Among reformed Christians (a term which includes Presbyterians, Calvinists, Lutherans, and many others who do not formally use those labels) this is the week in which Reformation Day is celebrated. For it was on October 31, 1517 – the eve of All Saints’ Day – that Martin Luther nailed his Ninety Five Theses, “for the purpose of eliciting the truth,” to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenberg.
We were treated this fall to the sad spectacle of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Judge Clarence Thomas. Because in my professional life I am both a cross-cultural psychologist and a gender studies scholar, I had students, colleagues, and others asking me what I thought about the Clarence Thomas / Anita Hill episode (one hesitates to use the term “affair”) which recently pre-empted the nation’s soap operas in an unprecedented weekend of media sleaze. My inquirers often seemed to be looking for a neat and clear response from me, but in fact I had no neat conclusions to offer. Because the entire process was such a three-ring circus of political self-interest mixed with ill-disguised racism and sexism, and because no clear conclusions were drawn about the truth of either party’s testimony, I suspect that no neat conclusions are possible. So let me instead share some reflections on this episode, taking it as a classic example of our continuing need for national reformation – specifically reformation in race and gender relations.