By C.K. Persons
Judgment’s been in the news lately, mostly due to another of Harold Camping’s incorrect predictions of the end times. (He was first wrong on 9/6/94, and then 5/21/11; and he’ll be incorrect again on 10/21/11.) But this article is not about a fringe group’s predictions of a final judgment based on a bizarre, non-contextual reading of Scripture. Judgment is something that we all do most of the time; oftentimes it is necessary and helpful, and other times it is harmful and actually unchristian.
We have to make judgments, hundreds a day, in fact – or we would never survive. We must decide what food to eat and when (Has that chicken salad in the fridge expired?), when best to cross the street, with whom and when to have sexual intercourse, and so on. There is no shortage of times when we need to size up situations and make judgments so that we can continue living, even thriving. This article is not about these necessary judgments, though. Rather, I want to focus on a particular kind of judgment: those that condemn. Unfortunately it is not uncommon for “Christians” to make definitive judgments about the unworthiness of other people based on their sexuality, sexual preferences, and/or sexual practices.
Such judgments are particularly problematic given rampant hypocrisy. Conservative politicians, for example, quote Scripture to denounce gay marriage but have illicit homosexual encounters or other extramarital affairs. Far more common, however, are Christians who tacitly and vocally reject alternative sexual preferences/practices but simultaneously commit serious wrongdoing. It is easy to villanize those who are different, misunderstood, and/or undesired, especially sexual minorities. It is more difficult, of course, to understand and accept the other even if there is disagreement.
The Gospel of John provides a perfect example to ponder. John 8:1-11 describes the scene wherein various faith leaders bring an adulterous woman before Jesus (a crime punishable by stoning in the first century Mediterranean world). Rather than condemn her, Jesus asks the leaders to reflect on their own lives: “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). No one can, for everyone “misses the mark” (literally, sins) in life, and usually with some frequency. Jesus takes time to understand her and then courageously acts nonviolently among a hostile crowd. While he does not condone her adulterous action, he clearly refuses to condemn her. A vitally important distinction.
I neither equate adultery and kink nor advocate that everyone should express or promote a kinky sexuality. (As I do not suggest that everyone should be Catholic!) But to condemn the kinky for their sexual desires and/or practices is unequivocally unchristian. Each person, according to the person’s own conscience informed by various sources of moral wisdom, no doubt must judge how best to live in this world. But since Jesus rejected condemnation – or trying to eradicate another person for that person’s beliefs and/or actions – it only makes sense that Christians should do likewise. May we.