Thursday, September 2, 2010

Why are Christians so Judgmental?!

Judgment + a good dose of hypocrisy = one of the top reasons folks are turned off from Christianity. “I love God; it’s those christians I can’t stomach!”

You don't have to go far in the search engines to hear the cries of atheists and other non-believers. I hear this type of criticism on a regular basis - in fact left the church for a time because of those same hypocrites. After all, the non-believer or disgruntled christian will tell you, didn’t Jesus say:

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. "For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. "Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” (St. Matthew 7)

And, while I might digress about the irony of using God’s Word to support the argument of one who denies Him, it’s a claim worth looking into - obviously- because it never seems to go away.

How is it that we become labeled as “judgmental” when all we’re doing is speaking the Truth, .... right? Didn’t Jesus also give us the Great Commission, telling us to spread the Gospel to all nations? Teaching others to obey and follow Jesus’ commandments? (St. Matthew 28) Didn’t Jesus say, “Go and sin no more...” was this casting judgment? Aren’t we to tell others the same?

How are the words of Christ reconciled to us? Where is the balance? As one who is innately opinionated, seeing things mostly in black & white, it’s no stretch to say that I’ve struggled with this dilemma my whole life. When someone I care about makes a poor decision, I have responded with indignation and judment, labeling it “righteous anger” ...just like Jesus casting out the money-changers from the Temple. Meanwhile neglecting to pluck the log from my own eye. It’s painful to admit my internal ugliness here, but who knows... maybe others struggle with the same thing.

At this season in my life, I’ve learned a few things: one, there is a difference between casting judgment and speaking truth and two, that difference involves love and humility. We can speak the Truth about the Holy Trinity, Jesus Christ and Him crucified, without pointing a finger and damning others with vicious words and actions. In this way, I have sympathy for my fellow christians who cling to Jesus as fire insurance, rather than a blessed Redeemer and Father.

St. Paul states it so well in his epistle to the Church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 13) that we may have gifts of men and angels... we may have knowledge and understanding of deep mysteries ... we may give all we have to the poor and yet, without LOVE, we have absolutely nothing. If I give Truth to someone, without love, it is worth nothing. And so, what does it mean to love someone in this way?


Our Lady of Extreme Humility *


It means to speak with humility

to speak, understanding the commandments of God

to speak, acknowledging my sins

to speak because I have a desire for that person to know God

and finally, for me personally, it means to speak and then let it go with prayer...


I had only been attending our Orthodox church for a few months when, as I walked into worship late one Sunday, I realized immediately that we- the congregants- were being chastised by our priest. As I stood quietly in the narthex near the burning candles, you could hear a pin drop between father’s words. He was reprimanded us for immodest dress, bringing cell phones -and not turning them off- into worship, of walking down the aisles at times we should be still, among other things. I could feel my cheeks flush and my spirit subdued , something akin to that emotion of a child, being corrected by a loving parent.

Driving home that Sunday, I had time to think more on Fr. Scott’s words. This sort of thing never happened in my former Protestant church. I can only guess that some folks may have been appalled at such an instance... calling to mind an unrelated comment from an acquaintance, “well, if God can’t love me in my jeans and tank top in church, then He isn’t a God I want to worship anyway...” God looks at the heart, right?

God does look at our heart - yes. And our outward appearance and words testify to the state of our heart. The problem with my acquaintance’s comment is that she disregarded what God says about dressing modestly and appropriate for worship and took on the attitude of:

I am not budging; God can meet me right where I am.

If we were to meet the President of the United States, most of us would not show up in a bathing suit. It’s the same reason I don’t show up to photograph a wedding in a tube top and cut-off shorts. For some reason, though, the worship of our Lord has become, in some places, casual...relaxed... ho hum, irreverent and far from sacred. We are to give God our best, whatever that best may be.

Father’s admonishment was justified. He spoke the Truth to his flock with the love of God. We needed to hear his words; women needed to hear that low-cut dresses and mini-skirts were distracting (for do they understand the struggles of men?) and not appropriate for worship. I was stunned that day, but since then have come to regard this action as one of the greatest things about Orthodoxy. It had the same effect as my Trig teacher making me go to the board to work a problem in class. I learned it internally, not just superficially. The sacred worship of God was upheld here and that felt so liberating!

