I’ll tell ya one phrase that hast lost all meaning in our era: “That’ll never happen.” As a kid, I was full of questions and worries about this great big world. That phrase, uttered by a trusted adult, gave finality to the conversation and closure to my fears. “What if there’s a volcanic eruption in Michigan?” That’ll never happen: no volcanoes. “What if Zombies eat the Tooth Fairy and then come after me?” That’ll never happen: Zombies aren’t real, and Tooth Fairies are lightning fast.
Last Tuesday, if my kids asked me whether a mob of zealous Trump fans could break into the Capitol, snap a police barrier, scale its walls, and attempt a coup, I would’ve said that age old phrase: That’ll never happen.
No volcanoes in Michigan. No zombies. But, here we are, one week later, one impeachment later, and wouldn’t you know it: It happened.
Many of my friends — some of them leaders — immediately spoke up on social media, which I appreciate. I, on the other hand, have been slow to speak. I couldn’t say much because I was in shock. Still am. We have information coming at us at an enormous pace. Just when you get some bandwidth to start processing something, another flaming boxcar comes roaring down the tracks. As I write, President Trump has been impeached again, making him the first US President to be impeached twice. “That’ll never happen.”
I know that I have friends and congregation members that span the political spectrum. I also know that, as a minister, I must be responsible with how I talk about politics. My first and foremost mission is to help people find, follow, and be like Jesus. I like to laugh. I enjoy a good satire. I like a giggle with a deeper spiritual impact. But, when it came to “saying something” about the events of January 6 2021, I have struggled to find language that would 1) keep everyone happy and 2) keep focused on Jesus. This might be one of those times where I can’t do both.
I believe what happened at the Capitol was the equivalent of domestic terrorism. That absolutely should not have happened. Many have cited that the birth of the nation and several points throughout our short history have included some level of violence and revolt for the sake of freedom. I humbly point out that there are lots of things we did 240 years ago that we don’t do today, and indoor plumbing and better methods of discourse are just a few examples. “It had to be done” is a ridiculous rationale for violence. People are dead, and the foundations of democracy have been put to the test like never before.
Once the Capitol was breached, what was the plan of the demonstrators? A hostage situation? A slaughtering? Trump flags on the podium? Did they expect the US government to just go “ok, ok, he can be president again”? Sure, most of the folks who got into the building started trashing the place and taking pictures for their court case simply because they didn’t know what else to do, leaving them to default to DC tourist mode. Yet others had deeply sinister intentions. Were it not for a few brave souls, including Officer Eugene Goodman, we may have witnessed a number of political leaders hurt if not killed.
I believe that President Trump stirred the pot and helped nudge this event to reality. If nothing else, he certainly didn’t calm the situation, except for a tepid response hours into the siege. I believe that these are the marks of a poor leader. In fact, form leadership perspective, I find it telling that he put his failed election on the shoulders of his Vice President so Pence could somehow “reverse” it. I find it alarming that he pointed the angry mob in the VP’s direction. I find it horrifying that it seems to not be a big deal to Donald Trump. Or maybe it is, and we aren’t hearing about it because Trump’s primary methods of communication — Twitter and the like — have been disabled. No sources that I have encountered have spoken of Trump’s remorse.
Perhaps someone might say “hey, hey, hey… you don’t know the whole story, and who are you to call Donald Trump a poor leader?” That’s what makes this — all of it — so difficult. None of us know the whole story. Media is biased. You are a consumer being sold a product called “news”. Me too, thus my hesitation to speak up in the first place. But I ask you: what else have we to go on? How many first hand accounts and anecdotes from insiders do we need before we can connect the dots and make some kind of sketch, crude as it may be? Are we no longer free to form opinions if they violate the beliefs of another? Often it would appear not.
I believe that we have seen an example of implicit racism on our hands in that a group of mostly white demonstrators were treated very differently than a group of black demonstrators. This makes me sad because, deep down, I know it’s true. We have some healing work to do in the church and in the world. We have some repentance to do. We have some re-learning to accomplish. As a white person, I have become more and more aware of deep biases and assumptions about different ethnicities that govern our own souls more than we realize. It’s been true of me, at least. Lord, heal us and help us to see each other with your eyes.
I support the DC Police and wish they had more backup. Every police officer I personally know is a genuine, humble, dedicated servant who is willing to risk their life for mine — and yours. A few but not all police are corrupt. A few politicians. A few pastors. A few business leaders. Etc. It’s part of living in a broken world.
I am genuinely surprised that the president still has an approval rating in the 30’s. I am really surprised that 46% of the US does not believe he should be impeached. Maybe someone can help me understand. Remember back when Trump said “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters”? Prophetic.
IF you are a Trump Supporter, I do NOT condemn you. I don’t want you to unfriend me. I don’t want you to stop going to my church or any church. The Kingdom of God is much, much bigger than that. Followers of Jesus must be known for their rebounding joy in dark days. We must be known for our hope. We must be marked by our concern for the widow, the orphan, the oppressed. We must be at peace with each other. Only the Holy Spirit can do such powerful internal soul work in each of us.
IF anything, I condemn the violence that took place one week ago, and I do feel that we witnessed a severe leadership breach in the Executive Office. And I grieve. My heart is heavy. I wrote in my prayer journal last Friday that I feel genuine concern for the future of the United States. I don’t think the violence is over. I fear for the week ahead and the coming inauguration. We’ve crossed lines that I never imagined, and neither did you. Until now, we all assumed it to be true: That’ll never happen.
I recall John 18, where Simon Peter sliced off the high priest’s ear, Van Gogh style, in enraged protest of the arresting mob. Jesus, shaking His head and pulling Peter back, says “put your sword away” as he reattaches ear, Mr. Potato Head style. Pretty sweet, but there’s a point. Followers of Jesus fight differently. Different methods, different motivations, different outcomes.
So what? Prayer. Obviously, prayer. But how do we pray? We pray for humility. I don’t know it all, and I’m sure I wrote something here that I will regret. Some regret will kick in right after I hit publish (that always happens to me). Some regret will kick in after someone comments or sends me a text. Some regret will remain when I read this in 5-10 years. That’s the risk with vulnerability, and I hope you can see what I’ve written in that way — and not as another person telling you what they think and so you should think, too.
We also pray for wisdom and revelation (Ephesians 1:17). Wisdom to address a violent injustice and call it what it is; revelation to see the violence inherent in our own souls, even as God is loving us through it.
We fight for truth and justice. We disassociate the cross with the violence and terror at the Capitol (and everywhere else). We live the Sermon on the Mount.
We remember that a political leader will always let us down. In fact, any leader will ultimately let us down. That’s why all of us need to look to Jesus. He’s the only perfect leader that is unacquainted with failure.
Until His Kingdom comes in fullness, we simply trust that God is at work in these tense, ugly, divided times in the US. Remember that there is more going on in the world than just what’s happening in the US. Recall the love of Jesus for us, and be that love for someone else right now, because they really need it.
Remember that Jesus is Lord. Can he be kicked off His throne? That’ll never happen (for real).