Judgment: Asking Questions & Taking Positions (Spirituality of My Favorite Murder, Theme 3)

When one chooses to look at what is destructive in the world questions naturally arise: Do you think the murderer ever did anything good? What was their childhood like? Would they have turned out to be a killer if they had not had such bad things happen to them? And judgments are made: “There are a lot of people with shitty childhoods who never do anything bad like that. It’s not an excuse. But still…” The conversation invites a reflection on of the origin, effects, and the pull of evil. It draws the listener into the light of harsh truth, prohibits tidy explanations, and elicits difficult judgments.

Amy Brown 2

Would be serial killer Amy Brown in court with her public defender. Ms. Brown, who has a history of mental health issues, received 18 years for an attempted murder. (Photo by Larry Vogel of My Edmonds News)

Kilgariff and Hardstark are among those who actively try to be fair and open minded about the various ways people live their lives. They are intentional about the way they speak of “others.” Do you think the murderer ever did anything good? What was their childhood like? Would they have turned out to be a killer if they had not had such bad things happen to them? And judgments are made: “There are a lot of people with shitty childhoods who never do anything bad like that. It’s not an excuse. But still…” The conversation invites a reflection on of the origin, effects, and the pull of evil. It draws the listener into the light of harsh truth, prohibits tidy explanations, and elicits difficult judgments.

For instance, there is an inherent judgment in word choices. To call a woman a “prostitute” or a “sex worker” colors reality in different ways, ways that imply judgments. On this podcast the norm is “sex worker.” With this word choice they perform a norm: devaluing women is not OK. There are things on which they will take a firm stand.

But only a few. As they find themselves making blanket pronouncements, Hardstark and Kilgariff often stop, crack a joke, and laugh at themselves. They realize that the conclusions reached in the context of one story might not always apply. They recognize that their own experience and viewpoints are limited. They hold their judgments lightly for the most part.

Light Tunnel 1And the listener must judge. Are they discounting themselves by saying, “I don’t know” too often? Do they speak the truth? How does the lesson from one story apply in another situation?

When important questions arise, the moment is ripe for a judgment. When a judgment is made hastily growth will probably not occur. But as a matter of spiritual discipline, the moment of judgment calls for a pause and openness to additional questions. MFM provides such a space for those who listen carefully and thoughtfully, and this may lead to spiritual growth.

The stopping, questioning, and beginning to find one’s position provides the space for turning, which is the next beat in the arc of Jewish and Christian narratives: repentance.

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