Sexual Violence and Redemption

In thinking of the alleged crimes of SCOTUS Nominee Brett Kavanaugh, I find myself wrestling with a thorny issue: one that has been seen over and over again in the long list of sexual predators who have been revealed (or accused) in the recent past.

To begin with, let’s get one thing perfectly clear.  Any sexual crime, no matter how seemingly minor it is (or was), nor how long ago, nor whom the aggressors (or victims) were, is precisely that: a crime.  It must be treated as such.  It is NOT something to be swept under the rug, nor hidden, nor ignored.  Those who are the victims of such crimes – no matter how fragmentary and disjointed their memories seem to be – must be heard.  They must be treated with respect, with compassion, with impartiality, and without prejudgment as to who they are, or how valid or invalid of a person (or victim) others may portray them to be.

Frankly, any victim of oppression must always be presumed to be telling the truth – until proven otherwise.  Our first and foremost duty is to immediately see them, hear them, and protect them,  They must be kept safe, and feel safe, from further aggression by either the original oppressor / abuser, or from the attacks of others.

And that leads me to my main point, which is a twofold concern.

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Thoughts on Judge Brett Kavanaugh & Professor Christine Blasey Ford

1024px-Judge_Brett_KavanaughBy now I’m sure you’ve heard of the accusation being laid at the feet of Judge Kavanaugh during the Senate’s Confirmation hearings for his nomination to the Supreme Court.  Namely, that at age 17, while “stumbling drunk,” he attempted to rape a then 15 year old young woman.

Several thoughts…

As we know, the Republicans are crying “Foul” because this accusation was revealed at almost the last minute before the Committee was to vote on whether to recommend that the Senate as a whole approve Kavanugh’s nomination.

Democrats have been saying all along that the process the GOP is using (what there is of it) egregiously flouts both the written and unwritten rules and guidelines that have always guided the process: shutting out all opposing or questioning voices from the process in a rush to get another conservative seated on the Court while Republicans still have control of the Senate.

As I (and many others) see it, it is more than a bit disingenuous for the GOP to call “foul” at the Democrat’s attempt to throw a wrench in the process when the GOP did exactly that with wild aplomb with regards to the nominations of hundreds of Judges for years – until they had control of both the Senate and the White House.  A case in point being President Obama’s nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.

So, the GOP will get no sympathy from me on this.  To put it another way, “What goes around comes around.”

That being said, the real heart of the matter is how one should respond to Professor Blasey Ford’s claim of Kavanaugh’s attempted rape of her.

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Kim Davis and the Storm of Hypocrisy that Surrounds Her

There is no need to sling mud at Ms. Davis – she’s no more flawed than any of us. There is no need to parade her in front of the cameras as a paragon of Christian Virtue – she isn’t, any more than we are. … We need to stop making her into something she is not. Instead, as Christians, we are called to hope and pray that she will come out of this experience without wrecking her life, and with a deeper and fuller appreciation of what her faith means to her, and how better to live her faith in compassion and love.

Kim-DavisBy now we’ve all heard about the Clerk of Rowan Country Kentucky, Kim Davis, who has refused to issue marriage licenses because she cannot in good conscience sign her name to a marriage license that, in her mind, violates God’s command that marriage is to be a heterosexual union between a man and a woman.

There has been a whole lot of very personal and nasty invective spewed in Ms. Davis’ direction because of this. Factually, most of it is true: she herself admits that her life was a mess until she began attending church about 4 and a half years ago. But does the fact that she has a checkered past matter?  No.  What matters is that she is a faithful person, trying to live out her faith as best she can. That needs to be respected.  We need to remember that digging up such old dirt to throw at another runs contrary to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:3-5: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbour’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? Or how can you say to your neighbour, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye’, while the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbour’s eye.”

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Civil Disobedience and Gay Marriage?

shutterstock_124493413Todd Starnes, host of Fox News & Commentary on Fox radio, recently posted an article that supports a pledge recently signed by many Religious leaders, in which they commit to rising up with acts of “Civil Disobedience” to highlight their opposition to Gay Marriage.

I am puzzled by this: how could “Civil Disobedience” be exercised here? “Civil Disobedience” is the act of deliberately, nonviolently and publicly transgressing a law that prohibits you from exercising rights that others can exercise without a second thought – highlighting the inconsistencies inherent in allowing some people a right that is denied to others.  Further, such disobedience is done from a position of powerlessness and humility, allowing the “illegal” act you perform to speak for itself through confronting others with the pain and injustice you personally experience because of that unjust law. The point is never to directly hurt the other, but rather to force them to see the injustice they are participating-in or allowing to happen (and therefore are complicit in inflicting upon you).

Currently, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to widen the legal definition of marriage, so that anyone can marry the person whom they love.  We all know and acknowledge this will be hard to accept for some.  I think it is right and proper – and compassionate – to be cognizant and understanding of this, even though we do not share their opinion, and are not called to set aside our own expanded sense of what is just and right for the purpose of alleviating that discomfort.

But, what law could those (who oppose such a change) disobey to show how their own liberties are being unjustly limited in this case?  Refusing to serve another because they are married to someone of the same sex doesn’t do it – the only person you’d be hurting is yourself (and perhaps those who depend on you) through the resulting loss of income.

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Hobby Lobby – a Different Point of View

The Hobby Lobby decision implies that it is OK to treat others differently, and unfairly, merely because our religious beliefs dictate that we should do so. This is the sort of logic used by the religious extremists found in any faith: they believe their faith gives them the right to treat others in a way that is not respectful of them or their humanity.

Hobby Lobby315*304We’ve all heard (and read) lots of angry denouncements of the Supreme Court’s recent “Hobby Lobby” decision. I agree with many of them, especially George Takei’s eloquent statement; but, I’d rather not delve into that right now.  Instead, let’s begin by going in a different direction and ask “What is the decision, really?”

To be specific, the Supreme Court deems that “closely held corporations [shall not be forced to] provide health-insurance coverage for methods of contraception that violate the sincerely held religious beliefs of the companies’ owners. … regulations that impose this obligation violate RFRA, which prohibits the Federal Government from taking any action that substantially burdens the exercise of religion unless that action constitutes the least restrictive means of serving a compelling government interest.”

The court’s decision is also very carefully written to limit its scope and effect, even though efforts are already underway to extend the impact of this decision into new territory.   The justices explicitly state that they did not deem it necessary to address or consider the First Amendment (“Freedom of Religion”) claims of the plaintiffs, since the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) is applicable to this case, and in the court’s opinion, the defense’s case clearly fails the tests imposed by the RFRA, as passed by Congress under President Clinton in 1993.

The justices go on to state: We do not hold … that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.” … Nor do we hold … that such corporations have free rein to take steps that impose “disadvantages . . . on others” or that require “the general public [to] pick up the tab.” … And we certainly do not hold or suggest that “RFRA demands accommodation of a for-profit corporation’s religious beliefs no matter the impact that accommodation may have on . . . thousands of women employed by Hobby Lobby.” … The effect of the HHS-created accommodation on the women employed by Hobby Lobby and the other companies involved in these cases would be precisely zero. Under that accommodation, these women would still be entitled to all FDA-approved contraceptives without cost sharing.

So, at first blush this all seems fairly reasonable, and it was such reasoning that helped lead to the end of the so called “Blue Laws” in many states that required businesses to be closed on Sundays. At that time – a generation or two ago – it was determined that such laws proved an unfair burden for – for instance– Jewish small business owners, who were already closing their shops on Saturdays due to their sincerely held religious beliefs.

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