June 1, 2003 — The concept of Judgment Day appears in many of the world’s religions. Here the spiritual sojourner believes that there is to be a day of reckoning when the soul passes from its earthly existence to a life beyond. Here the behaviors of the earthly life are brought under scrutiny, and decisions about the merit of one’s life determine one’s next destination.
The concept of accountability for one’s life journey is the basis for the rules given by each religion as to what behaviors are acceptable, and what behaviors are not. For instance, the boundaries for sexual gratification are often the subject of moral and spiritual guidance. Ceremonies of commitment, both legal and those with no legal merit, are guides for how people will behave toward one another. Marriage, one of the most common forms of boundaries for behavior, includes the intent for sexual fidelity. Also included within social sexual boundaries are the distinctions of relationship and age. For example, it is inappropriate to engage in sexual activity within one’s family or between children and adults.
Some religions have attempted to deal with the issue of behavior by establishing a code of morals or ethics known as sins. More extreme violations are regarded as mortal sins. Lesser sins can be absolved by performing certain rituals within that religion. Sexual abstinence is often seen as a higher form of consciousness practiced by those in religious service. Therefore, a hierarchy of behaviors practiced by those within a religious sect gives rise to a sense of stability, predictability, and also a standard which is enforceable by the tribe.
Most religions practice some form of sanctions upon behaviors, complemented by a set of behaviors believed to be of a higher order and for which one will be, in this life or beyond, rewarded. The day of judgment may be within one’s earthly life if one performs heinous acts as determined by that particular moral code and receives punishment, or in the afterlife when one is punished or rewarded. The behavior modification practiced is generally a punishment/ reward/absolution type of behavior management. Thus behaviors of entire societies of people, often within the same geographic locations, are developed and implemented in a fashion that attempts to preserve the culture.
In many societies marriages are arranged to attempt to keep the tribe pure. In some religious communities, the same is practiced to keep the religion pure. Attempts of some to go outside of religious, racial, and cultural boundaries, and to introduce other influences, are often regarded sternly by the elders who seek to preserve the status quo. Thus, there is frequently tension between those attempting to prevent the inclusion of others outside of the boundaries of the religion, race, or culture, and those attempting to integrate. Movement away from the mores of the group frequently is judged harshly by the elders and those who seek to preserve, and judgments are placed upon those who stray.
Judgment day is seen in some religions as the time when the spiritual leader returns to claim the just followers. It is often surrounded by dire predictions for those who will be left behind. Judgments abound surrounding leaving the culture, introducing pagans into the culture, refusing to acknowledge the marriage customs and beliefs of the culture, raising children inside or outside the culture, and behaviors that are deemed to obstruct the purity of the culture. For example, marriages having legal status may not be recognized by the religious community if not performed within the purview of that religion. By the same token, spiritual marriages of commitment done by spiritual leaders may have no legal status.
Even within the same country, there is much indecision about who can marry. In most states in the United States, for example, people of the same gender may not marry, but may commit spiritually. There are also penalties for marriage in laws governing social security, healthcare, and taxation. While one might expect that the social structures would support majority belief in the value of the stabilizing effect of marriage, current economic systems have many instances of discrimination against those who choose to marry, thus inhibiting the stated dominant belief.
Judgment days might also be looked upon as those days when the justice system metes out punishment for undesired behaviors. On this day, after deliberation, a sentence is handed down to the accused, and he/she is either exonerated or given a punishment considered consistent with the degree of undesired behavior. Here, too, most societies have some kind of system whereby certain behaviors are considered worse than others, and punishments are meted out accordingly. In a despotic society where a vicious dictator metes out punishment, the consequences may have no relationship to a crime, and innocents are often tortured and killed simply because of their heritage or political affiliation.
Even in this simplistic discussion of a very complex subject of behaviors and the positive or negative judgments they receive, one can begin to see that it is a moral and or ethical code that determines the behavior of a society. The errant person, failing to live up to that society’s expectations, receives consequences that attempt to modify that behavior in the future. But what if we had no codes of conduct within societies? What if there were no behaviors perceived as right or as wrong? What if there were no laws, and no consequences for either “good” or “bad” behaviors?
