In catching up on reading/scanning some of the blogs I follow, I came across one from last week by nakedpastor talking about the dialogue between Christians and atheists, and how quick one group is to mock the other sometimes. Within that conversation he made one statement that resonated within me far beyond the topic of discussion:
“When someone thinks they are superior to another, they also feel no need to understand the other.”
What I think this probably points to more than anything else is a problem we have with judgment. I think some people are more prone to being judgmental than others, but one thing I have witnessed is that religion makes us even more prone to judgment. It is one thing to believe something, and it is another thing to become religious about our beliefs. Religion, and religious pride, in particular, lends itself to the superiority that nakedpastor spoke of. Religion gives us a false sense of security about our beliefs and the way we see the world, and makes us feel superior to others who do not see the world in that way. Even if we are right and the other person is wrong, one is not better than the other. Religion, however, makes us feel that our sense of being right about something makes us better than the apparently unfortunate souls that obviously do not have our sense of revelation or enlightenment. That superiority breeds judgment.
The thing is, once we have rendered judgment on an individual, group of individuals or their beliefs, that judgment becomes a prejudice. Judgment makes us stop thinking or reasoning, because we have settled the issue in our own minds. Once we have judged, it becomes that much harder for the actual truth to settle into our hardened hearts and minds.
I’m rambling about this because I have been on the receiving end of this type of religious judgment more than once, and again just recently, as a few weeks ago, someone I barely know and never actually met sent me one of the most un-Christlike messages I have ever received. It was a personal attack, filled with venom and self-righteousness. And although the attack was not on my theological views, per se, it was steeped in religion. I know this, not just because of her references to Scripture, but more because of the superiority of her attitude. It was obvious that in her own mind, she was perched loftily on high, and I was lower than low. She practically said as much.
The Bible is referred to as a two-edged sword, but it is always a sad thing when a Christian uses that weapon against another brother or sister. I can’t believe that God likes seeing that kind of thing.
Now, this probably would have caused a much deeper wound in me had it happened a few years ago, but this ain’t my first rodeo. I’ve seen this before, and I know where it comes from. As a point of disclosure, it’s worth mentioning that besides being on the receiving end of this kind of crap, I’ve also been on the giving end of it from time to time–a reality I have come to regret. I can tell you that it was learned behavior because I do come from a line of people who are prone to be judgmental, but it was also reinforced by religion. That’s why I know what this was; it takes one to know one, I suppose.
The thing is, I am aware enough of my own heart before God to know that none of what this person accused me of was actually true–and she had no place of authority in my life to say such things, anyway, because she does not know me, and has never made the effort to do so. The problem is–and this is where I was going with all of this–there is no way to set her straight. You see, as nakedpastor said, when we feel superior to someone else, we feel no need to understand that person. This woman has already made up her mind about me; I was tried, convicted, and sentenced passed on me, all without even being invited to the trial. I already know there is nothing I could possibly say to this person to show her differently, to help her understand my point of view. She is superior to me, so she feels no need to understand. There is no point in trying to establish a line of communication, because there can be no communication with someone whose mind is already made up.
This, I suppose, is the one of the things I have come to despise most about religion (not beliefs or spirituality, mind you, but being religious about our beliefs). Religion, and the sense of judgment and superiority that go along with it, causes otherwise intelligent people to shut off their brains and act like idiots, or worse. I won’t lie and say that this attack didn’t hurt, but in the grand scheme of things, thankfully it did relatively little damage to me, and certainly hasn’t shaken my faith. But how many people have religious Christians turned away from God by this kind of behavior, rather than drawing them toward Him? How many seekers have been driven away from the altar by this kind of thing? And how must God feel about that?
I’ve come to understand that there is more than one reason why Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” When we judge the heart of another person, we are presuming to stand in the place of the only One Who reserves that right. (Thank God that He is more merciful than most of us are.) But like any other thing God calls sin, there’s something about judgment that damages us, as well. When we judge, we rob ourselves of the ability to learn from others. We are literally stunting our own growth.