Two weeks ago I wrote a post about feeling judgmental (originally called Judgy McJudgerson Rears Her Ugly Head), but it ended with my BIL's death. I got the call right as I was about to hit publish and it made all my concerns seem so trivial. This is actually something I'd love to talk about, though, because it's hard to get it right.
We often hear that judgmental Christians are an obstacle to belief. And I know that I need to keep myself in check when I get grumpy about non-essentials. But I struggle with knowing where the essential/non-essential line falls. This afternoon at Mass I sat in front of a pair of college students who were whispering and giggling the whole way through. I find it hard to be prayerful when that's going on. I did pray about it -- that the presence of God would be so unmistakable that we would all lay down our temporal distractions -- but on reflection I think that's kind of a dumb prayer. God doesn't overpower us in the Mass, usually; he lets us choose whether to rest in his presence or think about the nail polish we are going to buy on the way home or oscillate between the two.
Last week at the funeral there was a guest who was talking on her phone in the pew before the service started. For me that's a step beyond the texting that pushed my buttons last week, and I was a little indignant that she hadn't stepped outside. Today I asked for an opinion from my 16yo, who thinks I am ridiculously behind the times when it comes to cell phone norms. (If we are having dinner and someone raises a question that we can't answer, then we wait until after dinner to look it up. He thinks this is about two steps removed from banning paper in favor of requiring everyone to chisel letters into stone tablets.) Under what circumstances would it be all right to talk on the phone during Mass? An emergency only, he said. If someone needed an ambulance. What about before Mass? You should step out to the narthex, he said. You shouldn't talk on the phone in church.
I was relieved that he felt that way, but also a little uncertain. It's seldom a good idea to be too sure you're right. Among people with strong opinions about liturgy, it's not uncommon to hear comparisons to Jesus turning over the tables in the temple. Zeal for his house consumes us, you might hear them say. But in my view it is deeply problematic to compare expressions of anger by fallen parishioners to expressions of anger by the Son of God. Often it sounds to me like an excuse for being judgmental. Except-- even as I type that I'm aware that it sounds like I'm judging them for being judgmental.
This post is a MESS and I need to get to bed. But I would sincerely like to talk about this question, especially since a couple of you mentioned that you struggle with the same issue. When is it okay to say to oneself, "That behavior is not okay"? When it is okay to say to another person, "Your behavior is not okay"? And for those situations where you're thinking "not okay" but not planning to confront the other person on the not-okay-ness, what kinds of thoughts do you find yourself thinking? What's your inner script for situations where you dislike someone's behavior?