Judgmental?

Which way do the fingers point?

I was called judgmental on Facebook when I made a joke about how easy it is to accidentally have sex – you know, it happens all the time, you trip, lose all your clothes and land on a penis. Damn.

That was the moment I decided Facebook and I were through.

I didn’t go to class today, even though normally I enjoy Health Psychology and really enjoy G’s lecturing style. Here’s the email I sent him.

Hi G,

I am finding it very hard to read and journal on the sexual health topic, and it is no coincidence that I am not in class today. I have deeply-held, complex spiritual beliefs on this subject and, to be honest, I am afraid that if I air these I will be judged. I have seen and heard it happen almost universally to people with the same beliefs as I have and I wasn’t prepared to face that.
Even writing this I am crying.
At the same time, I would feel dishonest NOT expressing my views at all in class. But I assume that my classmates would assume that because I am a Christian and believe that sex should be reserved for marriage I am a homophobic prude. This is a very very long way from the truth. I was afraid that trying to do myself and my beliefs justice would take too long and be disruptive to the planned lesson.
I will do my best to do justice to the reading in my journal.
He replied,
No worries – I understand that this is a sensitive topic and I respect your beliefs. Please express them freely in your journal. You’re welcome to borrow the Sex and the City episodes if you want.

I think that anti-Christian, and especially anti-anti-gay-marriage, prejudice is about the only socially acceptable form of prejudice left.

I actually don’t have a position on gay marriage. And G, my supervisor, is gay. Whatever, it’s not really all that important to me. I also know a gay theologian who reportedly is against gay marriage because he doesn’t like the doctrinal implications. Just so ya know.

I’m also strongly anti-abortion, but I’ve shared a room quite happily with someone who had had one.

There is a big difference between being a judge and being a juror. The jury  says, “What you did was wrong.” The judge says, “Go to prison for ten years.” We all act as jurors, any time we say (to ourselves) “I wouldn’t do what he did.” It’s when we start treating people differently because of it that we move into judging. So if you treat me differently from anyone else, or from how you used to, because you think my beliefs are wrong, you are judging me.

Just don’t call people judgmental because they think something is wrong that you think is okay. They might be right.

You know the really sad thing about all of this, of course: it’s all in my head. Going to class today might have been absolutely fine. Really, I chickened out because the imaginary conversations in my own head were so difficult. But after hearing Kim Hill (National Radio, one Saturday morning) have a wonderful discussion with a wise Christian man and then five minutes before his time was up start asking him about gay marriage and the problem of pain (the two curliest issues that people love to try to stump Christians with) … and after witnessing numerous uncomfortable Facebook conversations … my fears were not totally unfounded.

Time to move on. I’ve handed in my Article Critique. It doesn’t feel properly handed in because I only had to email it, not print it and staple it and put it in a box. Anyway… Drugs test here I come!

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5 thoughts on “Judgmental?

  1. I think that anti-Christian, and especially anti-anti-gay-marriage, prejudice is about the only socially acceptable form of prejudice left.
    Just don’t call people judgmental because they think something is wrong that you think is okay. They might be right.

    These two sentences really leaped out at me, cos they articulate very well stuff that I’ve previously thought. I’m loving your writing 🙂

  2. “There is a big difference between being a judge and being a juror. The jury says, ‘What you did was wrong.’ The judge says, ‘Go to prison for ten years.’ We all act as jurors, any time we say (to ourselves) ‘I wouldn’t do what he did.'”
    Not quite. This semester I’ve had a couple of law papers to take notes for, including a guest lecture from a retired Lord Chief Justice of England. It’s Parliament who decide what’s legal and what’s illegal. Juries are there (this was the guest lecture) because most criminal law hangs on the defendant’s state of mind in some way. Intention, for instance, makes the difference between murder, manslaughter, culpable negligence, and tragic accident.
    Forensic scientists can determine the external non-mental facts, but when it comes to using cognitive empathy to figure out whether a person is likely to have been thinking what they say they were thinking, it’s better to have a panel of randomly chosen people than a group who all belong to a single socioeconomic or professional group (eg legal experts) and might be systematically biased in one direction or another.
    So the jury is not there to decide “What you did was wrong.” The jury is there to decide “That thing you did that Parliament says is wrong — you did it on purpose.” And it’s not as if the jury’s determination is without consequences, is it? The judge is bound by the jury’s decision. For that reason, it is critically important that the jury get it right. Some particular crimes that would normally be determined by juries may be given to judges instead, if there is little chance of the jury being unbiased; sectarian murder in Northern Ireland is not left to juries, for instance.

    The jury’s role is all the more important because people kid themselves very easily about their own moral uprightness and the impact of their actions on each other. C. S. Lewis’s insights (they come out particularly in “The Screwtape Letters”, with the patient’s interactions with his mother, and with Eustace in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader”) have largely been confirmed in the laboratory. When one person does wrong to another, the perpetrator minimizes it in their head and the victim exaggerates it in their head, to roughly the same degree. Steven Pinker (in The Better Angels of our Nature) calls this “the Moralization Gap”. It’s the main reason why simple retaliation doesn’t work as justice — the original perpetrator sees the penalty as an over-reaction and strikes again to even the balance, and you end up with an escalating feud.

    You occasionally see hilariously awful pieces of racism on the internet — or sometimes in real life — prefaced with a phrase like “Not to be racist, but…” I sometimes feel the need to explain that I’m not passive-aggressive, that if I look that way it’s because I have social anxiety issues about direct confrontation. But of course I’m the only person who’s head I’ve been in; I don’t know that the people who (to me) appear annoyingly passive-aggressive, don’t in fact have the same anxiety issues. Maybe my anxiety issues are, in fact, what it feels like to be passive-aggressive. I’m the last person to be able to say whether I’m passive-aggressive or not.

    Please think carefully over the implications of the above. By the same token — you are the last person to be able to say whether you are judgemental.

    “I think that anti-Christian, and especially anti-anti-gay-marriage, prejudice is about the only socially acceptable form of prejudice left.”
    Well, I’m sure that’s comforting to the Saudi guy who was tackled to the ground trying to help people at the Boston bombing. I guess it’s just fantastic for Rastas getting sent to prison for performing their religion’s major sacrament. I imagine it’s very nice for American politicians who can kiss elections goodbye if they ever admit they don’t believe in God. Et cetera, et cetera.
    You know what? When I left Christianity, anti-Christian prejudice suddenly melted away, to be replaced by anti-materialist prejudice. Materialism is the one worldview you can’t talk about at a funeral or a peace vigil. Look at all the “spiritual” woolly motivational posters and angel poems and what not; some of them are New-Agey and some of them are vague-Christian, but all of them are anti-materialist. And then, when I was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, an global conspiracy against people on the autism spectrum blew up almost overnight!
    No. Anti-Christian prejudice is not “the only form of prejudice left”; it’s the only form of prejudice that is pointed at you. These are not the same thing.

    • Touche. Actually, I have had other prejudices pointed at me – I got a thorough ribbing on being from Dunedin when I went to Wellington for a training course. You know, how we all marry our cousins… I used to think making jokes about Aussies and Aucklanders was funny until the shoe was on the other foot.

      And what you say about juries being there to evaluate the defendant’s state of mind is very interesting. Can you get off jury duty if you plead autism?

  3. I particularly like your last couple of sentences Daniel. Which may sound contradictory given what I already said to Anna… but they speak to me too. Thank you

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