Here’s a confession for you: I happen to be a news junkie. Each day I browse the headlines (on my Google Reader App, of course) of several major newspapers. Some headlines are from “non-mainstream” sources of information (digital newspapers on the so-called left and right) and others from standard wire sources such as Reuters and the Associated Press. On some mornings I spend hours reading articles from various perspectives on the “hot” news item of the week—on others, reading the headlines suffices.
This morning an article in the New York Times caught my eye. [You may wish to read it here]. There seems to be an incipient brouhaha germinating about the self-proclaimed neutrality of the group spotlighted in the article. The details in the article are a bit convoluted (gratuitous quotes from Bill O’Reilly and other names that tend to shut down a conversation before it begins) and references to an MTV show that brought the group out of obscurity into the much desired (albeit often short-lived) Warholian limelight. But the article led me to what for me is the crux of the matter: the group’s Web site and its use of language.
The group, whose Web site offers (among other services) post-abortion greeting cards, claims to have been founded by women who “came together because they, or someone they knew, had personally experienced the lack of non-judgmental services available for women and their significant others after an abortion” [italics added]. That’s when it struck me that perhaps we live in an era that so completely manipulates language that certain words become “buzz” words (“judgment or judgmental,” “freedom or choice”) by taking on completely erroneous meanings.
Depending on the circumstances and how I feel about a particular situation (which says an awful lot about me I’m not proud of), the term judgment takes on different shades of meaning for me. Though most words take on a particular meaning given its contextual use, I’d like to believe that there exists such a thing as the objective meaning of a word. To judge is really all about looking at a particular set of circumstances and filtering its various elements using some kind of barometer. I’d like to think the greatest barometer is my heart—that place deep down (call it soul, gut, intuition, or conscience) where I truly know when something is just not right. Why would a woman want to be helped to avoid judgment of something so life-altering as having decided to terminate a pregnancy? Even if she espoused the position that the child in her womb was not a person, the fetus having been “potential” life was still worthy of taking seriously, wasn’t it?
I guess my point in writing on this topic is to say that I’d like to develop sharper powers of judgment. And I’m not talking about the bogus recriminatory judgment that revels in pity, anger, and existential angst. I want to develop the ability to be able really to see. [I can’t help but call to mind the blind man (and there seem to be several in the Gospels–pick yours) that called upon Jesus to restore his eyesight.] At the heart of all pain is a desire to find what is true, good, and just—fulfillment, if you will. I know in my heart that I was made for happiness and for eternity, so why fear judgment? Why fear sorting through circumstances, taking a good long look at the outcome or consequences of an action (mine or someone else’s) and declaring a judgment on the matter? And since my happiness is such a serious affair, why allow the cultural moires of society and what is popular shape (or worse, choose) that judgment for me? Because in the end seeking a so-called “non-judgmental (counseling) service” is making a judgment about what I really want to hear and not necessarily about the truth of my circumstances.
Looking at my own life and the events that have brought me to this moment, I know how fickle circumstances can seem to appear. But if I’m honest with myself, I can’t help but turn to judgment—to wanting to sort through the events and find meaning (or even lack of meaning) in a particular situation. Since I truly believe there is meaning in life (and life is made up of circumstances, events, and choices—large and small), I’d like to face life equipped with keen powers of judgment. I don’t want to live in a world that is made up of non-judgment. I don’t want to be left to decide based on my “feelings” alone on the matter. I want a benchmark and that benchmark needs to be of the highest order—it needs to be truly human. Perhaps that’s why the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation appeals to me. What higher benchmark can there be than God becoming one of us?