Love is key. Our life is a shining example to others, as St. John Chrysostom reminds us,

“There woud be no need for sermons, if our lives were shining; there would be no need for words, of we bore witness with our deeds. There would be no pagans, if we were true Christians.”


* This Russian icon of the Virgin Mary (the Theotokos) is very personal to me. It reminds me to seek the foot of the cross rather than a soapbox.




13 comments:

exegete77 said...

Good thoughts, Amy.

Just to extend this, it should be noted that when Jesus said, "do not judge, lest you be judged" he then spends the entire chapter telling us how to go about judging (correctly). We cannot judge the heart, but we can and should judge the outward deeds and words.

Rich

Arsenios said...

Wonderful reflection, Amy. When I came to Orthodoxy, what struck me was the way we should see ourselves, as the greatest of sinners. If we see ourselves this way, how can we cast judgment on our brothers and sisters? I like the story about Fr. Scott. It takes so much discernment to be a Priest. Our Priest isn't so direct, but I know he could be. I think he doesn't feel the people would be ready for such words. It's a bit of a touchy situation anyway because he is the "new kid on the block."

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Amy, marvelous post! Uncomfortable to this reader, but in a healing wort of way.

God is definitely worth dressing up for!

GretchenJoanna said...

The icon also reminds me of another way that the Theotokos helps me. When I am wondering how to comport myself in society, I try to think how she would behave if she were here today. Her humility would be demonstrated alongside her modesty and restraint, among other qualities. I want to imitate her!

Thank you for a good post. I had missed it until Anastasia linked to it.

Joe V said...

This is an interesting question, Amy: "How is it that we become labeled as 'judgmental' when all we’re doing is speaking the Truth...?"

I think, speaking as an atheist, that the issue here is that you are really speaking from "belief," not truth, although as a believer, it might feel like "truth" to you.

You have to keep in mind that Orthodox Christians number about 225,000 adherents, worldwide. Even if you look at Christianity as a whole (around 2 billion adherents), you are still looking at only less than a third of all human beings.

This means that more than two-thirds of all people on Earth don't subscribe to what you believe is "truth." Hence, when you tell them that they are sinners or are doing something wrong for simply not worshiping the same god (or any god) that you do, it seems judgmental, especially since there is no objective evidence beyond scripture to back up what you're claiming.

Ask yourself whether or not you view a Muslim lecturing you on not wearing a full body veil as being judgmental or as merely speaking the truth, and you'll understand better the answer to the question you posed in your post.

Thanks for the opportunity to respond!

amy said...

Glad to read all your comments. And, thanks for the addition, Rich.

Anastasia, I appreciate you linking to this post and the kind words, as well. I'm often touched by what others write in my blogosphere; it's nice to know I can contribute something every now and then.

GretchenJoanna,

Yes! The humility shown by Mary upon learning of God's plan is wondrous and certainly holds a standard for all of us. I am so far from that... but it's a worthy goal and part of our life in Christ.

Hi Joe-

I'm glad you checked out my blog and took the time to share your thoughts.

Stats don't bother me, as there are innumerable ways to interpret data to highlight your presuppositions. I realize this is an obstacle for many, as I've been down that road with other believers and those who've left Christianity frequently over the years. It's not a numbers game to me; God will work as He will in the heart of man.

Even for those who don't subscribe to Christianity or any faith (although I would argue that Atheism is just as much a faith as christianity) you still have to answer the question of origins .. not only in the material creative sense, but in the sense of morality.

For example, can you tell me why rape is a "bad" thing? It's a damnable action in Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Atheism, Secular Humanism, Buddhism, etc. Why is a mother taking care of her baby a "good" thing? There is a moral standard in the heart of men and it cuts across every culture and race- Absolute Truth. Even those who claim no religion, have some measure of moral standard. Who creates that standard?

You wrote:

"Ask yourself whether or not you view a Muslim lecturing you on not wearing a full body veil as being judgmental or as merely speaking the truth, and you'll understand better the answer to the question you posed in your post."

