Condemning and Condoning

Have you noticed how often there is a call to condemn something or other — the actions of an individual or an institution, or some historical event or behaviour that we now regard as wrong? Any failure to condemn is regarded as tantamount to condoning whatever is to be reprobated. That often leads to some very awkward apologies that appear intended merely to placate those with a sense of grievance rather than put right any real wrong.

For instance, if one is white British, one is sometimes asked to condemn and apologize for Britain’s part in the Black Slave trade. I can’t imagine that anyone approves of it or would want to try to justify it nowadays, but can one realistically be held to account for a wrong occurring in the past with which one may have no direct connection? Given many families’ lowly social and economic status during the years in question, it is difficult to say how many were actively involved. If one accepts that, simply because one is British, one shares in some sort of collective guilt for the suffering the trade inflicted, can one also claim credit for the work of the abolitionists? It’s difficult, isn’t it? Failure to speak out on the matter is regarded by some as evidence of complicity and has led to some ugly confrontations. I am sure you can think of other examples, but I use this because it will be familiar to many and concerns a genuine injustice and evil.

The advent of social media and the ease with which opinion can be expressed and shared has tended to make the urge to condemn much more prevalent. Look at Twitter, for example, and you will see rant after rant, accusation after accusation, often coming from those with more anger than information. The speed with which the Covington Boys were condemned online was astonishing. Even their home diocese did not wait to examine the facts of the case more carefully. The result has been unhappy all round. Today’s subject for condemnation will doubtless be different, because the world moves on, and the wreckage left behind by reckless accusations is of no consequence to those fuelled by a (misplaced) sense of righteous purpose.

Thus far, most of you will probably be in general agreement, but here’s the rub. Christians are just as bad at condemning others as anyone else. True, we may not use the profanity-littered language of the angry tweeter nor make the rash accusations of the furious Facebook-er, but we jump to conclusions just as readily and answer back equally curtly. We may not demand apologies as such, but we can make it plain we expect submission to our views rather than respectful debate. I have often argued that if we pray before we go online, we can avoid many of these things. We are not called to solve all the world’s problems, only those we can actually do something about. Raving and ranting about injustice achieves very little; working to put right what we see to be wrong is less dramatic and much harder, but it is also much more in line with the gospel’s teaching. Today, if you are tempted to say something harsh or make an accusation based on hearsay, please think twice. One day we shall answer for every word we have spoken. Every word.

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8 thoughts on “Condemning and Condoning”

  1. The best blog entry I have read in quite some time Sister, and very topical and relevant. “Respectful debate” are the key words, as intellectual discourse has given way to emotional barrages. As more evidence emerges about the Covington students for example, the more it becomes clear they did not instigate the confrontation. Your advice has been taken on board in our household – thank you. Pax. Chris

  2. I wonder how many have been guilty in the past of jumping to conclusions without the evidence to support that conclusion and have launched unthinkingly into a rant? I know that in my early days online, I was prone to do this. But perhaps I grew up online (or matured which is true) and realised I achieved nothing doing this, and now wait to understand a situation before I post about it, and I try hard not to be critical, no matter how much I am angered by the situation. And of course, coming to your blog and several others I follow, it a form of sanity, refreshing and always worth reading.

  3. I wonder if Jon Sopel read your blog, he had a item on R4 Today programme this morning( 26/1) around 8.25 am on much the same thing.Perhaps there is hope and increasingly people are thinking more about respecting the other as opposed to uttering unthinking repeated sound bites. Hopefully I am one of those people and I too take on board your advice

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