Letter To The Judges

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I am sharing a letter to a religious family member.  I struggle constantly with a malady of the religious conservative . . . those that are prone to judge.  Of course, I see the same diseased religion on the left that bases their judgment on skin tone or sex.

 

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Dear Sue,

As you know, I am a critic of religion (in general).  This doesn't mean I am denying Jesus' words because his words make much sense.  His words are not judgemental and tell us we are free from sin & accusation for all and for all time.  I guess this is the reason why I responded to your judgment of Dad in regards to eternal salvation.  It is not for us to judge.  It is for us to try to understand and love.
 
Being critical of our own beliefs is the fire and anvil we use to prove our own beliefs.  Being critical of Christianity is hugely important.  The reason I can justify my criticism is that the lives of those we loved and needed, those lives that lived the closest to Christian doctrine were hurt the most by the religion they practiced.  These people also caused pain in my own life.  How can this be?
 
I get the feeling that you want the world to be black and white.  It is a safe place.  I think most people are this way because the world is full of contradiction and turmoil.  The problem with summing up people as "this or that" is we are then prone to judge improperly. 
 It alarms me greatly that you would choose, if your choice, to throw Dad's life away completely into an eternal damnation.  I have so much criticism of Dad, I would be the last person to defend him.  However, I would not eternally condemn him . . . what makes me God?  Where would be my compassion?  I am more inclined to think that the judgment we cast on others will return to us many times over.  This is what makes me concerned about your words.  I also think you judge yourself too much.
 
I would ask that you let go of your judgment, Sue.  Things that happened to us, bad things, can never be rectified or straightened.  This is life.  Judgement of people or ourselves is hugely destructive and is like sucking on razor blades.  Dad and grandpa (the Stockton side) were hugely judgemental and pious.  Conceited & arrogant in their religion and beliefs.  This has absolutely nothing to do with the Jesus I have read.
 
I, your brother, who shared so many of these experiences in our youth, would plead with you to allow for people to be wrong, selfish, broken, and misled.  None of these critical human flaws deserve your judgment and condemnation.  They need more of our understanding and compassion.
 
William

Comments

Leroy Added Jun 21, 2017 - 3:30pm
It would be interesting to know the circumstances which prompted you to share this letter.  I have no problem being judgmental.  Somebody has to do it.  If I had the power and believed in it, there are people whom I would gladly sentence to external damnation.  I wouldn't think twice about it.
William Stockton Added Jun 21, 2017 - 3:40pm
Leroy,  "there are people whom I would gladly sentence to external damnation."
 
We all think that from time-to-time.  I know plenty of people that seem to have zero merit both on this earth and in whatever afterlife may persist.
But this is a call to reason and to at least second-guess ourselves when we can so quick elevate ourselves to judge and jury.
wsucram15 Added Jun 21, 2017 - 4:24pm
William
That was a wonderful letter to your sister...
I went through this with my father's passing and vowed not to let that happen again and I did not. The guilt and anxiety and being the one left behind with such anger and resentment was hell. I went through a process of journaling my memories from childhood (a lot I had forgotten) until that current time.   I then wrote my father a letter and read it to an empty chair, then at his grave site.  It took awhile but was very helpful.
I tell everyone that anger and resentment (especially that of the buried past) are like swallowing poison and hoping the other guy dies.  I tried this with my younger brother and sister, they held onto their anger. So it will be their burdeon, I have tried to talk to them..
 
I sincerely hope your sister listens or at least responds to your letter.  It will help her enormously just to let go..and forgive.
 
Dino Manalis Added Jun 21, 2017 - 4:37pm
We all judge, it's normal and human, focus on character, it comes first!
wsucram15 Added Jun 21, 2017 - 5:36pm
No Dino, while it is human to make mistakes, we as humans use judgment on others to decide a number of factors, specifically social factors which is a constant in society to form a  "norm of acceptable behavior"  (I prefer using the mean)  This is an empathy or values framed dynamic which is what most of us use in evaluating others.  Always be careful with value framing however, most people judge based on their values or situational type dynamics and those tend to be the WRONG way to judge a person.
But to balance judgement you must have diversity and if that cant be accepted then you have incorrect assessments and also there are biases based on religion, ethnicity, etc. 
Its not acceptable (part of the "norm") to judge to the point where it hurts you or others... therefore judging is not normal.
 Look up open vs closed dynamic or the act dynamic.  Often closed is where most people who judge others fall.  Open up and if you must act as judge, then judge the acts or circumstances, people are after all..just people.
MJ Added Jun 21, 2017 - 6:16pm
Beautiful William, I like the way your mind works!
In my own family, the religious judgments brought a lot of heartaches.
William Stockton Added Jun 21, 2017 - 8:57pm
Jeanne, thank you. Good words and I appreciate reading your account of how one would (more healthily) deal with resentment.  
Patrick Writes Added Jun 21, 2017 - 9:07pm
It's hard to understand the scenario here. (Forgive me, just trying to understand...) Has Dad taken up with a lady, and basically is living in a commonlaw relationship with her out of marriage? 

