Posted On October 11, 2018

Judge Kavanaugh and the Church

by | Oct 11, 2018 | Theology

Judge Brett Kavanaugh became Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on Monday, 10/8/2018 after a long and contentious nomination process. The contention behind the nomination is what makes it remotely interesting to a Christian blogger. Like it or not, the church was involved in this process and largely took sides. The fallout is worth examining.

The Situation

President Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh, a right leaning moderate, to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy. Kavanaugh should have been easy to confirm to the court. He is not an “arch-conservative” leaving behind an unremarkable and quiet judicial career on the DC Circuit court. Kavanaugh rings just enough conservative bells to distract from his John Roberts-like tendencies. He was on Ken Star’s team to impeach Bill Clinton, and worked in the Bush White House. Plus, Kavanaugh was squeaky clean and scandal free.

Was. Shortly before his nomination was announced Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford sent a letter to her congressman alleging Mr. Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her at a party when they were both high school teenagers. Waiting until the last possible moment (even after the typical hearings were over), Senator Feinstein released the accusations to the public in a nakedly partisan and political move. From there, more women came forward and made similar accusations. The entire event became a circus.

My Assessment

I said publicly on Twitter that I would vote to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. He’ll be a mediocre Supreme Court Justice, at best, and I expect a relatively undistinguished career. But, Senators (even hypothetical ones on Twitter) don’t get to choose the nominees. Were I in a position to consent to the nomination, I can’t find a compelling reason not to do so. He’s certainly qualified. Dr. Ford said a lot of things. So did many of the women who accused Kavanaugh of other disgusting things. None of them had evidence and none of them could have their cases proven.  You may take this position to be an embrace of Kavanaugh and a repudiation of Dr. Ford. That is precisely the problem.

The truth is, I just don’t know. If I had to guess, I’d guess Dr. Ford is telling the truth, and I’d guess the second accuser, Ms. Ramierez, who accused him of exposing himself to her at a frat party at Yale, was telling the truth too. I found their accusations credible and believable. I can’t say the same for any of the other myriad of accusations made. For example, it seems far fetched to me that there were parties where gang rapes were known to happen but everyone just went to the party anyway. I’d also guess Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez are understandably hazy on the details. The truth is, I don’t know and neither do you. I’m not even sure the victims know. No one in this case except Judge Kavanaugh knows if these things are true. I value hard evidence and this case has none. Without it, it’s unfair and wrong to ruin a man’s career or life on rumor and conjecture alone. Therefore, I’d confirm his nomination.

The Victim

Creative Commons

Nonetheless, a simple lack of hard evidence does not mean that an event did not happen. It’s clear to me that Dr. Ford was sexually assaulted. It may have not been by Judge Kavanaugh, but SOMETHING happened. Can we, as people of truth, just simply admit that she tells as a credible story in a credible way and is clearly suffering as a result? Can we also mimic our Lord and sympathize with her as a victim? Would it be so difficult for us to demonstrate some compassion and care for a hurting person? I don’t believe such a stance to be far fetched, but the church mostly seems to disagree with me.

I believe the church is betraying a weakness in their reaction. That weakness is a general unwillingness to deal with hurting people. They betray a lack of familiarity of what trauma looks like, and how traumatized people react. I witnessed and heard many Christians expecting Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez to recall the events nearly flawlessly. I’m here to burst your bubble: that almost never happens in the case of a sexual assault. In fact, often details will be sketchy. A church that counsels one another, a church that seeks out broken people to be used of God in their lives, a church that bears the burdens of one another would know these things simply through having dealt with it often enough. Most of the American Church didn’t know it so what does that tell us about the American church?

Furthermore, a church that gets its hands dirty in the broken lives of people would surely have known the compassion and respect necessary for a woman in Dr. Ford’s position. They would have known to be the cooler head in the room and to lead the person through their pain instead of reacting in oppositional cross examination. They would have known that the time and place to investigate the important details of the trauma is apart from the hurting victim as a different matter altogether; not as an adversarial examination of the victim herself. For those involved in this kind of ministry, the dirt of such hard work is well worn into the cracks of their experienced hands. However, most of the church spent its time impugning the character and degrading the victim in a way entirely indistinguishable from the world; sullying itself as little more than a partisan voice in a political choir rather than the herald of God’s truth. The church’s hands ARE quite dirty, but it seems it is with the wrong kind of dirt.

Certainly it’s possible Dr. Ford and Ms. Ramirez are lying. Surely it’s well within the realm of believable outcomes that sinful women who have rejected God and have no faith in Him would easily and regularly lie. It simply could be they’re putting on an act and are as nakedly partisan as those senators and politicians who are using and abusing them. We just don’t have anyway of knowing one way or another. To presume motives reveals our bias. We aren’t God, we shouldn’t act as if we can do the things He can do. I trust their accusations will be rightly adjudicated in the final days.

The Accused

Photo by DENNIS COOK/AP/REX/Shutterstock used by permission

Judge Kavanaugh did very little to acquit himself well to what, admittedly, was a difficult situation and a great trial for him to go through. While he maintained his innocence and rightly appealed to the lack of hard evidence, he also demonstrated himself to be highly erratic, emotional, full of wrath, and combative. Let’s also face the fact that Judge Kavanaugh also revealed himself to be a drunkard. No, not because ‘he liked beer, he still likes beer’, but because he admitted several times to drinking to excess on several occasions. I like beer too; but I’ve never been drunk. One does not need to be in some 12 step program to be sinful with alcohol.

