Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Congressional Brawl and a Conflicted Church

Yesterday confirmation hearings for President Trump's nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be an Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court began.  Even before the Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman, Senator Charles Grassley, could gavel the hearing's beginning, several Democratic senators boisterously demanded that the hearings be halted because of the lack of sufficient time to read the documents representing Judge Kavanaugh's extensive judicial portfolio.  Yet more documentation has been provided about Judge Kavanaugh than any other Supreme Court appointment in American history.  And, those that requested even more information were senators who had already gone on record as opposing Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation. 

But, as I watched some of the video from that opening day, what grieved my heart was the complete lack of civility within that hearing room.  Seventy people were arrested by Capital Hill Police because of unlawful demonstrations.  The vitriol became so intense that Judge Kavanaugh's wife had to usher their two daughters from the hearing room in order to spare them from hearing what was being said about her husband and their father.  How sad that at a moment in which a family should take incredible pride, there will only be memories of slanderous words being used against those girls' father.  What an image of American democracy at work - or should I say, a failure of that democracy to work as the Founding Fathers envisioned it.

Yes, there is a need for a hearing on this appointment.  Yes, there is a strong need to have dialogue on the issues.  But, Americans today have forgotten how to have a dialogue.  But we certainly have lots of practice in having arguments complete with vicious slander and name-calling.  We have created a society where "I am right and you are wrong" becomes the dominant theme.  We no longer listen with open minds or open hearts because our minds and hearts are already cemented in what we believe to be right.  Truth is no longer applicable as there is no longer an absolute standard of truth.

We hear arguments that Judge Kavanaugh's confirmation will mean the end of Roe v. Wade.  But Judge Kavanaugh has made it abundantly clear in previous decisions that he strongly holds to legal precedent.  That means that Roe v. Wade will not suddenly disappear under the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh any more than it did under the confirmations of Judges Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.  The threat of overthrowing Roe v. Wade simply does not hold water any longer. 

Hearings continue through the remainder of this week.  One can only imagine the intense grilling this man will have to endure before he is confirmed.  After watching a portion of yesterday's Congressional brawl, I wonder who, in their right mind, would want to be a public servant?  Oh the depths to which America has plunged. 

There is a second momentous event that is shaking the foundations of American beliefs.  This concerns the continued exposure of decades of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church.  I read a fascinating article in the National Review, written by David French, and published on August 27.  It is titled, "Protestants Should Care Deeply about the Catholic Catastrophe."  Allow me to quote a few paragraphs from this article:

"As I watch the crisis engulfing the Catholic Church, an analogy one of my pastors once made comes to mind.  It will likely make some of my Catholic friends uncomfortable, but it's helpful for understanding the way many Protestants view the larger body of Christ, the 'Holy Catholic Church' of the Apostles' Creed, so here goes: The Church is like a navy, a collection of ships united in purpose and in destination.  Each denomination is like a different ship in that navy, and while each crew is primarily tasked with the health and well-being of its own vessel, it's also deeply invested in the strength of the fleet.  Each vessel is more vulnerable as the fleet weakens.  Each vessel is stronger surrounded by its protective armada.

"If the analogy holds, then one of the mightiest battleships in the fleet, the Catholic Church, is taking torpedoes left and right.  It's now rocked by allegations of wrongdoing that go all the way to the Vatican, to the pope himself. .... Protestants cannot and must not view these events with a kind of detachment or distance, for numerous reasons.

"First, we cannot forget that each and every revelation of abuse is the revelation of a life-altering (and sometimes life-shattering) event for the victim and a faith-crippling moment for friends, family, and countless others.  Second, given the plethora of recent sexual scandals in Evangelical churches and seminaries, the Catholic catastrophe should remind us that perhaps only the lack of an equivalent hierarchy has spared Evangelical churches from similar, systemic sin.  'Our' scandals are more fragmented only because our churches are more fragmented.  Yet the entire church should be galvanized by what's happened and diligently consider the extent to which our own congregations are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.

"Third, reputational harm to the church can sweep far and wide - well beyond the guilty parties themselves.  No one should presume that in an increasingly secular world our fellow citizens can so easily discern the good guys and the bad guys.

"Finally, and critically, there are immense theological stakes for the larger church.  While condemnation of child abuse is universal, the recent spate of claims of consensual sex between two priests or between priests and other adults is leading once again to confrontation along the old fault lines, between traditionalists and those who seek greater 'inclusion.'"

David French concludes his article with these words: "It's fashionable for modern Christians to slide past the Old Testament and linger on the New.  But as secular and religious institutions collapse around us, it's hard to escape the feeling that we live in a period of Old Testament-style rebellion against God.  Our Catholic cathedrals and suburban mega-churches alike are shot-through with the same sins that pollute the world.  None of us has the luxury of believing 'our' institutions are safe or that 'our side' of the Christian divide has adequately guarded itself against the demonic spirit that stalks the land.  Ships in the Christian armada are ablaze.  We must not simply sail on and leave them to their fate."

Friends, Jesus admonished His disciples that there were to be "wise as serpents and harmless as doves."  Yet He also stated that "the gates of hell would not prevail against the church."  Jesus never promised that the Church would have an easy road.  Since its inception on that Day of Pentecost so many years ago, it has been the recipient of Satan's broadsides.  Yet we have this sure and certain promise from the Savior Himself - "in the world you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world."  This does not mean that we can be apathetic about what is happening around us.  Instead it means that we need to guard with more diligence and care those foundational truths that have been entrusted to us (see Jude 3).  Yes, we are in a war...but we know how the war ends!  Hallelujah for that great truth!

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