So let us discuss the recent charges leveled against Brett Kavanaugh. There are a number of things to say about all this, and I intend to say as many of them as I can get to, but the first and fundamental thing is this: If we didn’t really want to go to the circus, then we shouldn’t have bought all those circus tickets.
The Real Failure:
A friend asked me yesterday about the prospect of raising boys in an environment like this one. And of course, it should go without saying that Christian parents should bring up their boys with a resolve to not be meatheads, to not be louts, and not to touch or take what is not theirs to touch or take. Believe me, as a pastor I have seen plenty of behavior in that vein, and it is the kind of behavior that Christian parents really should have on their radar. I offer this qualification because it should be a baseline commitment for all Christian parents. I offer this qualification because it should go without saying.[i]
But we have a far more pressing duty. The thing that is troubling our nation is not what some idiot boy might have done at a kegger almost half a century ago. The thing that really reveals the poverty-stricken nature of our public character is that nobody in charge has any apparent idea of how to process accusations of this nature. The problem is not the fact that criminals do criminal things in private that we all lament; the problem is what all our respectable solons are doing in public. Right now, right in front of us, in real time. We all agree that when some molester feels a woman up, this is a bad thing. Nobody defends that. So why are we good with everybody feeling up Lady Justice? Everybody seems to be defending that.
So by all means, teach your sons to really respect what no means. But while you are at it, you should also teach them what justice is, what credible charges are, what dirty politics refers to, what due process means, and why the presumption of innocence is so important. If you accept this responsibility, as you should, I would recommend you follow the link to A Justice Primer.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish: But he that keepeth the law, happy is he” (Prov. 29:18). We need to stop thinking that miscarriages of justice will somehow right themselves. We desperately need to learn these principles.
More of What You Subsidize:
Some of you may recall—after the late hit that was delivered on Roy Moore in the last election cycle—that I warned everyone that if they continued to respond to such things in the way they were doing, then we were going to get a lot more of it.
This is what I said then:
“I will put it this way. If you change your vote because of unsubstantiated allegations, you are actually voting for political campaigns to get increasingly dirty. You are voting for more of what apparently works. You are voting for our October surprises to get exponentially more lurid. Why? Because it changed your behavior last time. What did you think would happen?”
Someone might respond by saying that it has always been this way. What about Anita Hill? No, it has not always been this way. The same principles of justice were violated in the Clarence Thomas hearings, sure enough, and Robert Bork before that. Our national politics have been an ungodly mess for some time now. But we are rapidly descending from ungodly miscarriages of justice into absurdist miscarriages of justice.
David French said, in his support of Kavanaugh, that it was telling that there was just one witness. Are you kidding me? The Democrats on the other side are no doubt chortling—now that that you have agreed to come to their circus, they can always hire more clowns. This is the same David French who was willing to play this wretched game earlier, when it came to Roy Moore.
And look. As I said in the Moore case, and as I am saying now in the Kavanaugh case, it is quite possible that the substance of the allegation is true. But I am also saying that if you reward this kind of behavior the week before the confirmation, or the election, or the whatever, then you are going to get way more of what you are apparently willing to put up with.
As someone has shrewdly observed, this particular set-to is nothing more than a full dress rehearsal for the hearings on the replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsberg. If you think Brett Kavanaugh is a reprobate, just wait until we learn about fillintheblank. I understand there was a time in fourth grade where he was rough-housing with the kids in a way that made the recess lady “uncomfortable.” That poor personage, whoever he may be, already has a red laser dot quivering on his chest.
Second, there is a difference between adverbs and adjectives, between “credibly alleged” and “credible allegation.” What is being said about Kavanaugh might be a credible allegation. We would have to examine the evidence to see. We would have to cross-examine the witnesses. We should follow the rules of due process. But there is no way in blue blazes that this is credibly alleged. A forty-year-old charge being trotted out by political enemies on the eve of an important “advise and consent” vote regarding the highest judicial office in the land? Are you kidding me? You people could make a cat laugh.
And now for a third miscellaneous thought. Some might say that I have these high principles when it comes to conservatives, but that I would be whooping and hollering in glee if “the treatment” were being given to some liberal nominee to the Supreme Court. And to this charge, I cheerfully respond with some exuberant raspberries. I am extraordinarily glad that Mitch the Man refused to a confirmation vote on Merrick Garland. The Senate was completely within its rights to refuse to put him up for a vote, and three cheers from me. But if they had held hearings for Garland, and the week before the vote, some renegade conservatives rolled out a story about Garland’s junior high years when he had apparently gotten to second base with one Stephanie Noblunk, who was apparently quite the hottie, I would be as appalled as I am now. I would be as opposed to that kind of dirty politics as I am now. And why? Because justice matters in every direction.
A Fun Thought Experiment:
The Lord Jesus once dealt with an allegation of sexual misconduct.
“And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his finger wrote on the ground, as though he heard them not. So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:3–11).
The Lord apparently thought that the allegation against the woman was more than credible—He thought it was true. At the end of the account, He tells her to “go and sin no more,” an exhortation we may trust that she took to heart. But even though the Lord thought the allegation was true, He nevertheless threw the whole thing out on procedural grounds.
They caught her in “the very act,” did they? So where was the man? They caught her in the very act of adultery all by herself? This is, as the public defender assigned to her case might note, something that should be consider “curious.”
The other thing that the Lord did was put the accusers on trial. In Numbers 5:11-31, when a jealous husband brought his wife in for a trial by ordeal, there were a number of interesting features in that process. In the biblical kind of ordeal, the weird thing had to happen in order to convict. It was not an absurdist kind of witch trial, where “if she sinks she is innocent, and if she floats she is guilty.” That said, there are some interesting parallels. The husband’s charges were written down; the Lord stooped and wrote in the dust. The husband himself was put on trial, in that if his wife was acquitted, he was barred from being able to divorce. Jesus put all the accusers of this woman on trial. The charges against the woman in Numbers were mixed with dust from the floor of the Tabernacle; Jesus wrote in the dust on the floor of the Temple.
What did He write? My supposition is that He wrote something like the charge against her, which was that of adultery. Then He uttered the famous line about the one without sin casting the first stone. What sin was He referring to? He was not saying that if anyone had ever sinned in their life in any way, He was talking about the sin in question, the sin of adultery. And these religious accusers “convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest.”
So here is the thought experiment part. Kavanaugh has already agreed to testify under oath. His accuser has said she would, but is now showing some signs of being coy about it. If she is not willing to testify under oath, and to do so now, then the Senate should simply move forward with the confirmation process, ignoring all the yelling.
But here is the thing. I think that the committee hearing the testimony should all be put under oath also. Every senator there should solemnly swear that if a comparable allegation is made against them, then they will voluntarily step down from office. After all, what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for all the judgy geese.