How should Christians respond to the Kavanaugh hearing?

U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh is sworn in to testify before a Sept. 27 Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. Kavanaugh followed Professor Christine Blasey Ford, who testified about her accusation that he sexually assaulted her in 1982, a claim he vehemently denied. (CNS photo/Jim Bourg, pool via Reuters)

Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing to determine the validity of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh. On July 9, President Donald Trump nominated Judge Kavanaugh to replace Supreme Court Justice, Anthony Kennedy. Following last week’s hearing, the F.B.I. has decided to launch an investigation into Dr. Ford’s allegations.

At the invitation of America’s editors, Simcha Fisher and Bill McGarvey, two columnists forthe magazine, discussed the hearing and more via email. The following text, which has been edited for length and clarity, is their correspondence.

Advertisement

Hi Simcha,

It’s nice to “meet” you despite the unfortunate circumstances.

In the interest of transparency, I have to confess that a lot of what I will share with you here comes straight from the reactions I shared with friends via text both during and just after the Ford/Kavanaugh hearing. It was riveting to watch in real time and I find that 24 hours later my reactions remain the same.

I really think what we witnessed on Thursday was the death of a certain male prerogative that has been chipped away at—very intensely and imperfectly but long past due—over the past year. Judge Kavanaugh is understandably indignant about accusations he can’t disprove but the indignation, anger and bluster he displayed in that hearing will work less and less effectively moving forward in U.S. political discourse. Women’s voices and experiences are going to be heard and understood in ways that we have not seen previously in our culture.

Kavanaugh is incredibly bright and politically savvy, but I found Dr. Ford to be highly credible and genuine. Obviously, none of this would be sufficient in a court of law, but this wasn’t a trial, it was a job interview. We know statistically that the number of women who make false sexual assault allegations is very small. We also know that the way she chose to cope with the incident—not discussing it with anyone at the time out of shame, etc—also fits the profile for experiences like this. The fact that she had spoken of this incident in therapy and with friends over the past six years also undercuts any notion that she is simply grinding a political ax.

What we witnessed on Thursday was the death of a certain male prerogative that has been chipped away at—very intensely and imperfectly but long past due.

No one should get any joy out watching Judge Kavanaugh’s world collapse around him. My overwhelming sense was that he has been working tirelessly his entire adult life to become a Supreme Court Justice and he’s incensed that someone dared to throw a banana peel at his feet when he was an inch from the finish line. These allegations clearly don’t fit with the narrative he’s constructed about his life: great husband and father, devout Catholic, hard working, first-class legal credentials. I think the narratives most of us construct for our lives suffer under the weight of our shadow selves. The reality is that all of his positive attributes can still be true without negating the possibility that he was capable of some seriously bad behavior as a young man. If the numerous accounts from classmates about his heavy drinking habits continue to mount and are credible I think we may have located the missing link connecting the two very different descriptions of Judge Kavanaugh presented on Thursday.

In her testimony, Dr. Ford admitted to wondering if coming forward “would just be jumping in front of a train that was headed to where it was headed anyway and that I would just be personally annihilated.” The image that will linger for me from Thursday’s hearing will not be of Dr. Ford’s calm, rational and historic testimony. It will be of Judge Kavanaugh, red-faced with sanctimonious contempt and anger as the prosecutor Rachel Mitchell gamely tried to navigate his seething fury. It’s as if he’s realizing that the train he was once comfortably riding on is now hurtling down the track headed straight for him and the world he’d grown up in. 


Hey, Bill, 

You’re absolutely right to focus on the conversations you're having with friends, rather than on the legal or political ramifications of this ongoing debacle because those conversations are the only thing that are in our control.

I mean, we can call our reps, but when’s the last time you felt truly represented by an elected official? I can’t even remember the last time I actually voted for someone, rather than reluctantly discerning the somewhat-less-horrible candidate. And frankly, I’m convinced that most of the Democrats are just as ruthlessly manipulative as the GOP right now, and no one actually cares about the truth. 

The truth for us regular citizens is that we are mostly powerless most of the time, as far as what happens in Washington. Maybe that’s cynical, but it sure is how it feels. No one represents me. As a woman, it has been sort of darkly fascinating to see so many men suddenly get a glimpse of that familiar sensation of outraged helplessness that so many women endure without question. It’s like the whole country is a teenage girl and Congress is an entitled frat boy. Ugh.

