Brett Kavanaugh and a Series of Unfortunate Events!

As a Christian, forgiveness is always on my mind. I believe it rests there constantly because it’s the embodiment of Jesus. If the purpose of Jesus and his mission was to “save mankind” and “forgive” us for all the injustices we wage on a daily basis, than certainly it’s easy to understand why a Christian would be so obsessed with the concept of forgiveness.

I’m always struck by stories of people that have experienced tragedy, usually at the hands of another person, and yet are still able to forgive that person for the pain they have caused. I remember being moved to tears in High School by hearing the story of a New York City Police Officer who went weekly to visit with a youth in prison. The youth is serving a life sentence for attempted murder. The victim in this case was the police officer. The Officer, who almost died and is paralyzed after being shot by the youth felt it in his heart to forgive the young man.

These stories of forgiveness provide us with hope. We have numerous examples in scriptures of Jesus teaching us to forgive those who “hate us and to love our enemies.” I think I’ve become so overly interested in the topic because I so desperately desire to be like Christ. I often think that if forgiveness was Jesus purpose than in some ways forgiveness has to be my purpose as well.

This week has been one of intense political conflict. A leisurely scroll through my Facebook page leaves me wondering how our country has not yet broken out in full political civil war. Opinions, especially in regards to Judge Kavanaugh, his accusers, and politicians from both the left and the right, have been violently opposed. Middle ground, and in the case of sexual assault this seems appropriate, is really nowhere to be found.

I know that Judge Kavanaugh denies all allegations that have been put forth against him. I also understand that at least half, and maybe more, of the country believes his version of events. That’s only natural in a democracy. However, as a Christian, I wonder if a majority of the faith community has missed the bigger picture.

Reverend Franklin Graham, son of the legendary evangelist Billy Graham, has come out and confidently proclaimed that “any accusations against Judge Kavanaugh that occurred in High School are Irrelevant.” A Marist poll recently conducted found that over 50% of Evangelicals  would still support Judge Kavanaugh even when asked if “There is overwhelming evidence that he committed acts of sexual assault.” Groups like Focus on the Family, and the Southern Baptist Convention, have all signed letters of support asking for Judge Kavanaugh to be appointed, regardless of the allegations pending against him.

As a Progressive I do not support the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. From his responses on issues like Workers Rights, to his support for unlimited corporate spending in elections, to his support of “federalism” for issues of health, sexuality, and civil rights, I believe he is unfit to serve. However, as a Christian, I believe the moral imperative is to stand with a growing majority of the country that believes morality must have a place in deciding who gets to sit on the Supreme Court. My faith tells me that the secular world, and not the Church, is correct in calling for his nomination to be rescinded, as a result of his questionable moral choices.

There are times, as a Christian, I have given a pass to the wider Evangelical community. I have many secular friends who ask “how can your Christian friends support President Trump after all the immoral things he has done in his personal life?” I usually respond by saying “I think most Evangelicals feel Trump isn’t claiming to be a Christian of high moral standing. They give him a pass because he still governs in a way that’s affirming of Evangelical values. Evangelicals know that Trump is a sinner, very worldly, but they feel his policies in the end reflect their values.” I believe that with Judge Kavanaugh this explanation is now morally reprehensible.

Judge Kavanaugh is one of several conservative legal professionals that President Trump can choose from. His support for overturning Roe V. Wade, Same-Sex Marriage, and other issues important to Conservative Evangelicals can be carried out by another justice that does not have the same “checkered past” as Judge Kavanaugh. Judge Kavanaugh is not the only choice that exists for those who wish to maintain “Traditional Christian values.”

There will be those who say “okay, but as with Trump we need Kavanaugh because he will vote the will of God.” To those who think this way I have a question. At what price does voting the will of god become too high? Does getting someone who will vote the way you “believe” God would have him vote, overrule how the world and those who need our moral example as Christians view our community? How can Evangelicals continue to advocate for God’s saving grace, while we consistently fail to be moral leaders?

I believe the accusers of Judge Kavanaugh but I also believe that he is a man in need of God’s love. King David in Psalms 25:7 begs God by shouting to heaven “Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways.” God will most certainly forgive Judge Kavanaugh for anything he did while acting like “a childish high school jock” as many of his Evangelical supporters say. However, as we can say in the stories of Moses, David, Saul, and others, God may forgive us but that doesn’t mean our past actions won’t come back to hurt us.

Since I’m a Christian I’m called by God to be a perpetrator of forgiveness. While I have no right to forgive Judge Kavanaugh on behalf of the accused, I hold no grudge or ill will towards him. I also hold no grudge against my fellow Evangelicals who support his nomination. I do pray that as a community Evangelicals remember that “one day in heaven is like a thousand years on earth.” Evangelical support for a political party, ideology, economic system, etc.. is a fleeting moment in the arc of godly justice.

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The First Amendment V. The First Commandment

“I have the right to do anything,” you say–but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”–but not everything is constructive.”

1 Corinthians 10:23

 

On Monday my Social Media was abuzz with opinions regarding the Supreme Court’s ruling in Masterpiece Cake Shop Vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission. I would say that the opinions of my friends, much like that of the country was a clean partisan split. Interestingly I found that those friends who I can label as self proscribed “Christians” were the most outwardly happy with the Courts ruling. This is not all that surprising, however, it does raise an issue that I think Christians should think about in greater depth.

