This recent post by my friend Regis Nicoll offers penetrating insight into the ruthless non-judgmentalism of our day.
Regis is a lay catechist at Hamilton Anglican Fellowship in Chattanooga, which is part of our diocese. He also blogs for Chuck Colson’s Breakpoint and other digital publications, and writes for Salvo magazine. Regis will be with us at St. Peter’s the last weekend of October for our first annual Christ and Culture Conference. Stand by for further details on that.
The New Blasphemy Code
By Regis Nicoll
We have become a people who are less careful about doing evil than judging evil. Don’t believe me?
Try this at your next dinner party: while your guests are at their cordials, ask “who believes that extramarital affairs are morally wrong?”
I’m of an age to remember a time when most, if not all, hands would have shot up. Today, it would be unusual if most eyebrows didn’t, and, if you were so fortunate to get a verbal response, it would likely be “Between consenting adults?”, “Sometimes,” “Yeah, no, I dunno!”, or “It’s not for you or us to judge.”
To be a nice person
Sometime in the past fifty years, the virtue of discernment has been replaced by the acceptance of ambiguity, turning judgment into a social vice that nice people just don’t commit. Well, they do, they have to, they just don’t know (or admit) that they do.
Consider singer Carrie Underwood who came out in support of same-sex “marriage” last year. In explanation of her position, she told the British press, “It’s not up to me to judge anybody.”
What? You just did, Carrie. Your endorsement of same-sex “marriage” is moral judgment on the social invention and its supporters, as well as, a moral insinuation, if not judgment, about its critics.
Like most nice people, Carrie Underwood is oblivious to her own incongruence. If she deems it improper for her to judge the wrongness of actions, it is equally improper for her to judge their rightness. And whatever way she judges, is a de facto judgment on the opposing view.
To be a nice person in good standing requires neutrality on all moral matters; but humans are anything but morally neutral. Regardless of our religious or anti-religious affections, we commonly believe that some things are wrong, really wrong, like cheating, rape, bigotry, and greed, and that others are really good, such as honesty, fairness, charity, and selflessness.
What’s more, in a world where virtue and vice exist side-by-side, everyone must judge whom they will trust, where they will invest their money, and what products they will buy. You can bet that when Carrie Underwood becomes a mother she will make judgments aplenty, sniffing around for any hint of child abuse, pedophilia, or other behaviors she deems morally questionable in the backgrounds of prospective babysitters.
The person who can’t or won’t discern good from evil is someone destined to be a victim of those who are adept at parading one for the other. Thus, abstaining from moral judgments is not a hallmark of nice people, but of foolish ones. And making judgments, while insisting that you don’t, is naivete, if not hypocrisy.
Planet Fitness, a trendy exercise facility, exemplifies the more duplicitous end of non-judgmentalism. Upon entering the facility, you can’t miss the two-foot high block letters on the front wall, spelling “Judgement Free Zone.” The phrase is also on their logo which is stamped on all of their equipment. There will be no judging here.
Also prominently displayed, on a four by six-foot sign near the entrance, is the franchise commitment “…to provide a unique environment in which anyone, and we mean anyone, can be comfortable” and where “everyone feels accepted and respected.” Got it: Judgement Free Zone.
Except that, as the quick eye can’t fail to notice, incidences of judging abound. PF personal trainers routinely critique and correct members in proper exercise technique and use of the machines. I’m sure they would call it “coaching,” but it’s judging by a different name — judging that there are right and wrong ways to go about exercising, some that are effective and helpful, others that are ineffective if not harmful.
Also, that “anyone” and “everyone” on the sign excludes individuals who fit a certain profile — one defined on another sign labeled “Lunk Alarm.”
The “Lunk Alarm” consists of a blue light and a [LOUD] working siren with the definition: “Lunk (lunk) n. [slang] one who grunts, drop weights or judges.” It also provides an example usage: “Ricky is slamming his weights, wearing a body building tank top and drinking from a gallon water jug… what a lunk!”
By that definition, “Ricky” is anyone who puts serious effort into his workout, pushing himself to the point of actually breaking a sweat. Any number of times I’ve startled after “Ricky” put his weights down a little too hastily, setting off the siren and flashing light to the alarm everyone in the gym.
