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An Invitation to Judgment

Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

Last week I wrote about seeing atonement and giving forgiveness. I’d like to look at the other side of forgiveness, judgment. After all, to forgive someone you must first judge them. If you have not judged their actions you have no need to forgive their actions.

We live in an odd age for judgment. While I was growing up the first verse of Matthew chapter 7 was used against anyone judging others. It was usually followed by the statement, “judging isn’t very Christian.” Reading the whole of Matthew chapter 7 indicates otherwise. How can one refuse to give what his holy until dogs or keep your face towards swine if you cannot know who is a dog and who is swine.

More interesting than the simplistic judgment as a binary, it is the second verse of the chapter which always draws my attention. “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again,” is a simple rule.

Live up to your own standards first.

There is an interesting parallel to this rule that in one part of our culture has taken on great currency. In another party, this new parallel is the subject of ridicule. I admit to being in the first group. The second group does not seem to be looking at the idea behind the statement. They do not seem interested in looking at the idea.

That parallel is Jordan Peterson’s injunction to “clean your room.”

After all, Peterson’s argument id “clean your room” is short hand for “get your life in order”. Peterson argues that if you can’t fix your own life, why would you think you can fix the whole world. It is also a variation on another famous injunction by Christ, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first”.

It is so much easier to judge people than to judge ourselves. We don’t have to accept another person’s justifications for their actions. We label them excuses. But in the private world of our own thoughts we are happy to tell ourselves excuses and justifications galore.

This is why a wise man considers not only his own context, but the context of those he is dealing with. The law treats a man who plots for months to kill a rival differently from a woman who finds her husband in bed with another man and kills him and treats both differently from a man who attacked at knife point wrestles the knife from his attacker and kills him. It externalizes the context and requires us to examine it before passing judgment. It encourages us to judge as we wish to be judged based on the knowledge that we one day will face the same system we are using.

Yet, our age is becoming unwise. It is not only becoming unwise, but is treating that old wisdom as outdated.

I can think of no example of how far this rejection of the old wisdom has bitten into our culture than Star Trek. Gamergate, Comicsgate, the fights over the three major active science fiction franchises (Doctor Who, Star Trek, and Star Wars), and the Sad Puppies fights are all examples of this war. On one side is those who know their context is correct and reject media that does not embrace that correct knowledge. On the other is an increasing mash-up of people who lack that conviction. Every day it seems more in the second group agree with a subset of the ideas of the first group, but have the humility to embrace the old wisdom of judging as we wish to be judged.

When the second group decries politics dominating their entertainment the first group rejoins that politics always has. Although the first group is often speaking from a post-modern mindset that sees everything as a struggle for power and thus political. The problem is they have a point. Star Wars is in part, by Lucas’s own admission, based on the Vietcong versus the United States. For him, the Empire is the good old USA. Two of Heinlein’s Hugo winners, and some of his most often read books, Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, are overtly political. The later is on multiple reading lists to understand libertarian political thought.

As for Star Trek, any series with episodes such as “Patterns of Force”, “Let that Be Your Last Battlefield”, and “A Taste for Armageddon” cannot claim to not have political stories. To argue there was no politics in Star Trek is ignorant at best and disingenuous at worst. At the same time, the politics of Star Trek and its successor series and movies prior to Star Trek: Discovery were different the two most recent series. Gene Roddenberry would never have said

To the extent that I was aware of the kind of toxic fandom, the anti-SJW, you know, sad little corner of fandom — you just disregard that. Sometimes you’re motivated to have things simply because it’s possibly going to piss off or provoke people who seem to have missed the memo about just what exactly “Star Trek” is and always has been all about.

But Michael Chabon, the Pulitzer Prize winning novelist hired to be show runner for Star Trek: Picard said exactly that. He didn’t think fans deserved respect for their thinking, only scorn if they failed to see what Chabon knew and thus what Star Trek was always about.

In his review of season one of Star Trek: Picard Andre Einherjar showed, in my opinion, a much deeper understanding of Star Trek (quote is at 4:12, but I recommend the entire video):

Star Trek didn’t judge you. It gave you the opportunity to see the error of your ways. As such, Star Trek of old was universal. It was universal. It no longer is.

When I first heard that in his review I changed it in my mind. I think of it as “Star Trek didn’t judge you. It invited you to judge yourself.” It invited you to judge knowing you would be judged by your yardstick.

Twenty years ago I didn’t understand why The Sopranos was such a big deal. When my roommate became a fan of Breaking Bad and Sons of Anarchy I didn’t get it. Breaking Bad as a classic tragedy, the downfall of a good man due to a fatal flaw, could have been interesting as a movie or short series focused on the tragedy. When it became, like the other two, a celebration of someone who wasn’t even an anti-hero, but a likable villain, I think the potential was lost.

That is why earlier this year I sought out and bought a copy of Star Trek II: The Wraith of Khan. I wanted, no in this time of covid and riots, needed to spend time with a lawful good party.

I recommend you do that do. Spend time with fiction that does not excuse your sin or justify them. Spend time with fiction, and real people, who do not judge you but invite you to judge yourself. Only when you find where you measure up to your own judgment, only when there are rooms inside your soul that are clean, are you ready to judge others.

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  1. TRX TRX

    You know… when I first saw “Space Seed” on TV, I sympathized with Khan Noonien Singh. And the movie only reinforced that.

    Khan was *made*, by genetic engineering, then he and his people were cast out of human society. Yeah, they tried to conquer the world… that’s what they were created for. I can’t blame them for that; they didn’t have any say in how they were made. The Federation, descended from the civilization of that had created him had no place for his kind either.

    He was a different aspect of Lawful Good, trying to do the best for his people in the face of adversity. More Moses than Lucifer, as I saw it.

    I just looked up the word “tragic” before using it; it seems it doesn’t mean what I thought it did. But Khan wasn’t evil. He wasn’t even the bad guy. He was just screwed by fate.

    • So he was more Archilles, then?

      And I can’t say I’ve thought about Khan that way, but not I need to think about it.

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