And is sister condemning of this situation? 
 
I heard a pastor say once that he was Hawaii for some reason, working odd hours for a time, and in a cafe in the early hours of the morning when some prostitutes would come in after a hard day's work and have a cup of coffee or something before going home. He overheard one of them say it was her birthday the next day which nobody really noticed. 

The next day, he was there at the same time and brought a birthday cake for her. He offered it to her and she said nobody had ever bought her a birthday cake before, and I believe tears came to her eyes. He said he never saw her again after that but thought it was the right thing to do. He's not her judge. He's just there to show, and everyone, kindness the way Jesus did. 
 
But that's not to take away from the fact that Christians do believe there is a judge who all have to stand before at the end of their life. And Christians are commanded to offer tough love to other Christians at times, but not to unbelievers. It's hard to know which side of the fence Dad is on (not knowing the situation). 
William Stockton Added Jun 21, 2017 - 9:12pm
Thanks MJ!
There is so much judgment that extends from one human onto another.  This seems like an understatement as the next question one could ask, "Why can't I judge other people?"
It is a good question and I love to judge people and put them in a box somewhere.  It is a great way of tidying up the planet.  And the furthest a person is from my circle of influence, the easier it is to sentence them to some horrendous and imaginable punishment.  
 
This letter is particularly meaningful as the world seems to be getting more judgemental and less operating with compassion/understanding.  In my opinion, this building of walls, devaluing each other, surely leads to no place good . . . and perhaps another big war somewhere . . . or everywhere.
William Stockton Added Jun 21, 2017 - 9:37pm
Patrick, My dad was a full-time Christian pastor.  A summa cum laude with a mastors in theology.  He elected to forego being a second-generation dentist to be a "fisherman of men" because "God is coming soon and people need to be saved".  He was the creme de la creme of Christian upbringing and indoctrination.  I do think his motives were pure at some point in his youth.
 
On the side, he sold paint to support his six kids and a wife.
One day, he met a lady at the paint store, and they hooked up.  Needless to say, my mom kicked him out (there were also reports of physical abuse for my mother and extremely harsh punishment inflicted on my older sisters).  
So, he moved two states away and never came back.  Never thought once that he should move back and try to support a family living in poverty.  No compensation for my mother.  He could barely support himself and ended up living off his new bride.
 
See . . . you have to ask a very logical question.  If modern Christianity is the answer, then why isn't it an answer for those steeped within?  I know why, but have you ever really been critical enough to ask?  Most Christians just make excuses for God and these obvious contradictions in this religion.
 
I say that modern Christianity is just as corrupt as any other scheme that survives by exploiting its members.  So ask me then what authentic Christianity would be?
wsucram15 Added Jun 21, 2017 - 10:40pm
William..there is no specific way to deal with resentment.  Its what worked for me.  I had to stop torturing myself for not talking and trying to work things out with him before he passed away.  It was a very bad situation and it was unresolved.
 
But whatever method Beth uses, she has to forgive herself first, weird but true. I dont get it, but it is true.   This way she can let go and say what she needs to...
Leroy Added Jun 21, 2017 - 10:53pm
Sorry to hear that you had to experience that, William.  Nevertheless, I don't think I would be in a forgiving mood.  On the other hand, I have never been able to stay mad at someone for very long.  I've forgiven many people for many things, but, some, I doubt I ever will and they can rot in hell, if there is such a place. 
Patrick Writes Added Jun 22, 2017 - 2:52am
Sorry William. That's terrible on a lot of levels. 
 
Not knowing anything more, some people simply lose their mind when they hit their mid-life crisis around 40 . Taken together with all the ways people cope with that stage (buy a Harley, get balding hair treatment, abuse alcohol, some do try to upgrade their spouse), that's one of the worst things possible a grown man could do, turn his back on his wife and kids in every way, including financially. 
 
