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Yes, I Am Judgmental

Let's say that one day you meet a modern-day slave owner in your own country. He's found a legal loophole to get away with it, and he finds no moral problem with owning slaves. He argues passionately that he is good to his slaves and that they have a much better life than they did before he owned them. He staunchly believes that they have consented to this way of life, which wouldn't be far-fetched if they came from poor, hierarchical societies.

In fact, he gets angry with you if you dare question his right to own slaves. Who are you to judge me for my personal choices? If you don't like slavery, that's fine; then don't own slaves. But don't impose your values on me.

Not many of us would be satisfied with that argument. We wouldn't be able stay silent about what this man was doing. We would have a moral obligation to speak up.

How judgmental of us.

Humans are hard-wired to make judgments. We can say that we are open-minded and accepting and not bigoted until we're blue in the face, but when someone comes along who tries to justify raping a child or stealing our car or owning slaves, we suddenly become very judgmental indeed.

So can we please stop trying to pretend that we are not judgmental?

I have chosen to define my moral standards from a historical, literal interpretation of the Bible. I have some pretty significant reasons for that, which will perhaps be for another day's discussion. But that decision means that I believe a lot of things that are quite contrary to what many in my culture believe. Yet somehow that makes me a mean-spirited, bigoted, even dangerous person. Some would say that I need to be silenced for what I believe. At the very least, I should keep my opinions to myself, and not try to impose what I believe on society.

So why wouldn't that standard be permitted for the slave-owner? Why shouldn't he too be allowed to make his own personal choices in how he lives his life and not be confronted by others who judge his morals?

If it seems obvious to you why it would be important to judge the slave-owner, can you therefore try to understand why it is important to me to have the freedom to speak up about biblical morality? A person's individual choices about personhood, abortion, sexuality, gender, and family affect all of us when they start shaping our society. None of us live in a vacuum. We can't assume that anyone's personal choices won't affect other people, because one person's choices affect other people's thinking--and that's how cultures change, and how whole worldviews change. Your personal choices are a big deal to me, as mine should be to you.

"Being judgmental" has become a modern-day badge of shame, and it has caused many of us to be afraid to speak up about what we believe is best for society. But that's not fair. Because those who are labeling others as judgmental are doing the exact same thing--making judgments.

There's an important distinction to make here. Being judgmental is often equated with arrogance, and that is often true. There's a difference between being nasty, cold, or rude with someone you disagree with, versus being kind, but still openly disagreeing. Making moral judgments shouldn't have to assume arrogance. Christians don't always do this right, and that's a problem. Christians often need to do better at speaking the truth in love. But non-Christians need to realize that it's impossible to live as a non-judgmental person.

The bigger, more important questions are these: What is the basis for your judgments? How do you decide whether something is right or wrong? Every single one of us needs to have an answer for those questions, because that's the starting point for having an honest discussion about what is best for our society.

Yes, I'm judging you. You are judging me too. Let's get over it and have a conversation.


*This piece was originally titled, "Yes, I'm Judging You." I changed the title to better reflect what I was trying to communicate. 

After dialogue with readers, I also want to add that I recognize that not all Christians agree on the "literal and historical" meaning of Scripture. That's okay--there is room for debate on certain issues. But Christians who agree that there is a literal and historical meaning at least gives us a starting place for discussion. We might not agree on what that meaning is, but that should just compel us to deeper study to find that meaning, not throw it out as our source of authority. 

Overall, I'm not particularly happy with this piece as I think it comes across as too defensive. I'm not sure if it's particularly helpful. Maybe I'll just eventually delete it. :-)

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