Great question. I've had an experience, somewhat akin to this, although not from a Muslim- it was from a pentecostal christian who thought I should speak in tongues in order to be saved. I disagreed -- but, she spoke to me with kindness and I respected it, even though I disagreed. We disagreed peacefully. That's what my whole post was about... speaking to others with love .and letting it go.

God doesn't need defense attorneys ... he just needs real christians.

Anyway, thanks for the dialogue.

Peace to you & yours.

Kh. Nicole D. said...

I think I was there for that one! It was a doozy. I felt like he was speaking right to me!

These were good thoughts. Thanks for this post.

Joe V said...

Good question, and one I'm happy to answer.

I don't need a god or holy book to tell me that rape is bad, Amy. I know it is bad because human beings have evolved with a sense of empathy (which enables us to better join together in groups that have made it easier to survive over the ages).

I know it is bad because I know innately (thanks again to evolutionary pressures, not divine intuition) that I can "put myself in someone else's shoes" and can understand the pain they would feel if I inflicted rape upon them. This is a process of the brain, not the spirit.

Of course, what would it say about us if the only thing keeping us from rape and pillage was the fear of some kind of retribution from a man in the sky? Is that really the only thing holding us back from wanton destruction? It would be a very sad state of affairs if that were true (it is not, thank goodness).

I would also mention, as to atheism's being a "faith," this point: Do you need faith to not believe in Zeus, Vishnu, Allah, or any of the other thousands of gods man has worshiped over the course of history? Of course you don't.

You can look at the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever to support their existence and dismiss them out of hand as preposterous. (Which is exactly what you do, right?) That's not faith, it's the common sense that comes from examining the evidence as a rational being and realizing that it takes more than gut feelings and wishful thinking to prove that something is true.

Don't forget, as someone wiser than me once said, that you and I are both atheists, I just go one god further than you do.

Joe V said...

...and another thing! Haha. Just kidding.

I did, though, remember that the Bible points out lots of instances where rape is condoned (or okay so long as the man marries her or pays her father), if not outright commanded, by God.

Numbers 31:15-18 outlines that it's even okay to rape little girls, so long as they are virgins captured in battle!

Clearly, we, as modern, thinking people, know that this type of "morality" is utterly ludicrous. But it's not the Holy Word that tells us that. In fact, it tells us the opposite (as is the case with slavery, how to wage warfare, who should be stoned to death and for what offenses, the list goes on.)

I hope you understand I'm not trying to offend anyone here. The Internet can come across that way, and that's not my intent at all. I'm just saying that we don't need invisible men to tell us the difference between wrong and right. That is decided by a) our genetic makeup by way of evolutionary pressures and b) societal norms imposed by our society and customs.

amy said...

Joe said:

"I don't need a god or holy book to tell me that rape is bad, Amy. I know it is bad because human beings have evolved with a sense of empathy (which enables us to better join together in groups that have made it easier to survive over the ages). "

Joe, atheism still has no answer for origins. Can you not look at your fingerprint, or a grain of sand ..a molecule of water and not see a design there? A coherence that is utterly fascinating and unexplainable? From where does wonder come?

To believe we evolved out of nothing takes a greater leap of faith than believing we came from Something. The great atheist Madalyn O'Hair said, "We atheists believe that nature simply exists. Matter is. Material is." -- and so, this makes the individual, a god. You get to decide what is true. You set the standards. Only problem is, not eveyone who is an atheist would agree on moral boundaries.

You said:
"I would also mention, as to atheism's being a "faith," this point: Do you need faith to not believe in Zeus, Vishnu, Allah, or any of the other thousands of gods man has worshiped over the course of history? Of course you don't."

Believing in the one and true God, puts all the gods you mentioned in perspective; it's all part of the same faith. Have you ever considered that atheism wouldn't exist if it weren't for God?

Atheists, by nature, have God as their object of denial. Remove God and you remove the atheists position -- for you then have nothing to rebel against.

For example, I don't spend time debating about Allah, Zeus or the powers-that-be of Scientology for my identity ...but atheists must attack the tenants of christianity because it's your foundation and a far better position than making arguments in favor of what you believe.

And, as far as wishful thinking or imaginary persons.. I can't relate to that statement. I believe in God beyond a shadow of doubt as I have encountered Him, seen the work of His hands, been in awe of His miracles and the recipient of His grace. By the same turn, I could be convinced of the reality of the Almighty by the work I've encountered by demons in opposition to Him.


