I ask one thing of you since this could be controversial, and I usually avoid political writing. Please read the entire article before you @ me. Thank you! 🙂
Consider the following scenario: You are a judge with a defendant before you that is accused of a heinous crime. There is no physical evidence against the defendant – only the testimony of one person, and that testimony is not corroborated. You have no way of knowing whether the plaintiff or the defendant is lying. You must choose – should you rule in favor of execution, or acquittal? It is a difficult choice which should cause you to ponder: which is the greater evil, to condemn the innocent, or to acquit the guilty? What a conundrum to be faced with! How would you handle such a situation? I would hope with humility, compassion, thoughtfulness and wisdom. I would further hope that you would take on such a task with extreme gravitas and sober-mindedness, knowing how important that rendering justice would be in such a situation, and how tragic it would be to get it wrong. I am honestly not sure how I would navigate such a difficult decision, but I see that many people seem to have no problem easily picking a side in what I consider to be a very similar dilemma- the current Brett Kavanaugh confirmation decision.
Some people seem to have no difficulty in siding with Brett Kavanaugh and slandering Dr. Ford, while others have taken Ford’s allegations as absolutely true, and dismissed Kavanaugh’s denials. My question is this: How should a Christian respond PUBLICLY (on social media and in conversations with others) to this situation? This article is an attempt to answer that question. I don’t necessarily want to tell you how to think and feel, but to help ask some questions and share some principles that should guide Christians as to how they respond to explosive situations such as this. Far too often, I have seen Christians on social media take stands and make comments that go against biblical counsel, are unnecessarily inflammatory, or needlessly hurtful. We would do well to avoid such comments given the volumes of Scripture, such as Colossians 4:6, which demand that Christians be careful, wise, and loving with our words.
Act wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. 6 Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
As a refresher, it would probably be helpful to summarize the allegations. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford alleges that in the early 1980s (when she was 15), she was at a party with the 17 year old Kavanaugh and his friend Mark Judge, and they ‘corralled’ her in a bedroom and Kavanaugh pinned her to the bed, groped her, ground against her, tried to pull off her clothes, and covered her mouth with his hand when she tried to scream. Ford alleges that she was able to extricate herself from the situation when Mark Judge jumped on the bed, disrupting what was going on. At this point, no witnesses have come forward to corroborate Dr. Ford’s version of the events, though several students that attended the same school as Dr. Ford in the 80s have signed a statement that similar situations happened frequently. Mark Judge denies Dr. Ford’s allegations entirely. Dr. Ford has testified that one of her lifelong friends, Leland Keyser, was at the party where the alleged incident happened. Ms. Keyser does not remember being at the party, did not know Kavanaugh, knew nothing of a potential sexual assault, but did say she believes her friend’s story. As you can see, this is a complicated situation – a classic “He said/she said.” The Wikipedia article on the allegations is a helpful, and nonpartisan place to dig a bit deeper.
So- where do we go from here? I mean ‘we’ as the American people, particularly American Christians, discussing and posting about this situation in public. The fact is, I cannot tell whether or not Dr. Ford or Kavanaugh is telling the truth. Both come across as credible in various ways. If you are being honest, you don’t know which one is telling the truth either! You might have an opinion, but you and I have no way whatsoever to know which of these people is being most truthful. I am very interested in the truth here. Let me be crystal clear: If it could be proven that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted Dr. Ford in largely the way that she claims he did, then Kavanaugh should NOT be confirmed, and he should be utterly disgraced and forced to step down from his current court position also. Some might say that I am wrong there – that we should overlook something that happened 3 decades ago, but those people would be dead wrong. Why? Because Kavanaugh has adamantly and passionately denied the allegations under oath, testifying before congress and the American people. If he is, in fact, guilty, then he is guilty of sexual assault in the past AND lying and perjury in the present. Not only would he not be qualified to be on our nation’s highest court, he wouldn’t be qualified to mop a basketball court.
The problem is that we don’t know whether or not the allegations are true. There is a principle in law called ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ which I think applies here to a degree, even though the American public is not a court of law. There is also a biblical principle that applies here – the principle of requiring more than one witness to properly establish an accusation. Consider these two passages:
“One witness cannot establish any wrongdoing or sin against a person, whatever that person has done. A fact must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.
1 Timothy 5:19
Don’t accept an accusation against an elder unless it is supported by two or three witnesses.
The principle is that a mere accusation is not enough to prove the guilt of somebody. One need only consider the fictional case of To Kill a Mockingbird, or the nonfictional case of Emmett Till, to understand and agree with this principle. You might rightly say, “what if I am in a situation where I am robbed, assaulted, raped, or attacked and I am the only witness, is the Bible saying that my claim is not valid?” The answer is no – the Bible, in Deuteronomy 19, calls for a ‘careful investigation’ in situations such as these. Consider the words of this passage, and Denny Burk’s excellent expansion on it.
