Justice and Judge Kavanaugh
Like many watching what’s happening the nomination process of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, I’ve been shocked by the way things have unfolded. I have no political opinion on the issue that I would like to share but I’m deeply concerned about the politicization of justice. I would like to share some considerations with you as you process these things as well.
1. The Importance of Due Process.
As a pastor and an educator, and as a person in a civil society, due process is essential. The most important thing is that justice be served to whom and wherever appropriate. There is an interesting unfolding of the process that we as Americans should be concerned with as it relates to accusation and the right to confront the accuser. And we should pray for the truth to come out. We as members of Christianity in general and in particular have a responsibility to root for a justice that responds quickly and effectively to address any misconduct motivated by sex or gender, which includes all forms of violence including non-consensual contact. This can be more complicated than it appears given the timing of the events, and what laws in fact apply as it relates to accusation and allegation, given the location and time of life (school age, setting, etc).
2. The Silence of Sin.
The question about the allegation at hand is not the same as the biblical events I am about to describe. But those biblical events are instructive for us as believers who root for the cause of justice.
I have always been struck by the fact that, after a rape in the Old Testament, the female characters, no longer have any meaningful dialogue. Its as though, they have been muted by sexual violence. And then there is a pattern of always more bloodshed and major moral failure of their brothers (murder of the rapist, even their family) First see Dinah, the daughter of Leah born to Jacob and her brothers in Genesis 34, who killed the Sheckemities because of what Shechem did in wanting Dinah as his wife.
Then Amnon’s rape of Tamar in 2 Samuel 13 and Absalom’s revenge
Amnon followed in his father’s (King David) footsteps by sleeping with a woman of his sexual desire. For Absalom, a sense of justice is taken up, but our sense of justice is manipulated easily enough. In that moment of indignation Absalom does what scared children do. He makes himself judge and jury…and murders. That’s the problem with what takes place, is that its vigilante justice. And Absalom is the child of violence….
So the pattern…just like David killed Uriah, is repeated in a sense with Absalom’s revenge on Amnom.
Sin is never personal, it always has an ecological effect, according to this theme in the book of 2 Samuel. If that it’s relevant to today’s #MeToo cultural narratives, I don’t know what is. Sin always is never just personal. It’s always going to impact others…
I like what one leader said, if you think playing with temptation won’t hurt you, you’re stronger than Samson, wiser than Solomon, and more godly than King David. The book of 2 Samuel is written to show David’s success as a leader and also his failures and the adultery moment is the turning point in the book, then there’s this theme of “the sword will never depart from the house of David” verse 12:10.
3. The Need for Justice.
In the Old Testament law, in the Jewish context of the New Testament and in civil society such as ours, a group of witnesses that can corroborate a testimony are fundamental to the process of discovery, inquiry and evaluation.
And we should demand that it continue. When we become politicized to the point that its one demographic group or one gender versus another it’s not a power struggle where one wins out. It actually weakens us all. We become weaker men and weaker women. And our rights as persons become weaker.
4. Fraud and For Real. Shibboleth.
In the Old Testament there were pretenders. In a world that portrays itself as “open and tolerant” there still exist litmus tests, passwords, and cultural codes. These are used to provide who is the counterfeit and who is the legit. This protects us from the wolves in sheep’s clothing, the hackers and the spies. If you login into a bank website there is a whole system of codes to get in. If you want to get from one country to the next you need a passport. Codes, guards, even soldiers are used to protect the public from whole world of secret agents. In a world full of fakes, God is the ultimate seer and he’s looking for the bona fide. We can learn a lot from how God distinguishes the pretenders from the real deals? Jesus isn’t shortsighted, he knows the fraud and the for real. And be assured Jesus accepts no substitutes.
There’s this amazing story about individuals trying to sneak into the Promise land. We should think of people who try to manipulate justice this way. They may look the same, act the same, but they aren’t the same. And they learn that its their confession of the river that gives them away.
In Judges 12:5-7, Jephthah’s forces guarded the fords of the Jordan to prevent the Ephraimites from getting through. There was a way in however. All one had to do was say, “Shibboleth.” It means river or stream. But they couldn’t get it out. They, all of them received Judgment’s sword. One word articulated, said correctly, would do it. But Ephramities couldn’t say it because they were counterfeits, pretenders, and frauds. You see those born in the land of Gilead could pronounce it because they had been born into it. Being born into a country is how one receives ones citizenship. And unless the individual had been born into Gilead, they could not pronounce Shibboleth because their palate was unable to create the Sh sound…all that came out was Sibboleth. A small but distinct difference.
I’m praying for one of these Shibboleth moments throughout the proceedings, so that truth and justice will prevail.
5. Two tensions.
To conclude: We should watch carefully and we should have a greater concern for, and prayer for, the due process of justice so that if in fact, there are false accusations it comes out and if in fact, there is truth to accusations proper justice might be served.