Anyway, as a Christian, I’m focusing on the conversations I have with people. Most victims of sexual assault never tell anyone, not 35 years later, not ever. So I’m trying to present myself as someone it would be safe and helpful to confide in. I don’t know what else to do. 

Best, 

Simcha


Loved what you said about members of Congress, Simcha, and how they’re finally getting a sense of the “outraged helplessness” that is a constant in many women’s lives. That was on stark display in the footage of a woman confronting Senator Jeff Flake in an elevator. “Look at me and tell me that it doesn’t matter what happened to me,” said 23-year-old protester Maria Gallagher. This is not simply a passing political moment; it reflects a tectonic shift in U.S. social and cultural life. The deeply insular male experience you describe reminded me of something Hannah Gadsby addressed specifically to men in the audience of her Netflix special, “Nannette”: “I am not a man hater. But I am afraid of men. If I am the only woman in a room full of men I am afraid. But if you think that’s unusual you are not speaking to the women in your life!”

As a woman, it has been sort of darkly fascinating to see so many men suddenly get a glimpse of that familiar sensation of outraged helplessness that so many women endure.

I understand your frustration but I have to disagree with you in terms of political engagement. If I waited for candidates who perfectly reflected the diamond-like facets of all my political beliefs, I would never be able to engage politically at all. If that were the standard we would forever be on the sidelines waiting for our political savior to arrive. I think that’s an abdication of our duties and responsibilities as citizens, not to mention as Christians who are called to work for a more just society. Trust me Simcha, I have no illusions that Democrats are somehow politically pure. They’re politicians and the work of the “affairs of the cities” is messy to put it mildly.

It’s not about Democrats or Republicans for me, it’s about treating accusations like this seriously. I actually think both Ford and Kavanaugh deserve that. I like the way an old friend from college, who is now a lawyer, put it in a text earlier today. “If he didn’t do it, damn, I think he would WANT an investigation. He wants his new title to be JUSTICE, for crying out loud!”

Best,

B


Hey, Bill - 

Yeah, that’s 2018 for you. “Make America Strange Bedfellows Again,” I guess! It stinks to see otherwise decent people making the deliberate choice to be callous in the face of suffering because they think it’s somehow good for unborn babies to make rape jokes. But it’s been heartening to see so many people wake up from their comfortable ideological slumbers and realize that Christians will never have a political home.

I totally agree that it’s bigger than Democrats vs. Republicans. But anyone who truly wants change has to look hard at themselves. That’s just how it works. Liberals could do themselves (not to mention women!) a great service by being more consistent about predators in their own ranks. I see Roman Polanski has a new film coming out. Bill Clinton is still thriving. Ted Kennedy was practically canonized. I don’t look to politicians to reform society, but they sure could help by being more consistent. 

Part of the problem is that the imbalance of power between men and women is so ingrained, women themselves don’t always recognize it as an injustice. Someone asked, “What would you do if men had a 9:00 curfew?” and I immediately thought, with joy and longing, “Oh, I would go for a walk!” How pathetic is that? We all have some awakening to do.  

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

Andrea, right. He was auditioning for a job as a judge. The normal and expected behavior in a job interview is behavior consistent with the job you want. Doctors talk and act in ways that showcase their bona fides as doctors; plumbers as plumbers; salespeople as salespeople; judges as judges. THAT is the way it works. Doctors being interviewed by hospital administrators for jobs as doctors don't act like hospital administrators or like insurance companies battling those hospital administrators or anything else. Job interviews are where you try to prove you are the best candidates for the job you want. Kavanaugh needed to act like judge in that interview for a position as a judge. It doesn't matter that he has a job as a judge now. The normal course of events is that the candidate demonstrates behavior appropriate for each new position in each new interview.

This isn't new. This isn't specific to this candidate. This is how the world works.

And I hope his daughter someday nails him to the wall for exploiting her and her prayer which is grounded in a child's expected and innocent love of her dad and based on having been told that a lady named Dr Ford is confused and hurt and blaming daddy for something he didn't do.

