“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
This past summer I started running on a regular basis and this next week I am running the Cougar Dash at Colorado Christian University. I started running specifically to improve my cardio for Jiu Jitsu tournaments. The truth is I have always hated running, but over the last several months it has grown on my. I now run 4 to 5 days a week and occasionally I will run 6 days.
The truth is I have a mental battle almost every time I go running. I like the idea of running more than actually running. I dread starting my runs and quite often during the run I want to quit and walk home. The temptation is significant. The truth is, I'm kind of lazy. If you talk to people who know me many would probably say I am a really disciplined person. That is only partly true; I am disciplined with certain things and struggle with others. I suspect that is the case for most people. For years I thought running was something I should do, but I always had excuses and some of them seemed pretty legit. My knees hurt and they hurt a lot more when I was 250 lbs. If I ran a mile I would be sore for a week. I had all kinds of excuses. My newest one is weather, it's getting too cold. The truth is I have tendencies towards laziness and I just think it's too hard.
When I go on my runs I don't get some euphoric high. I do enjoy the time unplugging from the world while I run and listen to music, but a lot of the time I want to just give in and go home after a couple miles. On my long runs (5-7 miles) this can happen multiple times on a run. I have learned to push through the temptation to quit when my knees hurt and my legs are sore. Sometimes I have pain before I even start my runs. I don't want to make it sound any worse than it is, but it does happen. The answer is simple, go anyway. Don't quit. Success breeds success. When I push through once, the next time it is a little easier. When I make my last mile my best mile (that doesn't always happen) the next time I can run a little further.
It's never how you start, but how you finish. The author of Hebrews reminds us, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith" (Heb. 12:1-2). Of course that is talking about our spiritual life, but the principle holds true in all aspects of life. When I run with perseverance, it impacts the other areas of my life. I develop a discipline of perseverance that serves me in my work, in my relationships, and in other endeavors.
In Proverbs 10:4 it says, "Lazy hands make for poverty, but diligent hands bring wealth." My greatest fear is not that I am too busy or that I will have too much going on in my life, but that I will become lazy and idle. Running has been good for my soul and my discipline. Tomorrow I go run, it's likely going to be cold, but I will go anyway. I will not fade away into laziness, I will discipline my body, my mind, and my soul and in so doing, honor God in all that I do (1 Cor. 10:31).
This weekend the United States Senate will vote on the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. It is a significant understatement to say that we as a country are very divided and this issue is the center piece of that division at the moment. I've weighed in on my thoughts elsewhere and will not continue to do so here. Instead, I would like to address the division we see in our country. Why are we more divided and political than ever? Can the divided States of America become the United States of America?
Why are we so divided? The answer is simple and complex. The simple answer is that we are fallen people, we are totally depraved (to use more theological terms). Put another way, we are fallen in every aspect of our lives. That is not to say we can do no good; however, our ability to reason, our emotions, our moral compass, our sexuality, our work, and much more are all impacted by our fallen nature. That, quite obviously includes our politics. Division is part of our fallenness. Because we are all impacted by the fall we are all not only capable to arrive at wrong conclusions and passionately support them as truth, but we all absolutely do arrive at wrong conclusions. The search for truth is mitigated by our fallenness and sin nature. This has come out in the Kavanaugh hearings quite explicitly. Our emotions and our inability to synthesize all the known facts with all the unanswered questions has led to a variety of beliefs. That doesn' mean no one knows or that the truth can never be known, but in many cases the truth can be difficult to ascertain.
Our fallenness creates division. If truth were readily available and not veiled because of our fallen nature there would be little to no division in our world not to mention our country. Reality is different though isn't it? The reality we face is that a search for truth is as much veiled by reason impacted by fallenness as it is our search for utopia or our imperfect and fallen emotions. Division has existed since Cain killed Abel and it will continue to exist until Jesus sits on the throne.
Fortunately, the American system of government was designed with division in mind. There was great division even as the constitution was being ratified. It was obvious that a king, like King George, could abuse a governmental system, but it was unclear if this new republic could or would avoid such corruption and abuses. Nevertheless, there are three branches of power specifically so that one party, no matter how partisan, would have a very hard time acquiring all the power. In other words, division was anticipated by our founding fathers and the checks and balances that are in place are intended to mitigate division.
We are a divided country, but this isn't as new as the media would have you believe. There have been many divisive times in our history. None rings truer that the civil war, but there are many others as well. Our founding was a divided time, the civil rights movement was a divided time, and there were others. The good news is that we have been able to come together when we needed to often having fought it out. let our prayer be that we will lay claim to the phrase, "one nation under God..." once again. It is only under God that we will be able to be united. Checks and balances may provide enough time for our nation to come together again, but unless it involves submission to God, unity will be fleeting.
In the last week there has been a lot said about choosing who to believe regarding the Senate hearings and the accusations made by Dr. Ford against Brett Kavanaugh. On social media there has been a myriad of memes requesting to be shared identifying who you believe as if your proclamation of which "side" you are on will make any real difference in the end. Of course the implication is that one of them is lying. Likewise, the words "victim" and "credible" are being maligned.
