Pastor Steve Berger, of Grace Chapel in Franklin, Tennessee, thought he would give a sensible, sensitive sermon about the Brett Kavanaugh situation so he could help his congregation make sense of “the circus” through a biblical lens.
Instead, he just made a case for why victims should shut the hell up.
In the first minutes of his sermon, he makes a case we’ve heard other conservative Christians make over the past couple of weeks: That any accusation of wrongdoing requires 2-3 witnesses to be taken seriously. It’s a principle stated in Deuteronomy 19:15 and reiterated by Jesus in Matthew 18:16.
Here he is at the 9:00 mark:
… friends, for this reason alone — listen to me — for this reason of 2 or 3 witnesses alone, Dr. Ford’s testimony, as it relates to this Judge Kavanaugh issue, it doesn’t meet the biblical requirements to bring forth a valid accusation.
There aren’t 2 or 3 witnesses in her case. There’s herself…
That’s a lie. Her own memory put another person in the same room: Kavanaugh’s friend Mark Judge, who senators didn’t want to listen to in his hearing. But even if we ignore him because he has reason to side with Kavanaugh, Ford herself told people (friends, her husband, a therapist) about what happened long before Kavanaugh was nominated for the Supreme Court, and apparently, none of that matters to Berger either.
But as we’ve said before, this is an awful burden of proof. If an attack occurs in private, as is often the case, there are literally no other witnesses. (That’s the point.) It’s the attacker versus the attacked, and Berger is saying the victims in those cases have no recourse whatsoever.
He knows that, too. Which is why he went on to tell a story (11:30 mark) about what happened after a recent sermon when the whole congregation was crying. The men were crying, he said, because “they’d been falsely accused.” (Right. Sure.) But then there was a mother who shared her concerns…
… A precious mother said, “My 8-year-old daughter was abused by a family member. Steve, there were no witnesses. It was just my 8-year-old and this family member. What do we do? Do we just say we’re not going to listen to you? God forbid!”
I asked her, I said, “Well, what did you do about it?”
She said, “I went to the authorities.”
I go, “Great! That’s perfect! That’s what you need to do! That’s the right thing!” I said, “I hope justice worked out for you.”
And she said, “Well, not totally.”
I said, “I’m sorry.” That’s heartbreaking, isn’t it? It’s heartbreaking. It’s part of what happens in this broken world. But do you understand, beloved, that we [need] the required 2 or 3 witnesses to have some kind of civility or we have no need of witnesses and have injustice ready to happen every single time?…
That’s what it sounds like when a pastor’s ignorance descends into cruelty.
It’s entirely possible that a child’s accusation didn’t lead to charges against a relative — especially if the child’s word is all that the authorities had to work with. And it’s very likely that Dr. Ford’s claim of assault, even if she had gone to the police immediately, wouldn’t have resulted in some conviction against Kavanaugh.
But that’s not what this conversation is about.
This wasn’t a trial where Kavanaugh was going to be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This was a job interview where his alleged assault of Dr. Ford was followed by additional stories of assaults. (The most serious allegation wasn’t even investigated by the FBI, nor did they interview corroborating witnesses in the other case.) And those stories were followed up by several testimonies about his drinking problems — which he lied about under oath, according to his friends from high school and college.
You don’t have to “believe” Dr. Ford. But you should take her seriously. And neither the Republican senators nor a severely curtailed FBI investigation did that. Neither do Christian men like Steve Berger, who assume every allegation, especially years after the fact, is designed to send a good man to prison for life. It’s a complete distortion of what’s actually going on.
At the same time, sermons like these, where a pastor says a woman shouldn’t be believed unless she has a buddy around watching her get assaulted, just gives women more reason to stay silent if and when an attack occurs.
Even if it wasn’t intentional, Berger’s message to men is that if they want to assault a woman, they should do it in private. And if a woman ever accuses them of assault, the men will be safe in his church. (Don’t worry, men! False accusations occur all the time!)
I was going to make a joke about how I wonder what Berger is hiding… but then he made the joke himself at the 25:34 mark:
… You want to go back and look at my high school yearbook? You’re gonna find a lot worse things than me and my friends talking about fartin’ with each other…
… I’m telling you, if they looked back into my past and published it around the world, none of y’all would be here next Sunday.
No one’s demanding perfection from justices. No one’s saying it’s a crime to have embarrassing or cringe-worthy stories from your past. No one’s even saying you should be punished for crimes you may have committed a long time ago. In Kavanaugh’s case, it’s a question of whether he deserves a promotion when his past involves alleged assaults (that were not thoroughly investigated) and excessive drinking (which he lied about repeatedly), especially when many of the people who knew him best are trying to tell the world that this guy isn’t qualified for the job.
(Thanks to Joshua for the link)