January 11, Friday

The AMI QT blogs for January (weekdays), provided by Pastor Ryun Chang, are extended to cover important sociopolitical matters that have serious ramifications for the Christian faith.  Pastor Ryun (PhD), who serves as the Teaching Pastor of AMI, is the author of Manual de Misionología, Theologizing in the Racial Middle, and a contributor to The Reshaping of Mission in Latin America.

Disclaimer: AMI, as a consortium of several churches, allows the expression of multiple standpoints on non-essential biblical matters. My views expressed here do not necessarily represent the respective views of AMI pastors.  I am also mindful that not every reader will agree with my stances on sensitive and contentious issues addressed in this month’s blogs. Where that may be the case, I invite you to utilize the comment section below, so that we may have an open dialogue; I highly encourage all readers to share their thoughts and experiences. Thank you.  

 

Extended Devotional Thoughts for Today

Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (1):

“If You Are Ever Accused, Would You Want Due Process?”

Psalm 9:7-8 (ESV)

“But the Lord sits enthroned forever; he has established his throne for justice, 8 and he judges the world with righteousness; he judges the peoples with uprightness.”

The whole country was riveted while watching the confirmation hearing for then the Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, when Blasie Ford accused him of attempted rape some 35 years back. Kavanaugh denied it while acknowledging that “she may have been sexually assaulted” by someone else. In response, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer insisted that “the sexual misconduct allegations are reason enough for him to withdraw,” adding, “there is no presumption of innocence or guilt when you have a nominee before you.”  

Upon hearing what Schumer said, I couldn’t help but to think of the Inquisition.  Many bring it up in public discussion to silence the Christian faith itself, including former President Obama, but I’m not too sure whether they know what it was really about. The 44th POTUS, trying to put into perspective the violent Muslims of Islamic State, said, “During . . . the Inquisition, people committed terrible death in the name of Christ.”  Well, that’s not completely true. The Inquisition carried out during the Middle Ages was a potent tool that the Roman Catholic Church employed to root out beliefs that the Catholic Church deemed heretical to remain in power, and the principal victims were the Protestants (i.e., our spiritual ancestors).  That is why “in time the phrase Inquisition became a byword, particularly in Protestant areas, for cruelty . . .” (Encarta 1994).  All this to say: The Inquisition had little to do with Christ.

Now, consider how the Inquisition was typically conducted. The accused Protestants who did not recant their alleged heresies were tried under the following condition: “The names of witnesses [for the Inquisitor] were . . . difficult to discover. The suspect was not allowed a defense lawyer . . . [and] did not know the names of his accusers . . . Torture was a most effective means to secure repentance” (Finucane 1977:321).  So, under the office of Inquisition, being accused, in effect, meant the one accused was already found guilty. The approach preferred by Schumer and the Inquisition is called undue process.

Now, consider Paul and Joseph. If you are ever accused of the charges that were levelled against them, what process would you prefer: due or undue process?

The commander of the Roman troops in Jerusalem, to appease the angry mob who wanted to kill Paul for his alleged blasphemy, commanded that he be flogged. But that order was rescinded right after Paul told the commander that he is “a Roman citizen” (Act 22:25). Still under accusation, Paul wasn’t released that day; he did, however, exercise the rights of Roman citizens to appeal his case to the Emperor (25:21). Festus the Roman governor, having no choice but to accommodate Paul, put him in a ship sailing toward Rome.  That’s due process.

Potiphar’s wife seemed believable when she insisted that Joseph, whom her husband put in charge of the house, “came in here to sleep with [her]” (Gn. 39:14). After all, everyone recognized the cloak she held belonged to Joseph. So, when Potiphar “heard the story his wife told him,” he immediately “put him in prison” (39:19-20). No grand jury, no trial—this is undue process.

So, what process would you prefer if you are the accused?

We live in America—not Europe in the Middle Ages—where the presumption of innocence is a basic ethos of our criminal justice system.  Thus, the Miranda rights are read to any criminal suspect; the grand jury weighs the probable cause to determine whether the accused should be prosecuted; and a public defender is assigned to any accused who wants one. This is called due process, and it originates from God Himself, because “God is a righteous judge” (Ps. 7:11) who “judges the peoples with uprightness” (9:8b).  Thus, the LORD says to the accused, “Present your case . . . Set forth your arguments” (Is. 41:21 NIV).  

So then, be fair when you are making accusations; don’t rush to judgment.  Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (Jn. 7:24 NIV), because that’s you would want if you are the accused.    

Prayer: Father, we praise You for being a fair Judge who judges us not only in accordance to Your righteous standard but with grace and mercy. We are especially grateful that You do “not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities” (Ps. 103:10). Amen.

Bible Reading for Today: Genesis 12

Monday’s Blog: Some Thoughts from the Kavanaugh Hearing (2): “If You Are Ever Accused, Would You Demand Corroboration?”  (The weekend blogs will be provided by Christine Li.)


Lunch Break Study

Read John 19:6-12 (ESV):

As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” 7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” 8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” 12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” 13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. 15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. 16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Questions to Consider

  1. What law is Pilate following? What is his verdict based on that?
  2. Under what law were the Jewish leaders attempting to accuse Jesus? Why? Did the Jewish leaders alter their original charge against Jesus (under the Jewish law) once they realized that Pilate was going release Him?
  3. In view of your findings, would you consider this a fair trial?
  4. At the personal level, do you argue with your friend/spouse/child/co-worker at all cost just to win, i.e., get what you want?

