Monday, August 25, 2014

Judge Not, You Judgy Judgers!

WARNING: Never read the comments section on the internet.

Don't read the comments section on a news article. Don't read the comments on a controversial Facebook post. And please, for all that is good and holy, do NOT read the comments on YouTube. Trust me, you will only find yourself disappointed in the state of the world.

If you wish to comment on a certain topic, that's fine. Log on, state your piece, log off and don't look back for any replies. Because no one is going to reply to what you say. They're only going to reply to what they think you said. They're going to reply to who they think you are. They're going to give some snappy, canned answer based on something that they heard on some quasi-political talk show the other night and consider their argument won.

And one of the most widely used canned answers in any comment section these days is "don't judge me." Oddly enough, even though this anti-judging sentiment is religious in origin (Matthew 7:1), it is mostly used against those who are religious by people who are anti-religion. It's brought up by people who know the basic phrasing, and feel like they can throw it in a religious person's face and immediately end the argument, like someone holding up a cross to Dracula.

I'm sorry, canned answer man, but to quote Jerry, the ancient vampire in the classic 1985 film Fright Night, "you have to have faith in order for it to work on me."

The phrase "don't judge me" has been completely blown out of proportion. It has lost its meaning. And while I don't consider myself a super scriptural scholar (alliteration! woo!), I would like to dust off this particular phrase that has been dragged through the mud and give it a fresh perspective. And yes, there will be some judging going on. 

Let's look at the "don't judge" scripture here, in context. In Matthew, chapter 7, Jesus Christ (who is religious, I might add) is concluding the Sermon on the Mount. Side note: most of the Sermon on the Mount is Christ telling people what is right and wrong. Anyway, here is what He has to say:

1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.

2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

To me, that seems more cautionary than commandment...ary. It seems to me that Christ is saying that you will be judged by the same standard that you hold other people to. That doesn't seem to be a problem as long as you're practicing righteous judgement -- meaning, you're not holding anyone to an unfair standard that you, yourself, are not willing to meet.

Let's recap what we've learned so far: if I tell a person that arson is wrong and turn them into the police for even thinking it, knowing full well that I'm going to burn down the local IHOP later that night, I'm in the wrong. However, just telling someone that arson is wrong, when I, too, believe it's wrong isn't a problem.

Let's move on to the next section of scripture in Matthew, which is an illustration of this concept of judging:

3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

This section seems to deal primarily with hypocrisy. Of course we shouldn't be hypocrites, I think everyone agrees with that (except for hypocrites). And yes, we are all imperfect, no one would argue with that (although some people would in the comments section, just to be contrary). However, I think that this is an example of hypocrisy when judging someone else, not what happens every time we judge someone. After all, not everyone that calls someone else out about a mote (a tiny piece of substance) in their eye has a beam (a ray or shaft of light. . .wait. . . I mean a long, sturdy piece of squared timber) in their own eyes.

So let's talk about who can judge. Is Simon Cowell going to get in trouble for all the times he's told someone that they don't have (or do have) singing talent? Is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg going to face hellfire for Eldred v. Ashcroft, 537 U.S. 186 (look it I had to)? People judge others all the time. 

But what gives Judge Judy the right to tell people what's right and wrong? Is it the gavel? I could get a gavel if I wanted to -- robes, too. But I don't need robes or a gavel because I am not making a legally binding decision regarding any matter. I am not disqualifying anyone from the Hollywood finals. I am merely forming an opinion about someone else.

Let's take a look at the definition of the word "judge." According to a popular online dictionary whose name rhymes with "Berriam-Bebster," to judge means:

1. to form an opinion about (something or someone) after careful thought
2. to regard (someone) as either good or bad
3. law: to make an official decision about (a legal case)

It seems that "judging" someone is to form an opinion about them. Aren't we all entitled to an opinion? I'm pretty sure that the claim "everyone is entitled to their own opinion" is bandied about in the online comments section almost as much as "don't you judge me." So which is it, folks? "I'm allowed to have an opinion" or "You shouldn't judge others"?

Let's get legal here. In the First Amendment to the Constitution it states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Wait. . .that's another point for another day. But the Free Press Clause in the First Amendment protects the publication of our opinions. And even though our Founding Fathers weren't subjected to the horrors of comments sections on the internet, that same liberty applies. We are all entitled to an opinion.

"But, The Former 786," you sneer, "the First Amendment just means that the government can't arrest you for what you say. It doesn't have anything to do with insignificant online arguments!"

Exactly. Thank you for helping to further my point, Sneery McSneerface.

Most of the time "don't judge me" is used, it's during an insignificant argument. The person doing the "judging" doesn't have any actual judge powers. There is a difference between making an official, legally binding decision and telling someone they're being an idiot.

And we're not even talking about the world's laws here. We're talking about God's laws. In the end, Jesus Christ will be our final judge. That is the judging that we should not and, in fact, cannot do. Christ will be the one who will determine who is saved and who is damned. We do not have that power.

So we form opinions about each other. It's in our nature. It's what we do. We form opinions every day. And yes, we do have the right to tell people if we think what they're doing is wrong.

Once again, looking to Christ's example, in John, chapter 8, when a woman taken in adultery is brought before Jesus, His interaction with her went something like this:

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

 "Hey wait!" you proudly declare in the comments section of this blog, "Jesus also said 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.' So that means that you shouldn't judge!" Not necessarily. And stop interrupting me. It seems that Christ, once again, is giving a lesson on hypocrisy. We should also not be extreme in our judgement. These men who brought this woman to Jesus wanted to pass final judgement right then and there. Jesus put a stop to that and, instead, took the softer approach. Jesus did not condemn her, because we all have the ability to repent of our sins, but He did not say "go, and do whatever makes you happy." He said "go, and sin no more." He told her that what she was doing was a sin and He told her not to do it anymore. 

Because Jesus did tell people what was right and what was wrong.

In the very same Sermon on the Mount where he said "Judge not," he also said the following things were wrong: killing, getting angry, adultery, lust, fornication, swearing (oaths...though swear words aren't good either), hypocrisy and greed. And if Christ, our perfect example, has deemed these things as wrong, then of course we're going to call other people out when they do these things. That's not judging, that's holding up a standard.

Also keep in mind, that this is also the same Jesus who made a scourge of small cords (a whip) and cast sinners out of the temple. There is a time for meekness, and there is a time for boldness.

Now, I have taken quite the religious turn on this post, and I would apologize, but I'm not sorry. The people who use the flimsy "you're not supposed to judge" stance are usually trying to twist religion around to their own understanding. I want you to be clear how I understand it -- and that "defense" is not going to work on me.

Because we will continue to judge each other, and we have the right to do so. We won't (and can't) pass final judgement on whether you're going to heaven or hell, but people will form an opinion on words they hear you say and actions they see you do. They may judge you silently or they may approach you (hopefully tactfully), but the judging will happen. People will (and can) form an opinion of you. It's in our nature to do so. It may not be a perfect opinion, but that's okay because none of us are perfect people.

So, faithful readers, I will continue to try and judge with righteous judgement. I will continue to form opinions about people based on their words and their actions. These opinions may change, depending on the situation, but I have an opinion of what is wrong and what is right, and I have the right to share it.

Also, please stop using the idiom "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." That's stupid. No one lives in a house made entirely of glass. And, if someone did, they certainly wouldn't be throwing stones around.

Yes, I just judged that saying.