The gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for all because we all share the same human condition, the same human needs, the same human problem. I’ve been writing here about humanness, and I have more to share on that. I’ve written in the past on the importance of treating one another as human. I am now declaring this blog a human-safe zone: a place where we will not attack other people as people. This is a change in policy.
To explain what I mean by that, I’ll start with a quick bullet-list summary, and then expand on it with an officially-designated Wordy Explanation™.
Safe For Humans
Christians, myself included, and non-Christians writing here have been guilty of what I’m about to describe. From this point on I will be especially careful to keep the Christian witness here consistently human-safe.
What this isn’t about
Challenging others’ ideas. Ideas are not humans. We can feel free as always to challenge and even attack others’ ideas.
Discussing the effects of ideas. Ideas that lead to behaviors and character traits are fair game.
Provoking others, apart from what’s listed below.
What this is about
Judging internal characteristics, which I take to be one of two things Jesus had in mind in his Matthew 7:1 prohibition against judging (cf. 1 Sam. 16:7 and 1 Cor. 4:5).
Condemning others, which I understand to be the other half of Jesus’ intent in Matthew 7:1.
Stereotyping, which is inherently dehumanizing. (I do not consider it stereotyping, however, to discuss the general effects of widely held ideas.)
Making others out to be inferior to oneself.
If you got that much with no trouble you can skip all the wordy explanation that follows.
I’ll start with the last of these and work backwards to the first.
Isn’t Christianity Better?
Is it better to be a Christian? Certainly! Jesus Christ is God. He is superior, his way is superior, and his life in us can make us better by far than we would otherwise be. The world is a better place because of the life of Christ in his people.
We cannot let this cause us to forget where we came from, however, and that we have nothing of our own to boast of, only Jesus Christ. Consider the apostle Paul’s sayings:
1 Tim. 1:15: “The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.”
Phil. 2:3-4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Col. 4:5-6: “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”
Gal. 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
1 Cor. 1:27-31: “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'”
To summarize: Christ lifts up those who come to them. He does it by his goodness, not ours. We deserved his goodness no more then anyone else. Our call therefore is to humility with respect to ourselves, and gratitude with respect to what Christ has given us in his mercy.
It is one of the few remaining “sins” in contemporary culture, and it happens to be one that I agree is wrong.* To treat others as faceless, undifferentiated members of some amorphous group is to deny their human uniqueness. I find myself frequently being stereotyped as a Christian, an “unthinking theocratic science-denying hater.” I’ll call anyone out who stereotypes me in that way. I want this blog to be a zone of safety from all such dehumanizing nonsense, so I’m going to ensure that no one is stereotyped regardless of their beliefs.
Jesus’ warning against judging in Matthew 7:1 may be the most-quoted Bible verse today. It is usually quoted wrong, as if Jesus meant to say we should never evaluate others’ behavior. That’s not the case: sin is sin, and where we see it, we can name it what it is (but see Matt. 18:15-17 and Gal. 6:1 for important cautions on how we do that).
We can evaluate what we can see. We cannot judge what we cannot see: others’ hearts, their motives, the undisplayed background behind their behavior. To judge others’ hearts is to usurp the place of God. To condemn others is also to take God’s place. The point of naming sin, as we see (again) in Matt. 18:15-17, Gal. 6:1, and elsewhere, is always to pursue restoration, not condemnation.
Nevertheless we have freedom to provoke, based on others’ visible behaviors. We used to have a frequent commenter here who called himself doctor(logic). Doctor(logic)’s logic was consistently lacking, and seriously. I challenged him on his self-image: “If you think you’re a logical person, how does that square with these frequent, multiple examples of fallacious thinking you’ve displayed here?” (And then I listed several examples of logical fallacies he had committed.)
Recently here I told someone here it was hard to take him seriously when it appeared he was not taking himself seriously, and I mentioned several reasons for thinking that about him.
In both these cases I used publicly observable behaviors as the basis for my conclusions. In the first case I know I was right, for doctor(logic)’s fallacies were frequent and plain to see. In this more recent case I’d be glad to be shown I am wrong. I’m willing for others to provoke me, too.
Ideas Are Fair Game
Ideas are not humans. Every person shares a common human condition and a certain essential equality; not so with ideas. Many ideas are wrong. Many are dangerous. All have consequences. All of that is fair game for challenge, even for attack. That doesn’t mean being crude, cruel, or mean-spirited, which is ineffective against ideas anyway, as viciousness is usually an expression of an informal logical fallacy. It might mean being strong, persistent, pointed, or insistent, however. That’s part of thinking things through together: if you think it’s really wrong, by all means say so and explain why.
That goes for the consequences of ideas, too. It’s not stereotyping to say, for example, that atheistic materialism includes no foundational ethical principles, except perhaps accidentally/contingently, and to discuss the effects that can have in the lives of materialist atheists. See this post for an example.
Maintaining a Human-Safe Zone
This blog post announces a change in my commenting policy, especially for fellow Christians here. If a non-believer commits some violation of human-safe commenting, I’ll call him or her out on it. I’ll delete those comments, or ban those commenters, only if they violate other provisions of the discussion policy already in place.
If a fellow believer violates human-safe commenting, however, I will summarily delete that comment. You’re free to express opinions about that, but I’ll be the sole person to decide when that action is appropriate.
* “Intolerance” and hypocrisy are the other great contemporary “sins.” Hypocrisy is detestable to God and to almost every person. Intolerance properly understood is also wrong, but the way it’s typically used today, it’s just a confused label for accepting moral and spiritual error as if it were all just fine.
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