Judge or Advocate?

Lady Justice wearing a blindfold, with scales in her left hand and a sword in the right.

My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight; they will be life for you, an ornament to grace your neck. (Proverbs 3:21-22 NIV)

In thinking of a major malady of our times, the phrase “rush to judgment” comes to mind. For example: A young black man dies and a white police officer is involved, so what is reported in the first 24 hours? A white, Catholic, strict-constructionist nominee for the U. S. Supreme Court awaits a confirmation vote when an unsubstantiated charge is made targeting his stellar reputation. A group of white Catholic high-schoolers are at a Pro-Life rally. One teen with a red MAGA (Pro-Trump) hat, is face-to-face with an older-looking Native American. So how did the main-stream press portray their interaction? (Here’s a clue: The school was flooded with threats via the social media, so, for security reasons, school had to be closed.)

A black TV star claimed he was attacked by men wearing red MAGA (Pro-Trump) hats. He files charges with the police stating he was a victim of a hate crime. Immediately, he appears for numerous TV interviews. The next day we begin to hear that his “attack” may have been staged for publicity. Apparently, he was confident he could get away with exploiting our prejudices for personal gain.

These are a few of the recent examples of how the world is rushing to judgment. We can list the stereotypical elements: white, Catholic, Pro-Life, Pro-President Trump contrasted with blacks or other minorities, and all things anti-Trump.

Great harm is done by rushing to judgment. Journalism in America has hit an all-time low for objectivity or public trust.

Instead of investigative reporting, many in the media have turned to advocacy work disguised as real journalism. No longer inviolable is the presumption of innocence; the pillar of a free society. Notables are verbally or symbolically hung, drawn and quartered, and otherwise bludgeoned every day in our papers. If you do not see it in the front section, look at the editorial cartoons on the op-ed page.

Christians should be the last to allow bias, pro or con, to affect their judgment about a person’s innocence. We ought to be making sound judgments using God-given discernment, before becoming an advocate. Discernment allows us to detect bias, and wonder if, indeed, all the evidence has been revealed. In getting at the truth, it is important in an article to ask ourselves, “What questions are not being covered or what is going unreported? What is barely mentioned in the last paragraph as opposed to what is the bait for the reader trumpeted in the headlines?” In buying a used car, it is what the salesman does not tell us that will matter most, after the purchase. This takes discernment.

Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if you are to judge the world, are you not competent to judge trivial cases?

(1 Corinthians 6:2)

Reserving judgment until all relevant evidence is heard is essential to having “sound judgment.” It is a poor judge, indeed, who allows prejudice or politics to predetermine the outcome. Unfortunately, it has gotten to that point at the highest levels of our judiciary. The legal system needs adversaries, they are called the prosecution and the defense. But, even more, a free society requires sound judgments from judges, and a press that is impartial. If not, get used to violent mobs incited by advocates who jumped to conclusions, then took justice into their hands.

We may be lulled to sleep by living in a bubble of biased news coverage, but when we are the one in the negative spotlight and wrongfully accused, then a prayer for justice is all we may have.

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