If you had any free time yesterday, I hope you were watching the political theater of the year with the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing of Brett Kavanaugh v. Christine Blasey Ford.
In the midst of all the riveting moments — and there were a bunch — in the back-to-back hearings, religion played a small role. Near the very end, Louisiana Sen. John Kennedy posed the penultimate question:
“Do you believe in God?” Kennedy asked the nominee.
“I’m going to give you a last opportunity right here in front of God and country,” said Kennedy, who then asked if three allegations were true. Kavanaugh answered no to each one.
“Do you swear to God?” Kennedy asked.
“I swear to God.” This was a Methodist from the South quizzing a conservative Ivy League Catholic. Those are very different backgrounds for two men who understand that Kavanaugh wasn’t simply on trial before a human court (even though folks at the hearing kept on saying it was not an actual trial).
But it was. And what Kennedy was doing during this exchange was saying that Kavanaugh was also standing before a much higher court than the U.S. Senate. And it was to that heavenly court he would ultimately answer were he lying about his past.
Yet, as I scanned innumerable comments on Facebook Thursday evening, I saw some folks who were triggered by Kavanaugh invoking his faith as part of his defense. There were several references if you knew where to look, starting with at the beginning of his opening statement (from a New York Times transcript), he referred to “sowing the wind” and how the country will “reap the whirlwinds.” That’s taken from a verse in Hosea 8:7: "They that sow the wind, shall reap the whirlwind."
Kavanaugh went on with what will probably be his most famous soundbite of the day:
The other night, Ashley and my daughter Liza said their prayers. Little Liza, all of 10 years old, said to Ashley, we should pray for the woman. That’s a lot of wisdom from a 10-year-old. We mean no ill will.
That one remark got a lot of reaction -– pro and con -– from the comments I heard and read. He teared up when he said those three sentences, barely choking out the words.
Later, as he described his Catholic upbringing, he said this:
Some have noticed I didn’t have church on Sundays on my calendars. I also didn’t list brushing my teeth and for me, going to church on Sundays was like brushing my teeth. Automatic. Still is.
I scanned NBC and CNN for mentions of Kavanaugh faith-talk, but heard nothing, so turned to Fox TV.
As host Tucker Carlson said (see below), it was a day of surreal moments and his show had the only God mentions that I found. Around the 14-minute mark, he brought on Brit Hume, who explained how the Kavanaugh family might have prayed for Christine Ford.
“This is what serious Christians do,” Hume said. “This is what serious Christians are called to do; that you are to love your enemies and pray for those who have harmed you.”
Soon after the 22-minute mark, former GetReligionista Mollie Hemingway weighed in.
“I commend that 10-year-old daughter for praying,” she said, “and I think that people who are Christian or people who are praying should do that at this time.”
Almost instantly after the hearing, Kavanaugh got attacked by the Jesuit publication America, which urged that his nomination be withdrawn not so much because he might be guilty but because of its impact on women. (Remember, Kavanaugh was schooled by Jesuits).
What is different this time is that this nomination battle is no longer purely about predicting the likely outcome of Judge Kavanaugh’s vote on the court. It now involves the symbolic meaning of his nomination and confirmation in the #MeToo era. The hearings and the committee’s deliberations are now also a bellwether of the way the country treats women when their reports of harassment, assault and abuse threaten to derail the careers of powerful men.
As some in the comments section sarcastically noted, this editorial had to have been written before the hearing, as one doesn’t simply draw up this long an article in a few minutes. One has to wonder about the timing for this stab from the Catholic left.
However, this whole tempest is not merely about the #MeToo movement. It’s about abortion. Why? Has anyone been reading the press releases and statements of those opposed to Kavanaugh?
From Mother Jones to NPR, the media chatter ever since Kavanaugh’s nomination in July has been on what a conservative justice might do to Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion nationwide.
They’ve not been complaining about Kavanaugh’s future impact on gun control, ObamaCare or the environment. No, the emphasis has been on abortion and how Planned Parenthood’s release trashing Kavanaugh came out within “seconds” of Trump’s nomination announcement.
C’mon folks: The #MeToo movement is a convenient shield for the greater concern of what might happen if the necessary backup to an unwanted pregnancy is removed. If legal abortion is not around or much harder to find, then one might have to refrain from sexual activity and we all know there can’t be any constraints on that, can there?
Let’s not pretend that everyone has suddenly seen the light on sex abuse. As Juanita Broderick pointed out (also on Fox), some of these same members of the judiciary committee weren’t near as concerned in 1998 about another alleged sexual assault in 1978 when the accused perpetrator was President Bill Clinton. It does depend on whose ox is getting gored.
I don’t expect a whole lot more faith talk during the conclusion of this drama either late this week or early next week. And it’s pretty unfortunate timing that the nominee should emphasize his Catholic faith –- with the presumption that of course someone as devout as he would not lie –- during a time when numerous members of the church hierarchy from Pope Francis on down, have been accused of covering up sexual abuse committed by a top cardinal.
So maybe those questions by an old-time Methodist were the most devout reminders he got all day.