On the Corner

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by Robert Docter – 

Mankind’s seemingly never-ending desire to deify self must cause God the ultimate pain. To try to supplant God–to push him from his rightful place and assume it for one’s self–must be the most distancing behavior in our relationship with him.

Some do it in ignorance. They’ve never known God. They’ve never felt his love. They have never learned of his grace. They are unaware of the beauty of life lived in relationship with him. All they’ve learned is that one must “make it alone.” No one will help–certainly not some “spirit.” They seem to say: “If I’m to achieve at anything, I must protect myself. I must learn to fight and survive–and I must do it alone.”

Some push God aside while having full knowledge of his power and presence. In their great desire to be like God, confusingly, they seek to be God. Maybe it is a shallowness of faith that escalates their fear. In their distortion of God’s role in the world, they believe they must be his enforcer. They might appropriately be labeled the judgmentalists. There are occasions when all of us are guilty of this coup d’deus.

It intrigues me, however, why some who attest to being so strong in the faith, who seem so certain about what is right action in every situation, who publicly communicate such a stark rigidity of adherence to self-set rules, become so vicious in their interpersonal relationships. They become the sectarian bombers–the crusaders–the murderers–the ethnic cleansers–the inquisidores.

Somehow, in their judgmentalism and immature relationship with God, they believe God is unable to enforce his own standards in his own way through his own strategies and tactics using his own methods. I wonder if they believe maybe God is “too loving”–that he could profit from a little wrist? They seem to believe they must assume this unloving enforcer role with their own designs. They’ve learn how to construct bombs either from chemicals or from hurtful words. They become skilled in weaponry involving the parry and thrust — with words and swords. They are quick to condemn –instantaneous in their criticism lest some evil influence creep stealthily into their environment. I wonder if they wear so much armor that it’s difficult for anyone to touch them. I wonder if they like themselves.

The judgmentalists seem so zealous and smug to me in the way they relate to their world. Zealousness comes when one continues a course of action while losing sight of the goal. Smugness comes with a sense of superiority in bearing and communication that says: “I know better than you–I am purer than you–and I have a special appointment from God to make sure you are aware of this.”

Most judgmentalists aren’t aware of the criteria they are using to make their judgments. This is too bad–because they will be judged by using exactly the same criteria.

I recognize we could not survive in society without making judgments. God gave us a human mind so that we would be able to predict the future from present information. This requires us to be able to discriminate what is meaningful, what is usable, what is helpful as well as what is right and what is wrong. In other words, unlike animals without human brains, we can make moral choices. Making judgments and being judgmental are very different. One requires us to discriminate and choose while the other requires us to evaluate the worth of another human being and either condemn or validate him or her.

What God wants from us is a continuing relationship. He knows we’re going to make some dumb choices. He’s aware we’re going to take some wrong action. This inclination to choose a wrong course seems built in–right from our first parents. If he wanted us perfect, he’d have made us that way. What he wants is a relationship, because in relating to him we are required to accept his existence and live by his code of behavior. When we try to play his role by judging each other we erode the potential of the other’s maintaining that relationship. This is sad.

At the end of a dynamic, motivating, inspiring and instructive 90 minute presentation during the eXtreme weekend Tony Campolo, evangelist and spiritual advisor to President Clinton, said: “I have just completed the hardest two weeks of my life–and I feel very beat up by evangelicals–all because I wanted to lead a sinner to God’s grace.”

The youth of the Army stormed the stage and wrapped him in their arms and prayed for him and for the success of his mission. “I’m glad I’m a salvation soldier …”

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