Notes

  1. The Roman governor Pilate was obviously following the Roman law that has no stipulation against any Jewish person claiming to be the Son of God.  Such an individual will surely be deemed as crazy but certainly not deserving of death.  Besides, Pilate “knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus to him” (Matt. 27:18).
  2. The Jewish leaders initially found Jesus guilty of blasphemy based on their law, but once they saw that Pilate wasn’t biting, they switched over to the Roman law and presented Jesus, not as the Son of God, but a king who opposes Caesar. The charge was no longer blasphemy but sedition.
  3. Of course, it wasn’t a fair trial. Furthermore, what the Jewish leaders said earlier to Pilate wasn’t exactly true either: “But we have no right to execute anyone” (Jn. 18:31). Legally, that was true but that didn’t keep them from executing those whom they deemed as blasphemous like Stephen (Acts 7:59-60). They didn’t try to execute Jesus because “they were afraid of the crowd” (Matt. 21:46).
  4. At the personal level, let’s allow the facts and truths to prevail, not our desire to win at all cost that always distorts how we see the reality that surrounds us.

Evening Reflection

Rarely do we go through an entire day without contending for or arguing in favor of something, whether it be in our workplaces, homes, classrooms and conversations over politics, sports, etc. Now, Jesus says, “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly” (Jn. 7:24). Based on how you presented your thought/opinion/conviction to others, would you say you were being fair? If not, what does that say about yourself? How do you need to change so that your speech and conduct reflect our God who is a fair and righteous Judge?

4 thoughts on “January 11, Friday

  1. Do you really think that Dr. Ford was lying? Out of such a contentious event from our current headlines, is the point regarding due process the most beneficial or educational argument one could have chosen to write about? I guess I’m having trouble seeing the wisdom in today’s message.

    Due process is necessary when the consequences of a rushed/incomplete trial lead to a citizen’s unlawful punishment. In confirmation hearings, the stakes reach different proportions. Being a supreme court justice is a lifetime appointment, and the consequences of not receiving this appointment are not equal to death nor incarceration. It’s a privilege, not a right, to be in a seat of such power.

    Even if the author does not sympathize with Kavanaugh, the comparison of Dr. Ford to Potiphar’s wife brings to mind the fraught relationship of women and the validity of their words. By using Potiphar’s wife as the main female example, this devo undermines and indirectly questions Dr. Ford’s legitimacy as a witness to the events in her own life.

    In the recent devotionals, there has been mention of our Christian brothers having the responsibility to care for the marginalized and the underrepresented – those without power. Kavanaugh represents so many facets of traditionally held power (maleness, American Caucasian heritage, highly educated background, etc.) so it’s troubling to think that this AMI blog is another platform lending its advocacy to him, rather than the purported victim herself.

    1. Dear Solisays, sorry for the late reply. I just found this in the spam box. First of all, I find your line of reasoning cogent and thoughtful. Thank you.

      My short responses are as follow:

      (1) One other possible outcome for the confirmation hearing for the SCOTUS is the maligning of one’s character beyond repair (for judges, that would seem very consequential) and threats made to the nominee’s family (as was the case with Kavanaugh). It is, therefore, my opinion that due process is just as important in confirmation hearings, particularly in today’s world where violence in the advancement of justice (whether real of imagined) is accepted even by some in the academia (e.g., Mark Brady, Dartmouth), as it should be in criminal justice process.

      (2) With respect to Ford’s testimony, in today’s blog I shared a very embarrassing blunder of mine which made me feel even worse when the would-be corroborator flat out denied the truthfulness of my testimony. What Ford allegedly experienced is 100 times worse than mine, but I, in a very small way, understand how she might have felt. If I were her friend, I could have said to her, “I believe you.” That would be at the personal level. But isn’t the burden of proof different, that is, higher, in the confirmation hearing for the SCOTUS just as it is in criminal justice process. Did Dr. Ford meet that burden of proof? If I say no, does that make me a sexist? This relates to my next point.

      (3) Tomorrow’s blog deals with what Sen. Hirono said which crystalizes for me the essence of identity politics: categorizing someone as “good” or “bad” by virtue of belonging to a certain social group. I don’t fault Kavanaugh for being American-white-male (he had no choice) and highly educated (haven’t we coveted the same thing?). What we should be looking at is what he has done and will do with all the privileges he has received. I’m mindful of whom he hired as his first law clerks–four female clerks. I think he is off to good start in bringing equality in the workplace.

      Anyway, thank you once again for replying. I can tell that you have a lot to offer. I will make sure to provide extra comments to ensure that no one would be given to think that Ford lied on account of Potiphar’s wife–I was merely trying to show what undue process look like from the standpoint of the ones accused (Joseph in this case, Paul in the other and Kavanagh in my blog).

  2. From Christy:

    “I think innocent till proven guilty makes sense generally but maybe not for high stakes positions that directly influence huge moral decisions.”

    1. Thanks for writing. Consider McCarthyism (named after Joseph McCarthy, a Republican U.S. Senator from Wisconsin in the 40s and 50s) in which those accused of being communists were labelled as such without proper consideration for evidence. As a result, many of these accused were, among other things, blacklisted, meaning they could no longer be gainfully employed in their chosen professions. Communism was a real threat back then and that is why it was so easy to circumvent due process because the very act of questioning the fairness of the process was enough to label the questioner as being a communist sympathizer. I have no doubt that some people reading this blog are given to think that I sympathize with Kavanaugh regardless of what he did. No, I am merely pointing out that no one should be rushed to judgment at the cost of abrogating due process.

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