Solipsism is just as prevalent among progressives as it is among Fundamentalists. I am part of a larger group of Christians known as “recovering Fundies.” But no matter how we try to distance ourselves from the legalism of our youth, it is hard. Recovery is a process. Despite having grown in my understandings and interpretations of Scripture the truth is that judgmentalism still exists. That’s because it’s not mainly to be found out there among the legalists, but in my own heart.
My years in the Christian teen subculture were similar to many of my generation. We were each other’s harshest critics. We had unspoken rules: you can only listen to “Christian music,” you can’t watch “R” rated movies, and you have to pray at lunch time in the cafeteria (in front of everyone). But over the years I have seen just how inane these rules are. They were often nothing more than attempts to isolate and elevate my own little bubble of “Christianity.” They were a way of keeping others out and of patting myself on the back. Judgmentalism is always about the self, though we think it’s about the target of our latest tirade. It’s still about the self, even if the “rules” have changed.
Maybe I am less inclined to attack someone for listening to Metallica, but I can condemn another over their insistence on a literal seven-day creation. I might not “pray” for my friend who smokes, but I can compose a stinging quip about a man in his “Sunday bests.” The targets have changed but the heart has stayed the same. Where it was once easy for me to judge those of a more liberal persuasion, it is now easy for me to judge those of a hyper-Fundamentalist persuasion (and those of an even more liberal persuasion). Some things, of course, should be judged. But judging and judgmentalism are not equivalents.
To judge something means to evaluate it based on its relation to a specific standard (for Christians, that standard is the Bible). We all rightfully participate in this. Fools need to be exposed. Judmentalism, however, isn’t nearly as interested in what’s right as it is in being critical of others. It comes with a condemning and arrogant spirit. Judmentalism wants to expose foolishness too, but not so much because foolishness is wrong as to lambast the fool himself. Being more “progressive” has surely changed the kinds of arguments I have, but it hasn’t necessarily inclined me more towards kindness.
It’s the heart that really needs to change. It’s the heart that must be softened to see the dignity of others, their value as being made in the image of God. I must be willing to disagree with humility, with kindness, and with compassion. The proper starting place is in recognition that I am just like them. Not only was I once a raging hyper-conservative, but I am also still struggling with selfishness. I judge because I am still all about me. Progressive views haven’t changed that part of my heart, only Jesus can do that. That’s why whether you call yourself a “progressive” Christian or a “Fundamentalist” we all still need the gospel of Jesus Christ.