are the problem. When I say I don’t condone gay marriage or that homosexuality is a sin or that or that transgenders are generally deluding themselves or that abortion is evil, I am the bad guy. I am limiting choices, and this author wrongly implies all choices are equally and morally good. Ironically, those folks do much judging and criticizing of their own as well.

All I am actually saying is that others choices (abortion, gay marriage, transgenderism) are not good, not for themselves and not for our culture. I do not want to forcibly change them or prevent them from making such choices. I want to persuade and convince, show them a better way. That’s the only way to affect real change. Yet that view alone is too much for our critics to accept. I become the attacker, the angry man. My refusal to affirm their behavior translates into: I am discriminating against gays, transgenders, and pregnant women; I hate and fear them; I am the intolerant one; I am angry and pathetic, and so on.

Jesus criticized as well. Some like to focus only on His message of love and understanding, but He brought judgment as well.

Nevertheless I say to you that it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for you.” (Matthew 11:24)

He said to the judges, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. (Chronicles 2:16)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10)

He said to the judges, “Consider what you are doing, for you do not judge for man but for the Lord who is with you when you render judgment. (2 Chronicles 19:6)

“I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! (Luke 12:49)

My liberal friend whom I have debated on occasion would say I am imposing my morality. He also would highlight Jesus’s command to “Judge not”. Why am I judging another, he might ask? Who am I to judge? But I have to ask in turn: how can I say taking another’s life is okay? How can I withhold judgment in this case?

God became man, so man could become like God. We are to follow his example, to become more like God, and to bring others with us throughout our own journey. If we realize this duty and yet fail to fulfill our role, we risk bringing judgment, God’s judgment, on ourselves. Let your voice be heard, please.

What my friend doesn’t acknowledge is that we in today’s society judge others all the time. We are called to judge our peers when they are on trial. We judge (and correct) our children when they behave badly or when they make mistakes; in fact, to withhold that judgment would be detrimental to their development. We call for interventions when our loved ones or friends can no longer control their destructive behavior (drug abuse, domestic abuse, infidelity, etc.); to sit idly by while they destroy their lives would be wrong. Teachers judge their students performance. Managers judge their employees work. Voters judge their leaders. We offer advice to others because we care about and we think we can help them do better and learn from our experience. We criticize our bosses, our enemies, our favorite sports teams, our political opponents, and practically everyone else because we judge that we know better them (we are not always correct, but it is still a common and accepted form of judgment). In short, we judge all the time because we are called to, because we are compelled to.

Is Jesus telling us not to judge at all, to allow everyone to be their own judge, to never criticize, to never offer advice, or never evaluate each other? No. We correct others because we are called to as responsible citizens and as responsible Christians. It doesn’t mean we are hypocrites because we have also failed at times to follow our Christian precepts; we are hypocrites only if we refuse God’s and others judgment of our own failings.

As humans we judge each other’s actions. We are expected to keep each other accountable. Otherwise, we cannot maintain a civilized society. In contrast, God judges our hearts. God knows our motivations, but we, as mere humans, shouldn’t presume to know each others thoughts and motivations. I can say aborting a child is wrong because it is an action I can clearly see, but I cannot judge the woman who aborts the child because I don’t know what motivates her and I don’t know what is in her heart. I don’t know her story or all she has been through to arrive at this point. I can criticize her actions, but I cannot condemn (i.e. judge) her or shun her from polite society. I don’t call for excommunication or to see her publicly scolded. I give her the benefit of the doubt because I do not know all; I do not know her heart or her motivation. God knows all and He will judge her heart. I can walk with her on the journey and offer my perspective (give tough love, perhaps), but the one thing I must not do is look the other way and affirm this action. She may not care what I think, but still I will not change my views to be accepted and assure her she did nothing wrong.

The Ultimate Judgment

The ultimate judgment, the one clearly reserved for God alone, is the decision of who lives or dies. This is what the pro-choice people miss completely. A child aborted receives the ultimate judgement, a judgment we, even the child’s mother, especially the child’s mother, have no right to impose. I think this is what Jesus means when He says “Judge not”. Do not determine another’s ultimate fate. Do send another to their judgment until God calls them in his due time. This can take many forms other than condemning someone to death, including publicly shaming of others or placing yourself above them; such actions can gravely harm another and put them on a bad path. This is why Jesus warns against anger (and compares it to murder) in the sermon on the mount. I follow the precepts of my Church which opposes any form of the ultimate judgment: abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, murder (or anything such as anger, hatred, or condemnation that nudges another in those directions). Affirmation of any of these judgments, assumes we humans can determine who should live and who should die, who is ultimately good and who is bad. We do not have that authority or that insight.

