We have become a people who are less careful about doing evil than judging evil. Don't believe me? Try this at your next dinner party: while your guests are at their cordials, ask, "Who believes that extramarital affairs are always morally wrong?"
I'm of an age to remember a time when most, if not all, hands would have shot up. Today, it would be unusual if most eyebrows didn't, and even if you're so fortunate as to get a verbal response, it will likely be something like, "Between consenting adults?" or "Sometimes" or "Yeah, no, I dunno!" or "It's not for you or us to judge."
To Be a Nice Person
Sometime in the past fifty years, the virtue of discernment was replaced by the acceptance of ambiguity, and judgment was turned into a social vice that nice people just don't commit. Well, actually, they do; they have to; they just don't know (or admit) that they do.
Consider country singer Carrie Underwood, who came out in support of same-sex "marriage" last year. In explanation of her position, she told the British press, "It's not up to me to judge anybody."1
What? You just did, Carrie. Your endorsement of same-sex "marriage" constitutes a positive moral judgment on the social invention and its supporters, while insinuating a negative moral judgment about its critics.
But, like most nice people, Carrie Underwood is oblivious to her own incoherence in this matter. If she really deems it improper for her to judge the wrongness of actions, it is equally improper for her to judge their rightness. And if she does make a judgment one way or the other on an action, then, whichever way she goes (and whether she realizes it or not), she is making a de facto judgment on the opposing view.
These days, to be a nice person in good standing requires apparent neutrality on all moral matters, but in reality, we humans are anything but morally neutral. Regardless of our religious or anti-religious sentiments, we commonly believe that some things are wrong, really wrong, like cheating, rape, bigotry, and greed, and that other things are truly good, such as honesty, fairness, charity, and selflessness.
What's more, in a world where virtue and vice exist side-by-side, everyone must make judgments about whom to trust, where to invest one's money, and what products to buy. You can bet that when Carrie Underwood becomes a mother, she will make judgments aplenty, sniffing around for any hint of abusiveness, pedophilia, or any other behavior she deems morally reprehensible in the backgrounds of prospective babysitters.
The person who can't or won't discern good from evil is destined to be a victim of those who are adept at disguising one as the other. Thus, abstaining from moral judgments is not a hallmark of nice people, but of foolish ones. And the person who makes judgments while insisting that he doesn't or shouldn't is naive, if not hypocritical.
Not So Judgment-Free
Planet Fitness, a trendy chain of health clubs, exemplifies the self-contraditoriness of non-judgmentalism. Upon entering a Planet Fitness gym, you can't help but notice the two-foot-high block letters on the front wall that spell out "Judgement Free Zone." The phrase is also on their logo, which is stamped on all of their equipment. Also prominently displayed, on a four-by-six-foot sign near the entrance, is the franchise statement of commitment: "to provide a unique environment in which anyone, and we mean anyone, can be comfortable" and where "everyone feels accepted and respected." Got it: this is a Judgement Free Zone.
Except that, as the quick eye soon discerns, incidences of judging abound. Planet Fitness personal trainers routinely critique and correct members in proper exercise techniques and proper use of the machines. I'm sure they would call it "coaching," but it's judging by a different name—judging that there are right and wrong ways to go about exercising, the right way being effective and helpful, and the wrong way ineffective and potentially harmful.
Moreover, it turns out that the "anyone" and "everyone" referred to in their mission statement doesn't really include everyone. Certain individuals are excluded, namely, those who fit the profile described on another sign accompanying the "Lunk Alarm." This alarm, which consists of a blue flashing light and loud working siren, goes off whenever someone starts acting like a "lunk," that is, "one who grunts, drops weights or judges." An example of a lunk is described thusly: "Ricky is slamming his weights, wearing a body building tank top and drinking from a gallon water jug . . . what a lunk!"
