It seems that Pope Francis’ question, “Who am I to judge?” has attracted answers from everyone with access to the internet. Now, I’m as smitten with this humble pontiff as a Southern Baptist girl can be, and I could not be more charmed with the world’s response to his embodiment of Christianity. I’m pretty sure he was responding to a specific question about gay priests, but somehow the idea has taken hold that maybe being judgmental isn’t a hallmark of the followers of Jesus after all. Glory, halleluiah!
The Hebrew Bible tells us that God’s people were originally ruled by judges, but being envious of the nations with kings, they wanted one of their own. The prophets tried to tell them that this was not a good idea, but if we learn anything from the Bible it’s that people never listen to the prophets. If you think they were foolish to envy being under the thumb of a monarch, then you must be one of the 11 people in the United States who did not get up in the pre-dawn hours to watch Will & Kate’s vows --- a phenomenon made even more amusing by the fact that the USA exists because people were sick of their king. Reading I & II Kings reveals some Israelites who got really fed up with theirs too.
Judging others is not necessarily a bad thing. I remember an adult Sunday School class where the “Who am I to judge?” topic came up. Considering that one member of the class was a federal judge, it was obvious that some people are qualified and even required to judge others. Sometimes we appreciate this, and sometimes it knocks the luster off our affection. I was a fan of both Steven Tyler and Martha Stewart until they entered the reality show realm-- he as a judge and she as a subject to a ridiculous judge with a hideous comb over. It just hasn’t been the same with us since.
I’m a study in dissonance when it comes to judging and being judged. No skill is more easily mastered than the ability to judge the flaws of others. Not only is this skill a delight to practice, it has the added bonus of confirming my own vanity. But I seldom welcome criticism directed at me, not even the constructive kind ---especially not the constructive kind. It’s a tricky subject to address because warning people about being judgmental can come off sounding very judgmental. Take it from the Pope, “The reality of vanity is this: Look at the peacock; it’s beautiful if you look at it from the front, but if you look at it from behind you discover the truth. Whoever gives in to such self-absorbed vanity has huge misery hiding inside them.”