28 August 2014

The geopolitical consequences of S. Matthew 7

Our Lord said: ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.’

This seems like an easy teaching to keep. But it really isn’t. On the one hand, judgement (as in the virtue of prudence) is a virtue which we exercise, and which we are supposed to exercise, all the time. We are supposed to be able to distinguish between good and evil, right and wrong, that which sustains us and that which destroys us, moderation and surfeit. But we are being told by Our Lord not to judge. Following Our Lord, our Holy Father S. Ephraim the Syrian teaches us to pray each night: ‘Grant me to see my own faults, and not to judge my brothers and sisters’. It is worth considering, therefore, why we are taught to pray against our own exercise of judgement.

Note, for one thing, to whom Our Lord is speaking and why. ‘Judge not, that ye be not judged.’ It is important to note that He is not engaging in that fashionable form of subjectivist, relativist ‘tolerance’ so common amongst the modernists of the West. Indeed, a few verses later he is speaking about trees which bear good fruits versus trees which bear bad ones, and how to tell good trees from bad. Even in this verse, though, He is not necessarily seeking to excuse or ‘let off’ the one being judged, but seeking to protect the one in danger of doing the judging! Likewise, in the prayer of S. Ephraim, we are asking of God, indeed begging of Him, to grant us to see our own faults and to keep us from judging others! Clearly it is for our own benefit, spiritual and otherwise, that we refrain from judging. This refraining from judgement is something we are expected to ask of God as a spiritual gift.

It’s counterintuitive, yet true all the same. If we puff ourselves up proudly, and go around condemning everything and everyone we find to be wrong, speaking as though we are God who is the only true Judge, two things will happen. Firstly, we will not ourselves bear the good fruits we wish to see and claim to value. Secondly, we are going to bring down upon ourselves the same judgement we mete to others.

Is this in doubt?

Then look at Ferguson, Missouri. Look at the weapons the police brandish at the protesters. Listen to the threats the police issue to the protesters. Consider the death of an unarmed eighteen-year-old boy. Consider the casual cruelty with which the police met his mourning. And then look at the reactions to this story around the world.

We have given nations like Iran, Egypt, China and North Korea ample cause to revile us – but they would have had no reason to do so in the first place, if our politicians and our civil society had not been so high-handed and sanctimonious, and if we did not arrogantly ignore and dismiss any like criticism of our own government as ‘whataboutery’. Moreover, we have, through the prideful collective behaviour and imperial hubris which we routinely display in our dealings with them, given these nations a certain degree of moral standing and sympathy – including North Korea, which in particular does not deserve it.

Think of it this way. What are the odds that Hillary Clinton genuinely, humanly cares about a teenage woman from Anhui working 12-hour days and 6-day weeks on a factory floor in a Southern SEZ? What are the odds that Samantha Powers has ever even seen a North Korean peasant family fleeing over the Yalu on the off chance that they might be able to work and avoid starving to death in China – if they can avoid being ‘repatriated’ by the local authorities? What are the odds that Jen Psaki or Lindsey Graham would even give the time of day to a Coptic shop-owner who had to live every day in fear of bloody reprisals from radical Islamists for ‘blasphemy’ and supposed support of the current government, from which they face the continued threats of police harassment and forcible eviction? What are the odds that John McCain gives a rat’s hindquarters about a gaoled pro-democracy blogger-activist in Tehran, a city on which he is so eager to start dropping bombs? Caring is not a part of their business; in the case of elected officials, their business is winning votes and saying things that sound nice to their constituents. In the case of politically-appointed officials, their business is furthering the ideology of the politician who appointed them. They don’t care. And when they cast down judgement about such matters, it is not they but we who come off looking like the hypocrites we are. Because we put them where they are. And, left and right, we love it when politicians pontificate about human rights violations elsewhere, not because we actually do wish the good for the above nations, but because judging them makes us feel smug and superior.

Let’s be honest. We don’t give a rat’s hindquarters about these people struggling to survive in adverse political environments around the world. We care about scoring ideological points in domestic partizan politics. We bicker and we squabble and we gossip and we openly spout off on the world stage about how we’re better than everybody else, because something-something-freedom. And then we turn around when a black high school student in Missouri gets gunned down on the street for jaywalking, and give more money in support of his killer than in support of his family! God sees. God knows. And God knows I’m among the worst of the lot, because I’ve just said all of the above, and I’m just as much a part of it, just as much complicit in it, as any one amongst you, my dearest readers.

Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Have mercy upon us all.

Because judgement is a dangerous, dangerous thing. In the hands of no man save one is it safe, and especially not in my own hands. It is a weapon given to us by the Evil One, which we continually aim at others thinking our aim is true, but which inevitably fires in the direction of our own feet.

We are seeing this now in the reaction abroad toward our own government’s actions in Missouri. Sadly, the ones who have the most to learn and to benefit from Our Lord’s teachings, will probably be the last to get the message.

Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Because do we ever need it.

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