In July of 2018, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford brought forth accusations of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh just days before his nomination for Supreme Court justice was announced. Judge Kavanaugh denied the claims against him, and many believe that Dr. Ford (and senate democrats) falsely brought forth these allegations as an attempt to keep Kavanaugh from serving on the nation’s highest court. The allegations were made public in mid-September, and since that point, the news cycle and the internet have been flooded with strong opinions and controversial statements from both sides of the aisle. At best, the dialogue between those who believe Dr. Ford and those who believe Judge Kavanaugh can be described as a heated debate, flooded with emotion on both sides. It’s easy to be swept up in the chaos of it all, but as Christians, we know that our emotions and our gut instincts are not always trustworthy. As those who represent the name of Christ, we need to take a step back and think carefully before we respond, especially before we make bold claims about either party involved.
So how should Christians think about this case? How should we think about abuse accusations in general? To answer these questions, we’re going to take a look at the flawed assumptions many are making, the messages they’re trying to send, and our call to judge without partiality.
The Flawed Assumptions
Like mine, your social media may have been be filled with statements from staunch supporters of both Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. If you were to analyze these statements, you may have noticed a common thread among many of them, regardless of which party they were defending. Many people, Christians included, have chosen a side based on a flawed foundational assumption regarding human nature.
From Dr. Ford’s supporters, we heard something to the effect of, “women don’t lie about this kind of thing.” This assumption may come from their personal experiences with victims, a statistic they’ve read, or their own inability to comprehend the motive behind such a vicious lie. Those who side with Judge Kavanaugh often defend him based on the fact that “he’s a federal judge with a great reputation” (implying that a man like him wouldn’t do such a thing). Again, this assumption may be based on their personal experiences with predators, a statistic they’ve read, or their own inability to comprehend how someone who seems like a moral, upstanding citizen could commit such a violent crime.
Both of these assumptions create a lens through which this particular case was being viewed, and we need to acknowledge that both of these assumptions are wrong. Powerful and seemingly upright men have abused women since Old Testament times. For example, in 2 Samuel 13, Tamar was raped by her brother, the son of King David. A man’s social standing or outward appearance does not prove his innocence. On the other hand, women have also lied about sexual abuse for self-serving purposes since Old Testament times. In Genesis 39, Potiphar’s wife became angry when Joseph refused her advances, so she lied and accused him of attempted rape. A woman's word does not prove a man's guilt. (I should add here that I’m fully aware that both genders have been guilty of both sexual misconduct and lying. I’m not attributing a specific sin to either gender, but addressing the specific situation between Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh.) Because we live in a post-Genesis 3 world, both men and women are fallen, both act corruptly, and both are capable of pursuing their own gain to the detriment of others (whether that gain be sexual, emotional, political, etc.).
The Intended Messages
Many Christians on both sides are also approaching this situation with a particular group they want to protect and a particular message they want to send, often based on of their own experiences and fears. Many who stand with Dr. Ford approach with their hearts burdened for abuse victims. Maybe they’ve experienced abuse themselves or walked alongside those who have. (If the statistics are correct that one in three women have been sexually abused, then we all know someone who has experienced such trauma.) They want to send the message that victims of abuse will be heard and honored. Their words will not be dismissed. They are valued, their pain matters, and as a nation, we will pursue justice for those who inflict that kind of pain on others.
Those on the other side come burdened for the accused. Maybe they’ve been the target of devastating lies launched against their own character. Maybe they just fear living in a world where a person’s reputation and livelihood can be torn down at a moment’s notice simply by the word of another. They want to send the message that those who are accused will not be condemned without a fair and thorough evaluation of the evidence. Their words will also not be dismissed, and they will not lose everything they’ve spent their lives building based off of an unsubstantiated claim of another. They want to know that as a nation we will value the truth over emotional appeals and seek justice for the innocent.
The desires behind both of those messages are good, and at their roots, they actually have quite a few things in common. Both sides are concerned with an innocent party losing his or her voice. Both sides want justice for those who would seek to harm others, whether in body or character. And both want protection for potential victims. However, rather than basing our view off of the message it sends to one specific group or another, I believe Christians should hope to send the same message to all people, whether to women or men, accuser or accused, innocent or guilty, our approach should communicate the following things:
Accusations of abuse will always be taken seriously.
We will do everything we can to discover the truth.
We will do our very best to enact justice and protect those who have been victimized—whether by sexual assault, devastating lies about their character, or anything else.
Judge Without Partiality
As Christians, we must strive to judge this situation without partiality (Col. 3:25). It’s natural to be partial towards those who are like us, those who may share our same experiences or fears, those who we can most naturally relate to. But as those who are in Christ, we must fight against what’s natural in our flesh and seek truth and justice for ALL people. I don’t mean that we operate as unemotional stoics. Abuse allegations are heart-breaking for everyone involved. It’s good to feel righteous anger towards those who harm others for their own benefit and compassion for those who have been harmed. What I do mean is that we cannot let our emotions drive us into having a blanket approach every time we encounter abuse accusations (i.e. immediately supporting one side or the other without taking time to evaluate and consider facts). Though this may come from a desire to protect others and "set the right precedent," it obstructs justice and lifts up a precedent at the expense of innocent people. We must put forth the time and effort to seek the truth, out of love for both parties.
Justice Will be Done
My goal in this post is not to persuade you to side with either Dr. Ford or Judge Kavanaugh regarding the abuse allegations against him. At the end of the day, we may not be fully sure what happened between them, and that’s a hard pill to swallow. Our knowledge is limited and our judgment is flawed. We strive to do the best we can with the information we have, but we will not exact justice perfectly this side of Heaven. Thankfully, as Christians, we can rest in the fact that our God sees and knows all. He cares deeply about the wounded and His judgment is never flawed. One day, He will fully and finally destroy evil, and not one act of abuse will escape His righteous judgment.
Julia Ford is a wife and stay-at-home mom of three. Her family lives in Louisville, KY, where she takes classes at Southern Seminary.
This article originally appeared on Julia’s blog, Of Light and Heat. Check out her site for more great content!