I never use this phrase but there might be a special place in hell for daddies who prostitute a young child's prayers in the middle of an ugly political
fight and on national tv and for personal gain. That, and Lindsey Graham's later exploitation of that child's prayers, was without question the most despicable moment of a pretty despicable day. I hope one day she nails his a** to the wall for exploiting her innocent relationship with God and making THAT her mention in the history books.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago

And more than 1000 law school professors (and counting as I write)

Is that all? Trump's greatest gift is getting various institutions to make clear in obvious ways that they're as corrupt as he says they are. Nothing more corrupt these days than Academia. Tough call when they are compared to the Press.

It's called The Great Unmasking.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago

The argument against Kavenaugh has gone to phase 4. First, it was sexual assault, then temperament, then drinking or lying about it.

Now it is he can't be fair after the despicable way he was treated. Stay tuned for Phase 5.

Sam Zeng
1 year 4 months ago

Hi J,
thanks for being such a strong Conservative Voice for our Christendom.

Connie Atkinson
1 year 4 months ago

The glaring inconsistency in how the Dems treat women’s accusations against Republicans vs the way they are treated when they are against another Democrat was glanced over by Simcha. Democrats need to be the ones to stand up against the hypocrisy of Bill Clinton thriving and Keith Ellison and Corey Booker unchallenged. If we don’t we are merely giving fake lip service to progress for women. It’s not progress when it is seen by so many as a political hit, something that would be far likely if accusations against Democrats were not so blithely covered up and dismissed. My response will be changing my vote until Democrats learn the meaning of integrity.

Sam Zeng
1 year 4 months ago

Christians, Thou shalt not bear false witness!
Presumed Innocent before proved guilty.

J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

Retired Supreme Court Justice Stevens, a lifelong Republican, said publicly that Kavanaugh disqualified himself with his conduct at the Congressional hearing Thursday

JR Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago

As a justice, Stevens was considered the leader of the liberal wing of the court. In his last 15 years on the court he was probably the 4th most liberal judge of the last 80 years . Douglas, Brennan and Marshall were more liberal.

J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

2400 plus law professors, many of Kavanaugh's original supporters and half the country agree with him.

Interestingly, Judge Kavanaugh HIMSELF publicly acknowledged that his conduct on Thursday was problematic in context of his desire to be seated on another court, the highest court.

He wants to be a great man. Many of you are willing to let him be less than that by supporting an incomplete investigation of alkegatiins against him. He is ALWAYS going to be the guy who was not really cleared because his friends didn't believe in him enough to shine a full and clear light on these allegations of sexual assault.

With friends like you....

JR Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago

A very revealing comment. You are inadvertently making Judge Kavanaugh's case by bringing up liberal lawyers actions and their intellectual dishonesty. No where do you provide any comments by judge Stevens or these academics about the farce the Democratic senators have conducted. This immediately disqualifies them as honest observers. Thank you for making Judge Kavanaugh's case.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago

Many have observed that Judge Kavanaugh's conduct was mild as he was falsely accused of gang rape by senators on national TV in front of his family. Radio silence on this senatorial conduct by the authors/editors here at America and many of his critics. So again, thank you and others for supporting the Judge by what you and the others do not say. He has 12+ years on the second highest court in the land to act as a guide to his demeanor. That should be the evidence.

J Jones
1 year 4 months ago

The job in question at this moment is Kavanaugh's.

Greg Heck
1 year 4 months ago

Prayer works.

JR Cosgrove
1 year 4 months ago

Yes, praying works.

Greg Heck
1 year 4 months ago

I changed it.

