A New Opportunity

Over the last 48 hours, as the allegations against Judge Brett Kavanaugh increased, I wrestled with what to do with the space afforded me here once a month. I vacillated on whether I had the desire, and then the requisite knowledge, to cogently comment on the issue. What I realized is that the privilege I enjoy as a man (whether I want it or not) means that issues of sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and rape are largely seen and experienced as women’s issues. As a man, I do not inherently have the same visceral response to the scandal surrounding the Supreme Court nominee as most women do, especially those who are survivors of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape. In short, addressing the topic du jour presents as an option to me in ways that would seem a fait accompli for those of the affected group.[1]

Before I relate this topic to the responsibilities of a church, some quick notes about the genesis of the matter. What I find frustrating about the rush to confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh is that an investigation is mutually exclusive from the Republican goal of filling the seat before the midterm elections. The only way that is true is if you believe that an investigation will uncover information that would disqualify Judge Kavanaugh. If those who support Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination believe (as many of them say) that these accusations are baseless, then it stands to reason that they would welcome an investigation that will exonerate their candidate beyond a shadow of a doubt. Such an investigation could be done and a vote on Judge Kavanaugh’s confirmation completed before November. Conversely, it is not mutually exclusive that Democrats can see the political advantage of raising these claims and also care about the real trauma these women experienced and the survivors’ desire to address that trauma at this important moment.[2] Although this won’t happen, it seems to make sense that Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination process should be postponed until these claims can be investigated. A full inquiry not only will bring us closer to the truth of the matter, but it also protects the Judge should he be confirmed.[3]

If I have learned anything over the past few years, it is that we do not leave our lives, our feelings, our concerns, and by connection, our politics at the door of the church. In this instance, it means that there will be some people, mostly women, coming to church this weekend thinking about their experiences of sexual violence.[4] They will come to the house of God this weekend, seeking a place of comfort, support, and refuge. They will come hoping to hear something or have an interaction that will help get them through this moment, when their fears of sharing their pain were vicariously realized in seeing the reaction to the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh. How great would it be if churches used this societal moment as an opportunity to affirm women in general and survivors of sexual violence in particular? This is why it has been so disappointing to see some Christian leaders leap to Judge Kavanaugh’s defense based on other priorities. We have an opportunity to let women know that there is a place where they can share their pain and find brothers and sisters who are willing to listen and do all we can to help in the healing process. This societal moment also affords us an opportunity for self-examination – a chance to determine whether we have been in any way complicit in silencing women and compounding their pain. It would be a wonderful and beautiful thing if the church could show that we care not only for people’s spiritual development but also for the physical, emotional, and psychological harms that people have experienced in their lives. Regardless of our individual politics this cultural moment gives us a chance to better live out the mission of the church and be a sanctuary for women who are survivors of sexual trauma.

[1] I parallel this with my feelings about race. If some event related to race relations in this country took place in the last 48 hours I would definitely be commenting on it in this space. Obviously issues of race are important to me because of my racial identity. In the same way, I should be willing to comment about and advocate for the issues of other oppressed groups despite the fact that I cannot center my own experience among them.

[2] One of the most frustrating responses from those seeking to defend Judge Kavanaugh is the argument that posits that it is somehow disqualifying that these women only chose now to share their experiences. First, it demeans the reality of how difficult it can be to publicize experiences of sexual violence. Second, it is absolutely reasonable that a sexual violence survivor can decide to bear their burden alone until they realize that the perpetrator of their trauma is lying about his character and is using those lies to achieve a position where he could harm other people.

[3] If a full investigation does not go forth, there will be problems if Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed. Regardless of what the Senate Judiciary Committee does, some entity will continue to investigate these claims. And if there is any truth to them, or if it is found that Kavanaugh has lied in his defense of these claims, we could then be dealing with his impeachment while sitting on the highest court in the country, which would be even more embarrassing than withdrawing his nomination now.

[4] This is just an assumption based on the statistics. If 1 out of every 6 women is the survivor of an attempted or completed rape, then at any of church of a decent size there will be several survivors of sexual violence in the pews, whether we know it or not.

