The Transformative Testimony of Dr. Ford’s Tears

By Joshua Lawrence Lazard

I softly wept tears of empathy in a coffee shop on campus as I listened to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford give her personal testimony to the Senate Judiciary committee concerning the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

If the Senate confirms Judge Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, it will send a signal that women’s voices, even those well-credentialed and well-accomplished in their field, are still not compelling enough to be heard. My hope is that the Senate denies Judge Kavanaugh’s ascent to the highest court in the land because of the searing testimony given by Dr. Ford. However, given the possibility that the Senate may confirm Judge Kavanaugh, places of religious culture in America must send the message that they are safe places for women courageous enough to speak up.

My friend and colleague, Rev. Braxton Shelley, the Stanley A. Marks and William H. Marks assistant professor of music at Harvard University, posted on his Facebook page that he decided to change his upcoming sermon in light of Dr. Ford’s testimony. The deviation from his original plan reminds us of the influence that clerics and religious workers have in determining how comfortable women feel speaking up about experiences of sexual trauma and even domestic abuse.

At a bare minimum, national religious organizations should issue statements and launch social media campaigns that affirm the credibility of women’s voices regarding allegations of sexual assault. Such sentiments can be fulfilled in the deliberate hiring and ordaining of women to positions of authority with influence at the national level. Local faith communities — whether it be at jumu’ah prayers during the khutbah midday on Fridays, during the sermon at a Shabbat service on Friday evenings or in Christian churches during the sermon on Sunday mornings — must give utterance and validity to women’s voices in the face of a duly elected body that so far has not found the moral courage to do so.

Faith communities must also show their commitment towards this cause by mobilizing their congregations and communities to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. Elections should have consequences for those that embody the moral turpitude to turn a blind eye to credible allegations by a woman. It is the job of constituents who possess a moral compass oriented toward decency and fairness to exact justice at the polls.

As I sat in the coffee shop silently brushing away tears watching Dr. Ford’s testimony, I became even more committed to ensuring that women’s voices are not silenced. The transformative testimony of tears by Dr. Ford should remind the rest of us to be ever so bold when it matters the most.

The Rev. Joshua L. Lazard is the C. Eric Lincoln Minister for Student Engagement at Duke University Chapel.