"I hope you understand I'm not trying to offend anyone here. The Internet can come across that way, and that's not my intent at all. I'm just saying that we don't need invisible men to tell us the difference between wrong and right. That is decided by a) our genetic makeup by way of evolutionary pressures and b) societal norms imposed by our society and customs."

Yes, I understand that, Joe. I remember you from the '80s as a jovial guy...obviously a deep thinker, but not an instigator. ; ' )

btw, Happy Belated Birthday.

Joe V said...

Good discussion, and so many points to respond to.

With all due respect, I don't think you are accurately stating what atheism is. When you say "...but atheists must attack the tenants of christianity because it's your foundation and a far better position than making arguments in favor of what you believe," you're missing the point.

Our foundation is the fact that there is no discernible, repeatable, objective evidence that your god, or any gods, exist. We're debating the Christian god because you're a Christian. I'd be equally in opposition to someone from Lebanon or Syria trying to say that Allah were real.

I'll happily state what I believe: I believe in things that can be proven, with rational thought, logic, and scientific evidence. If there is no evidence for something, then why on Earth would I believe it?

I cannot tell you how, when, or even if the universe began because we don't know the answer to that. But neither do theists. The difference is that atheists look for evidence of what, if anything, happened, while theists make up a story to explain it.

I do know that if god was the "designer" of the universe, he wasn't very good at it, from a human standpoint. We have appendix that do nothing yet can kill you, our own planet is mostly uninhabitable, and we do everything possible to wipe each other into oblivion. I don't know about you, but I'd have done things differently as an omnipotent, omnipresent being.

And let me tell you, if god could do something, anything, that would be impossible (such as heal amputees, make Mt. Hood disappear and reappear in the middle of Crossroads Mall, or instantly cure every child in the world with cancer), I'd gladly jump on board. But somehow, all of the "miracles" we see are things that could have happened (and I believe did) through natural means.

I am interested in hearing more about your experiences with demons!

Thanks for the discussion.

amy said...

Joe,

Let me just respond to your last three paragraphs --

You said:


“We have appendix that do nothing yet can kill you, our own planet is mostly uninhabitable, and we do everything possible to wipe each other into oblivion. I don't know about you, but I'd have done things differently as an omnipotent, omnipresent being.”


Atheism can’t explain how we got here, how it is that we can see, breathe, smell, taste...reason, feel love, joy and peace -- how it is that despite the wickedness in the world, there IS love. Incomprehensible love. Love that I don’t even fathom myself. Can you even imagine what it must be like to spend 14 years in a communist prison, where your tormentors tried to warp your thinking, destroy your spirt and continuously injure your body..and have love in your heart? To have love for your tormentors? To forgive them of unspeakable atrocities? I don’t have that kind of love and I love God! And yet, this is the story of martyrs...this is the story of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand of Romania. Forgiveness and volitional love come only from God; it’s beyond human reason and logic.

The case of miracles isn’t for me to try and convince you. You either see the miracle in life ... in your newborn baby...the rhythm of the tides or the planet held perfectly in place or you don’t. You say that “nature” can answer all these questions but who is the Originator of nature?

There are so many miracles, Joe. I pray you can see them. Actually, John of Damascene (an amputee who had his hand cut off because he would not stop writing his defense of Orthodoxy) had his hand restored and was so thankful, he added an image of his hand in the icon. You can read about his here: http://www.skete.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&product_id=167 or just do a web search on the icon titled, “Theotokos, Of Three Hands”.

I appreciate the dialogue, too. I hope you & yours are well and enjoying the beauty of fall. As for talk of my experiences with demons -- I’d rather not lend fuel for atheist debate about the nature of my painful experience. But I did learn a few things about them I’ll share:

-certain activities can open “doors” to demons, such as violence, lust, drug abuse, practices of magic/tarot readings/Ouija boards

-demons recognize Christ as Lord

-demons cannot abide the worship of our Lord/ humility before Jesus Christ

-demons work most fervently upon those who seek theosis, or sanctification as you may know the term.

-demons have a heavy presence

-demons seek to separate your soul from God

Paula said...

Couldnt agree more.

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