What if people began to see one another not as spiritual as well as physical beings, but simply as others to be manipulated to meet one’s own needs? What if suffering, whether physical, emotional, or mental, went untreated due to lack of caring and lack of social structures? What if a person had no value? What if we became only seekers for our own gratification and greed? What if existing social structures, whether corporate, social, or governmental, reflected lack of value for human life? What would then determine acceptable and unacceptable behaviors, or would there be no distinction between them?
Let’s each look at the current state of our society, regardless of where we live, and ask the following questions: What do I see that tells me that my religion, my family, my government, my business, and my lifestyle reflect value for human life? What do I see that tells me that these same institutions do not reflect value for human life? What would I like to change? What would I like to reinforce?
Judgments are made not only daily, but also momentarily. Everyday, almost every moment, we are each making judgments about what we like, accept, and will foster, and what we do not like or accept, and will not reinforce. Whether we are making judgments about people of other races and religions, or whether we are deciding whether we will continue to work for a corporation or entity that discriminates against a group. Whether we determine that we will be honest in all of our dealings regardless of the personal cost, or whether lying and cheating are acceptable if the end justifies the means. We make judgments about whom we want married into our families, and how they and the offspring will be treated. We decide what behaviors will be meted out, even to death for certain offenses. We judge what we will accept, and we are judged by the opinions and beliefs of others. Is this desirable? This, perhaps, is the bigger question.
Everyday is judgment day. We control, and are controlled by, judgments. Or, we go against tide and live our lives as we believe we should. We decide if the judgments of others have merit, or not. Some of us may live by the judgments of others even though we do not accept them. Some of us are afraid to speak out against the injustices we see and experience because we do not have the inner strength and conviction of our beliefs.
Judgments set standards for behavior, but the act of judging can also contribute to the pain of lack of acceptance. Families are torn apart by lack of acceptance. Discrimination flourishes due to lack of acceptance. Children are emotionally destroyed by judgments because they do not yet have the emotional strength and information to rise above them. Judgments are essential to democracy because they reinforce positive behaviors and modify and attempt to eliminate those behaviors that are detrimental to the society. However, when judgments regarding acceptance based upon distinguishing characteristics such as race, religion, and culture are used to discriminate, the same behavior of judging becomes a negative influence.
Judgments are essential to a democracy. Judging others on the basis of race, religion, physical appearance, handicapping condition, age, or culture is harmful to democratic institutions. Remembering to judge behavior, not people, is a helpful way to determine if the action is healthy or detrimental. Keeping the family together, or breaking it up rather than accept new people with differing customs, is perhaps at the heart of the matter. Maintaining our institutions of family, marriage, and the value of human life is essential. Making sure that our social, religious, and governmental institutions promote the value of human life, equality of education and healthcare, and the removal of discrimination is essential to social stability.
The act of judging is throughout society. Judgments of religions have both positive and negative implications. Establishing standards of behavior is essential; deciding who is acceptable is not. Judgments of children based upon physical conditions or social status of parents are damaging and should not be tolerated. Deciding who shall receive medical treatments, and to whom they will not be offered based upon age and social status, is reprehensible. Deciding which marriages or relationships between adults are acceptable and which are not is damaging to family structures. Basing corporate reporting upon what the public is perceived as wanting to hear, rather than upon truth, threatens the very fabric of society. Democracy is based upon acceptance of all people, valuing life, judging behaviors, and telling the truth. Without all of these, True Democracy will fail. We each need to ask ourselves where we see our own country, religion, culture, business, and family based upon these criteria, and then ask ourselves what we need to do about it.
Setting standards for behavior is essential. Judging behaviors against social standards is essential. Setting standards for personal characteristics with which one was born is undesirable. Judging others based upon these criteria is unacceptable, and promotes discrimination and intolerance.
In this meditation may we reflect upon the topic of judgments. Where we see that we are acting in ways that promote democratic values, let’s continue. Where we see that our behaviors, whether covert or overt, contribute to another’s pain, let’s reconsider our actions and make other choices. Judging people based upon social status, wealth, religion, culture, race, physical appearance, age, or handicapping condition inflicts pain and destroys democratic values. Love means acceptance, and the result is empowering.
Please join us in prayer/meditation on Sunday, June 1, 2003, and on the first Sunday of every month. The International Institute For Human Empowerment, Inc. is not affiliated with any religion in order that it might serve people of all religions. The Institute seeks to promote democratic values, especially the value of human life, in all its empowerment activities.
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