Judgment Day; Common Ground

Judgment Day; Common Ground

Pentecost 87

“As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their “right” place.”

To hear that someone spent twenty years teaching in the United States, a tenure which began in a place known as the state of Kansas, a states known as a plans state characterized by its flat lands, dusty fields, and frequent tornadoes, you might assume them to be the quintessential farm-grown all-American boy.

The beginning quote for today was written by a man who did indeed spend twenty years teaching in the USA, first becoming a college professor in an American college in Kansas.  You might also assume this man to be a Protestant, one arm of the Abrahamic faith known as Christianity, since Kansas is not famous for its Roman Catholic population like the city of Boston is.  When I reveal that the author of the quote also participated in the civil rights march led by Rev Martin Luther King, Jr in Selma, Alabama, fifty years ago this year, you might think the author of the quote was African-American.

All of this thoughts, these very normal thought patterns are a form of judging.  We all do it every day.  What we see, hear, taste, feel, or even say are either developed from preconceived notions or create them.  It is not exactly wrong but when we do not allow that they may be incorrect, then our thinking and judging becomes a detriment to our living.

The author of the above quote was Henri Nouwen.  He was not born in the United States but in Nijkerk, Netherlands.  He was ordained as a Catholic priest in the middle of the twentieth century and received permission to continue his studies with a focus on psychology rather than theology.  Having the topic of his dissertation rejected. He served a Fellowship in the Religion and Psychiatry Program at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas.  He went on to also teach at Yale where he received a doctorate degree and later, Father Nouwen was also a professor at Harvard University.  So our preconceived notions about the author of this quote would have all been in error.  There were logical assumptions; they just were not correct.

How did we arrive at such wrong assumptions?  What was the flaw in our judging?  The writer Dave Barry has a great answer about that and about the process of judging.  “There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on underwater, you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and staring at the outside of the tent.”

One of my gracious readers, and again thank you all, had an interesting comment.  “Clearly you are trying to get me to convert by talking about all these different names of God.  I don’t believe and these many names that you adore are not going to change that.”  First, let me repeat that the purpose I write this blog is to begin conversations.  I am not trying to sway someone one direction or another.  If backed into a corner, I would rather educate than lead so please do not assume this is a veiled attempt to convert anyone to any of the over fifty spiritualities and religions I’ve discussed in the past five hundred and fifty blog posts.

The comment did start a conversation, though, so….yea!  As I respect my readers’ privacy, and do not give names, I will also respect this person’s privacy and not give details of the subsequent conversation.  It was a pleasant conversation, and I think (hope!) I still have this reader today.  All indications were that the reader and I both learned from and enjoyed our conversation.  The reader was surprised to learn that I was not always in consensus with some of the names I either had or would be discussing.  Today’s name is one such name.

Elohim Shophtim Ba’arets is our name of the one deity of the Abrahamic faiths for today.  It is also a name I have a bit of a problem in using, not because I disagree with its meaning but because I disagree with how it is most frequently applied.  We have seen in our conversations this month while we study the many names for this one god that Elohim is used sometimes and Yahweh is used other times.    Yahweh is the Anglicized form of the Hebrew YHWH and references a god who is in covenant with those who believe.  Elohim is more a title, much like the word “king” or “queen” and refers to the monarch creator of all.

I think both Yahweh and Elohim are great names for this one deity and that is not my issue with this name.  “Shophtim” is a form of the Hebrew word which means to judge.  “Erets”, which appears here in what the five Romance Languages would deem the ablative case, hence the “ba’”, translates as Earth the planet and not earth the soil although in later times it is used that way.  Thus, today’s name means God who judges the Earth.

Would I be happier if it was Yahweh Shophtim Ba’arets?  Well, quite frankly…yes.  However, I do understand why Elohim was used and not Yahweh.  The thing is, when we judge we are in a relationship with those with whom we judge, even if we do not know them.

The writer Steve Maraboli has a really great question and statement about judging.  “How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”   The mythological writings, often called the Holy Scriptures, of the Christian faith discuss prayer in the same fashion when they advise to act as if God has already granted you that for which you are asking.  In other words, if you want peace, you need to live peace.

The writer Stephen King also has a great quote about judging and, in typical Stephen King fashion, it has something of a scary slant to it.  “Remember that while you are judging the book, the book is judging you.”  An avid reader, I really hope my books are not that judgmental.  Nonetheless, the larger, less literal point of the quote is very applicable in our everyday life.

Those whom we judge are probably also judging us.  If aware of that fact, we would hope they look beneath the surface and see the whole person that we are.  We would hope they understand certain things in our past that might cause us to be more sensitive in some ways and perhaps less caring in others.  Do we see beneath their surface and give them those same considerations?

The key whenever we make an assumption or judgment is to remember our common ground.  Shannon Adler has a great explanation for properly arrive at thoughts rather than blind judgments.  “When you think yours is the only true path you forever chain yourself to judging others and narrow the vision of God. The road to righteousness and arrogance is a parallel road that can intersect each other several times throughout a person’s life. It’s often hard to recognize one road from another. What makes them different is the road to righteousness is paved with the love of humanity. The road to arrogance is paved with the love of self.”

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