I never was very good at using a stone flint to start a fire, but by casting a “stone” at Brett Kavanaugh, Senator Feinstein may have thrown the flint that starts the fire that burns down what’s left of our Republic.
As I watched the unfolding of the events last week surrounding the accusation that thirty years ago an allegedly inebriated high school student by the name of Kavanaugh had tried to force himself upon a fellow female student at a party, I couldn’t help but think of two different stories—the burning of Rome, and the story of how Jesus dealt with the woman caught in adultery by the local Pharisees.
Rome’s Burning Aids Nero
We’re probably all familiar with the story that Rome burned while Emperor Nero played his fiddle. Though veracity of his fiddle concert is historically questionable, it is true that Nero was power-hungry and ambitious.
One of his most grandiose plans was to tear down as much as a third of Rome in order to build an elaborate series of palaces to be known as Necropolis. The senate, however, objected ardently to this proposal.
We don’t know if the fire was Nero’s form of “slum” clearance, but we do know the conflagration allowed for the construction within the city of Domus Aurea, Nero’s majestic series of villas and pavilions as part of a landscaped park and a man-made lake.
Feinstein May ‘Burn’ More Than Kavanaugh
Whether Feinstein and her Democratic colleagues intend to torch only Kavanaugh’s confirmation or use this last-minute fireball to burn the structures that form our Republic so they can build a new structure more to their liking, I don’t know.
But I do know that the maintenance of our increasingly fragile Republic depends on good, honorable people being willing to serve in public office. But who, in the years to come, will be willing to serve if any moral failing more than 30 years in the past and, moreover, in the context of one’s youth, will be ushered before the public eye with the candidate’s wife and children in tow?
I ran for office 24 years ago this summer and I remember, even then, before the incredible partisan ugliness of today, having to think through what I may have done or said during the first 36 years of my life that would make running not worth the potential for embarrassment and public shaming.
Thankfully, a few scuffles—“boys being boys,” if such is okay to say anymore, that took place while attending an all-boys school—were the worst of my visible sins. I knew I was clear in regard to drugs, alcohol, and women. But I had to replay my life to that point just to make sure.
But today our politicians are not beyond getting people to fudge the truth or lie outright if it will serve their purposes. Now, I’m not saying such is the case with Kavanaugh’s accuser, and if her allegations are true, then strong consideration should have been given to criminal sanctions against him. But Feinstein’s motivations are sure questionable given the time she’s had to bring up these accusations and have them evaluated.
The Point With the Woman Caught in Adultery
Which brings me to the story of Jesus and the adulterous woman outlined in John 8:1-11. Familiarity with the story has obscured part of its moral force. Jesus was not letting the woman off the hook with regard to being accountable for violations of the moral law, as many today are wont to say, but rather putting the Pharisees on the hook for their own failure to keep the moral law.
That’s why when Jesus told those of the Pharisees who were without sin to cast the first stone, they all walked away. We like to think we’re righteous, and to justify our righteousness, we compare ourselves to others, rather than the real standard—God’s law. Under that standard, we’re all condemned. But the Pharisees, though they knew they stood condemned, left, leaving for the woman mercy and grace they, too, needed.
The grace of God is the hardest thing in the world for sinful, self-righteous people to understand. In fact, they don’t understand it. Only those who, by grace, have come to see just how Holy God is and how far short of that holiness they fall have experienced it.
Ironically, those who haven’t experienced grace are usually the ones who want to throw the stones, though Christians do the same thing when they lose sight of the “breadth and length and height and depth of grace” (Ephesians 3:18) and embrace again the notion that the Christian life means gritting their teeth and making themselves righteous (Galatians 3:3).
Are Any Senatorial Pharisees Casting Stones?
Bringing up a singular act more than 30 years ago that, even if true, clearly does not reflect on the current character of Kavanaugh or the course of his life since that time makes me wonder about all those senators, Democrat and Republican alike, who think this should now disqualify him from service.
I suspect that most, if they are honest, have something in their distant past that, if revealed, such as accuser Senator Corey Booker’s teenage sexual groping escapade, would be at least highly embarrassing if not constitute an outright moral failing. But unlike the biblical Pharisees, these senators are arrogant enough to throw the stone.
But if the stone they are casting at Kavanaugh is flint and it “hits” their mark, it could just cause the spark that burns down the shaky but vital bridge between maintaining our Republic and the willingness of decent, honorable candidates to run for office if they have even one moral failure in their remote past.
If so, we may soon find ourselves left with a choice between two power-hungry candidates who care more about the power they hope to gain than any damage their already damaged character may sustain.
David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.
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