Christianity says he'll have to stand before the Lord at the end of his life and give an account for his actions. For the Christian (who is saved), I've assumed that means Christians have to answer for what they did with the time God gave them on the earth. Did they use to honor God, further the kingdom, spread love, be the salt and the light, or was it wasted like an unbeliever wastes the time God gives him. 
 
The "church" usually assumes such things like the scenario would be between him and God as well. His previous church would probably excommunicate him but he can just go to a new church 2 states away, say he's real sorry and now is commonlaw married to the new woman, and they'll say put a ring on it and you can become a member. There is not more that the earthly church can do. 
 
From my own life experience, I'd say that the Christian God deals harshly with those who know the right thing to do and willfully do the wrong thing. Unbelievers don't know the difference so God extends his full grace to them. But believers (speaking from literal first hand experience as a very young man) can be dealt with harshly by the Lord for it. I'd only have to imagine your father suffered some deal of inner torment for his actions once his midlife crisis passed and he regained some sanity. 
 
I feel like sympathizing with you but if you're a grown man you probably don't nee it. Unfortunately, there a lot of contradictions in life. What I've seen personally is pastors often have a lot of kids. (Why right?) Then don't have time to spend with them. And it's not unusual that pastors kids grow to be bad, sometimes really bad. Bizarre, but that's not uncommon. 
Patrick Writes Added Jun 22, 2017 - 3:06am
Since you asked a specific (legitimate) question, I'll try to answer it. 
 
"If modern Christianity is the answer, then why isn't it an answer for those steeped within?  I know why, but have you ever really been critical enough to ask?"
 
I'd say Christianity is a lot like Alcoholics Anonymous. It's a good program, teaches people to be responsible and take ownership, but it doesn't work for everyone. Some people just fall off the wagon and it's not the solution for them. I can't tell you why. I don't know. 
 
That's actually the story of the Old Testament as well. The Israelites were told God can work with them for every offense except worshiping other gods. If they collectively did that, God would destroy them. They did and he did. That's what prophetic books at the end of the Old Testament (Isaiah to the end) are warning of. Stop worshiping other gods or destruction is coming. They didn't and the independent kingdom of Israel (and Judah) came to an end. 
 
From then on the Jews were under foreign domination (until 1948). That's what the Messiah was supposed to be. The rightful king (annointed one) who'd restore the independent kingdom of Israel. The Messiah was supposed to be the original King Arthur, the rightful heir to the throne. So at the end of the Old Testament, God preserves the Jews as a people (destroys the kingdom but preserves a remnant), brings them back to the land. And they wait for the Messiah to come. 
 
Why am I telling you this? Because that, too, is the story of human beings. God's patience with sinful people. We're all flawed. We have free will. It's a wonder we do anything for God, ever. Jesus came to fulfill the law because we couldn't and offers us God's grace. Grace, now that can motivate somebody to live righteously. Somebody loves you, loved you enough to die, offers you inner peace. That is something that can motivate people to love others. But there are those out there that don't want it, want to do whatever pops into their head, so they do. Even God's grace offered to the world, some just want to reject it and do their own thing. So that's hell, God saying, if you don't want to have a relationship, I'll put you somewhere that is void of me, you get your wish. 
Steve Bergeron Added Jun 22, 2017 - 8:02am
We aren't to judge the hearts and souls of anyone.  That's way beyond our ability and responsibility.  That's God's job.  On the other hand, we are to judge actions as being good or bad.  Some folks may not be culpable due to invincible ignorance or circumstances, for bad acts.  And, there is the issue of forgiveness and repentance.
 
During WWII, the commandant of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoess, was responsible for the execution (murder) of about 2 million innocent human beings.  People there were ruthlessly killed.  One day, they brought a company of Jesuit priests, whom they had rounded up, and executed them, too.  (About 10% of the people in concentration camps were Catholic, mostly religious.)  One member of the Jesuit company wasn't with the group, so they searched for him until he was located, brought him to Hoess, who, for no known reason, released him.  
 
