Many in our nation will ask if Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh passes biblical muster. To answer that question, I propose the following biblical standards; standards that would, on the basis of the Bible, surely serve as an effective litmus test.
“The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.” — Leviticus 19:34
In the Hebrew Bible, no commandment appears more than that to love the stranger, welcome the stranger and not to oppress the stranger. So, how would the nominee bring this central Judeo-Christian value to bear in rulings? This can, clearly, be carried out on a one-to-one basis — providing food and shelter to foreigners who reside in our land, for example. But the commandments in the Bible were given to the entire Israelite nation, not to any one person. It is clearly a society’s obligation to welcome the stranger. Will Lady Liberty’s torch continue to welcome the tired and poor, or only those with master’s degrees and so-called merit?
“For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.” — Deuteronomy 10:17-18
The orphan, widow and stranger are held up as the paradigms of the powerless throughout the Bible. The measure of a society’s worth can be taken by how it treats these and other powerless classes in its midst. So, how would the nominee bring this central Judeo-Christian value to bear in rulings? Would the nominee protect the social safety net that helps the powerless? Or would they allow the powerful to tread on the powerless but for a few crumbs thrown to them by private charities?
“You must pay him his wages on the same day, before the sun sets, for he is needy and urgently depends on it; else he will cry to the LORD against you and you will incur guilt.” — Deuteronomy 24:15
We do not even have to get to the Prophets to find defense of the working class in the biblical text. Already in Deuteronomy we find this commandment demanding that laborers be treated fairly. This type of labor law is a central value of our biblical texts. So, how would the nominee bring this Judeo-Christian value to bear in rulings? Will the laws protecting laborers stay intact? Will we ensure that workers can live off of their wages? Or will the nominee strike down these laws, favoring the powerful over the powerless?
“And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” — Genesis 1:27
The text could not be clearer. Each person is created in God’s image. Each person — no matter their nationality, sexuality, race or religion — contains a divine spark within. Our equal rights laws, our equal protection laws, our civil rights laws all honor this ancient value and weave it into the fabric of our nation. So, how would the nominee bring this Judeo-Christian value to bear in rulings? Will the laws protecting equal and civil rights stand so that we can honor the notion that we are all created in God’s image? Or will the nominee remove protections for certain groups within our society, favoring some over others, denying the divinity of each person’s soul?
During the upcoming confirmation battles there will be those who use “religious” litmus tests and declare that a judge is with religion or against it. Many of those will be more conservative voices. I pray that we can all remember — that the administration and the members of the Senate can remember — that compassion, mercy and freedom for all peoples lie at the heart of the Judeo-Christian tradition. And I pray that if any biblical values guide the selection of a new judge, it will be these values of love that light the way.