“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matthew 7:1)
CCBR is a non-sectarian organization (after all, you don’t have to be religious to see that abortion kills children and killing children is wrong). Nevertheless, there’s a strong association in our public consciousness between Christianity and all things pro-life, so we hear this verse fairly often. Ironically, I usually have it quoted at me as part of someone’s judgment of our work and why we’re going about things all wrong.
Here’s the thing, though: this verse, as any verse, needs to be read and understood in context rather than isolation. And there are plenty of people more qualified to comment on scripture than me, but there are a few things I’d like to talk about, more about what this doesn’t mean than what it does.
Jesus is not saying that no one should ever make any judgments at all. Imagine a world like that for a moment – it would be utter chaos! There are certainly some judgments we can’t make. As a human being it is not my job to judge who goes to heaven or hell. It is my job – our job – though, to make judgments about actions. Some actions, some choices, are good, some are neutral, and some are wrong.
And I think most people, when they bring up this quote, aren’t saying that we should never judge any action ever. We can very rightly recognize that some actions are wrong. Look at the public outrage over the child pornography charges against Benjamin Levin. We are making a judgment. Abusing and exploiting people, especially vulnerable people, is wrong. People who abuse children should be prosecuted for their actions and prevented from hurting anyone else in the future. Who would question this judgment?
But there are actions that are more common and seem less clear-cut. And it’s upsetting to be told that one is doing something wrong. Handling criticism gracefully is a challenge for most people. It makes us uncomfortable, and heaven forbid we make people uncomfortable. It’s just not nice!
So why don’t I just stick to judging my own choices and not have abortions since I think abortion is wrong, but for goodness sake leave everyone else alone? Because the case against abortion isn’t about who’s having abortions, it’s about what abortion is. Because abortion kills human beings – decapitates, dismembers, and disembowels defenseless children, in fact – and that’s wrong no matter who does it. Because those children can’t speak and we can. And because while it’s not my job to judge you, it is my job to love you.
In love, the good of the other is paramount. We choose what is good for those we love, even when it might not be what they want in that moment. This is why our parents made us eat our vegetable before we could have dessert. This is why people have interventions for loved ones struggling with substance abuse. When we care about people we want the best for them. To let your child eat only candy or your friend or family member continue to harm him or herself with drugs, to avoid making them uncomfortable at the expense of their long-term good, is simply not loving.
So when we know that children are being killed and others involved are being harmed, to avoid the discomfort of the truth about abortion is likewise unloving. That abortion kills children is a biological fact. One needn’t be Christian to recognize that when one person harms or kills another, he or she harms not only the other but him or herself also.
That abortion is wrong is a judgment, one that anyone can arrive at from basic biology (human life begins at fertilization) and fundamental human rights (humans have a right to life). Showing bloody pictures of aborted children is upsetting, because the pictures illustrate just how wrong abortion is. We cannot, in the end, make people’s choices for them, but we can show them the truth about the lives that are at stake. You may be offended, you may be outraged, because the abortion pictures condemn abortion more thoroughly than words can, but when it comes down to it, I care more about children’s lives than people’s hurt feelings, and more about you than about what you think of me.