Fast-forward to the end of the war.  Several high-ranking Nazi's were put on trial at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity.  Hoess was one of these.  His greatest fear was not being executed, but being treated as he had treated those in his concentration camp.  But, to his surprise, he was treated with dignity and kindness.  Hoess, who had been raised Catholic, but gradually fell away from the faith into evil, asked to confess to a priest.  They asked several, who refused, because they had family and friends who had been executed by Hoess.  Finally, they found one who would hear his confession.  It was the Jesuit priest whom he had released.  Nobody knows all he confessed, but he hadn't practiced his faith for most of his life, so it took about three hours.  The next day, the priest brought him Holy Communion, which he received on his knees, with tears rolling down his eyes.  He was executed by hanging shortly thereafter.   Most people would say he is in hell for his crimes, I would guess.  But I think that if his confession was sincere, he is not in hell.  Those priests who refused to hear his confession, if they did not confess refusing to hear his confession, at least theoretically, could be in hell.  So, you never know.   It's best not to judge the culpability of a soul!
Billy Roper Added Jun 22, 2017 - 11:05am
Actually, the Bible says that we should judge wisely, and that we will even be the judges of angels. Without judgement, there could be no laws, no civilization, and no order.
Janie Smith Added Jun 22, 2017 - 2:00pm
Nice letter, William.  My opinion on religion lays somewhere between you and Carl Sagan.  I think Jesus would mostly agree as well
 
Only the sick are in need of a physician ~ Jesus, Mark 2:17
Donna Added Jun 22, 2017 - 4:39pm
William,
Nice letter. When dad passed last year, it split our family in 2. With one sister who is Christian, and did not agree with my fathers wishes of no service, just cremate, and a small graveside memorial. Oh how she fought me, does not speak to me to this day. I will never say i am sorry, as this was my Dads wish, not for her to say! She also refused to attend, it was to hard for her, which disgusted me. I have forgiven her actions, but never her.
The other one, attacked my mom over something as petty as a bill that needed to get paid , which was already paid, she didn't ask, or she would have known, my dad handled all of this long before it was time.
I have 1 that we still speak, and are always the two with my mom, the others as far as i am concerned are nothing more than a pain in my  moms ass, and i have no use for either of them.
Death brings out either the best in families, or as mine the absolute worst. I hope you and sis can see past all of this, not easy i am aware.
Thank you for sharing a personal article.. )0(
wsucram15 Added Jun 22, 2017 - 8:53pm
Donna..let it go, no need for you to carry that burden.  I went through that and Ill never do it again. Not for anyone. 
 
William.. Religion reeked havoc in my life also, and its a spiritual betrayal as well as physical/personal one. Its tough to get past, most people cant understand that.  It really does change your perspective and give you a view on things many will never have.
 
William Stockton Added Jun 23, 2017 - 9:57am
Jeanne, "It really does change your perspective and give you a view on things many will never have."
 
I concur.  I now have this weird perspective.  I can deeply sympathize with Christians and honest efforts to be a better person.  And that is really at the core of the attraction and commitment by people who follow Christianity.
 
On the other hand . . . 
 
I am deeply critical.   And just as you, (thank you for your comments) I do think my perspective is somewhat rare.  
 The uniqueness is that I am intimately familiar with this theology both in experience and theory.  The awakening process was disturbing and profound.  The only real peace I ever had in my life was discarding a religion that fostered judgment.
 
Christianity puts its members constantly in a state where they are perpetually on the wrong side of the universe (or God).  Always not good enough.  Always in violation of some obscure law where sin is the incurable disease and the doctor (or God) says he is (and has) the cure for their lives but never actually gives the antidote.  (stats show Christians live the same lives that non-Christians live)
And those Christians who think they don't sin anymore are the most pious.  They have, through their deeds, have risen to "holy" status.  Now they have earned the right to judge others.
 
It's very sick.  And I have seen far too many Christians either wracked by guilt or pompous idiots who are ruling members of the "God Club".  I am a firm believer that these monotheistic religions create mental illnesses.  I know . . . I was right there.  And about 1% of Christianity represents anything about the Jesus, which that religion claims is their savior.
William Stockton Added Jun 23, 2017 - 10:21am
Patrick, I will answer the question which you did not ask.  "What then is authentic Christianity?"
 
It is when Christianity is no longer a religion or practice.
 
See, if you look at Jesus' life and context, he was telling people and through his death that he set ALL people free. . . forever.  Free from the laws that bound them to guilt, shame, and judgment.  He saw the corruption of his religion occurring in his time and knew it was manipulating people and enslaving them.
 
