I was sitting with a group of people one day when the topic cocaine addiction infiltrated our discussion. Amidst the clinging glasses and harried waitresses running around, my blood began to heat. I listened as those around me discussed a person who had died of a heart attack, probably because he was a cocaine addict years ago. While it’s never easy for me to keep my mouth shut, I was fighting every impulse to rail on about judgment and ignorance. But, I didn’t. At first.
Water and tea glasses were filled again and again as those around me continued to discuss death from addiction. Though each cited “cases” of which each was familiar, and although several words poured from their mouths, all I heard over and over again, was “We’re better than those who die from their addiction. It’s their fault they died; they deserved it because they used harmful drugs and we are superior to them because we don’t use harmful drugs.” What was worse to me was that most of the people at the table consider themselves Christian. While they spoke, I could feel my face tighten and my heart was pumping adrenaline and my pupils dilated to take in as much light as possible.
I stood up and put my jacket on and threw a twenty-dollar bill on the table. I didn’t take one bite of whatever it was that I ordered.
They asked me where I was going and why I was leaving, but I didn’t answer. But, I didn’t stay quiet nor did I leave with my mouth remaining shut. I looked at them, each, in the eye and said, “I, clearly, am not in your league.”
They all looked at me with their eyes raised and brows furrowed.
“You see,” I continued, “I don’t believe I am qualified to discuss who deservers to die nor do I think I can sit among you and judge anybody who has left this world. I don’t share your superior credentials and I am ashamed that I don’t, so please excuse me.” I turned and walked out and didn’t look back. I’ll never know what their response was to my abrupt departure, but I can guess.
Those among us who, usually because of their religious beliefs, believe in their self-righteousness so much that they can sit from a place of moral superiority and look down on every one else probably agree that I am not worthy of sharing time and place with them. They probably know, without any doubt, that somewhere and somehow, the Bible justifies their superior position on any topic. If not, they’ll look for evidence of how someone deserves his or her suffering mostly because he or she doesn’t believe the way they do. And if only those who died from an addiction had just come to church, all would have been ok.
But down deep, we all know that’s a load of crap. The truth is that no one among us is any better a person than anyone else. Of course, those who disagree will cite a Jeffrey Dahmer or some other serial killer and say that they are bad people. Well, I’m not talking about exceptions. I live in the real world and in this real world we are all pretty much equal. Some of us may be better looking or better at some activity or another than someone else. But, really, when life averages out, we’re all the same.
What I wish is that when someone struggles with some form of oppression or another, we could reach out to fight the oppression. Judging others is the weapon of the oppressor: Those who oppress only want to blame and create fear. Judgment is the way to: Blame someone else and to make others afraid of it. There’s no power on earth that can make me believe that someone who’s addicted is a bad person just because he or she is addicted. No one can make me think ill of someone just because he or she is gay. Nothing can create ill will in my heart for someone who isn’t Christian just because he or she believes differently.
Life is the great equalizer and if we all took account of our behaviors, we would learn that we all have done good and we all have done bad. In the end, a life is measured in the amount of love he or she shared. So, to those who judge: Go on, be better than everyone else; but I have no love to share with you.