Nonetheless, Christians everywhere flocked to his defense. Reasonable people can disagree on what role alcohol should play in a believer’s life, but they ought not disagree that the crass attitudes expressed before the authorities questioning him were far from biblical. To cheer his belligerence is to fail to apply biblical principles in that moment. Also, let’s be clear: Judge Kavanaugh may be a nice man who coaches his daughter’s basketball team, but he is a sinner who propagates a false gospel of Catholicism. He’s not a “good man” as many have leaned on in his defense; at least not according to biblical categories of thought.

This of course doesn’t mean he did a single thing wrong to Dr. Ford or Ms. Ramirez. There isn’t any evidence he did, and he’s under no obligation to consent to a law enforcement investigation into his life. Nonetheless, it was sad and disconcerting to see the Church overwhelmingly flock to his side of the debate. Let’s not kid ourselves that this had anything to do with principles. If our principles are intact we would believe that a totally depraved person bereft of the redemption found only in Christ is not only capable of committing the acts he’s accused of but likely to commit the acts he’s accused of. Not simply because he’s a run of the mill sinner, but also for a myriad of other reasons, not the least of which is his sub culture of the immorally outrageous “Greek Life” among elite higher institutions of learning.

It’s believable, even plausible, that such a person would expose himself to a young woman to the cheers and encouragements of his frat bros. It’s believable, even plausible, that such a person would indulge their sinful nature and pursue fleshly lusts aggressively. Believable, plausible, likely, but NOT proven. That’s how our theology informs us, that’s what the truth tells us, that’s what our message should be. To our shame, our message was anything but.

The Process

Two process oriented arguments brought themselves to the forefront during this debacle. The first was that such an accusation requires corroboration to even be considered, examined, or heard. I believe this to be an absurd burden to place on victims. Surely, the closer to a crime of this nature, the more evidence there should be. But crimes of this nature often are not reported in a timely manner for any number of reasons – most of which have little to do with the desire of the victim to use such an event for their own gain. After 30 years, any hope of physical evidence is gone, and it’s unreasonable to require it. That leaves witnesses.

Now, certainly a police report, notes from a therapist, a medical examination report, or any contemporary account of the event would go a long way. Apart from that, one could also ask for second hand witnesses such as other innocent attendees at the party or those who have circumstantial evidence such as “I saw her running away from the house”.

However, to require a first hand account from someone who wasn’t a victim is an insane and ridiculous standard and is not in the least in the spirit of the biblical requirement for corroboration. To be specific, there is not a chance that Mark Judge, himself a lifelong addict given over to a lifestyle of sin who makes his money writing for conservative media, would ever confess to partaking in the crime with Judge Kavanaugh. To expect him to do so is absurd. Moreover, it is an uncharitable standard toward victims. While we ought to stop short of simply accepting everything an accuser says, we ought not weigh down an accuser with an impossible and unfair standard.

That does not mean, however, that the life of the accused ought to be ruined without hard evidence and corroboration. This brings us to the second process argument. The cry among many in the church was for “due process.” Truth be told, from a Biblical worldview, I have a hard time grasping what exactly implied he did not receive some sort of due process. He wasn’t indicted, he wasn’t referred to a grand jury, he wasn’t being threatened with any sort of sanctions.

Quite simply, he was being vetted and interviewed for a very powerful lifetime appointment. It was a job interview, not a trial in a court of law. Besides, at every step of the way he had an opportunity to hear and answer the accusations ahead of him.

Yes, some extremists in our country acted sinfully, but that has nothing to do with his supposed due process. The simple fact is, Judge Kavanaugh received the same “due process” as any person applying and pursuing a high powered job. No one is entitled to a position — even if someone else powerful thinks they are. The hiring entity, in this case, the people of the United States, have the final say as to whom they wish to hire. The conservative viewpoint was represented, sometimes in an undignified and crass manner. The leftist viewpoint was represented, often in an undignified and crass manner. The majority won. Seems to me that the process reflects the country it serves.

The Church

As I’ve implied repeatedly throughout this post, the church aligned themselves closely with the American right wing. This is sad and unfortunate; not because the left wing is better but because when the church sullies itself by becoming another entity in a movement, it then becomes a servant to that movement. In this case we allowed our thoughts and beliefs to be informed by the political ambitions of an American political party. Is this what we’re called to? To be a voting block? To be the rank and file in a movement with its own set of morality and own value system that year by year grows further from Scripture? Have we convinced ourselves now that it serves our God well to be seen as a part of the side that acts uncharitably toward victims and defends drunken frat boy papists as good men; much like we convinced ourselves God was done a great service by aligning with a sex crazed porn collector?

I say we are to be ambassadors for Christ. Ambassadors who bring God’s truth and standard to wicked rulers like Lindsay Graham and Diane Feinstein. Ambassadors for a King that both weeps for victims like Dr. Ford and offers men like Judge Kavanaugh the common grace of the benefit of earthly doubt. Ambassadors, not activists. Ambassadors with a message to preach and a standard to herald, not an election to win and a culture war to fight. Sadly these days, the church is in the muck and mire as soldiers in an earthly battle — a battle we’ll lose.

We’ve forgotten our primary mission is not a battle against flesh and blood for political turf and cultural influence, but rather a spiritual battle against principalities and powers for the souls of men and the hearts of people. It’s when we get back to our mission that we’ll find less victims like Dr. Ford, less manipulative scheming Senators like Diane Feinstein, and less men like Kavanaugh – be he a victim of character assassination, a sin gripped enemy of God, or both. May the church once again find its footing.

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