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The Kavanaugh Controversy From a Biblical Perspective

The Kavanaugh Controversy From a Biblical Perspective

President Trump's Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, Sept. 6, 2018. | (Screenshot: Time)

Debates are raging about whether Brett Kavanaugh engaged in sexual misconduct as a high school student. Julie Swetnick recently became the third woman to accuse Kavanaugh of abusive sexual misconduct. Of course, allegations of deception were being hurled constantly from both sides of the aisle well before Christine Blasey Ford, the first accuser, came out publicly against the Supreme Court nominee. Armed with rumors and devoid of established facts, even average Americans are joining in the fray through vitriolic protests and social media outbursts. Stereotypically, conservatives seem more likely to side with Kavanaugh, while liberals seem intent on supporting his accusers. While it is not yet clear what actually happened over thirty years ago, what we do know is that significant immorality is on display. Terrible acts of sexual assault and indecency happened then, or nasty instances of lying and defamation are happening now.

Of course, adherence to biblical morality would have prevented this scandal altogether. The Bible unapologetically condemns both lying and sexual misconduct. Specifically, the commandments "thou shalt not commit adultery" and "thou shalt not bear false witness," are relevant. The Hebrew noun rea, as found in the ninth commandment prohibiting bearing false witness, is often rendered as "neighbor" and can also refer to a "companion, friend, fellow-citizen" or in modern terms it could be a high-school peer.

Protecting the reputation of the innocent is paramount in the Western tradition for many good reasons. One Proverb teaches that "a good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold" (Proverbs 22:1). In contrast, another Proverb (29:24) stresses that such a person is morally obligated to declare what he knows. A person of the covenant was expected to be completely truthful because many harsh consequences were pronounced upon those who were dishonest about others' actions. One was considered just "whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others" (Psalms 15:3). It may be that some of Kavanaugh's many accusers are guilty of slander, resulting in a circus spectacle instead of a Supreme Court nomination hearing.

Regarding the ancient prohibition against adultery, the Apostle Paul provided further counsel to flee porneia (1 Corinthians 6:18), a Greek term which anciently included a very wide range of inappropriate sexual activity, including sexual assault, abuse, and misconduct. Whether or not Kavanaugh is personally guilty of these crimes, it has been widely reported that these behaviors occasionally occurred at parties attended by his high-school friends and accusers. While today many only focus on the victims of sexual misconduct, Paul emphasized that "whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body" (NIV verse 18) because one's body is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Anyone who deeply understands these principles of Biblical morality would flee from situations where sexual misconduct occurs because "God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (NIV Heb. 13:4).

We may never know whether Kavanaugh or his accusers or both are guilty of the immorality of which they are being accused. What is clear is that the whole situation and the pain and suffering it has caused to everyone involved could have been avoided by adhering to long-standing biblical principles. While believers should not judge, they can rest assured that whatever the eventual verdict of the Kavanaugh nomination is, the good word makes it clear that at some future time, justice will be done.

Michael K. Abel, a sociologist, and Brent J. Schmidt, a classicist, are the authors of the new book "America Versus the Ten Commandments" which explores the current state of morality in American society.