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?


Why I’m in Favor of Same-Sex Marriage

I posted on Facebook why I don’t eat at Chik-Fil-A (i.e., because of this), and I got slammed, snarked, and condescended to by one person. My first thought was to reply in kind, my second was to inform them of the location of the useful little X button on Facebook posts and suggest that if they don’t like what I have to say, they avail themselves of it. But then I decided to try for something more like Amp’s approach here. I’m not sure I was successful, because I wrote a huge essay that I doubt the other person will do more than skim through, and because I didn’t really do enough to tie it to the other person’s experiences (though I tied it to mine), but I can hope.

Anyway, here’s what I wrote:

Now that that’s* out of the way, I don’t think they’re bigots for believing, in good faith, that homosexuality is a sin. I think they’re bigots for actively fighting against marriage equality and for denying LGBT people the use of their facility.

I think that even if you are fully convinced that homosexuality is a sin, it’s still wrong (and unChristian) to try to continue denying gay people equality under the law. It means real tangible harm and cruelty, like not letting people visit their sick or dying partner in the hospital, or taking kids away from people who’ve raised them. This happens even when the couples in question have seen a lawyer and spent the tons of time and money to get the legal documents that were supposed to be “just as good” as legal marriage. It also means letting kids languish in foster care or group situations when there are adoptive parents who would give them a loving home, but happen to be gay.

The second reason I’m in favor of SSM is that America is not and was never meant to be a theocracy. I also don’t see anything in the Bible to suggest that it’s the job of American Christians to try to make it one. This isn’t Old Testament Israel, where our nation’s laws came straight from God, and nowhere in the New Testament do I find a word about how we’re supposed to force our non-Christian neighbors to live by our beliefs. There’s a lot of turning the other cheek and shaking the dust off your feet and showing love.

And if America wasn’t meant to be a theocracy in 1776, when it was inhabited mostly by Christians and a handful of Jews, how much more wrong would it be to make it a theocracy now when it’s a country of people of every religion and no religion. We’ve been effectively a theocracy in a lot of ways because of a Christian majority and because of some deep-seated prejudices toward people who aren’t Christian, but that’s changing. As a Christian, it makes me happy, not sad, to see that change, because I believe that matters of faith are between an individual and God, not something to be shoved down their throat by whatever majority happens to have power.

I also find it telling which beliefs we feel we have the right, even the imperative, to make others live by. Tons of marriages happen every day that many Christians would define as not Biblical for one reason or another. But we’re not rushing to invalidate the marriages of the divorcees, or the people marrying outside their faith, or the people who have had premarital sex with someone other than the person they’re marrying. Heck, if we want to give all of Paul’s directives about marriage legal force, my marriage to [my husband]** should be just as illegal as the marriage of any two men or two women, because it’s an egalitarian one–I promised to love and honor, but not obey. And on the flip side, there are plenty of Christian denominations that have no problem with same-sex marriage. Even if we were to be a Christian theocracy, whose brand of Christianity gets to be in charge?

Finally, I never said that Chik-Fil-A deserves to go bankrupt and frankly***, if the few bucks I might spend on fast food is going to do in my local chain, they’ve got bigger problems. But I don’t think I’m somehow obligated to have my money go toward things I think are wrong. If it’s okay for Christians who are against homosexuality to boycott Disney for having gay pride days, how is it not okay for me to do the same based on my deeply held beliefs?

I *like* the fact that Chik-Fil-A is closed on Sundays. I like the fact that a lot of the restaurants play Christian music. I would love to be able to support them, but this is an issue that’s important enough to me that I would not feel right eating there.

*”That” was telling him that I didn’t appreciate his sarcasm or condescension. Just because I’m trying to have a better conversation doesn’t mean I won’t tell the other person when they need to knock off the rudeness.

** Hubby’s full name redacted, since this is a public blog and not my “some vague semblance of privacy” Facebook page, where everything I posted is limited to my two-hundred-and-ninety-something “friends”

**He said, among other things, that I was arguing that Chik-Fil-A’s owners are horrible people and deserve to go bankrupt for “acting on what [they] know to be true.”

If you’d just work harder, everything would be perfect

This irritates me a lot. It’s a poster in the style of “We Are the 99%” talking about how the person holding it is a college senior about to graduate debt-free, because they *work hard* and *save* and don’t spend their money on *stupid luxuries.* They go into lots of detail about their low-paying job and when they started saving and how if you’re in debt it’s your own fault for not living within your means.

Dude, good for you. First off, really seriously, good for you. If you’re working 30 hours a week in retail or food service, taking a full load of college courses, and pulling off a good GPA, my hat is off to you. That’s an accomplishment, and you have every right to be proud of it.

But where you stop making me think “Go you,” and start wanting you to shut up and go away is where you assume that people who have debt made bad decisions, or were lazy. And where you assume that hard work is the only thing responsible for you being able to graduate debt-free.

First off, you have a job. Lots of people are busting their tails trying to find work and haven’t been able to. So for every college student with your story, there are probably a dozen who can’t get a job at K-Mart or the local pizza joint because they have hundreds of applicants for every position. And you worked while you were in high school? Great. The economy sucked a lot less when you were in high school. Today, a lot of those typical teenage jobs are being filled by twenty-, thirty-, and forty-somethings who can’t get anything else.

Secondly, based on the fact that you’re physically and mentally able to do what you do, I’m guessing you’re in at least decent health. But what would happen if you were injured and couldn’t work for a month? What if you had a disability that made that work and class schedule impossible?

Third, you got scholarships. Yes, you absolutely earned those with your good grades. But there are certainly students who work just as hard, maybe even get the same grades, who don’t get scholarships, or don’t get the same amount of scholarship money you did. And people with awesome grades and scholarships still have student loans. I graduated third in my class, was a National Merit Scholar and had a “full tuition scholarship” (in scare quotes because it didn’t cover increases, so it was only full tuition my freshman year). And yet, here I am, eight years after graduation, still paying on my student loan. Not much, but I am in debt, so by this person’s standard, I fail at life.

If someone has debt, it *might* be because they made poor decisions. It might also be because they made the perfectly reasonable decision to borrow money for something that’s worth it, or at least was when they made the decision. A college education is a prerequisite for a lot of jobs, student loan interest is usually not that high, and college loans can be a good thing. If you can get a job when you get out, that is. It’s a risk, like anything else, but that doesn’t make it a bad decision. Someone starting school four years ago couldn’t have predicted where the economy would be now and how hard it would be to find a job with their degree. And that’s without even taking into consideration how banks can and do misrepresent loan terms or make huge numbers of bad decisions.