So much for an environment where “everyone feels accepted and respected.”
If such “judgment free” judgmentalism were limited to a fitness franchise within the walls of its facilities, it would be of little concern. But it’s not. Sadly.
A new Blasphemy Code
In just a few decades, “Thou shalt not judge” — the one moral absolute of moral relativism — has become the basis of a new Blasphemy Code, in which criticizing, disagreeing with, or even frowning upon social novelties like consequence-free sex, sex-free procreation, and genderless marriage, is a profane offense to the sovereignty of individual autonomy and the sacrament of choice. What’s more, after years of social conditioning, as was successful in the 1960’s anti-littering campaign, self-policing has become an effective means of enforcement.
Just try telling those dinner guests of yours that you believe extramarital sex is immoral, abortion is murder, marriage is a heterosexual institution, or that the interests of children are best served in a family headed by both of their biological parents, and see how fast the words, like “moralizer,” “misogynist,” “bigot,” or “homophobe” let fly to shut you down.
Give them hard data from any one of the numerous studies that show how deviations from cultural norms have created (and continue to create) more rather than less social dysfunction, and you will find yourself judged, and harshly, because, as all nice people know, judging is wrong. Just ask Mark Regnerus.
The kids aren’t alright
Last year, Dr. Mark Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), published a nationally-representative survey (the largest and most rigorous of its kind to date) of over 15,000 people aimed at understanding how family structure affects a range of social, emotional, psychological and cognitive outcomes.1
The results supported what, in a bygone day, would have been deemed unremarkable: children who grew up in gay and lesbian homes fared worse, in a number of areas, than children who were raised by both biological parents. But this is the day when there can be no differences in family structure, because that would be a de facto judgment of one structure over another; and that, lest we forget, would be a transgression of the Blasphemy Code.
For Regnerus’ offense, he was subjected to ad hominem attacks, the threat of academic censure, and a highly-publicized (and politicized) inquiry by UTA officials to judge whether he was guilty of scientific misconduct. After sixty days of scrutiny, the investigators vindicated Regnerus, concluding that there was no basis for the misconduct charges.
Compare that to the fawning coverage of the 2010 study concluding that lesbian parenting is as good as the traditional family structure, only better. The completely counterintuitive conclusion was met with nary a modicum of skepticism by the media or academia, despite the seriously flawed study design which, unlike Regnerus’ research, was based on responses of a small, non-random sample of 171 individuals, 78 of whom were lesbian mothers who volunteered for the study.
Nor did it offend the sensibilities of those committed to the Blasphemy Code. That’s because, as nice people everywhere know, all lifestyle choices are equally valid and beyond moral criticism; some just happen to be more equally valid than others. It follows the fashionably Orwellian reasoning behind such “elevated” thinking as,
Aborting your child isn’t murder; it’s reproductive justice.
Displaying a crucifix in a bottle of urine isn’t religious intolerance (it’s high art); making a satirical cartoon of Muhammad is.
Disrupting a church service and throwing condoms on the altar isn’t hateful; holding up a sign reading, “Two men are called ‘friends’ not ‘spouses'” is.
Helping a teen with an unwanted same-sex desire isn’t behavioral counseling; it’s quackery.
Pedophilia isn’t child abuse; raising a child in a Christian home is.
Pursuing the unfettered exercise of sexual expression isn’t immoral, unhealthy, or imprudent; it’s the sacred path to self-actualization.
If you are a nice person, these are things you just know.
1. Mark Regnerus, “How different are the adult children of parents who have same-sex relationships? Findings from the New Family Structures Study,” Social Science Research
Volume 41, Issue 4, July 2012, Pages 752–770
If you wish to re-publish this commentary, please send request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regis Nicoll is a Fellow of the Chuck Colson Center, a columnist for BreakPoint, Salvo, and Crosswalk, and a contributor to Prison Fellowship’s worldview blog, The Point. He also serves as the lay pastor of Hamilton Anglican Fellowship (www.hamiltonaf.org).