“If a malicious witness testifies against someone accusing him of a crime, 17 the two people in the dispute must stand in the presence of the Lord before the priests and judges in authority at that time. 18 The judges are to make a careful investigation, and if the witness turns out to be a liar who has falsely accused his brother, 19 you must do to him as he intended to do to his brother. You must purge the evil from you. 20 Then everyone else will hear and be afraid, and they will never again do anything evil like this among you.“
“Read the very next verses. If there are no witnesses, then other evidence will have to come to bear in a judicial proceeding. In those cases, the corroborating “witnesses” are presumably evidentiary in nature. The point of the Deut.19:15 and its numerous citations in the New Testament (Matt. 18:16; John 8:17; 2 Cor 13:1; 1 Tim 5:19; Heb 10:28) are that an accusation alone cannot condemn someone. There needs to be some sort of corroborating witness or evidence. It is notable that the Lord Jesus himself applies this standard in cases of church discipline (Matt. 18:16). Paul invokes it when talking about receiving accusations against elders (1 Tim. 5:19). The New Testament is teaching us that the principle is still relevant even in the church’s own deliberations about sin and guilt.” Boyce College professor Denny Burk.
In situations like the one between Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford, a careful investigation is called for. Breaking news as of this day (September 28) indicates that the Senate has delayed the hearings on Kavanaugh for one week to allow for that sort of careful investigation to happen. This is good news for all who are concerned for the truth to come out. A longer investigation would likely be even more highly motivated by political delaying tactics (rather than an earnest desire for truth to come out) and a shorter investigation would likely be insufficient to actually qualify as the ‘careful investigation’ called for in Deuteronomy 19.
So – what now? And what if the FBI investigation fails to turn up conclusive evidence supporting Dr. Ford or Kavanaugh’s position? How should Christians react? I would say our first posture should be humility. No matter which side you are on, the fact is that you do NOT know the truth of this situation, unless you are one of the primary parties or a witness. How can you know the truth of this, or any major news/political story? I completely agree with C.S. Lewis’ cynicism about the press. The fact is that journalists – whom I genuinely respect – are nevertheless human. Thus, they are biased – some are biased towards conservative ends, some are biased towards liberal ends, and some have entirely different biases – all of which impact their reporting. We should be aware of this dynamic, and take what the news media says with a salt mine. (The liberal media, the conservative media, and the anti-media media who spill much ink writing about how unreliable all other media outlets are!). Consider these words of wisdom from C.S. Lewis:
“The most unliterary reader of all sticks to ‘the news’. He reads daily, with unwearied relish, how, in some place he has never seen, under circumstances which never become quite clear, someone he doesn’t know has married, rescued, robbed, raped, or murdered someone else he doesn’t know.” C.S. Lewis
– From An Experiment in Criticism (1961), “The Reading of the Unliterary”
“I never read the papers. Why does anyone? They’re nearly all lies, and one has to wade thru’ such reams of verbiage and “write up” to find out even what they’re saying.” C.S. Lewis
– From Letters to an American Lady – Letter Dated October 26th, 1955
– Surprised by Joy, page 159 1955 version.
“Even in peacetime I think those are very wrong who say that schoolboys should be encouraged to read the newspapers. Nearly all that a boy reads there in his teens will be seen before he is twenty to have been false in emphasis and interpretation, if not in fact as well, and most of it will have lost all importance. Most of what he remembers he will therefore have to unlearn; and he will probably have acquired an incurable taste for vulgarity and sensationalism and the fatal habit of fluttering from paragraph to paragraph to learn how an actress has been divorced in California, a train derailed in France, and quadruplets born in New Zealand.” A similar quote, when Lewis was asked his opinion on an American military leader, “I don’t feel in a position to have clear opinions about anyone I know only from newspapers.” C.S. Lewis
The fact is that it is difficult for rank and file people like you and me to really know the truth about big major stories like this one. So we should be humble and we should not be bombastic, accusatory nor judgmental. I am not suggesting that we should not have an opinion, but that we should hold our opinion in a way that is Godly, loving, truth-honoring, and not harmful to our ideological opponents, remembering that Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us, not slander them on social media and talk about how stupid they are.
