The political battle that has raged the past few weeks in the United States has been tumultuous, to say the least. Recent events have further broadened the cultural chasm that already existed in this country.
Republicans herald the Brett Kavanaugh nomination to the Supreme Court as a great victory and believe it could shape the moral direction of America for years to come. For many Christian conservatives, it represents a significant justification for having elected a morally dubious Donald Trump.
For the left, this is the worst case scenario - a return to the Stone Age and the antiquated ethics that accompanied it. They fear this nomination could reverse the significant ideological and cultural “progress” that was made in the days of a liberal-leaning Supreme Court.
Regardless of what side you are on politically, two things are clear: this issue extends beyond mere politics and the fight is far from over.
For me, this was a tragic political spectacle in which both sides seemed to care little for the human beings involved. I was struck by the heartless articles and comments spewed back and forth at a tireless rate. The whole ordeal left a bad taste in my mouth and led me to think deeply about just how a follower of Jesus is supposed to live in times like these.
What follows is far from comprehensive, nor does it provide a judgment on the innocence or guilt of Brett Kavanaugh. It is simply my attempt to lay out a godly pattern for responding to our trying times.
As Christ-followers, we have to look to Jesus - not the world, our families, nor our parties, to guide our thoughts, words, and actions. Ultimately, our allegiance is to Him and it is His example we must follow.
So how would Jesus have us respond to the Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford situation and to similar situations that we are likely to face in the future?
If I have learned anything in my life, it is that the quickest route to a poor choice is to make it quickly. I could have saved myself a lot of apologies, embarrassments, and conflicts had I just heeded the words in James 1:19, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I am not the only one who would greatly benefit from taking to heart this advice, seeing as the majority of people today tend to do the exact opposite: they don’t listen, they speak without thinking, and (consequently?) they’re always angry.
In our age of instant reactions on social media, we have millions of people making judgments without having taken the time to discover the most basic facts of any given case or situation. It's incredibly irresponsible and as followers of Christ, we need to be better than this. In situations that are as deeply divisive and painful as this one, one thing is clear - we could all benefit from pausing before saying anything.
Jesus always saw the person, not just the situation. When He encountered the woman caught in adultery, He thwarted the plot of the Pharisees, who intended to use her in a ploy to trap Him (John 8:1-11). He drove away her accusers and restored her dignity and value when He humanized the situation.
As followers of Jesus, we need to take a moment to lay aside the ideological and political implications, and remember the human beings involved and any consequences they may face.
In this case, there are two main possibilities:
1) A guilty man is lying and could get away with a heinous crime.
2) An innocent man is being falsely accused, and in the process, is having his life destroyed.
This is a lose-lose situation and no matter what, the stakes are very high. No one should be so arrogant as to treat it lightly. Before accusing Brett Kavanaugh, try to imagine the possibility that he is innocent. Before you call Dr. Ford a liar, remember that she could be telling the truth and was thus the victim of a horrible crime.
Pondering the consequences will enable us to approach this heartbreaking situation with a sober mind and sincere humility.
The truth is, no one outside of the two people involved knows what really happened. Making a snap judgment from the outside looking in is both dangerous and irresponsible.
I believe Jesus would want us to be quick to see the person and slow to judge.
3) Defend the Process
One of the core tenants of our western legal system is the idea that the burden of proof rests with the accuser, and the accused is innocent until proven guilty. This is not only a key western belief but also a part of the UN’s Declaration of Human Rights.
The worst totalitarian states in history have been marked by the pronouncement of guilt without a fair legal process.
No one, regardless of political allegiance, should permit steps in this direction. A society where an accusation of any kind is considered true before due process has been granted is unlivable.
Let me be very clear: defending the process does not mean minimizing, dismissing, or ignoring accusations of sexual assault - to suggest this is a false dichotomy. Every accusation of sexual assault must be investigated fully and taken very seriously.
Ultimately, what matters most is the truth - not just in this case but in all cases. This should be self-evident, and yet I wonder if it is. If our political allegiances cause us to make a judgment without knowing the facts, we aren’t being noble; we are frauds, and we are setting an extremely dangerous precedent.
As followers of Jesus, we cannot ignore the difficult times we live in. We have to learn how to boldly represent Him and lead by example. This means giving our total allegiance only to Jesus. Our actions and attitudes should be measured against God’s standards, and this should guide how we react to the deeply divisive events of our day.
I think an honest study of Jesus would lead us to pause, not react. I believe God would want us to see people before parties. Furthermore, the western ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” is the only responsible way to govern society and maximize the flourishing of its citizens. We must fight the kind of totalitarian thinking that has deprived countless men and women of a fair process, and has instead condemned or exonerated based on party lines rather than truth.
Mostly, we must learn to live and act in accordance with the grace and mercy of Jesus and remember that ultimately, He is the only true hope for a broken world.