By that definition, "Ricky" is anyone who puts serious effort into his workout, pushing himself to the point of actually breaking a sweat. Any number of times I've been startled after "Ricky" put his weights down a little too hastily and set off the siren and flashing light, alarming everyone in the gym.
So much for an environment where "everyone feels accepted and respected."
A New Blasphemy Code
If such "judgment-free" judgmentalism were contained within the walls of fitness facilities, it would be of little concern. But, sadly, it's not. In just the past few decades, "Thou shalt not judge"—the one moral absolute of moral relativism—has become the basis of a new Blasphemy Code, in which criticizing, disagreeing with, or even frowning upon social novelties like consequence-free sex, sex-free procreation, and genderless marriage is a profane offense to the sovereignty of individual autonomy and the sacrament of choice.
What's more, after years of social conditioning, similar to that employed in the successful anti-littering campaign of the 1960s, we have reached the point where self-policing has become an effective means of enforcement. Just try telling those dinner guests of yours that you believe extramarital sex is immoral, abortion is murder, marriage is the union of husband and wife, or the interests of children are best served in a family headed by both of their biological parents, and see how quickly words like "moralizer," "misogynist," "bigot," or "homophobe" are let fly to shut you down.
Even if you give them hard data from any of the numerous studies showing how deviations from cultural norms have created (and continue to create) more rather than less social dysfunction, you will still find yourself harshly judged, because, as all nice people know, judging is wrong. Just ask Mark Regnerus.
The Kids Aren't Alright
Last year, Dr. Regnerus, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), published the results of a nationally representative survey of over 15,000 people (the largest and most rigorous of its kind to date) that was designed to reveal how family structure affects a range of social, emotional, psychological, and cognitive outcomes.2
The results supported what, in a bygone day, would have been deemed an expected and unremarkable conclusion: that children who grow up in gay and lesbian homes fare worse in a number of areas than children raised by both of their biological parents. But this is the day when different family structures cannot be admitted to have different effects on children's well-being, because to allow such a conclusion would be to make a de facto judgment in favor of one structure over another—and that, lest we forget, would be a transgression of the Blasphemy Code.
For his offense, Regnerus was subjected to ad hominem attacks, the threat of academic censure, and a highly publicized (and politicized) inquiry by UTA officials to judge whether he was guilty of scientific misconduct. After sixty days of scrutiny, the investigators vindicated Regnerus, concluding that there was no basis for the misconduct charges.3
Compare the reaction to Dr. Regnerus's study to the fawning coverage of a 2010 study concluding that lesbian parenting is as good for children as the traditional family structure, only better.4 That completely counterintuitive conclusion was met with nary a tinge of skepticism by the media or academia, despite serious flaws in the design of the study, which, unlike Regnerus's research, was based on the responses of a small, non-random sample of only 171 individuals, 78 of whom were lesbian mothers who volunteered for the study.
Nor did the 2010 study offend the sensibilities of those committed to the Blasphemy Code. That's because, as nice people everywhere know, all lifestyle choices are equally valid and beyond moral criticism; some just happen to be more equally valid than others. This notion follows the fashionably Orwellian reasoning behind such other "elevated" ideas as:
• Aborting your child isn't murder; it's reproductive justice.
• Displaying a crucifix in a bottle of urine isn't religious intolerance (it's high art); making a satirical cartoon of Muhammad is.
• Disrupting a church service and throwing condoms on the altar isn't hateful; holding up a sign reading, "Two men are called 'friends' not 'spouses'" is.
• Encouraging a teen to give in to same-sex desire is behavioral counseling; helping one overcome unwanted homosexual attraction is quackery.
• Pedophilia isn't child abuse; raising a child in a Christian home is.
• The unfettered indulgence of one's sexual desires isn't immoral, unhealthy, or imprudent; it's the sacred path to self-actualization. But the attempt to exercise self-control is repressive and unhealthy, and a denial of one's true nature.
But no need for me to tell you; if you are a nice person, these are things you just know. •
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