“No, No!” Said the Queen.  “Sentence first – verdict afterwards!”

“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly.  “The idea of having the sentence first!”

Look about you and you will see it everywhere – from this latest impeachment frenzy to “living Constitution” jurisprudence – we decide a priori the result we want, and reason backwards from there.  A more modern and more clinical term for this phenomenon is “confirmation bias.”  Both the right and left are subject to it, and becoming more polarized by it.  Each side sits in its own high-tech echo chamber.  We watch and listen to different news outlets and opinion pundits, and realtors will tell you it has gotten to the point where buyers are asking if a neighborhood is conservative or liberal, as if the wrong answer is disqualifying.

Just what the hell are we afraid of?  Do we have so little confidence in the logic behind what we think we know and believe that we cannot engage the other side without insults, and the knee-jerk questioning of motives?  Is our self-image so frail that we cannot be open to new facts or reasoning that might change or refine our thinking?

The faithful are called by Scripture to discernment; and just as “iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.” Prov. 27:17.  When we are commanded “judge not, that ye not be judged,” that proscribes condemning other people (especially for that which we ourselves do) not judging the facts upon the ground, which we must do.  No judge worthy of the name renders a verdict without hearing both sides – nor will we always be comfortable with what the facts tell us – for they are “stubborn things” as John Adams warned.  Heed also the wisdom of the late Justice Scalia:

“If you’re going to be a good and faithful judge, you have to resign yourself to the fact that you’re not always going to like the conclusions you reach.  If you like them all the time, you’re probably doing something wrong.” (speech at Chapman Law School – 2005).

I grew up in a small New England town that still has as its legislature an annual town meeting; consisting of all adult residents who cared to attend.  These were at times raucous and hilarious (think of the town meeting scene in Blazing Saddles.) 

When the meetings were over, though (and we had all done our best to translate the “genuine frontier gibberish”) we all had to coexist as neighbors – not allowing political differences to destroy friendships and families.  Yankees had been doing this since the Mayflower Compact was signed in 1620, pledging to “combine ourselves into a body politick.”

We are not yet near the state of affairs in 1861, but if we are not careful we soon will be.  Judge wisely.

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Photo by Duy Truong Photography