The gold standard for authentic Christianity is when people realize they no longer need to go to Church or a Temple.  There are no more paid pastors.  No more alters, ointments, or words to cure sin because sin was absolved 2000 years ago for everyone . . . even for those that have no clue who Jesus was.  That was the good news.  That is the Godspell.
 
You can still practice a religion that Jesus said you don't need, but I think that is quite contrary to his message of truth.  
And please don't start quoting verses in the Bible.  Yes, I have read them all many times over.
William Stockton Added Jun 23, 2017 - 10:26am
Donna, thank you for your comments.
William Stockton Added Jun 23, 2017 - 10:31am
Yes, Janie, I agree with Carl who was merely quoting Jesus!  
 
Although, a healthy dose of reality would be far better for people than escaping to Fantasia.
Utpal Patel Added Jun 23, 2017 - 8:45pm
If your dad could barely support himself, can you fault him not providing compensation for your mother?  The way I see it your dad was a bad guy or at best, was involved in a bad marriage and bad marriages are always toughest on the children.  All of this has nothing to do with Christianity and I believe this article attempts to make that link.  Christianity is a morally sound religion and I find this article to be mean and vindictive to those that still hold Christianity in high regard.  Just read your comments again to see where I’m coming from. 
William Stockton Added Jun 23, 2017 - 10:40pm
Utpal,  "If your dad could barely support himself, can you fault him not providing compensation for your mother?"
 
Uh...what??  LOL.  Any parent that creates six kids, that does not provide financial, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY emotional support has got serious issues.
Not fault him for it?  What?  Any half-literate person could easily swing a dead cat in this example and find a half dozen faults in my Dad.  Your joking, right?  Are you like 12?
 
"All of this has nothing to do with Christianity"
I agree.  Bad shit happens whether a person is a Christian or not.  Thank you for making my point that Christianity makes absolutely no difference.  Even for those that dedicate their youth and every hope in that religion, God apparently lets life happen to his followers.  And this makes 100% sense to me.  However, you have Christians that start blaming themselves when bad things happen.  Like their sin caused it.  Or Christians will typically judge others who are stricken by events (like cancer) and accuse them of sin in their life.  These are the lies which the church does not rebuke.  Moreso, complete SILENCE from the pulpits . . . other than the subtle encouragement of this evil and judgeMENTAL behavior. 
 
The other lie (one of many) is about God's blessings.  God has nothing to do with blessings or causing pain.  But the "moral" Christian church continues to propagate these lies all to keep an attendance quota.  This is the modern example of the exchange of money for penance or blessings.  (Matthew 21:12–17).  
Yes, these are my accusations.  I have lived it.
 
Christianity is morally sound you say.  Well, it could be if the people actually followed Jesus, by example, instead of a corrupted religion.
Utpal Patel Added Jun 24, 2017 - 2:19pm
You misunderstand the point I made about your father and his financial situation.  A person that doesn’t have two nickels to rub together can’t be expected to care for others financially.  Of course no father should abandon his kids emotionally but it’s often more complicated than that.  Maybe your mom was mean to him and made the act of seeing you guys miserable.  Or maybe she moved away or he moved away.  Or maybe your father was simply too young when he had you and wasn’t prepared for the responsibility of fatherhood. 
 
It sounds like you know some lousy people that happen to be Christian.  Or perhaps because of your obvious animosity towards Christianity, you’re misconstruing the viewpoints of the Christians you know to paint them in the worst possible light.  Either way, the Christians I know are guilty of none of the things you say. 
Patrick Writes Added Jun 25, 2017 - 6:33am
@William - don't mean to beat a dead horse, but your conclusion is correct. A Christian doesn't NEED to go to church. Their sin debt is already paid, if they believe they will be saved. 
 
But if a Christian wants to join with other believers, wants to honor God with his (or her life), they need to get together with others usually. 
 
I you want to build houses for poor, you can try to do it by yourself and probably fail. Or you can join Habitat for Humanity with thousands of others who want to do the same thing as you. And you together you have enormous power for good. 
Mike Haluska Added Jul 6, 2017 - 12:56pm
Stockton - great article/letter.  Although I am Byzantine Catholic I do not look down in the slightest anyone who is an Atheist or Agnostic (as long as they're not brow-beating me with it).  God wouldn't give man the capacity to reason while simultaneously punishing him for using it.
 
People that put no thought at all into whether or not God exists are the ones who trouble me the most.  It is strong evidence of someone who is at minimum an uncaring anti-social and at worst a sociopath.