Monday, June 13, 2011

Fighting modernity's greatest sin

The new issue of the Catholic Courier of Rochester reports on a workshop designed to counter modernity's greatest sin: judgmentalism. Here's a snippet:
The moral stakes become much higher when it comes to judging other people. Skidmore cautioned that "judgment-making is connected to Scripture -- we're admonished to be careful about the judgments we make."

Indeed, Jesus states in Matthew 7: "Stop judging, that you may not be judged." In John 8, he adds: "Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone." Skidmore also suggested considering how it would feel knowing that we or our loved ones were being judged as harshly as we judge other people.

In addition to forming unfair judgments about others, Skidmore warned against judging our own selves too severely: "Sometimes we're overcritical about ourselves in ways that could be very harmful -- 'I'm inadequate, I'm stupid, I'm unattractive, no one could ever love me.'"

The good news is that judgment can become more balanced with a concerted effort. Skidmore advised participants at the May 21 gathering to identify their thoughts -- "examine the beliefs we have and see if they're in line with reality. If we find our beliefs are not healthy, then we can go about changing them." She added that if our goal is to become more positive, we'll in turn be less judgmental of ourselves and others.
If by "being judgmental" Skidmore, a mental health counselor, means judging another's motivations, heart, or the state of his soul, then by all means -- don't judge. But when it comes to deeds, the matter isn't so simple. As the philosopher Peter Kreeft observes about the passage from Matthew 7 cited above, "When Jesus said, 'Judge not that ye not be judged,' he surely meant 'Do not claim to judge hearts and motives, which only God can know.' He certainly did not mean, 'Do not claim to judge deeds. Do not morally discriminate bullying from defending, killing from healing, robbery from charity.'" Indeed, failing to judge such things, whether out of fear of offending others or of being accused of judgmentalism, can be sinful if it leads others to believe the behavior is morally licit. This is especially true for those who are privileged to enjoy pastoral roles within the Church and family, e.g., parents, priests, teachers, and catechists. Jesus had a few things to say about that 11 chapters later.