When I was a youngster, Americans had some definite ideas about right and wrong, and did not hesitate to express or enforce those ideas. But people who were adults in the 1950s when I was a kid would be considered “judgmental” in today’s socially-antiseptic, politically-correct environment. As is well known to anyone who has the temerity to simply speak the truth about the unacceptable behavior they observe around them, there is no greater faux pas in contemporary American society than to be judgmental. Heaven forbid that someone question the behavior or choices of another individual, no matter how personally or socially destructive that individual’s behavior or choices might be.
In fact, being “judgmental” has become so outré that even people who have never so much as entered a church like to quote the Scriptural admonition from Matthew 7:1: “Judge not lest you be judged.” Of course, if people who like to use this quote would actually take the time to study its meaning they would learn that Matthew never said we weren’t to discern between right and wrong. Rather, he was telling us that we should not judge others by one standard and ourselves by another. In fact, the very next line (Matthew 7:2) makes this proper interpretation clear when it says: “For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged…” In other words, do not condemn me for breaking rules that you regularly break yourself.
One of the easiest ways to verify our contemporary commitment to being non-judgmental is to simply observe the language we use in everyday conversation. We have sanitized the English language in ways meant to ensure that nothing we say might be perceived as being judgmental. Walter Williams wrote an enlightening column on how Americans distort the English language to disguise social deviancy. In that article, Professor Williams wrote: “Much of today’s language usage demonstrates a desire to be nonjudgmental. People used to shack up; now they cohabit or are living partners. Few young women of yesteryear would have felt comfortable to publicly declare they sleep around. (Of course, now they testify to the fact before Congressional committees and are rewarded with phone calls from the President of the United States who offers to pick up the tab for their birth control pills at public expense). Unmarried women used to give birth to bastards; later this was upgraded to an illegitimate birth or a nonmarital birth. In many instances, unwed mothers proudly hold baby showers celebrating their illegitimate offspring—and the man, if known, who sired the baby is referred to as my baby’s daddy…”
Williams goes on to say that “To be judgmental about modern codes of conduct is to risk being labeled a prude, a racist, a sexist or a homophobe. People ignore the fact that to accept another’s right to engage in certain peaceable, voluntary behavior doesn’t require moral acceptance or sanction.” In other words, just because people have a right to live immoral lives does not mean that the rest of us have to give them our approval and blessing.
We now speak of “gays” rather than homosexuals. We call an abominable practice “choice” instead of abortion. We speak of “at-risk” teens instead of juvenile delinquents. In short, we have sanitized the English language to the point that it can no longer be used to distinguish between right and wrong. If something is wrong, we should be honest enough to say it is wrong. If the facts hurt the feelings of those who are engaging in behavior that is personally or socially destructive, so be it. Where is it written that thou shalt not hurt another’s feelings by telling the truth? If the people in question are not doing something they themselves know is wrong, their feelings would not be hurt in the first place. Frankly, I think things were better in the days when Americans still had the good sense to be judgmental.