25 September 2018

Our Call in the Midst of Kavanaugh

Christine Blasey Ford says that Brett Kavanaugh, current nominee to the Supreme Court, sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s. And it's loud enough out there in the public square that I find myself needing to clarify my own thoughts.  

I offer them here, open to genuine engagement with whomever might come along. 

Some Category Organization:

One: Women have historically been in an economically and politically weaker position in the public spheres of the West. 
This remains true today, though the disparity is less than it has been at other times in recent history. I have had, throughout my teen and adult years, negative experiences connected with my gender. I know of few women who will not articulate the same. These experiences include a wide range of things - from those rightly criminalized by our penal code and which deserve a treatment by Dante - to the things that fall under what are now called microagressions by some, but which I'd call tacky or about which my Mama would smile and say, "Aww. Poor thing. I don't think he's been taught." 

Parsing these experiences is helpful and necessary, but denying their existence is absurd. Failure to admit that women have historically been and still remain in a weaker position in public spheres is naive and patronizing. The question is not whether women have been and are in that position - the question is what to do with that fact. 

The particular suffering of women at the hands of men is real. Men have often abused and still often do abuse their power, in ways big and small.  

Two: Humans of both genders are liars.
My theology tells me that there has only been one exception, and He's seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Science agrees with my Bible - people lie. And, anecdotally, we all know this to be true. Ask any parent in the world.

So, when Human A accuses Human B of an action, and Human B denies it, it is entirely possible that either Human A or Human B could be lying. Because any Human could be lying.  

Three: Humans of both genders misremember.
The science on this is fascinating and unsettling, but it is clear that even without any mal-intention of any kind, our memories are fallible. They are regularly incomplete and often incorrect. Again, my theology tells me the heart is deceptive - we deceive not only knowingly, but we unknowingly deceive ourselves. And, again, anecdotally, we know this to be the case. The experience within a marriage of one person remembering that we have said nothing of Friday evening plans and the other remembering that we clearly discussed going to the Joneses' for supper is not unique to my own marriage. I know, see, because it is the theme of many a standup routine - and everyone always laughs.

So, when Human A accuses Human B of an action, and Human B denies it, it is entirely possible that Human A or Human B is unintentionally misremembering.

Four: Discerning truth when humans disagree can be quite difficult.
When we are presented with situations with Human A and Human B accusing/denying, each person, being created equal and so being equally in nature likely to lie or misremember, deserves to be viewed with equal weights and balances, until such time as things are added to the equation that give us an ability to believe that one person is lying or misremembering and the other is accurately relaying facts.

Complicating this further - it is possible for two parties to be lying, misremembering, or even accurately relaying different pieces and parts of a story - and it is even possible for no one person to be capable of full accuracy. 

Five: There are some instances about which we may never know truth. 

Really smart, honest scholars regularly disagree over all sorts of historical facts, and I still don't know for sure which one of my children originated the idea to tattoo our yard's many lizards.

Six: We are often bad truth-finders. 

The difficulties articulated in numbers four and five do not get at the most significant difficulty of all. The very humans who are tasked (or task themselves...) with finding the truth are affected by being fallen themselves.We invariably want one person to be accurate and the other to be wrong about the facts. 

Americans want our SCOTUS nominee or his accuser to be correct. We want Kavanaugh to win or lose, be confirmed or rejected, and that affects our desires about the situation's facts. We desire facts. Let that roll over in your brain. A desire for certain facts is dangerous if our task is truth-finding. There are impressive volumes of judicial rules about finding dispassionate jurors. Because it's very difficult. 

We are never disinterested, nor are we without flaw. There is one just judge of the universe. And not one of us is He. 


Thoughts about our current situation: 

One: I have no idea what happened at a party in the 1980s. 
Neither does anyone reading this.

Two: We should not automatically #believesurvivors. 
The logic that says those victimized must be automatically believed says that having something done to you makes you more reliable than you were before something was done to you. It's simply not the case. Being raped, assaulted, victimized in any way does not change a person's reliability. Human suffering demands all available charity and provision, but it does not change a person's nature as it pertains to reliability, for good or ill. 

A victimized person is a person deserving every single manner of care and respect, a person bearing the image of God, and a person who yet suffers the effects of a fallen human nature. Some have conflated charity, respect, and care with belief, and with that confusion, we do a great disservice to truth and to people.

Three: We should take very seriously what women have to say, because women are humans, and our job as humans is to care for humans.  Moreover, we currently share a special burden to be watchful against the sins of our culture. 
Women have been dismissed in far too many cases, and women deserve the protection and respect of their society. We have corporately failed to protect women from men. We have protected abusers from justice rightfully demanded by their victims, especially when those abusers have been powerful, prosperous, and privileged white men. 

The record reflects that I am a pretty bad driver - therefore, it is incumbent upon me to be especially vigilant on the interstate. We post-modern westerners are bad women-protectors; it is incumbent upon us to be especially vigilant when given an opportunity to defend a woman. This is not because she is more reliable. This is because we should know ourselves, and we should be repenting of our failures and seeking to crucify our individual and corporate sins.  

Four: Kindness to fellow humans is always merited - whether toward accused or accuser.

No one has ever stumbled because he offered peaceful and careful words. Speaking truth never requires being ugly. We are not required to rain down fire and brimstone, nor are we are required to be unpleasant. Thanks be to God. 

Five: This is all annoying, because it doesn't land me on a specific team. 
But that's an indictment of us and our desire to be on a team at the expense of truth and virtue. And it's an indictment of the current culture in which we live that we have not available to us a team that prioritizes virtue and truth above all else. 

But, both indictments are old news. People are terrible. Politics is worse. Come on in - the water is far from fine, but it's the water we have here within the now and the not yet.  I'll pour you glass of Perrier or Cabernet - your choice.  

What is our call?  

We are called to be quick to listen, to admit our own fallibility, to examine our own individual biases and their effect on our interpretations of facts, and to keep a good humor about us. 

We are called to remember that this will be a blip on the timeline of history. Our grandchildren may never know the name of Brett Kavanaugh, and certainly their grandchildren will not. But, our children and friends will know what wisdom and temperance look like. (Or what they do not look like.) We will pass down our mode of being to our children, and them to theirs; and lo and behold, how we live our lives will matter to our grandchildren's grandchildren.  

We are called to fight for the weak and to fight for the truth whenever we are given an opportunity. We are called to remember that though there may appear to be a tension, standing for the weak and standing for truth are never in actual conflict. 

We are called to flee tribalism and run to the cross. We are called to remember that there is a just judge on the throne, He is the final arbiter of truth, and He will neither abandon us nor forsake us.  

We are called to have our dinner parties, watch our Parks and Rec, read our novels, pray our confessions and shout our thanksgivings, and remember that the future of America's High Court is not our job, and even if it were, it's ever so self-important to think we can scream into the noise and change the course of history.  

But, we can change the spirit of our social media interactions, debates with spouses, lunches with colleagues, mutterings at the radio.  

We can, by the grace of God, affect the spirit of our homes, and that is exactly what we are called so to do.