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July 27, 2021

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Early in our marriage, Joyce and I were introduced to the Christian Family Movement. Friends of ours had just lost a child in a swimming pool accident, and they told us of the tremendous support their CFM group was for them. Later that year, in September of 1975, we found a CFM group on our side of Woodward, in Saint Clair Shores. For the next 28 years, we met twice a month with our groups (alternating homes for meetings), and traveled to conventions in the U. S. and around the world. At the core of the CFM experience, is the challenge to look at life through the lens of Christian principles, to make decisions about what we see, and to take appropriate actions based upon those decisions. Thus, CFMers across the decades have worked through the process of Observe – Judge – Act in response to situations in their communities.

OBSERVE – To properly observe, we really need to train ourselves to look at an action or idea as starkly as possible; to see without judgment. For example, an observation of an event would record without judgment what happens, as in a photograph. Just after Lydia Jacoby won the Gold Medal for the Women’s100 meter Breaststroke, in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the camera showed her head half out of the water, her blue eyes, and her mouth wide open. That is an observation. Jacoby’s joy and excitement are, in all likelihood, captured in that moment on camera, but those emotions are also the opinions that we project upon the stark image before us. In the grand scheme of things, it is rather inconsequential whether or not we are correct in our opinions about Lydia Jacoby’s level of happiness or excitement. There are events in our human experience that do demand a better attention to detail and nuance, unfiltered by prejudice or emotion.

The event at the U. S. Capital, in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 is hard to view without emotion or prejudice. Our eyes may, in fact do, work like the camera lens, taking in everything, but our brain always interprets the images through filters. Training the brain to focus more on “observation” than on emotion takes discipline. It is though a critical part of discerning reality from opinion, from deception. Pure observation (or as pure as we can make it) is the key to genuine moral choices.

JUDGE – To not evaluate the events surrounding our local and larger communities against some established normative scale, is to reduce oneself to a lower animal. If we have made it through our teen years, if we have teenagers ourselves, the question: “What were you thinking?” will have been asked. Good judgments require the ability to make careful observations, and then begin to process those observations through the filter of Moral Values. For believers in a Supreme Being, the vision of moral value is defined by that Supreme Being. As Christians, we believe that Jesus, the Christ, is the Word of God become flesh (cf. Jn 1:1-14) and therefore the supreme definer of moral value. While not every life experience carries with it a heavy moral consequence, there are plenty that demand scrutiny through the lens of Christ’s teaching. To be aware of people being abused, trafficked, oppressed or enslaved, and not see the immorality is to become less human ourselves. Observation devoid of Judgement, defines sociopathy.

ACT- If observation devoid of judgement defines sociopathy, then judgment without action defines apathy. “Lower” animals function through instincts. It may seem like some animals “plan” attacks on food sources, such as “pack animals” – i.e. Wolves, but the plan of attack is developed through an evolutionary refined hunting instinct. Only the human being is capable of acting through a “moral compass”. As Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Taoists, or even Atheist, humans, we are called to act out of a moral decision. We were not given the Gospels to read and study but not incorporate the values into our words and actions.

One does not need to join the Christian Family Movement to bring into their lives the Observe – Judge – Act process, one need only to do it.

Note: The Christian Family Movement utilizes a small group process, often within a single parish community, to discuss a prepared “program book” focusing on thematic issues. Many groups operate with a member of the clergy, or religious institution as a chaplain, but it is not required. If you are interested in starting a CFM group in your parish, or possibly finding an existing group near you, go to: https://www.cfm.org/start_new_group