This post is an attempt to come to some preliminary thoughts about the capitol intrusion today. Writing this post is an attempt for me to get one more measure of clarity on what I think, as opposed to how I feel. I don’t want to indulge what I feel right now too much. Perhaps that is point number one for this scattered list: as a species we need to work on defining thoughts versus feelings. Too often too many of us cannot tell the difference between thoughts and feelings. When our feelings become our truth, long-term growth does not typically follow. To be truthful up front, there’s still a lot of feeling left in this post. It’s as close as I want to get to a rant.
One example of getting my thoughts clarified was an exchange I heard on the radio today. A reporter asked another reporter, “Are we witnessing a coup?” The answer came, “No we are not. For it to be a coup, the protesters would need some plan to take and hold power. They don’t appear to have a plan. They are simply voicing discontent.” I thought that definition was helpful. I stopped calling it a coup myself after that. Was the incursion unlawful? Yes. Will President-elect Biden still be sworn in? Yes. Breaking through police lines had no legislative impact. That simple definition is helping me think about what has occurred rather than simply being angry and allowing my thoughts to get further inflamed. One can argue with me on this point and that will be fine. I’m simply providing an example of how I’m trying to be more precise with my thinking rather than to give into those thoughts that would be the most emotionally satisfying.
I also say that I’m trying to gain some clarity for myself because I know my platform to be limited. The writing is the thing. You’re reading a personal exercise. I know better than to think that I’m out there influencing the culture. My career as a pastor has been in a time when I’m just one more voice in the mix. Only a small handful of people in any given congregation have ever depended on what I said from the pulpit or in private to form an opinion. The good part about that is when I accidentally say something that takes hold in someone’s heart or imagination, I know that the Holy Spirit is involved. Not being part of an authoritarian church means that we all have a little more space to examine, recognize, and welcome the truth when it pays us a visit. While I know I’m not training the world, I do think it’s useful to speak as I can as an ordained pastor.
Point number 26 that I’m trying to make: The concept of fruit seems to be useful today. “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” (Matthew 7:18, NRSV) “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.” (John 15:16, NRSV) “By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. (Galatians 5:22–23, NRSV) It is self-evident to me that what occurred today in Washington, D. C. was bad fruit. Any questions about the virtue of what these protesters were espousing, any questions about the character of the perpetrators should be answered by the fruit that was borne today. My Christian History professor taught me that the ends never justify the means. Today has proven that wisdom.
I’ll give credit to @revsarahhowler for point number 17. I saw her articulate this idea first. The following may or may not be what she intended, but it’s what I’m currently thinking. The statement, “This is not who we are,” is sentiment, not reality. We are a people steeped in violence. While this is a low ebb for the Republican party, I say given enough time the Democratic party, or any other party, could also foment an undemocratic mob-assault on our way of life. It’s what humans do. If we are not all watchful of our hearts and rhetoric, any one of us is capable of participating in a grievous disruption of the social fabric. Most of us already participate in excluding family members, blaming family members, or teaming up against family members. Once we can get away with it in our own families, it’s fairly easy to migrate that sort of behavior outward into larger circles. The book of Genesis starts with one sibling killing another and ends with siblings reconciling. The truth is that we’re all still on the journey somewhere in the middle.
Today I saw some explicitly Christian symbolism and vocabulary employed. While I don’t have a political science degree or a law degree, I do have some expertise in this area and I cannot find any justification for such usage of the Christian faith. I’ve never met, heard testimony of, experienced, worshiped, studied, or read about a Jesus who would have incited what we saw today. That’s not to say that Jesus is always happy with the United States. Far from it. But the Jesus I know is going about the remedy without a sidearm, and doesn’t pin all hope on any one person, or country. I don’t recognize the Jesus these people have on their banners.
Race. Point number 142. The disparity of how white protesters have been treated versus how black protesters have been treated during the past year is unholy. That disparity is the manifestation of 400 years of history. That history is more powerful than the individuals involved. To ignore the ongoing impact of race as an issue in American society is willful ignorance. Such avoidance doesn’t help anyone. I don’t think I can contribute anything original to the topic. I still think I have more to learn than to teach in this regard. I suppose what I can hope for positively is that more whites would at least develop a modicum of curiosity about why so many people are still talking about race in this country.
The seeds of storming the capitol are in our rhetoric. This is point number ‘g.’ Once we start dehumanizing other people, violence is about the only end game we’ve come up with so far in our short history on the planet. Solving, reconciling, peacemaking, power sharing, and cease-firing all require that both sides see the humanity in the other. I’ve been called stupid, ignorant, a moron, unpatriotic, heretical, hate-filled, heartless, and God-hating all by people on social media who like to use a broad brush. Some of these people have been other United Methodist ministers. Some have been parishioners. Some have been total strangers. It’s not that my name was specifically used, mind you. Rather these folk simply included me in the tuna net they were casting online. It’s emotionally gratifying to post a clever meme. Taking the time to separate people from issues is sooo much trouble. I get it. My posting history is not innocent. But, there has to be a lot of space in between a thoughtful analysis, asking honest questions, and inviting conversation and rhetorical bomb throwing. I saw on the capitol steps today the same bi-partisan impatience I read in the comment section of the internet every other day. I wonder if I can spend as much time and energy in understanding as I do in wanting to win.
I have no good concluding paragraph. I’m praying for our country. I’m praying for the Church. I’m praying about how to be faithful. I’m trying to learn and be open to new information while holding firm principles at the same time. I want to confess the times when I have called my sister or brother a fool. I pray that God would not be finished with me, or Christ’s Church, or my country. Lord, in your mercy, hear my prayer.