Looking Down On Others

It is hard not to “look down on” other people when they disagree with us. This is especially true when our opinions are well supported by facts and expert opinions. Those who hold different viewpoints than we do can seem ignorant at best and at worst…dangerous. Today’s First Reading reminds us that this temptation to judge others affected the earliest Christian communities as well. 

This reading makes even more sense when Chapter 14 of the book of Romans is read in its entirety. It should help all of us realize that, when it comes to opinions, even regarding the best way to draw close to God, we need to refrain from judging others. If the people we are tempted to look down on are motivated by true love of God and neighbor, this will go a long way in making their actions fruitful, even though it may not be the “ideal.” 

In our parish communities for example, while we may fume over this or that issue, God is looking at the heart and writing straight with crooked lines. And while there will be situations in which there is a “right” and “wrong” way to do things, St. Paul’s words guide us as we seek to improve.

In my own experience, I have been a part of many diverse communities within the church and each one tends to judge the other. As a homeschooling mom, I have felt misunderstood by non-homeschooling Catholics, but when I was heavily involved in Catholic schools, I sometimes felt discredited by the homeschool community. In the past, my husband and I have reverently led music (with the guitar) at Mass and were told by several individuals that our “contemporary” music was not appreciated. On the other hand, I was recently disgusted when one of our greeters at church was making small talk with other parishioners about how “out of touch” the traditional Latin Mass was. I, myself, have harshly judged individuals in each of those camps for one reason or another. Aye Yai Yai! 

Our society at large no longer seems to value calm, respectful dialogue. Our churches and our families should be havens of respite in which we are still invited to share our viewpoints freely. In our parishes, and especially in regard to the liturgy of the Mass, there are many uneducated Catholics with good hearts who need to be willing to learn more about what the Church teaches and why. There are many Catholics whose education and experience allows them to share a more well-informed perspective, and they must wait until a good opportunity arises in which to help educate others, remembering that education can sometimes make a person impatient and/or proud. 

As usual, our good God is calling all of us to stay close to Christ in humble prayer. We need to stop treating our own individual preferences as law and looking down on those who have differing opinions. Yet we need to constantly discern what the essentials of our faith practices are so we don’t lose our way.  And everything we do must be done in a true spirit of love for God and neighbor, so that we can have a clean conscience before God.

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Christine Hanus is a thwarted idealist who, nevertheless, lives quite happily in Upstate NY. She is a wife and mother of five grown children.

Feature Image Credit: Lukas Rodriguez, https://www.pexels.com/photo/man-standing-on-tree-branch-during-sunset-3618162/