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at: http://spectrummagazine.org/authors/jason-hines Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9043

The issue is not so much what he did or did not do in college or prep school, but the inference as well as court history is his view on women’s rights. The potential target is Roe V Wade. I don’t believe in abortion on demand but I believe less in coat hanger abortions, Both sides have been know as attempting to pack the court. We need a Justice Holmes.

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Tom

The issue is not so much what he did or did not do in college or prep school, but the inference as well as court history is his view on women’s rights.<

I partially agree with you. Accusations of what happened 35 years ago should be heard while recognizing the difficulty of arriving at a definitive truth absent corroborating simultaneous witnesses of events.
The other point that you correctly made, I believe, is often "conveniently overlooked"by many who assume Kavanaugh’s guilt. The “perception” by womens’s groups including #MeToo is that Kavanaugh is anathema. He must not be allowed as an opposing voice even on 1 issue even if appearing fair towards women on 50 others in this politically charged investigation.
I now look with interest to hearing the accused testimony.
Regards

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Jason,
You said,

This is why it has been so disappointing to see some Christian leaders leap to Judge Kavanaugh’s defense based on other priorities.<

We are speaking of a specific political situation which you have intermingled with some legitimate issues.
So, what might be your other priorities Jason? I noticed this article was posted before both Ford’s and Kavanaugh"s sworn testimonies today. How did that take place and why is your mantra the same as the Democratic priorities?
The demand now by some senators for a FBI investigation simply is not genuine. They have had all but a few recent allegations for the last 60 days that could have been done privately by the FBI but chose not to.
I don’t doubt that Dr. Ford believes her allegations but she did have inconsistencies and I don’t choose to judge her clinically but my general observations are she does have some emotional and mental challenges, for whatever reasons, that I suggest make accuracy indecisive when measured against destroying a man and his family’s reputation!
. I think she was played by counsel and the Dems. on the committee for their political goals of DELAYING THE NOMINATION!
To those watching carefully and objectively, I ask. If a week were given who feels that more non-credible witnesses would likely come forth? NEVER ENDING!
So Jason, forgive this skeptical old white guy who feels it has always been about DELAY and Democratic priorities. I wanted justice in a timely manner offered to both the accuser and accused , as I suggest many other “what you call Christian leaders”.Rather than that, it has been met with obstruction by Dems. from the start many of whom stated they would not vote for ANY candidate put forth by Trump.
If this man fails, what is being said is no one has the right to oppose a “sincere emotional” allegation even if there is no provable evidence to “one is presumed innocent until proven guilty!” That Jason is the scariest thing about these hearings and it’s Jerry Springer 2.0 theatrics, God help us!
Regards

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Jason, I have to give you credit for trying to be fair and thoughtful. However, to quote Joe Biden when he was a Senator and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Anita Hill’s salacious claims against Clarence Thomas, “Anyone who thinks an FBI investigation is going to tell you anything… doesn’t understand anything about anything.” Investigation of sexual assault is a matter for state and local law enforcement, NOT the FBI. To further quote Biden, such an investigation would be inconclusive. So your wish for an investigation just shows which of the political claims you have chosen to believe.

I have been shocked by extreme level of disrespect for the reputations of individuals that has been displayed by the Democratic members of the committee and the mainstream media. They were willing to ignore basic principles of decency and reject foundational legal principles to carry-out the most disgusting example of character assassination I have ever seen just for the sake of gaining political power. In contrast with that, Jesus told us to treat others the way we want to be treated and the Ninth Commandment tells us to not make false statements about others. The behavior of the Democrats revealed that the principles of God are not in them and what disturbs me is how many professed followers of Jesus have joined them in embracing, believing and spreading the vile and vicious claims that were made against Judge Kavanaugh.

In Matthew 12:34, Jesus told us that what comes our of our mouth is from the abundance of what is in our hearts. If Christians are endorsing and spreading such vile claims as have been made against Judge Kavanaugh, are their hearts not more filled with evil than the love of God? Are they really followers of Jesus? They are giving me probable cause for doubt.

