It makes me queasy to see the ease with which the orthodox and the conservative brush away the injunctions about not judging people (paired with the edification to listen) - the immediate classification they give to this warning as fuzzy liberal relativism. Is it a good sign when the immediate reaction to "do not judge" is to classify the phrase "do not judge" as fuzzy liberal relativism? It is ironic, that is for sure.
But it is a very real warning and it concerns a grave danger, connected with the gravest sin, pride. Is that something to be taken lightly? Is it a waste of time to contemplate the dangers - personal dangers - of the gravest of sins and its intrinsic occasions? Do you think the Devil is stupid?
Do not think you have someone figured out, or pegged, or that you know where that person is coming from. Are you anyone's creator? It seems to me the creator of people knows people best, and that you and me know only a fragment about the people we judge, and those fragments are intertwined with ourselves, making it even more a blind judgement - and out of the entire narrative of that person's life, you are acquainted with...what exactly?
A person is "a unique and unrepeatable creation". A mystery - an unpeggable mystery.
Not only are you judging someone, you are judging history like you were the God of history. A person claims to be vigorous and intelligent with a strenuous demand for clarity, but there is too often a huge and winding slime trail of lazy-assed, presumed-upon, crusty, half-formed and malformed conceptions and assumptions that precede their super orthodox stand-offs, which, interestingly, often lean toward the flippant.
The dangers of pride: the phrase probably sounds very quaint and old fashioned to some or to many. Who hears sermons about pride? About how it's the corruption of the highest, which means it is the worst corruption and the most poisonous, the most far-reaching, and the most undetectable. Anyone often hear a sermon about this?
One touchstone of pride, one of the foremost telltale signs, is a form of pegging other people. The forms are varied as people are. It is not just making gross mischaracterizations about someone. The injunction to not judge people is not simply a refraining from - as in, well, okay, I won't judge people, check, check, check, now let's get on with it. For not judging people only and ever rests upon the positive commandment to love your neighbour as yourself. So at the heart of this judging, this pegging of other people, is a spiritual deletion of a person's image - that person who is made in the image of God. It is more painful in a manner than physical violence. For this judging does not necessarily constitute looking at a person with a conclusive judgement. It also, and today more often, includes not looking at people at all; so that our sound arguments become conclusive categorizations of people - as in, they become the pinnacle or summation of our regard for our neighbour.
It is precisely in our love for neighbour that we see what they are doing wrong, and in that context speak about it, and do what prudence and courage demand and inspire. We cannot make arguments while neglecting love of neighbour, for even our sound arguments will become dirty.
I'm as guilty as anyone. This post only proves it.
From the Father Brown story, The Miracle of Moon Crescent, by G.K. Chesterton:
Fenner laughed and then looked puzzled. 'I don't understand one thing,' he said. 'If it was Wilson, how did Wynd come to have a man like that on such intimate terms? How did he come to be killed by a man he'd seen every day for years? He was famous as being a judge of men.'
Father Brown thumped his umbrella on the ground with an emphasis he rarely showed.
'Yes,' he said, almost fiercely; 'that was how he came to be killed. He was killed for just that. He was killed for being a judge of men.'
They all stared at him, but he went on, almost as if they were not there.
'What is any man that he should be a judge of men?' he demanded. 'These three were the tramps that once stood before him and were dismissed rapidly right and left to one place or another; as if for them there were no cloak of courtesy, no stages of intimacy, no free-will in friendship. And twenty years has not exhausted the indignation born of that unfathomable insult in that moment when he dared to know them at a glance.'