Prejudging vs. judging

(system) #1

By Alexander Carpenter

On Sabbath Bob raised a thoughtful question about my language celebrating Senate chaplain Barry Black's decision not to grace the Coral Ridge Ministries folks with his presence. I'll grant the point on the loaded use of "informed," but speaking of loads, consider the stuff that Coral Ridge puts out.

At some point we humans all decide some ground rules for understanding our world. Frankly, I'm going to trust those folks who spend years studying origins rather than TV preachers with dubious doctorates who link Darwin and Hitler. Yes, I'm making a judgment--that the totality of my evidence is greater than theirs. It's not hubris--it's how we all get through each day.

And noting that bias, Bob homes in on the problem of judging others: "How can one -- or how can we -- come to the table of Christian -- and human -- fellowship all-the-while insisting OUR version of Christianity is the purest, best, most informed?? Isn’t that what "THEY” are saying too? Why respond in kind? Why are some SO willing to demonize and smear the so called “Christian Right”? Don’t they KNOW that to talk of “tolerance” that does not “tolerate” the right’s and opinions of EVERYONE -- even a caricatured “religious right” -- is self negating?"

Bob concludes by wishing that Barry Black had gone and "said EXACTLY what was on his mind about the largeness of God, and about the smallness of the vision of those before him…"

Even here there lies a distinction. I used the term "informed;" Bob measures vision. My point: there is no such things as tolerance for everything. It's both a logical and practical impossibility. The rub lies in that we always judge. Here I'd like to elucidate a core evaluative difference between the religious right and a prophetic faith.

Two distinctions are vital (at least for me):

1. The difference between defining the heavenly and the earthly community. I have no idea who will get to heaven. In fact, most of the distinctions we humans have made in the past seem completely backward now (no Protestants, no dancers, no Jews, no homos) -- you get the idea. But we humans do have a duty to envision the community on earth. I'd say that we agree that outright racists can no longer lead xenophobic Sabbath School classes and even though many Adventists wouldn't say that only Sabbath-keepers go to heaven, many of those same Sevies still get together to worship God on Saturday. Why? Because the community has defined itself as coming together in "this" and not "that" way.

2. The second point I'd like to make here lies in the difference between prejudging and judging. It's why I support women's ordination and the full communion of homosexuals, and youth involvement in church but I do not accept racism, homophobia, or ageism (both directions). We all make judgments, but we should not make prejudgments--and racists, homophobes, sexists say that how a person looks determines their essential goodness. I don't care much how people look in Christianity, but I do care about what they think and what they do. The difference spins on the question of inherence. I believe that most women, minority ethnicities in America, and homosexuals don't choose their identity. On the other hand, while social experience does play into it, a racist, sexist or homophobe has much more choice over his or her ideology.

That's why I salute Barry Black -- he refused to let his position as a religious leader be used by folks who propound incorrect and quasi-racist ideas like this: “Islam has expanded throughout the world from its beginnings, always by aggressive war and by the subjugation of conquered people.” Christians, according to Dykstra, “need to challenge that idea that Islam is a religion of peace. It is not; it never has been.” Dykstra helps readers understand the implications for America if it becomes lax in its immigration policies." Or twisted science like this, or weird homophobia like this.

I'm a firm believer in dialogue and get into great discussions with other grad students I share a house with-- Catholics, agnostics--who differ from me on abortion, metaphysics, hermeneutics, and when the vacuuming should be done. (It is good fun.)

I pay my taxes and tithe to support what I hope will be the free exchange of ideas in America and in Adventism. However much I love someone clothing their children in "God Hates Fags" shirts I decline to overtly support those whose a priori judgments assume that a women, an Arab, or a queer, Arab women are less valuable than anyone in the eyes of God. Could one define a Christian for the future as one who never prejudges the access to power of a male or female, Jew or Greek, queer or straight.

I'm happy to converse to convince "prejudgers" that there are better ways of understanding human relations, but we have to start somewhere and the great Christian vision lies in the hope that the kin-dom of God includes everyone first, because we are all inherently kin of God. That lived (and voted) reality of human interconnection might just stop terrorism a bit faster than invading Iraq. . .

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at