Are Christians judgmental?

Is everyone judgmental? 

The answer might surprise you.

First, what does it mean to be judgmental?  For an example that could have walked out out of the storybook of modern judgmental caricatures, let’s look at the newish Dr. Seuss movie, Horton Hears a Who (2008).  

In the movie, a kangaroo I’ll call Ms. Kangaroo is a walking symbol of what we usually think of when we hear the word judgmental.  She’s prudish; she’s bossy; she doesn’t want anyone to have any fun; she doesn’t allow her child to play with the other children (in fact, she pouch-schools him); and she thinks her opinion is the only right way.  Moreover, she wants to destroy the small speck of life that Horton has discovered swirling through the air.

But here’s something you might not have thought about.  Did you know that Horton is just as judgmental as Ms. Kangaroo?  Wait a second–but how?

For one thing, Horton has judged that the speck is important.  Therefore, any beliefs that the speck is unimportant are against his worldview.  Horton has judged that the speck is more important than his popularity, personal safety, or own ambitions.  He’s making a big, judgmental statement about his worldview the whole movie!

Now, am I saying Horton was wrong to care about the little life on the speck?  Not at all.  My point is, he was acting judgmentally–he was refusing to accept the worldviews of others, namely, the worldviews of Ms. Kangaroo and the apes who try to destroy the speck.

Here’s the problem.  Here’s what Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.  You have to be judgmental to decide which of the two judgmental characters you will identify with in the movie.  You can identify with Horton or you can identify with Ms. Kangaroo, or both, or neither, but you won’t be able to escape being judgmental yourself!

The caricature of ‘judgmental’ Ms. Kangaroo in this very interpretive remake of Dr. Seuss’ original story is meant to slam conservatives, homeschoolers, and people who believe in absolute truths (who admit that they believe the way they believe is the only right way).  Wait a minute, wait a minute!  That sounds suspiciously judgmental to me!  Whether you agree or disagree with the movie’s producers, you need to recognize that you are judging by making a decision!

In fact, did you know you are making judgments every day, all the time, without thinking about it?  You choose what programs on TV to watch, what blogs to read, and what books to pick up–and you are judging that those are more important to you than the ones you don’t watch and don’t read.  Any time you do any activity, you are judging that it’s more important to you than other activities you could be doing at that time.  It’s a sound economic concept, cost-benefit analysis.  You are judging what brings you the least cost or greatest benefit, or both.

The word judge at least has a chance to mean something positive.  More often than not, though, it means someone who judges unfairly or intrusively.  For example, Don’t judge me. or Who made you judge and jury?

But the word judgmental is a loaded word.  Although its root word is judge, so far as I know judgmental is never used to mean only someone who judges, but instead someone who judges unfairly or intrusively.

But here’s the kicker–what is unfair or intrusive?  How do you or I decide that?  How can I say that Ms. Kangaroo is unfair and intrusive?  Is it because I don’t like her personality?  If so, then that’s just my opinion, and I thought one of the ground rules of the tolerance movement is that you don’t judge people’s opinions!

Is it because, in a room of ten people, nine of them would side with Horton?  Is that why I can say Ms. Kangaroo is unfair and intrusive?  But if that’s so, then actual values would change based on the audience.  Now, I do not believe at all that Ms. Kangaroo in that movie is a fair representation of homeschoolers, conservatives, or people who believe in absolute truths.  But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose Ms. Kangaroo is an exact representation of these groups.  Then what happens if I show the movie to them?  Well, they will certainly side with Ms. Kangaroo!  And if the nature of judging is decided on popular opinion, then that would make the value of what is unfair and intrusive change.

We can assign certain ways of believing as judgmental, but we do so totally arbitrarily.  The movie makers of Horton Hears a Who certainly had this in mind.  They made a “straw man” to represent groups they didn’t like, and they burned the straw man to the ground.  They did so cleverly, because Ms. Kangaroo’s personality and actions are not only totally unacceptable to groups who are intolerant of homeschooling, conservatives, and people who believe in absolute truths, but also to many homeschoolers, conservatives, and people who believe in absolute truths!

(Incidentally, do you realize that if you believe there are no absolute truths, you are every bit as judgmental as the person who says there are?  You are judging that there are absolutely no absolute truths, and you are as emphatic about your belief and as sure it is the only right way as the person who believes the opposite of you.)

When you think of the word judgmental, an image might come to your head like the aloof, looking-down-her-nose-at-you, ignorant Ms. Kangaroo.  But maybe next time you can add another image, too, an image of compassionate, loving, tenderhearted Horton the Elephant.  Both animals make judgments by their worldviews, and both animals are equally ‘judgmental’, if you use the word to mean the neutral act of judging (whether for good or bad).  If you don’t use the word to mean the neutral act of judging, but rather imply a moral code by which ‘judgmental’ means something unfair or intrusive, you have to cite the moral code you’re using–and you have to recognize that you are judging by promoting your moral code, whatever it is.

The reason you and I both side with one animal in this movie rather than the other is not because one is judgmental and the other isn’t.  The reason you and I both side with one animal rather than the other is God has given us a mind to know and therefore to judge, a mind that longs to know the difference between right and wrong, and to encourage the right and discourage the wrong.

Ironically, the most famous line from Dr. Seuss’ book Horton Hears a Who is a very judging statement,

I’ll just have to save him.  Because, after all,

A person’s a person, no matter how small.

So . . are Christians judgmental?  Well, if you mean they judge, then, yes.  Christians do judge.  But so do non-Christians.  Everywhere.  There’s no way not to.  It’s part of our privilege and responsibility as thinking, conscious beings made in the image of God.  (And yes, I was judging to make that statement!  But if you were offended by it, you were judging, too!  🙂 )

If the question really means, Are Christians unfair and/or intrusive in the way they judge?, you would have to have an absolute moral standard to make a decision about that.  I can answer from my moral standard, and my answer might surprise you:

They can be.

In my worldview, we are all fallen–sinful–and we all need to get right with God.  The problem is, we don’t know how.  Even though we have an awareness that there is right and wrong in the world, we have trouble distinguishing which is which and why.  That’s because, even though we were made in the image of God, we chose to follow Satan, and he became our father.  God and Satan are both at work in the world.  God gives us wisdom (and wisdom acts morally/righteously).  Satan gives us ignorance and foolishness (and ignorance and foolishness act immorally/unrighteously).

God has made only one way back to Himself, and that is through Jesus Christ.  Christians don’t get there by being good, or smart, or even wise.  Christians get there by recognizing they aren’t good, smart, or wise and calling on Jesus to save them.

Can Christians make mistakes in judgments?  Can they do things that are unfair?  Certainly.  Our worldview explains why this happens: we are redeemed sinners.

As far as accusations of being intrusive, even if you don’t accept our worldview, if you look from our vantage point, you’ll see why we want to people to turn away from their sin and turn to Jesus Christ to be saved.  Although we are still sinners, and can have wrong motives, the real reason why we ‘intrude’ into the lives of others with our worldview, and why we insist that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved, is because we want everyone on the whole earth to call on Jesus to save them.  We share God’s heart, and the Bible tells us God doesn’t want anybody to die without Him.  We aren’t an almost indecipherable noise on a tiny speck of dust to God.  God knows each one of us personally–and He wants to save us . . all of us.  When as Christians we share our faith in Jesus Christ for the right reason, we don’t do it to be Ms. Kangaroo.  We do it to try to be like Horton, because we love you, we value your life, and we don’t want you to perish.

He [the Lord] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9b, NIV)

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