Do you judge celebrities and public personalities? What does it mean to you to “render judgment” on a pop star or role model gone astray?
There’s an interesting article at Plugged In about teen pop star Miley Cyrus’ all-too-predictable transition from squeaky-clean Christian role model to hyper-sexualized music video vixen. But the article isn’t just lamenting the moral failings of a celebrity; it talks about the culture of brutal moral judgment in which these dramas play out.
We live, the article argues, in a culture that publicly professes to be non-judgmental. (I’m sure you’ve seen the usually fruitless back-and-forths between Christians condemning some type of inappropriate behavior and others condemning the Christian for “judging.”) But pop culture society is no better at living up to this standard than Christians are… as seen in the viciously judgmental reactions to Cyrus’ latest escapades:
We’re supposed to be living in a kinder, gentler, less judgmental time: My ideals and beliefs aren’t better or worse than yours, we’re told, just different. “Hey, it’s great if that thing works for you,” we’re apt to say, “but don’t tell me how to run my life. Don’t get up in my business. Don’t judge me!”
Here’s the honest truth, though: For all the tolerance we supposedly show, we judge one another more frequently and more harshly than ever.
We post demeaning comments on YouTube or Facebook. We call radio shows, lambasting politicians or banks or businesses. We scream about BP’s malfeasance, snicker as Lindsay Lohan skulks off to jail and write lengthy diatribes on why Google or Apple or Perez Hilton or McDonald’s Happy Meals portend societal devolution. Tolerance? Hardly. We live in an age of outrage and apology, where each secret and slight is posted on Huffington and mocked on Fark, where every person who makes the slightest misstep is beaten and kicked for the pleasure of the 24-hour news cycle.
We’re all up in each other’s business now. We can’t seem to help ourselves. And few people today have been judged as frequently or as rigorously as Miss Miley Cyrus.
The articles goes on to cite some of the often brutal criticism of Cyrus, both from professional critics and the internet-using hoi polloi. In the face of that evidence, it’s hard to deny that our culture, whatever its ideals about non-judgmentalism might be, does plenty of judging.
This raises some interesting questions about the place of judgment in our culture—and in the Christian life. As a Christian, do you judge people? If so, is your judgment different than the hate and vitriol that our culture heaps on its objects of scorn?
Here are a few specific questions to ponder:
1. How do you understand the Biblical command to not judge others? Is it possible or appropriate to judge a person or action, or does our own sin render us unworthy to judge?
2. What, if anything, is different about Biblical judgment compared to societal judgment? Is there a difference in motive or desired outcome?
3. In the case of Biblical judgment, who is the judgment for? When you judge somebody, are you calling them to repentance? Warning other Christians (or yourself) to steer clear? Both?
4. What, if anything, would you say to Cyrus if you had the chance to address her in person?