Judging and Being Right

So, Matt Walsh says Jesus wants us to be judgey. He makes a couple decent points, but I don’t really agree with his conclusions.

My first big bone of contention with this article is the part where he does a lot of proof-texting where he grabs one verse out of context, with the implication that it supports his politics.

In actual fact, there are a lot of urgent truths and important moral lessons in the Bible. Interestingly, almost all of them have fallen out of favor in modern American society. Here are just a few verses that aren’t particularly trendy or popular nowadays:

(WARNING: Politically incorrect truths ahead)

[snip for just the quotes I’m referencing, there’s also the badly translated gay clobber verse in there]

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.”

“For even when we were with you, we gave you this rule: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat.” We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies. Such people we command and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and earn the food they eat.”

Funny how the “inconvenient truths” line up with conservative politics, isn’t it? (Never mind that proof-texting is lazy theology and you can make the Bible say anything you want.)

God said to a prophet that he knew him before he formed him in the womb; therefore a blastocyst is morally equivalent to a born person. Paul said to a group who were sitting around doing nothing because they figured the end of the world was coming any day that they needed to work if they wanted to eat; therefore we should get rid of welfare.

I do agree that “Judge not lest ye be judged,” doesn’t mean “Don’t hold moral opinions on anything” or “Don’t criticize evil.” But I doubt, very seriously, that when he says he “judges rightly” that he holds himself to the same standard he holds others. When he talks about “standing up for truth,” it’s pretty clear that it’s about condemning homosexuality and abortion—all very easy for a straight male. It’s easy to feel brave and righteous when condemning actions you would never be tempted to. (See Rachel Held Evans’ “Everybody’s a Biblical Literalist until You Bring Up Gluttony”.)

But what sins does he talk about here that he admits he’s guilty of, or tempted to? Not a one. He makes a vague statement that, “I am a sinful person. If you would ever consider accepting and celebrating my sins for the sake of being “non-judgmental,” please do me a favor and stop doing me that favor. I don’t want to be made comfortable and confident in my wrongdoing. I’d rather have you hurt my feelings as you help me get to Heaven, than protect my feelings as you usher me right along to Hell.”

This statement does two things. First, it pretends that the only thing pro-choice women or gay people have to complain about from the church is “hurt feelings.” It glosses over gay kids being bullied and kicked out of their homes, it glosses over women being denied medical treatment in the hopes that the fetus growing inside them will survive. It pretends that judgment, as long as it’s right by *his* interpretation of the Bible, can’t hurt anyone. All the people who are “judging rightly” are doing God’s holy work, and anyone who’s harmed by that is just whining about “hurt feelings.”

The second thing it does is to assume that God is not strong enough to save us if we’re wrong, and makes salvation a matter of other people’s intervention rather than God’s. If my friend sins, and I don’t call him on it strongly enough, often enough, loudly enough, then it’s my fault if he goes to Hell. (And yet, I bear no responsibility if he cuts off all contact with me because all I ever did was criticize him.) Jesus’ death on the cross was not partial or conditional. It’s not only the sins you stop committing that you’re saved from. Yes, you’re supposed to repent when you know you’ve done wrong, and try to do better, but you *will not* become perfect in this life, nor are you expected to. Every human being on the planet dies with unrepented sins, and I doubt their salvation will hinge on whether someone gave them enough grief about one of the many things they did wrong.

This second bit also puts me in the position of supposedly knowing God better than my friend. Because sin is always supposed to be clear and black and white, despite the fact that the Bible is complicated, nuanced, and subject to a whole range of interpretations. But the assumption is not just that my interpretation is right, and I must educate my poor ill-informed friend, but that said friend has clearly not considered what the Bible says on the topic, clearly hasn’t prayed about it at all. It *must* be that I’m the virtuous defender, pointing out evil, and they’ve chosen to ignore God. It’s a nice story, but reality is more complex than that. Sincere Christians come to different conclusions about sin and morality *all the time.*

How about we don’t assume we’re judging rightly? Yes, call out wrong-doing when you see it, but be humble enough to accept that your view may be distorted. Accept, maybe, that other people have thought and prayed and wrestled with these things as much or more than you have. And accept that it’s not your job to drag them, kicking and screaming, down the path of righteousness.

I also find it interesting that the verses that support his politics (or kind of maybe do, if you squint) can be trotted out as “politically incorrect truths” that obviously apply across time and culture, but that a different standard applies to this one:

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.

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?