If you support Kavanaugh and his nomination, endeavor to do it in a way that does NOT shame, minimize, silence, or wound victims of sexual assault. I write this as a victim of sexual assault myself – assaulted by an older guy when I was 10 or 11. Realize that you have NO possible way of knowing whether or not Dr. Ford’s allegations are true or not. What if she is telling the truth? Would you knowingly support a lying perpetrator of sexual assault in order to accomplish some greater good? I hope not. I see nothing in the teaching or ethics of Christ that would support such a position. We are not ever to be people who compromise biblical truth and commands for the greater good. There is no such thing. That said, given the lack of evidence, It is possible to be a supporter of Kavanaugh AND a person who is adamantly against sexual assault and any sort of predation on women or children.
If you support Dr. Ford, be careful to acknowledge that you yourself have no way of knowing whether her allegation is true or not. What if she is lying? The risk is that in your good desire to stand with the victims of sexual assault, you might be condemning an innocent person – which is a great evil. Had you the power, would you have a defendant executed for a crime with zero physical or corroborating evidence and only one witness? Our entire justice system is designed to disallow such an outcome! Yes, the risk with such a foundational view of “innocent until proven guilty,” is that sometimes the guilty escape human judgment, but understand that they never escape eternal and effective judgment. It is a dangerous thing to set yourself up in judgment over a case you honestly know very little – if anything – about.
It is not without reason that the Bible sternly warns – multiple times – against judging. If those prohibitions do not apply to this situation, then what could they possibly apply to? Many people are quick to warn others against ‘judging,’ but very rarely – if ever- police themselves. It is being judgmental to assume facts that you do not actually know, and it is being judgmental to assume the motivations or emotions of a person that you are not genuinely acquainted with. Do not judge, or you will also be judged. (I note here that it is also biblically forbidden to judge or assume the motivations of Dr. Ford and ascribe to her ill intent when you honestly have no way of knowing her intent whatsoever. It is a risky thing to call somebody a liar when you do not factually know whether or not that person is indeed a liar. I have seen many confidently accuse Dr. Ford of lying, and none of those accusers actually know the truth, therefore their accusations are baseless and dangerous. I have seen many accuse Kavanaugh of lying also, and their accusations are just as baseless given that they do not actually know the truth.)
“Will not God grant justice to His elect who cry out to Him day and night? Will He delay to help them? 8 I tell you that He will swiftly grant them justice. “Jesus in Luke 18:7-9
Understand this – God knows the truth of this situation, and justice – eternal justice – will be done. Do not fret that somebody is going to get away with evil here. If Kavanaugh has perpetrated this sexual assault and then lied about it, then rest assured, he will not escape the judgment of a holy God. As the Bible says, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31) If Dr. Ford’s story is completely fabricated, then she will not escape judgment. If the senators on this committee – Republican or Democrat – are acting in an evil, underhanded way, God knows this, and it is “His to repay.” God is a God of justice who sees all. We are rarely able to know the truth of situations like this, but God does, and He will deal with it completely, fairly and thoroughly, in His time. It may seem like justice is often delayed, but rest assured that our just God will judge rightly in light of eternity. Consider these powerful instructions of Paul in Romans 12, written right before he teaches Christians how to behave in light of the government in Romans 13.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil.Try to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, on your part, live at peace with everyone. 19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord. 20 But If your enemy is hungry, feed him. If he is thirsty, give him something to drink. For in so doing you will be heaping fiery coals on his head.”
Let me close with this: The church MUST take sexual assault more seriously, and nothing I have written above goes against that statement. The church MUST also confront the kind of abuse of power that leads to men abusing women and men abusing children. We must never overlook or excuse sexual assault, and we must war against the kind of atmosphere that allows such assault to exist unchallenged. Men are called to “love their wives, as Christ loved the church.” That is, with a love that is sacrificial, gentle and not self-serving. Men are called to treat young women as sisters, and older women as mothers – with all respect and propriety. Sexual predators are like predatory wolves, and the good men of the church (and of society in general) should be on the front lines of opposition against such evildoers. We should be opposed to sexual predation and the abuse of power in all of its forms. We should also be opposed to the bearing of false witness, and we should lovingly and passionately pursue the truth. Followers of Jesus: Be aware that your words have power – use them well, and speak/write them under the governance of the Word of God, not under the governance of your biases, opinions, party allegiances or emotions!
Psalm 37, selected verses.
Do not be agitated by evildoers;
do not envy those who do wrong.
2 For they wither quickly like grass
and wilt like tender green plants….A little while, and the wicked person will be no more;
though you look for him, he will not be there.
11 But the humble will inherit the land
and will enjoy abundant prosperity.
12 The wicked person schemes against the righteous
and gnashes his teeth at him.
13 The Lord laughs at him
because He sees that his day is coming.
14 The wicked have drawn the sword and strung the bow
to bring down the afflicted and needy
and to slaughter those whose way is upright.
15 Their swords will enter their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.
16 The little that the righteous man has is better
than the abundance of many wicked people.
17 For the arms of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord supports the righteous.