At a recent gathering of seminary professors, one teacher reported that at his school the most damaging charge one student can lodge against another is that the person is being “judgmental.” He found this pattern very upsetting. “You cant get a good argument going in class anymore,” he said. “As soon as somebody takes a stand on any important issue, someone else says that the person is being judgmental. And thats it. End of discussion. Everyone is intimidated!”
Many of the other professors nodded knowingly. There seemed to be a consensus that the fear of being judgmental has taken on epidemic proportions. Is the call for civility just another way of spreading this epidemic? If so, then Im against civility. But I really dont think that this is what being civil is all about.
Christian civility does not commit us to a relativistic perspective. Being civil doesnt mean that we cannot criticize what goes on around us. Civility doesnt require us to approve of what other people believe and do. It is one thing to insist that other people have the right to express their basic convictions; it is another thing to say that they are right in doing so. Civility requires us to live by the first of these principles. But it does not commit us to the second formula. To say that all beliefs and values deserve to be treated as if they were on a par is to endorse relativism -- a perspective that is incompatible with Christian faith and practice.Christian civility does not mean refusing to make judgments about what is good and true. For one thing, it really isnt possible to be completely nonjudgmental. Even telling someone else that she is being judgmental is a rather judgmental thing to do!