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Who am I to Judge? - February 2018

posted Feb 23, 2018, 6:36 PM by RSO The Fenwick Review
By Jack Rosenwinkel '21

A century ago, “societal progress” meant advancements in medicine and math, breakthroughs in technology, and improvements in peoples’ quality of life. Now progress is measured by the number of minority groups our politicians belong to. We live in a society that is hyper-focused on accepting all people—so much so that ideal societal advancement is centered around creating safe spaces, using proper pronouns, and teaching people to not “assume” their baby’s gender. We see tolerance as the key to creating a better world.

At the outset, a disclaimer: we live in a country where people once owned other people because of the color of their skin. We need to work towards a society that respects the dignity of all people. I get that. I am not arguing that our society is perfect, or that things like racism or sexism aren’t real issues. There will always be challenges to overcome, and we should be striving to build a better world. The problem is that we’re doing it wrong. Pure tolerance has never solved a societal crisis, and it won’t solve the ones that America faces now.

Tolerance has become the battle-cry of many in the “progressive movement.” Campus progressives teach us to “tolerate” everything in order to create a more accepting, affirming society. And yet the result is that people are afraid to speak out against something they consider morally wrong because they are scared they’ll be called intolerant or bigoted. Quickly, tolerance morphs into moral relativism: moral truth does not exist, and don’t you dare tell me otherwise. Morality becomes a purely personal sphere, regulated by a truism wrenched from its context and used as the basis of an entirely new system of ethics: “Who am I to judge?”

On the surface, this approach of “who am I to judge?” seems to make us more loving, accepting, Christlike people. But the logic doesn’t hold water. We don’t tolerate homicide. If a mother killed her toddler, the woman would go to jail because she committed murder, and murder is wrong. This is literally how society functions. It’s the only way human beings restrain the evil that we’re capable of. Perhaps we shouldn’t judge too readily, but we can’t default to casual relativism either. That’s contrary to everything we believe about justice, right and wrong, good and evil.

Christians have always preached a different kind of acceptance: love. We can best follow Christ and create a better world through loving people instead of just tolerating them. Our cultural tradition defines love as “willing the good of the other independent of your own.” That means putting another person’s long-term wellbeing—not just temporary satisfaction—ahead of your own wants, desires and fears. We don’t love people best by letting them hurt themselves or others, or violate the societal bonds between us and them. Love does not turn a blind eye to suffering. Tolerance does. That’s why it will never be authentic love.

We are called to love the sinner and hate the sin. Yet in modern society, we think loving the sinner necessitates supporting the sin, so that no one feels ashamed or guilty. It’s one thing to love and accept human beings, but it’s another thing entirely to tolerate evil. We, as a society, do need to work to create a more peaceful, loving community. But we need to model that community after Christ. Jesus made the distinction between human beings and their behavior. His friends were prostitutes and tax collectors, but they gave up their sinful past to follow Him. His call is not just one of discipleship, but one of conversion.

Love means encouraging and affirming a struggling mother in a crisis pregnancy so she can make the difficult decision to choose life. It means helping the sex worker to recognize her own dignity, so she can leave an industry that destroys rather than empowers. It means standing by the addicts and, instead of enabling them, challenging them to keep fighting. Sometimes true love means a demanding love.

When we say “you do you” or “who am I to judge?” we really mean, “I like you, but I don’t care about you enough to fight for what’s best for you.” Sometimes the very act of standing up for what is true, good and beautiful frightens us. It might endanger a friendship, or anger people we love. But we can’t just blindly tolerate evil. Moral relativism guarantees a worse world—after all, Benito Mussolini once said, “there is nothing more relativistic” than fascism. Instead of cowardly tolerance, we must lovingly and courageously call people to authentic conversion, whether those people are abortionists or KKK members, violent socialists or hucksters of the alt-right.

Many confuse this message with hatred. Most progressives—which is, most college students—imagine that conservative policies, and the people who support them, are filled with hatred for anyone who’s different. They aren’t. Quite the opposite, in fact; most of us are genuinely concerned for the common good. The myth that people who aren’t progressive are all angry, bitter bigots only serves to hamper authentic political and social dialogue. While there are bigots, they can be found on both sides of the aisle. In reality, most people who stand for things like the pro-life cause, traditional religious values, or conservative economic policies are loving people who want to make the world a better place. Just like most progressives. All we’re intolerant of is evil.

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