Judgment

It’s a peculiar thing, this notion that we are not to judge one another. Passing judgment is, after all, one of the most natural things we do. Every day we determine our likes and dislikes, what’s good and what’s bad. We praise good deeds, and we condemn evil ones. These determinations help us in our interactions with the world around us, they are value judgments that help us navigate through life. When it comes to social interactions, we decide who we like and who we don’t, which people are good people, and which people we should stay away from. We identify and define ourselves by evaluating the ‘other,’ making judgments based on the differences between us. Why, then, does the act of judgment continue to carry such a taboo?

I think our readiness to criticize judgment has something to do with the fact that the word ‘judgment’ has come to be seen as a negative. It’s unpleasant for many of us when we feel that all eyes are looking at us with contempt or scorn, but what about positive judgment? When it feels like all eyes are on us with admiration, we see things differently. Admiration is a judgment as well, but because it’s positive, we feel validated and proud. We don’t see that as judgment. We see it as praise.

The reason I bring this up today is because the issue of judgment is often approached in a way that irks me a little. When it comes to discussions around social equality, I often hear about “the hypocritical Christians judging everybody.” People go bonkers over this topic. Some talk about how it’s a terrible hypocrisy, others about how that’s “not true Christianity,” and then there are those who scream “who are we to judge? Judge not!” The trouble with this is that the focus is misguided. The problem is NOT that people are judging one another. It’s not hypocritical for Christians to pass judgment (even Jesus said to judge righteously in John 7:24), and it’s not wrong for the rest of us to judge Christians. We judge one another anyway. The problem is with the type of judgment, and the reasons for it.

When evangelical Christians judge LGBTQ people for being LGBTQ, they are using negative judgment. They are focusing on an intrinsic part of someone’s personhood, and attacking that as ‘sinful.’ This is negative, it is unfair, it is harmful to society, and it is wrong. Advocates, allies, and members of the LGBTQ community, in turn, pass judgment on Christians for this negativity. This judgment focuses on the choice to remain ignorant and hateful, it is a reaction to negative judgment. This is right, it is just, it is fair, and it can even be helpful. You see, judgment is not the issue. What matters is what kind of judgment it is.

We all judge, let’s embrace that. If we’re ever to reach social unity, we must understand ourselves and accept the things about us that we might not like. We judge … sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, but we do it all the same. Most importantly, it’s okay. As long as your judgment is not hurting anybody, as long as it’s fair and informed, you’re not doing anything wrong. If, however, you are judging people for things they cannot change, due to your ill informed conclusions about what God wants, you are doing society a terrible disservice. Your judgment is causing suicide, fatal homophobic and transphobic attacks, and division. It helps no-one, and it puts your ignorance on display for all to see.

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