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Prejudging vs. judging

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. . .

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