Some quick background on the case: A Christian baker in Colorado was asked by a gay couple to make a wedding cake for their upcoming ceremony. The baker declined and explained to the couple that he believes making the cake would violate his Christian values. The Civil Rights Commission of Colorado (A government entity) found the baker in violation of the couples civil rights and levied fines. The Supreme Court (I will leave it here just to give a quick cursory telling of the story) found that the Civil Rights Commission violated the rights of the baker.

Now, as an exercise in political thinking I found the Courts decision very interesting. What really sparked my interest, however, was an article in the New York Times documenting more cases like this that will test boundaries of “religious freedom and civil rights”. One such issue the Times discussed was a Bill recently passed in Oklahoma (SB 1140). This bill essentially allows private adoption agencies the legal right to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples when placing children. This Bill, which before reading the Times I was unaware of, will most likely push the “Christian Rights vs. Gay Rights” debate to the forefront of the Supreme Court in the coming years.

I don’t know all that much about adoption/ child welfare issues. I did work, for a very short period of time, as a Social Worker who would visit with newly adopted children and families to help offer services as they transition into their new lives together. For the most part I came across very loving parents and very excited children. They were always so happy to have a new place to call home and new people to call Mom and Dad. What I did learn during my time in the field, is that those children waiting to be adopted face the constant fear of instability, sexual assault, educational neglect, and emotional abuse. Children waiting to be adopted too often experience fear when living every day in group-homes, foster care facilities, and in some foster homes.

While I was not responsible for finding foster kids adoptive homes, I did hear stories from other Social Workers who had this job, and these stories still shake me. I was told of a thirteen year old child that was given one meal a day by his foster family, beaten for minor infractions like spilling milk, and forced to eat his own vomit after getting sick. Luckily, in this story the authorities learned of the crimes that occurred while the child was in foster care and they were able to find a nice adoptive family to take him in. Authorities also were able to persecute the foster parents who committed the gruesome crimes. In this instance the child was lucky. I often pray that this is not the reality being experienced by any of the over “107,918” children in foster care who are waiting to be adopted by a loving family.

After learning about SB 1140 I did a quick Google search just to learn a little more about the law. I came across many “Christian” organizations making the argument that this law is necessary because it will allow religious organization the ability to “provide social welfare services congruent with Christian values.” I found a few op-eds from Christian writers who saw this as a victory for “Christian liberty”, “Godly values”, and “traditional families”.  I did not see, from any Christians at least, statements on how this will positively impact (according to the Oklahoma Department of Human Services) over 9,000 kids in Oklahoma in need of adoption.

I understand that for some Christians there is a belief that sexual politics is an arena where there can be no compromise. While I don’t share this view I would never ask someone to act in a manner that violates his or her deeply held spiritual convictions. However, since the people speaking in these op-eds and in the media are proclaiming to be fellow “Christians” I feel as though I can engage in a little debate and push back on these feelings.

In the beginning of the blog I quote 1 Corinthians 10:23. Here we see the Church struggling with issues of ethical Christian living. The Church in Corinth is asking what it should do about issues regarding a proper diet, morals, etc. The answer given in the Scriptures is one that speaks to our current times. Essentially we are told that since Christ came to renew our minds and hearts there no longer should be worries about trivial matters like diet. We are told that everything is now permitted, however, we must realize that we can’t go “overboard.”

We learn in the scriptures that Christians should feel free to eat anything they want, however, as good brothers and sisters of Christ they should realize that this freedom may have to be put aside for the greater good of others. Many Pastors will use this scripture when teaching about things like alcohol consumption. They usually will say things like “sure, you can drink alcohol as a Christian just don’t be a drunk and act in ways that would embarrass Christ. You should be careful though and realize that there may be a Christian Brother or sister that is struggling with alcohol abuse. It may not be wise to drink around them. So in essence, yes, as a Christian feel free to drink in moderation, just recognize that this freedom comes with a responsibility.”

I think this teaching serves as a great parallel to something like SB 1140. In America we are granted freedom of religion and freedom to engage in faith and moral traditions that proscribe certain standards of behavior. However, we are Christians first and Americans second. We are often looked at as examples of “good behavior” even if we don’t mean to be. Yes, maybe some Christians feel that gay couples should not be allowed to adopt because it violates Church teaching. I argue this does not outweigh the duty we have as Christ centered individuals to continually work to be the salt of the earth.

As Christians we must ask ourselves this question: does allowing private organizations the ability to refuse children in our care an adoptive home simply because we find an individuals lifestyle to be “sinful”? It may be legal but does it edify the spirit of Jesus and the witness of Christ’s saving grace?

I would ask Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin, who at an event organized by Franklin Graham stated “I’m not scared to walk my faith because my faith plays a role in the decisions I make” to stop and consider those children who may be victims. I would ask all those Christians who publicly stand against the L.G.B.T community to ponder if its “sin” they are against or if it’s the feeling of being outwardly “righteous” that makes them stand in condemnation of our Gay brothers and sisters?

As Christians we have always lead movements for peace, justice, and love. From abolishing slavery, to establishing Unions and marching for civil rights, Christians have a heritage we can be proud of. I pray we don’t tarnish that heritage because it’s politically expedient.