Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

August 11, 2015
Have we become so afraid of being judgmental that we excuse any behavior?

Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.

“Don’t judge me.”

Have you ever said that or had someone else say it to you? While possible to be an “only kidding moment,” there is a serious side to the concept.

To the best of my knowledge, you will not find the word “relativism” in scripture, but there is no question the idea exists and I believe relativism has a negative influence in our culture. Unfortunately, the idea seems Christian, and it is often even considered as a great virtue among people of faith. But is it really a good thing?

A few weeks ago, Dylann Roof was charged in connection with the nine murders at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Among several of his friends and acquaintances, there was agreement: Dylann was a racist with violent tendencies but, and I quote, “He was a racist, but I don’t judge people.”

Is it possible we have become so afraid of being considered judgmental that we are willing to excuse any behavior? Perhaps a simple definition of relativism would be that all “truth” has value and none should be considered above other. It is all relative.

Nearly 30 years ago as a professor at the University of Chicago, Allan Bloom wrote the book, “The Closing of the American Mind.” In it he described the effect of relativism on students, and said it “impoverished their souls.” He also described his students’ response to the Hindu custom known as “sati,” in which a widow is burned on her husband’s funeral pyre.

As unbelievable as that sounds to our western ears, as late as 1988 in India, legislation was still being drafted about the custom of sati. About 150 years ago, when India was a British colony and “the sun never set on the British Empire,” the practice of sati was banned by the British. The Hindu priests complained it was their custom and they did not want the British government to interfere.

British Gen. Charles James Napier replied, “This burning of widows is your custom; prepare the funeral pile. But my nation has also a custom. When men burn women alive, we hang them, and confiscate all their property.”

I have to admit that seems logical, but as Bloom reported in his book, his students could not separate truth from this obviously terrible act. They either remained silent or said the “the British had no right to be there in the first place.”

Some people may be able to point to chapter and verse and quote Jesus. For example, in Matthew 7:1. “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.” For some people that is the only thing they can ever remember Jesus saying, because it is the only one of His guiding principals they can point to for their life.

But a look at the context reveals that Jesus did not exclude all judgment, rather that judgment should be considered in light of our own behaviors, and most importantly, God’s holiness.

To better understand the complete context, read Matthew chapter five and on to chapter seven. I offer one other verse, a quote from Jesus found in John 7:24. “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”

Upton is pastor of Tooele’s First Assembly of God Church.

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