Saturday, September 29, 2018

Getting Kavanaughed

We used to hear about getting “Borked”, but I think it’s about time to retire that one. Robert Bork’s abortive Supreme Court nomination hearing was so long ago that you’d be lucky if 5% of your audience has even the slightest idea what you’re talking about when you trot that one out.

We should probably refer to getting “Kavanaughed” instead. The process is exactly the same, after all. The more things change, the more they don’t.

As the late Teddy Kennedy put it in 1987: “Robert Bork’s America is a land in which women would be forced into back-alley abortions, blacks would sit at segregated lunch counters, rogue police could break down citizens’ doors in midnight raids, schoolchildren could not be taught about evolution …”

Sound familiar? Thought so.

Two Hours I’ll Never Get Back

I watched a couple of hours last night of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony before the Senate committee tasked with weighing his suitability to sit as a member of the highest court in the U.S. The proceeding is only quasi-judicial, which as it turns out means that while lying to committee members can get you in very hot water indeed, you are unlikely to be able to avail yourself of much in the way of the usual legal and procedural niceties when you find the room getting steamy. Terrific arrangement.

While all kinds of thoughts raced through my head during those two endless hours (which were surely much longer for Kavanaugh) on the subject of justice, the rule of law, hidden agendas and wickedness in high places, the number one thing I came away with was this: There but for the grace of God go you and I.

Sure, none of us here are remotely considering putting our names up for the judiciary or running for political office. But nearly every person reading past the cut of this post today (or any other post on this blog) falls into the same category as Brett Kavanaugh in this respect: your opinions about right and wrong, about the state of your nation, about what is best for your family, about how to think, walk, talk and live — and most especially your opinions about Jesus Christ — are at bare minimum orthogonal to the prevailing societal trends, and very likely run nearly 180° in the opposite direction.

Quasi-Judicial Proceedings to Come

At some point in the very near future, many Christians are likely to find ourselves in the same boat as Mr. Kavanaugh: peppered in quasi-judicial proceedings with accusations whose real objective has nothing to do with their purported purpose; facing disqualification, ignominy, loss of a job or the ability to earn an income, loss of public platform, loss of face, respectability, safety, freedom or even life; and hamstrung in our own defense by processes, rules and procedures that are essentially being made up on the spot.

Those accusations may come at you on the job, behind the closed doors of the Human Resources department; on your college or university campus in the office of the diversity officer; on the Internet in some staged social media lynching; or in one of those Human Rights Tribunal proceedings where the Canadian government covers the Applicant’s legal costs while you foot your own bill. These things can happen unexpectedly to anyone with sufficient courage to express beliefs counter to the current progressive narrative.

That being the case, I heartily recommend we take a few lessons from Mr. Kavanaugh about what to do and what not to do when the spotlight goes on:

 Talk Less

Talk way, WAY less. Kavanaugh started with a bang, by going right after his hypocritical, cynical, self-serving, lying detractors and talking about the long-term consequences of their fabrications for his family and for the American political process. Good for him. But returning to those points endlessly every time he was asked a direct question enervated solid rhetoric, sapping it of force and direction and making it sound canned. And his attempts to set his teenage actions in context with long stories and explanations fell utterly flat.

Such exchanges are not only counterproductive but unnecessary. Long soliloquies are for people willing to hear them. When faced with those who were not, the Lord Jesus made a grand total of eleven distinct statements over a period of hours. The shortest was only a few words, the longest forty-nine (in English); a mere five sentences.

He briefly affirmed true statements made about him. He cautioned his accusers about what their actions would produce. He drew attention to their faulty procedures and pointed out that they were acting in bad faith. He corrected their false assumptions about his standing before the court. He even repeatedly queried them. But whether before Pilate or the Jews, what is notably absent from these statements is any effort to defend himself from false charges. He was sufficiently confident in his innocence that he let the facts speak for themselves.

If Brett Kavanaugh had restricted himself to the sort of pithy, on-point one- and two-liners Jesus used, he would have sucked the air right out of the room.

 Forget About Your Good Name

Vindication is not a product of long, persuasive speeches, charisma or even urgency. In scripture, the vindication of God’s people comes from God.

Kavanaugh spoke about going to church; he may even be a Christian. If so, he would have done well to take the Psalmist’s words to heart. Having opened by repeatedly decrying the Left’s destruction of his good name, a reputation built over decades, and having assured the Committee he would welcome whatever steps were thought necessary to move forward with his confirmation, he found himself in a Catch-22 entirely of his own devising when Sen. Dick Durbin repeatedly urged him to ask for a suspension of the nomination process and petition the FBI to open an investigation to clear his name. Kavanaugh foundered horribly, recognizing that agreeing to any delay in the confirmation proceedings would effectively kill his nomination, while refusing to agree to further investigation would give the lie to his professed concern to clear his name.

Given that in the months leading up to President Trump’s election, the FBI essentially functioned as the investigative and enforcement arm of Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign, both Kavanaugh’s reluctance to involve the FBI and his reticence about explaining why he was baulking about it to a man gleefully and transparently in the same political camp as the Clintons were completely understandable. Betting on an FBI investigation of a 35-year-old he-said-she-said to restore one’s good name is about as likely to succeed as attempting to reattach a severed limb with Krazy Glue®. All the same, Kavanaugh’s hemming and hawing just did not play well.

On the other hand, a simple “I’m not worried about my name, Senator. My vindication comes from God” would have done the trick nicely. What are you going to say to that?

The thing about biblical vindication is this: it doesn’t always arrive when and where you’d like. Sometimes you receive the words you need to refute your accusers on the spot. Sometimes vindication comes a little later on, through circumstances. Sometimes you have to wait for God’s vindication, and bear your indignation along the way.

But however and whenever it comes, clearing our names is something God does. We haven’t got a hope of pulling that off. The FBI has even less.

 Acknowledge Losing is a Possibility, but Don’t Ever Give Up

Three of the biggest character guys in the whole Old Testament were Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They gave one of the best comebacks in history to the most powerful man on the planet:
“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
“But if not.” Wow. That’s the attitude one needs in the face of false accusations. If you’re telling the truth, never back down, even if certain defeat is staring you in the face and even if it appears that waffling, qualifying, over-explaining, equivocating or apologizing might better serve your agenda. One thing is certain: they won’t. They never do.

If, against all odds, Brett Kavanaugh somehow manages to get himself confirmed, it will be because in the end he didn’t back down. That part we can certainly emulate.

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