K Byrne
1 year 4 months ago

Judge Kavanaugh was today approved by the US Senate as an associate Justice on the US Supreme Court. The approval was accompanied by massive demonstrations outside the Capitol and the Supreme Court building. Protestors disrupted the vote by shouting epithets during the vote, such as a woman shouting “Coward” when Senator Flake voted to approve the nomination. All this was reminiscent of the civil disruptions in pre-WWII Germany by the Nazis.
There was one difference in the reaction to the fascist tactics in both situations. Germany acceded to the violence. That did not happen in the Kavanaugh nomination process. But please do not think that the latter was not subject to intense professional, calculated agitation. As Senator Susan Collins noted in her speech announcing her vote in favor of the nomination:
“The President nominated Brett Kavanaugh on July 9th. Within moments of that announcement, special interest groups raced to be the first to oppose him, including one organization that didn’t even bother to fill in the Judge’s name on its pre-written press release – they simply wrote that they opposed “Donald Trump’s nomination of XX to the Supreme Court of the United States.” A number of Senators joined the race to announce their opposition, but they were beaten to the punch by one of our colleagues who actually announced opposition before the nominee’s identity was even known.”
Senator Collins, and 49 colleagues, had the good judgement, strength, principles and moral courage to stand up in the face of the fascist agitation. Unfortunately, the anonymous Editors of America did not.
The fact that the anonymous Editors chose to withdraw their support is shocking, disappointing and worthy as a point of their reflection and discernment on moral courage, principled action and whether their “theology” has morphed into their politics . The about face was justified by Fr. Malone, who wrote
“The editorial decision to withdraw support for Judge Kavanaugh was based on the fact that he no longer had the confidence of a significant part of the U.S. citizenry. That lack of confidence would be damaging to the authority of the court in the years ahead if he were confirmed.
This is shocking only because it is not true. Re-read the original anonymous Editors’ editorial. The real reason was, as stated:
“In addition to being a fight over policy issues, which it already was, his nomination has also become a referendum on how to address allegations of sexual assault….
What is different this time is that this nomination battle is no longer purely about predicting the likely outcome of Judge Kavanaugh’s vote on the court. It now involves the symbolic meaning of his nomination and confirmation in the #MeToo era. The hearings and the committee’s deliberations are now also a bellwether of the way the country treats women when their reports of harassment, assault and abuse threaten to derail the careers of powerful men.”
This is a pure reflection of the “progressive left.” In the anonymous Editors’ rush to push the progressive narrative, they came out of the closet with the following “political theology:”
Judge Kavanaugh continues to enjoy a legal presumption of innocence, but the standard for a nominee to the Supreme Court is far higher; there is no presumption of confirmability. The best of the bad resolutions available in this dilemma is for Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination to be withdrawn.
Senator Collins, who is in a better position than the anonymous Editors to judge, disagreed and stated a resolution that more closely reflects the ideals of the American Constitution rather than the fascist progressive Left’s mantra in its war on men. She stated, and you should internalize this, the following:
“Some argue that because this is a lifetime appointment to our highest court, the public interest requires that doubts be resolved against the nominee. Others see the public interest as embodied in our long-established tradition of affording to those accused of misconduct a presumption of innocence. In cases in which the facts are unclear, they would argue that the question should be resolved in favor of the nominee.
Mr. President, I understand both viewpoints. This debate is complicated further by the fact that the Senate confirmation process is not a trial. But certain fundamental legal principles—about due process, the presumption of innocence, and fairness—do bear on my thinking, and I cannot abandon them. (Emphasis added).
In evaluating any given claim of misconduct, we will be ill served in the long run if we abandon the presumption of innocence and fairness, tempting though it may be. We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy.
Senator Collins did not abandon American fundamental constitutional principles. Unfortunately, the anonymous editors did, as did Fr. Malone. Shame on you all. You have shown yourselves weak, prevaricating, sops to fascist tactics and not very discerning of principled action.
Perhaps your hero is Pontius Pilate. He too bent to the expressed wishes crowd. And everyone knows -- and you certainly should -- that the Sanhedrin was behind the crowd’s vociferous agitation for Barabbas because they hated Christ. While your anonymous Editors and Fr. Malone emulated Pilate, you should also know that George Soros – that noted advocate of abortion – emulated the Sanhedrin’s behind the scenes agitation and financing.
Judge Kavanaugh and your readers deserve an apology for the disappointing performance of America. I would be surprised, however, if that were to ever materialize.

Advertisement

The latest from america

The setting of “West Side Story” is San Juan Hill, the nickname of the Lincoln Square area of Upper West Side of Manhattan—an area bulldozed and redeveloped into the Lincoln Center performing arts complex in the early 1960s.
Ryan Di CorpoFebruary 25, 2020
Lent is not the time for hating my body or ignoring it or making it suffer for things that I have done, no matter what the voice of my eating disorder says.
Amanda Martinez BeckFebruary 25, 2020
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden departs services at the Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C., on Feb. 23. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Bernie Sanders may yet unify the Democrats, writes Robert David Sullivan, but there are still questions about what to do if most primary voters oppose him.
Robert David SullivanFebruary 24, 2020
In this last week of Ordinary Time before Lent, take time to reflect on the ordinary blessings in your life and cultivate gratitude for them.
James Martin, S.J.February 24, 2020