This has been an excruciating week. The entire nation has been roiled by accusations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, and it has often been difficult to know what to believe. How can we ever determine the truth?
As a Christian, I have been taught to seek truth through prayer and study of God’s word, so for the past few days I’ve been thinking about what Bible stories might apply to this situation. On reflection, I’ve found several that may have implications for Christians regarding the conundrum before us.
With the onslaught of heart-rending “Me Too” stories this year from women who’ve been sexually exploited and abused by men, there is a growing movement to always believe a female accuser. There is certainly no shortage of examples of men who’ve behaved very badly towards women, but unfortunately, there are also women who will falsely accuse. Genesis 39 tells the story of Joseph, a slave in the home of Potiphar the Egyptian. Potiphar’s wife attempted to seduce Joseph, but when he ran from her, she accused him of attempted rape. The mere accusation landed Joseph in prison. The story doesn’t give us a general rule, but does illustrate that some women can, and will, lie about crimes of this nature. “Believe women” is not a rule by which we can live justly.
Dinah’s story is only one of several stories of rape in the Bible; in this case, her assailant Shechem and his family negotiated with her family to marry her. According to Genesis 34, her brothers Simeon and Levi agree to a marriage contract, but instead proceed to slaughter every man in the community and plunder the city. While we might agree that the crime against Dinah deserved justice, her brothers extended the punishment to innocent men, and were condemned by their father Jacob: “Cursed be their anger for it is fierce, and their wrath, for it is cruel.” (Gen 49:7, ESV)
As members of the Judeo-Christian tradition, we should resist the urge to punish the innocent along with the guilty, even in matters of rape. It is dismaying to see a purportedly serious news outlet arguing that even if there’s no evidence against him, we must withdraw Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination so as to help “prevent rape” by making an example of him. This “cruel wrath” towards the innocent (until proven guilty,) is unjust and will not satisfy the lust for revenge.
Two or Three Witnesses
And that brings us to the matter of proof. Christine Blasey Ford has named three potential witnesses to support her accusation against Brett Kavanaugh. None of the three corroborate her story, and even her own female friend stated under penalty of law that she had never met Kavanaugh. If we look to scripture for guidance on witnesses, we find Deuteronomy 19:15:
“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.”
As sex-crimes prosecutor Rachel Mitchell stated after participating in last week’s hearing noted, there is not enough evidence in this case to file a charge, nor even to seek a search warrant. At this juncture, there is not a single witness who can credibly corroborate these accusations.
I am a Christian who views the Bible as the inspired word of God, but I am not a theologian. There may be individuals who would interpret these passages and stories differently.
My constant prayer over this matter is that the truth will be revealed, even if I am disappointed by it. But I’m also praying for healing: for the victims of assault, for the unjustly accused, and for the fabric of our nation.