All these terrible judgments assume the individual deserves no more chances. I don’t know the mind of God. I don’t know how many more chances He wants others to have. I also don’t know why some fall into such a deplorable state or do such deplorable actions, and I understand the desire for capital punishment, but I remember my father often saying: there but for the grace of God go I. Who knows what state I might have fallen in myself in different circumstances? I shouldn’t exercise the ultimate judgment against anyone else (save for self-defense or in defense of another’s life). If God wants that person to have another chance (or simply a first chance for an unborn child), who are any of us to intervene in that Godly choice? Lock up criminals for sure, but don’t take their lives. We do not have that right.

I believe God is saddened by a million American children aborted annually. God will judge our nation for that sin. I fear that America will be judged as harshly as Sodom and Gomorrah for that sin.

The Cost of Speaking Up

I try my best to avoid judgment of the individual and offer judgment of just their actions. Yet, I find it ironic that the pro-choice folks often judge our pro-life motivations while ignoring our actual arguments. Any proposed limitations on abortions are met with vigorous protest. They say we don’t care about women or women’s rights. They discredit us and our motivations while never acknowledging our real concern–the life of children, the most vulnerable in our society. They often say about many political issues that they are motivated “for the children”, yet our own concern for aborted children is pooh-pooh’d.

Others who spoke about similar injustice in the past were vilified for taking a stand, so I feel in good company. Bartlome de las casas was born in Spain in 1484. After being one of the first to travel to the new world, he and a few of his Dominican brothers spoke out against the inhumane treatment of the West Indies natives. He was shunned, exiled, ignored, and vilified for daring to challenge the encomienda system that made so many of his countrymen rich and prestigious. His fellow Spaniards rationalized this system saying the Indians were uncivilized, engaged in barbarities themselves, and were not deserving of the dignity afforded civilized Europeans. They could not (would not, perhaps) see the humanity in the Indians.

The Indians were treated as less than human just as African slaves were dehumanized a century later and Jews in concentration camps were dehumanized less than a century ago. I cannot help but see so many parallels in the manner in which the Indians were treated and spoken of by the Spanish, the manner in which African slaves were treated and spoken of by so many, the manner in which the Jews were treated by the Nazis, and the manner in which the unborn are treated today. Their humanity was then and is still today overlooked. I cannot also help but see the manner in which de las Casas was treated and the manner in which those of us who speak out against abortion are treated today. We can look back on history and clearly see the atrocities of the past, but we find it more difficult to see the atrocities of today, especially if we are complicit in them.

Lila Rose, head of the Pro Life organization Live Action said “Abortion is violence” and was labeled a domestic terrorist for that true statement:

http://www.christianitydaily.com/articles/10506/20210113/pro-life-leader-lila-rose-called-a-terrorist-for-saying-abortion-is-violence.htm.

I am sure Bartolome de las Casas would also speak on behalf of the unborn and would receive the same treatment as Lila Rose were he alive today. One thing which has not changed across all the years is human nature; we are all capable of great evil. It was true in the 1500’s and it is just as true today. We must speak up or evil will win. De las Casas did manage to move the king with his persistence on the issue of his day. We can move someone as well, if we only try. Apathy and disinterest are the only way to lose this fight. Let your voice be heard. Our future and our children’s future depend on it.

The Future

I started this latest post before the news was revealed that the Supreme Court is poised to uphold the Mississippi 15-week abortion law and overturn Roe v. Wade. Even after this decision is finalized (and if not alerted significantly), the battle is not over and will continue on for some time, being taken to the individual states with differing laws in each.

The media will declare it is the end of democracy.  It is not.  It is actually a return to democracy; it takes the decision out of the hands of nine justices (who are they to decide the fate of the entire country?) and returns it to the people of each state where your voices will now actually matter. This is the essence of democracy.

President Biden, commented on the decision extensively. He laid down a marker of resistance in his full text, but in this short passage he shows he has moved far away from the teachings of the faith he professes:

“I respect those who believe life begins in the moment of conception – I respect that. Don’t agree but I respect that.

I end this with a message to fellow Catholic Joe Biden. Below is a passage from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Church he and I both belong to. There is no misunderstanding what the Church declares on this topic, nor has there been any evolution in its thinking over time. Submit to the will of God, not to your political interests on this matter:

2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person – among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life. 72
 
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. 73
 
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately wrought in the depths of the earth. 74
 
2271 Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law:
 
You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. 75
 
God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. 76

For more of my views on this topic: https://seek-the-truth.com/category/life/

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