Self Defense from a Fundmentalist Attack
12 Scriptures No Fundamentalist Believes
(Part 10 “Judge Not”)
The religion of fundamentalism requires a scapegoat. There must be someone to criticize or convert for the theology to work. So, if you want to make some people angry, just bring up Jesus’ command against judging.
Robert Meyer of “Renew America” put it like this, “The very idea that all judging is wrong, is an illegitimate synthesis between Christianity, moral relativism, and the contemporary perspective on “tolerance.” These ideas have been wedded together to conjure up (a) witch’s brew of self-contradictory sophistry.”
Fundamentalism often emerges in times of cultural disintegration. It is not hard to sympathize with people trying to hold their communities and families together by putting the world into simple categories that give a sense of understanding and direction.
Often the concerns fundamentalists have are legitimate, but such over simplification can be deadly for those who end up in the role of scapegoat. Fundamentalists are correct in saying we need some kind of discernment. We must make judgments when it comes to ideas and actions, so what was Jesus trying to say when he told us not to judge? (“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. “ (Matt 7.1-3 NIV))
Many religious misunderstandings boil down to undefined terms. People use the same words in different theological systems and it easy to feel that others are twisting the text. I agree with fundamentalists that we do have decisions to make. There are bad actions and bad ideas. The command not to judge cannot mean to ignore contradictions in an argument, or injustice in an action. So what does the command against judging mean? Here are a several guesses:
It is a command against arrogance.
Whatever “judging” means it begins when any of us think that we represent the model for the rest of us. The fundamentalist presumes an elevated vantage point from which to point out the shortcomings of others. When a group of moralists had gathered with their scripture to stone a woman caught in adultery, they were absolutely correct that the scripture said to stone her. They would say they were not judging the woman just obeying scripture, but Jesus said “whoever is perfect throw the first stone.” Some fundamentalists will quickly point out that Jesus told the woman to “sin no more.” It is true that is what he said to her, but what he said to the rest of us, is to lay down our stones.
It is a command against bullying.
If we ask a fundamentalist to leave other people alone, they will sometimes say we are the ones judging and that they are the real victims, but “judging” isn’t just an opinion. It is interfering in the lives of others. And, just because someone can find a verse in the Bible does not mean they have been given the authority to say what that means in someone else’s situation. Bullies often say they are trying to control us because they love us, but no one can love anyone they do not first respect.
It is a command against revenge disguised as justice.
There are some people who are only good to avoid punishment. Such people cannot sleep knowing that others are getting away with pleasures which they themselves find tempting. When they say “I love the sinner but hate the sin” it is not very hard to discern the velvet cloaked dagger of resentment in their moralizing.
So what was Jesus saying? Christianity is called “the new covenant” because it was not based on obedience to the law. Jesus saw the sins of the world as wounds rather than infractions to be punished. So he said, “judge not and you will not be judged.” The new covenant was an offer of clemency for all who would offer that same clemency to others.
The new covenant requires no scapegoats for its theology to work. Quite the opposite it requires us to be willing to present ourselves as living sacrafices. We must be willing to suffer rather than inflict suffering because we understand a very important fact about our world. Namely, that we cannot eliminate the wounds of the world by punishment. We can only remove these wounds by healing them.