I just finished reading “Seeds of the Word” by Bishop Robert Barron. It’s a 275 page book that contains 84 chapters. Well, they’re not really chapters; they’re more like a soup of essays; somewhat like reading 84 blog posts broken into 4 parts, all about finding God in the secular world around us: (1) God in film, (2) God in Books, (3) God in politics and (4) God in the culture.
You might think that God can no longer be found in our secularized society, but Bishop Barron proves otherwise, and it stands to reason. If all humans are made in the image and likeness of God and have a created and immortal soul, then it seems plausible that we all have a natural yearning for the Creator, even if only subconsciously. And if Truth tends to find its way to the surface, we can find God in unlikely places if we know where and how to look.
There are potentially many juicy tidbits to share from the aforementioned book, but one that capture my attention in particular had to do with “judging”. Perhaps we are too often reminded of Matthew 7:1 which says “Stop judging, that you may not be judged”. This can give the impression that we are not to judge anything about a person…ever. But this is not a prohibition against recognizing sin, but against condemning others in a spirit of arrogance, forgetful of our own faults.
Bishop Barron reminds us that we are a society obsessed with tolerance, acceptance, non-judgmentalism and inclusion, and at the same time we are obsessed with judging others.1. We love to judge and it shows in our culture. How so? Think of shows like The Voice, Judge Judy, Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, America’s Got Talent and a cluster of cooking shows that are all about “judging”, and judging rather harshly at times. In addition, the most severe judges seem to be the most popular. Think of Howard Stern, Gordon Ramsay, Judge Judy and Simon Cowell. Reality TV sometimes really does show us reality!
When someone sings bad, or cooks bad, or whatever, we want them told in no uncertain terms. When someone does well, we want them praised and applauded. We seem to have a natural hunger for truth and justice. Deep down we know that judgment in terms of discerning “Truth” is indispensable to a happy life and a healthy society. As mentioned above, Truth tends to find its way to the surface, even if not in the most idyllic way. As we suppress our need to judge things properly, we should expect that “judging” will continue to pop-up in the culture, but in disguise.
Knowing the truth from a lie and living a healthy and happy life involves authentic judgment. Bishop Barron offered an analogy to explain further.2 Consider any living thing. A living organism will take in what is good (like food) and avoid what is bad (like predation) and must have some way to judge between the two. If a living thing beings to lose its judicious ability, it will begin to pass-up what is good and permit what is bad. As a result, it will get sick and eventually die or be killed. Once dead it will be absorbed into its surrounding environment and thus indistinguishable from it.
Bishop Barron goes on to explain that the rise of the “nones” (those with no religious preface) in the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey stem disproportionately from liberalized mainstream Protestant churches. Churches with squishy and lazy doctrine are fertile ground in which to grow “nones”. A church that can no longer take in what is good and avoid what is bad becomes like a sick organism that ultimately dies, decays and gets absorbed by its surrounding environment. The end result is that their theology becomes basically indistinguishable from the core logic and values of the surrounding culture. If this is the case, then what’s the point of identifying yourself as a member of any such church in the first place?
May God save us all from non-judgmentalism, lest mankind must answer “no” to a question that Jesus asked long ago, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8).
“How easy it is to judge rightly after one sees what evil comes from judging wrongly!”
- Robert Barron, Seeds of the Word (Des Plaines, IL: Word on Fire, 2017) pp. 196-198.
- Barron, Seeds of the Word, p. 186.