One side is quick to point out that only about 8% of accusations are false and that the victim should be given the benefit of the doubt. The other side is quick to point out the inconsistencies of a 36 year old memory and the lack of collaboration by witnesses. Choosing who you believe isn't really about your evaluation of the truth, but a political identification. Maybe that isn't what you intend, but that is how it is understood whether that is your intent or not. This word "belief" is being strewn about as if it is some kind of subjective label that is really void of any kind of serious consideration. This word deserves more attention than it is being given and should be attached to something other than a person or political ideology. Belief is an epistemic term and should be evaluated from that perspective.
Many people are arriving at their beliefs based on a variety of issues that may not be the best way to approach this issue. Those who have experienced some kind of sexual assault seem very quick to believe Dr. Ford. This is understandable as her story connects with their own story. They will quickly say that her story seems "credible." After hearing at least some of her story live I found myself thinking that her story sounded sincere and on a surface level (that is to say without further evaluation) very believable. Likewise, when I heard Kavanaugh's defense I was surprised by how sincere and believable he came across. I will admit from the start that I identified with his story on a deeper level, in part, because I am a pastor and I have been told and believe that my ministry and my livelihood is one false accusation away from being over. I know others who have had false accusations made against them and though they have been restored to ministry after they were cleared of the charges, those accusations were harmful to them, their families, and their careers in ways that are hard to comprehend. However, my identification with Kavanaugh's defense is not enough to arrive at the belief that he is telling the truth and Dr. Ford is not telling the truth. So, how should one arrive at belief regarding this and other issues?
First, let's be honest about the level of certainty that is possible regarding a 36 year old accusation. The reality is that we will likely never know with a 100% certainty (I am not talking about psychological certainty but logical certainty) what happened. What are good reasons to arrive at some kind of belief? Should we simply believe something because it is on the internet? Of course not, this is more than that isn't it? Should we believe something simply because someone said it in a believable manner? Not in the house I grew up in, we made a game out of getting our siblings, friends, and others to believe lies...we called it joking around. That is obviously not what is happening here, but lying isn't a new phenomena, not to mention the possibility of false memories or the synthesizing of several memories to form one memory that may or may not be accurate. While I am not a memory expert, I have done a enough reading in recent days to learn that memories are malleable and unreliable even when they involve traumatic events and especially when they are 36 years old. Of course this means that both Kavanaugh and Dr. Ford could be misremembering something that happened 36 years ago, especially considering that alcohol was involved (according to Dr. Ford).
What should count as evidence that leads to a belief? It isn't evidence that I tend to connect or identify with Kavanaugh's story or that you might connect or identify with Dr. Ford's story. While this may influence our belief, emotional connection isn't sufficient for coming to a conclusion about who to believe. Assuming that the best that can be done in this case is corroborating testimony it would certainly be possible to come to the conclusion that this event likely happened as Dr. Ford described it (assign whatever percentage of certainty you would like to the word "likely" as long as it is over 50%). Even then, what percentage of certainty is enough to end a person's career? I'll let you arrive at your own conclusion, but for me it would have to be fairly high.
Another word that is being thrown around without much thought is the word "victim." The person who is a victim is the one who has had a wrong done against them. In this case, Dr. Ford is the victim...right? The answer is, maybe. Unless the wrong being done is a false accusation based on faulty memories or outright lying. Then Judge Kavanaugh is the victim. So when people say we should believe the victim, that begs for the question, who is the victim? It is possible that they are both victims. It is possible that she experienced sexual assault and that Kavanaugh wasn't the perpetrator (I find this to be a reasonable possibility given how memories work, especially old ones). Determining who the victim is and what they are a victim of is precisely what this is all about. It should be mentioned that statistically false claims of sexual assault are only about 8% of all claims; but, then again, that is almost 1 out of every 10. That is enough to make a false claim a very reasonable possibility. I also wonder if more scrutiny regarding that statistic would reveal that it is more prevalent than that, but that is conjecture on my part. Of course it is also true that people routinely lie about how much alcohol they consume, just another part of the equation in evaluating Dr. Ford's testimony of having 1 beer.
Last, people keep talking about "credible" statements made by Dr. Ford and Kavanaugh as if "credibility" is some kind of evidential standard. I have been using the word believable in this post because I think it more closely reflects what people really mean. Both people appear to be sincere and both have provided at least some level of detail although those details have been largely unverifiable. So, what appears initially as "credible" becomes less so if the details provided cannot be verified. Credibility is more than an initial reaction based on how connected one might feel to the story being told. It also involves whether a narrative is being expressed in a way that allows for verification and subsequently whether it is actually verified. Therein lies the problem with both stories. Kavanaugh can provide a calendar and say the event never happened, but just because something isn't on a calendar doesn't mean it didn't happen. Unfortunately Dr. Ford didn't provide a time, day, or location which makes it almost impossible to verify and almost impossible for Judge Kavanaugh to supply a alibi and does call into question the credibility of the story.
So where does this leave us? You can come to your own conclusion, but I hope you will go beyond emotional connection to one story or the other before you do come to that conclusion. Language has been and will continue to be abused for the sake of political expediency, but we can make that manipulation less effective if we can evaluate the rhetoric properly. We ought to believe what is true, not simply what we want to be true or what we emotionally connect with. Unfortunately, there is no action going forward that will not have significant implications for Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh. Someone is going to be harmed in some way as this unfolds. As a Christian, I am praying that the right decision will be made by the senate and that the truth will be made known. But, I'm not confident that we will ever know with certainty.
John Byrne is a pastor who has been spouting off his opinions his entire life (just ask his mom). This little blog is his venue for continuing in this tradition.