Conservative Christians are Missing the Point on Kavanaugh and Power
I’m a terrible blogger.
As near as I can tell, one of the keys to blogging is having an opinion on every hot button issue and making it known. I certainly have had an opinion when it comes to the Brett Kavanaugh saga. But, I also haven’t felt like I’ve had anything unique to say that hadn’t already been said.
I’m not an obstructionist. What the conservatives did with Merrick Garland went completely against the spirit of the Constitution. So, when Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch I didn’t oppose it. I didn’t agree with him but he was qualified and it was Trump’s right to nominate him. I felt the same way with the Brett Kavanaugh nomination. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t concerned about his position on Presidential power. I was. I am. But, our system allows those in power to nominate.
Then came the sexual misconduct allegations.
He did what?
Honestly, I didn’t know what to think of these allegations in the beginning. I’m fully aware that allegations can be false. I’m also fully aware that they rarely are. Still, when it comes to politics and power- people can get a little crazy.
Initially, what bothered me most was that the GOP didn’t want to investigate at all. How could we risk not investigating when we are talking about the character of a life-time appointee? Doesn’t character matter… at least some?
I was encouraged when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford was allowed to testify. I figured that hearing from her and Kavanaugh on the subject would give us some insight and hopefully would lead to an investigation.
Then they testified
I have to say, I found her to be incredibly credible when she testified. After hearing her in the morning, the idea that this wouldn’t lead to a full investigation seemed unthinkable to me.
Judge Kavanaugh, on the other hand, came across as angry, belligerent, and highly partisan. I can understand him being angry if he didn’t actually commit the assault for which he stands accused. But, he has to know that in a situation like this being thoughtful and respectful would work for him while being angry would work against him. If Judge Kavanaugh can’t control his emotions at a time like this, it made me question his overall temperament. His testimony, though, is what made me the most concerned. His extreme partisanship was alarmingly on display. That alone is a huge issue for a Supreme Court Justice.
Then after his testimony, I became increasingly concerned about numerous statements of his that seemed to be dishonest. If he can’t be honest during his testimony, then he shouldn’t be a Justice.
I was encouraged when it was announced that there would be a background check related to these new allegations. But, the investigation itself hasn’t comforted me. The small number of witnesses and the extremely limited scope of it didn’t allow the FBI to look for corroboration of the second and third sexual misconduct allegations nor to investigate possible lies under oath.
It has always seemed to me that it is best for both parties if there is no cloud over this nomination. Obviously, my opinion is the minority.
What about Christians?
It has been disappointing to see the “Christian” response to this situation. It is clear we are far from the “Character Matters” 1990’s rooted in the “Moral Majority” of the 1980’s. To have Christians (I’m mostly talking evangelicals) summarily dismiss multiple sexual assault allegations has been very disturbing.
I can almost understand evangelicals overlooking character issues in politicians if they are convinced that they need those politicians to get their preferred Supreme Court Justices which they seem to believe is the highest priority. But, the willingness to overlook character when it comes to the Justices themselves is incomprehensible to me.
In the case of Kavanaugh, we have multiple sexual assault allegations, rage filled testimony, transparent partisanship, and seemingly numerous lies under oath. These combined should concern anyone, and they should be even more concerning to a group of people who claim to be committed to truth.
From my perspective, a proper investigation isn’t about delaying anything. The Republicans will get a conservative Justice on the court, that isn’t even in question. This should be about making sure we put someone of character, whether or not we agree with them politically, in one of the most powerful positions in the nation.
Character does matter, especially when it comes to individuals who will be shaping our national policies as it related to interpretation of the constitution for decades.
And then there is Potiphar’s Wife
Evangelicals and Christian conservatives started floating a comparison that they felt completely upended the idea that they needed to take Dr. Blasey Ford’s allegations seriously. They pointed to the Biblical story of Potiphar’s wife.
For any who don’t know the story from Genesis 39, Potiphar was the Egyptian Captain of the Guard who bought Joseph after his brother’s sold him into slavery. Joseph prospered in Potiphar’s house and was elevated to be overseer of the entire household. Unfortunately for Joseph, Potiphar’s wife was very attracted to him. She tried repeatedly to seduce him. He refused; however, eventually she accused him of raping her. He was sent to jail for this crime which he didn’t commit.
I’ve seen conservative after conservative argue that this Biblical passage proves that women can lie and men pay a terrible price for it.
The big issues of the day, racism, sexism, and economic inequality, aren’t really about race, gender, or money. When you boil them all down, they are about power.
Missing the Point
The problem here is that conservatives are entirely missing the point. Often, sexual harassment isn’t about sex, at least not exclusively, it is about power. Donald Trump could grab women “by the pussy” because he was famous and therefore had power. Kavanaugh, if he did it, at age 17 had physical power over a 15 year-old girl. A male boss has power over a female employee. Even sexual harassment among “equals” relies on the power granted by male privilege. The same is true of both racial and economic injustices. The big issues of the day, racism, sexism, and economic inequality, aren’t really about race, gender, or money. When you boil them all down, they are about power. That is the point of institutionalized racism. It helps secure power for one group over another.
The same dynamics are at play in the story of Potiphar’s Wife. She, the wealthy man’s wife, was the one with power over the household slave. She wielded that power inappropriately. It is the responsibility of those who have power to protect those who don’t, the ‘least of these.’ This is an over-arching theme in scripture. Often, scripture gets misinterpreted when we neglect this dynamic. That was a major part of the sin of Sodom, “Look, this was the iniquity of your sister Sodom: She and her daughter had pride, fullness of food, and abundance of idleness; neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy.” (Ezekiel 16:49) They had economic power and they failed to wield it justly.
That is the point of institutionalized racism. It helps secure power for one group over another.
Power and the Supreme Court
The appropriate use of power is, of course, important for any powerful figure in our political system. But, this is especially true for a member of the Supreme Court. This is supposed to be the branch of government that interprets the laws and protects those without power under the law from those with power.
This is why I find Kavanaugh such a bad choice for the Supreme Court. If he did sexually assault Dr. Ford or either of the other accusers, this demonstrates a willingness to inappropriately use power. The way he became aggressive when testifying showed a tendency to rely on displays of power to influence. His strong partisanship shows a reliance on power structures outside the courts to explain and justify his reality.
Evangelicals an Power
Over the last 40 years, evangelicals have become addicted to power. It has become an idol. This is part of Trump’s appeal. I believe the same can be said of Kavanaugh. Evangelicals have turned from meekness to brazenness. We have bowed not to the Suffering Servant, but rather to the pandering oligarch.
Today, it could be argued that we, like Potiphar’s wife, wield our power in pursuit of our own agenda unrepentant of the harm it does to those who lack the power… women… the poor… minorities.