Saturday, May 19, 2012

Do not judge?

       Big news this week!  Sure to be a political landscape shifter!  Or is it?
       President Obama went on national television to clear up any misconceptions about the evolution of his views on same-sex unions.  In short, he supports them.  Vice-President Biden, and Education Secretary Duncan do also -- and their comments probably precipitated the President's.
       In the wake of those announcements, the opinionators began to discuss what impact this announcement would have on the coming election.  Would it sway voters one way or the other?  More significantly, what would happen with those demographics that have supported Obama in the past (e.g., African-Americans and Latinos), but who have tended to be social conservatives?  The overall assumption, it seemed to me, was that everyone was going to base their voting decision on this one issue.  Then, on the other side, Mitt Romney has been trying to say, "It's the economy, stupid" -- suggesting that everyone might (or should) base their vote on THAT issue alone.
       I have no intention of discussing either gay unions OR the economy.  My concern continues to be the fracturing of our common life by such implications that there are only two ways to understand an issue, a political party, or a member of that party, or . . .  just about anything else.  And that was illustrated by an article in this morning's Denver Post (and, yes, I'm writing this on a Saturday!  Horrors, Brower's late!) that many black Americans will continue to support the President in spite of his support for same-sex marriage.  Golly, I guess it isn't that simple!  Maybe people aren't as black-or-white (pardon the pun) as we are being led to believe, assume, or accept!
      I was also reading this morning from the "Sermon on the Mount", a collection of exhortations and teachings attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew.  A couple of things stood out for me in the context of this week's news.  The first was Jesus' counsel:  "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make you will be judged . . ." (Mt 7.1).  And the second was a few verses later (in the context of being wary of false prophets):  "every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit" (7.17-18).   
      In some respects, I might see these as contradictory:  how, for example, can one distinguish between good and bad trees/fruit without judging?  But I'm wondering if there might be another way to interpret both?  (And, I hasten to add, I'm not a big fan of folks who are clear about what Jesus, or any other writer means.  All texts--sacred or otherwise--are open to a lot of interpretation!).  
      In terms of the first saying about "judging others", I bristle when folks judge that, because I think "this way" about issue "A", I must think "that way" about issue "B".  I'm not that simple; I'm a mishmash/melange of beliefs, opinions, etc.  To think that I'm all one-way or the other is demeaning to me.  Am I to assume that it is any less demeaning to others if I make a similar judgment?
     In terms of the second saying about good/bad trees, I recall a wonderful song by the artist Sting, entitled "Russians" that contains the line:  I hope the Russians love their children too."  This song, written before the collapse of the Soviet Union (it came out in 1985), twitted those of us who would think that all of "them" were nothing but horned demons bent on destroying the world with their version of "Oppenheimer's deadly toy".  So, I wonder, even if "bad trees" bear "bad fruit", are they totally without merit?  I love trees that provide cooling shade, even though they drop sap on my car -- and they don't even bear ANY fruit.
     We are all more complex than any one thing that we think, or believe, or do.  The richness that is humanity (or even the voting public) deserves better from our news reporters, or opinionators, or preachers, or us than to teach that there is only ONE issue, ONE position, ONE belief, that should drive our dealings with our fellows--all of whom, many of us believe, were created in the image of God.



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