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William, I suggest they are “blinded” by anything that doesn’t fit their personal narrative and filter. That shows extreme anger and irrational behavior for political and personal priorities. That is the good appraisal. The worse is some are simply evil towards individual justice.
I have, like you, never witnessed in my 73 yrs. the political venom I have witnessed the last 60 days!. Personally, I think it is about as close as I can imagine like Satan’s attack on God or Absalom’s on David.
Regards.

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The great dividing line in Christianity today is not the Sabbath, spiritualism, vegetarianism, or any other Seventh-day Adventist distinctive concern. The great dividing line is morality. Evangelicals in their support of Donald Trump have abandoned biblical teachings regarding morality. But let’s gratefully acknowledge the Jesuits, who have called for Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn. https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2018/09/27/editors-it-time-kavanaugh-nomination-be-withdrawn.

I wish that Seventh-day Adventists were comparatively advantaged over Christians of other denominations with respect to morality. But we are not. Consequently, I bear the burden of congregating with immoral Seventh-day Adventists, because I have a Christian duty to be patient and longsuffering with them.

having seen christine’s entire testimony this morning, as well as most of brett’s opening statement before having to go to work, my feeling is that this case presents the relatively rare moment where the truth of a situation is initially challenging to sense because both individuals are in fact telling the truth…my conclusion now is that christine really was assaulted by a drunk brett, and drunk brett, pin-balling against walls on the way down the stairs, really has no recollection of what he did…

i’ve known and seen drunks up close who have truly believed that they didn’t do what they were plainly observed to do while drunk…there is real conviction in their denials, and until their drinking is factored in, it’s impossible to piece together any kind of a story line…the particular shrillness in brett’s anger and defiance strikes me as a typical alcoholic in denial, who may not even understand that he’s an alcoholic…if brett is confirmed, there will certainly be an ongoing search for the full truth…if that search uncovers alcoholism, especially unknown alcoholism, it will be interesting to see whether brett can be characterized as lying about what he really and truly does not remember…

alcoholism is an iceberg phenomenon…so much of its reality cannot be seen through eyes unfamiliar with what some of the submerged signs are…no doubt there are many alcoholics in our church who function well, and whom most people don’t suspect…i know of one alcoholic in my local church who knows i know, but who also knows that his secret is safe with me…i also know of a number of other difficult situations in my church, where the persons involved knows i know…while i agree that it’s good to be part of a safe space that openly protects and affirms people, i have seen that it can also be good to maintain the privacy of the unknown, or of a distant awareness…not everyone is comfortable living their lives on their sleeve, or having anyone reach out to help them…

Given your privilege I thought that would have precluded you from comment at all these days. Some might opine that two white former students of elite boys and girls private schools within a few miles of each other, don’t speak to the issues faced by the majority.

Jeremy,
I doubt that Kav. could have accomplished what he has in sports, academics and social contacts in his life and even been a “functional alchoholic.” His daily contacts/busy schedule would have betrayed him.
It seems the more likely person to me in observing the testimonies, while sincere and emotional, to forget details and perhaps even people would be Dr.Ford. She seemed to me to be suggestive and have both mental and emotional challenges. This is not a criticism but an observation.
The Dems. got their week delay. Let’s see if it’s enough or mere pretense for another ploy.You do realize there will be more unreliable stories, I hope. These will obviously be used as the need for longer investigation. I am glad the President made parameters. Ford’s attorney’s have already said the investigations should be open ended. It is never enough until we get the results we expect.

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Agreed, Patrick.

The observation that Kav is a functional alcoholic was quite a (l-o-n-g) stretch! :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

Dr. Ford came across to me (I only watched for about 15 mins) as not very believable, and affecting a child like demeanor as a way to come across as weak and vulnerable. Not buying it.

When comparing the many women who told their stories and remembrances of their assaults by Bill Cosby…no comparison.

