The editors at Orthodoxy in Dialogue asked me to give my thoughts about the recent Brett Kavanaugh hearing, in which the Supreme Court nominee responded to an accusation of sexual assault. The hearing was contentious and highly partisan, with the accused positing that his enemies were out to get him.
I attended the Orthodox Advanced Leadership Conference hosted by St. Vladimir’s Seminary in Yonkers, New York this past weekend. Some of the talks felt like they were speaking directly to the hearings of the previous week, especially those concerning how to talk with people who disagree with you, and how to be an Orthodox Christian in the workplace. To add to that, the Gospel readings on Sunday and today both speak about how to relate to your enemies (Lk 6:31-36 and Lk 6:24-30). In light of all of this, I began thinking about what an Orthodox Christian spiritual director might advise Judge Brett Kavanaugh, and wondered whether it might it go something like this:
· Mother Gavrilia said, “God loves your enemies as much as He loves you.” Think on this: as much as God loves you, He loves every Democrat, every Clinton, every woman having an abortion, every gay person (married or not), every Muslim, and every immigrant child being held in detention.
· Consider going to every political enemy to say, “I know God loves you as much as He loves me, and I am going to do my best in the future to treat you that way. I’m sorry for any way I’ve failed to do so in the past.”
· Consider going to every woman who claims that you have assaulted or otherwise harmed her in the past—or against whom you even suspect that you might have transgressed—and say, “I’m sorry. I may not remember the incident, but clearly I hurt you. Please forgive me. In every contact I have with others, and especially with women, I will try to do better in the future.”
· “…Rebuke a wise man and he will love you” (Prv 9:8). Be the wise man! Instead of berating people who are trying to hold you to account for your past actions, thank them. They might be a part of what makes you wiser and humbler, something that would help anyone aspiring to a life rightly lived, as well as to a seat on the Supreme Court.
Confession time. Until a few weeks ago I’d never heard of Brett Kavanaugh, but since then I have heard a lot and haven’t liked any of it. I have disliked everything I think I have learned about this judge and the way he treats other people in person or through his judicial role. I went to high school with many guys just like him and developed a lasting prejudice against their kind. So I, too, have to remember: God loves Brett Kavanaugh as much as He loves me.
Patricia Fann Bouteneff holds a DPhil in Modern Greek from Oxford University. She is is a strategic communications consultant, director of a pan-Orthodox women’s network, and president of a parish council in Yonkers NY.