I am inclined to believe the allegations of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez against Brett Kavanaugh. Ultimately, though, I do not know what happened between Kavanaugh and these women, so I can’t speak about him or these incidents with any authority.
What I do know for certain is that much of the rhetoric around these accusations has been ignorant, traumatic for sexual assault survivors, and antithetical to the teachings of Jesus. I am no expert on sexual abuse or trauma, so I will leave it to others to articulate the deep misinformation being thrown out as a defense of Kavanaugh and the reasons so many women are traumatized by the news right now.
What I can talk about–because I have mastered both the Bible and Divinity—is how very sad and angry Jesus is about this whole situation.
There seem to be two main arguments about why Congress should move forward with Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court. The first is that he couldn’t possibly have cornered Dr. Ford and tried to rape her at a party because she is clearly a lying witch and he is such an upstanding man.
This basic assumption of a man’s reliability and a woman’s unreliability is not unique to our contemporary culture. It was woven into the legal framework of Jesus’ day, when women were not even considered legitimate witnesses in court cases. But Jesus challenged the cultural norm of privileging male testimony by entrusting the news of his resurrection exclusively to women. Any men not willing to believe the women missed out of the greatest news of all time.
Jesus also refused to automatically give people with power and privilege the benefit of the doubt. Just because someone was a well-respected priest or scribe or judge did not mean they were innocent. Jesus’ harshest words were for the powerful who played at respectability while actually oppressing the vulnerable. He called them “whitewashed tombs” and a “brood of vipers.” He criticized the Pharisee who exalted himself before God and praised the tax collector who admitted his sin (Luke 18:9-14).
And, Jesus listened to women. He listened to his mother when she told him to fix the wine situation at the wedding party (John 2:1-11). He listened to the Samaritan woman that he technically shouldn’t even have been talking to (John 4). When Jesus called the Syrophoenician woman a dog, she responded that even dogs eat the crumbs from their master’s table—and Jesus heard her. He listened to her and decided she was right and did what she had asked him to do.
Those who immediately believe Kavanaugh over Ford because he somehow just seems more believable than she does are not following the example of Jesus.
The second main argument I’ve heard for moving ahead with Kavanaugh’s appointment is that even if he did pin Dr. Ford down, try to take off her clothes, and cover her mouth with his hand when she protested, it’s just not a big deal. It’s certainly not worth ruining his life over. It happened so long ago. Boys will be boys and what teenage boy hasn’t done something like that?
For the record, even though the accounts of Jesus’ teen years are slim, I feel confident is saying that Jesus never did something like that. Not even when he was at the wedding party with the water-turned-wine flowing and all the pretty girls swirling around him in their sexy headdresses.
Jesus honored and respected women’s bodies. There is a line that has always struck me in the story of Jesus healing the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. The Bible says, “she had endured much under many physicians” (Mark 5:26). I can’t help but wonder what those physicians would have done to this woman’s body. How many ways had she been violated? How much money had she paid to men who had no real concern for her body and no intention of healing her? But Jesus honors her desire to be made whole physically. He heals and restores her uterus without violating her body in any way. Then he sends her away in peace.
Finally, Jesus didn’t make light of people harming the vulnerable. He did not say, “Well, sometimes people hurt kids and it’s not great but we have to let them get on with their lives.” He said, “If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). He did not say, “He didn’t actually rape her so what’s the big deal?”. He said, “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
Jesus was concerned about victims of abuse, and his teachings insist that Christian forgiveness does not mean a prioritizing of perpetrators or a negation of accountability.
I do not know the truth of what Brett Kavanaugh has done to Christine Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez. That is a matter that should be thoroughly investigated.
I do know the truth of Jesus’ teachings: that we should listen to women, and that it is a very serious matter when those with power harm those who are vulnerable.