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pat, it sounds to me like you don’t know any functional alcoholics…believe me, people can be high achievers and outstanding citizens while harbouring a terrible secret…in some cases, alcoholics themselves don’t understand that they’re alcoholics because they instinctively recoil from confronting it…

parts of kavanaugh’s exchange with senator klobuchar of minnesota at thursday’s senate hearing were very telling: instead of answering her question whether he had ever blacked out through excessive drinking, he tried to turn the tables by asking if she’d ever blacked out from drinking (this backfired a bit because klobuchar’s father is a recovering alcoholic)…this retreat into a persecution complex, with the need to retaliate, when people even gently bring up the subject of excessive drinking is typical of alcoholics in denial…and i don’t know if you saw thursday’s hearing, but there were parts of kavanaugh’s testimony that brought a vacant, sideways stare on his wife’s face (she was sitting behind him, to his right)…i think she knows a think or two that would be of interest to the FBI…the families of alcoholics are always big sufferers, many times in complicit silence…

kavanaugh’s alcoholism, if he is an alcoholic, easily explains how both his and christine’s testimony can be true…that is, brett is being truthful in his denials about assaulting christine even though he did assault her…but there are other pertinent alcohol-related questions…kavanaugh’s high school buddy, mark judge, is now a self-confessed alcoholic…why were they high school buddies…why do kavanaugh’s yale roommate’s say kavanaugh was a “big” drinker, and why do they say his bathroom was always stained with vomit…

i really think this FBI investigation going on now is going to uncover a pattern of excessive drinking, and that this is going to be what sink’s kavanaugh’s choir boy construct under oath…i fully believe that he could have flipped into predatory sexual behaviour while under the influence, without knowing it, especially given what we know about the prevalence of sexual assault going on at college campuses, and its connection to alcohol consumption:

http://www.fris.org/CampusSexualViolence/CampusSexViolence.html

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Read my lips: Kav’s alcoholism will end up killing his nomination.
This one week added for investigation will end up revealing PERJURY. He may end up in jail.
His uncontrolled anger and arrogance/disrespect toward Senators interrogating him was devastating for him. He is done, the best thing - his best interest - is to withdraw the nomination. This would also stop the FBI investigation, which, if it continues, may kill him professionally for ever.

But, my gut feeling is that he will fight until the end, making his case gradually worse before he finally is replaced by another nominee.

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We shall see George. Interesting that 6 former FBI clearances didn’t expose alcoholism.
Has it changed in the last 2 mos.?
I like the text in scripture that says, “Be angry but sin not.” I suppose that was a bit like Christ also who attacked the hypocrites in Mt.23. As I recall, the said he was mad/crazy.
I have seen the straight jacket people are put in they are "either not angry enough or too angry "as someone else sees it for the circumstances.

i think it’s too late for kavanaugh to withdraw now…senator coons of delaware has vowed to investigate all leads against kavanaugh to their full conclusion, which could not only end up impeaching kavanaugh from SCOTUS, if he is confirmed, but remove him from his position on the district of columbia circuit, as well…in short, kavanaugh could be unemployed, and unemployable, in the foreseeable future, and he could be sent to jail if systemic perjury can be proven…

brett is in a do or die situation…no wonder don jr. is so strongly on his side…they could be cell mates soon…

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I bet at this time they are strongly counting on the Russians coming on a secret mission to rescue them.

So true, Pat.

The FBI “don’t play”. They talk to everybody…people you knew decades ago, relatives (close and distant), past girl/boy friends, co workers, friends. The idea that he might be a functioning alcoholic, and it wasn’t unearth by the FBI, seems pretty far fetched, given 6 FBI clearances being performed.

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Jeremy,
My brother died of alcoholism. I certainly recognize many features and he was a “functional” alcoholic. He was intelligent, had successes but tended to withdraw. A protracted life of busyness and successes without social evidences is noteworthy.
Some can drink more than the 14/wk. at certainly not be alcoholics.
I suggest Kav. might know more about Klobuchar than may meet our eye and “perhaps” he was pointing out her hypocrisy?
I have close friends I drank with in college that ended up being alcoholics. That association certainly doesn’t make me one.
I will leave Dr. Ford alone because I feel for her and feel she is unstable…but there were quite a few inconsistencies in her testimony…and indirectly her attorneys.
Shameful that she was not told or forgot that the committee could interview her privately in California!

I think the Russians were already there in behalf of the Dem. senators. :slight_smile:

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Lots of people drink way too much in college and don’t become alcoholics, functioning or otherwise…as I’m sure you are aware. Some others, not so much. :wink:

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