At a recent gathering of seminary professors, one teacher reported that at his school
the most damaging charge one student can lodge against another is that the person is being
"judgmental." He found this pattern very upsetting. "You can't get a good
argument going in class anymore," he said. "As soon as somebody takes a stand on
any important issue, someone else says that the person is being judgmental. And that's it.
End of discussion. Everyone is intimidated!" Many of the other professors nodded
knowingly. There seemed to be a consensus that the fear of being judgmental has taken on
epidemic proportions. Is the call for civility just another way of spreading this
epidemic? If so, then I'm against civility. But I really don't think that this is what
being civil is all about. Christian civility does not commit us to a relativistic
perspective. Being civil doesn't mean that we cannot criticize what goes on around us.
Civility doesn't require us to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one
thing to insist that other people have the right to express their basic convictions; it is
another thing to say that they are right in doing so. Civility requires us to live by the
first of these principles. But it does not commit us to the second formula. To say that
all beliefs and values deserve to be treated as if they were on a par is to endorse
relativism -- a perspective that is incompatible with Christian faith and practice.
Christian civility does not mean refusing to make judgments about what is good and true.
For one thing, it really isn't possible to be completely nonjudgmental. Even telling
someone else that she is being judgmental is a rather judgmental thing to do!
Richard J. Mouw, Uncommon Decency, pp. 20-21.
There is no repose for the mind except in the absolute; for feeling, except
in the infinite; for the soul, except in the divine.
Henri Frederic Amiel (1821-1881)
In the evening of life, we shall be judged on love, and not one of us is
going to come off very well, and were it not for my absolute faith in the loving
forgiveness of my Lord, I could not call him to come.
Madeleine L'Engle, The Irrational Season, p.77.
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