Rudy Barnes, Jr.
January 6 was a day of infamy in American democracy. A national political reckoning is needed to hold accountable those who instigated and participated in the storming of our Nation’s capitol, but that’s the least of it. Those millions who saw (or should have seen) such an apocalyptic event coming should experience a deep sense of repentance for their negligence.
The riot was no surprise. Since November Trump has often stated that he would not concede and urged his supporters to protest the election, and he was initially pleased with the riot. The problem is not so much Trump and his most vociferous Republican minions, but with almost half the electorate who have slavenly followed Trump to this debacle of democracy.
America’s corrupt standards of political legitimacy are as much a failure of faith as of politics. Despite Trump’s depraved morality, most White Christians supported him in 2016 and 2020; and while many evangelical charlatans have openly promoted Trump, most White pastors have ignored him to keep politics out of their churches. Their silence has been deafening.
To redeem themselves and their church, pastors must repent of their sins of commission and omission. They must promote the moral teachings of Jesus summarized in the greatest commandment to love God and our neighbors, including those of other races and religions, as we love ourselves. In politics, that means promoting the common good.
God’s will is to reconcile and redeem all people, while Satan’s will is to divide and conquer; but Satan has done a convincing imitation of God in politics and the church. In the cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil, Satan is winning the popularity contest. That’s bad news for America’s democracy; but America should never concede to God’s defeat.
Abraham Lincoln was America’s first Republican President, and on the eve of America’s Civil War he quoted Jesus, who said that a kingdom or a house divided against itself cannot stand (Mark 3:23-25). It’s ironic that our current Republican President has once again divided America against itself, and did so with the approval of most White Christians.
Churches should never promote a political party or a candidate, but they can and should promote the moral standards of political legitimacy. In The Lord’s Prayer, we pray that God’s kingdom comes and His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. In a democracy, that requires making the moral teachings of Jesus as God’s word our standards of political legitimacy.
Jesus called his disciples to follow him, not to worship him; but the church reversed those priorities to become popular and powerful. The nadir of its sacrilege was when White Christians elected Trump, and most continue to support him. The church is shrinking, but most Americans still claim to be Christians. They can save their church and democracy with a moral reformation if they restore the altruistic teachings of Jesus to primacy in their faith and politics.
In a prescient commentary on Sedition and SIlence published in Sojourners on January 5, Jim Wallis raised the question: “Will Trump’s sedition and attempted coup be met with silence from faith leaders, especially white Christian leaders whose constituencies voted in their majority for Trump? There are at least two fundamental religious issues at stake here. First is the centrality of truth for Christians: Trump’s weekend call to Georgia’s Republican secretary of state was filled with one lie after another. “I just want to find 11,780 votes,” Trump admitted. Brad Raffensperger said in response, “Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.” The next day, the state’s key election official said, “We believe the truth matters.” Does the truth matter to Christians and Christian leaders who supported Donald Trump? Second, is the biblical abomination of racism and its ideology of white nationalism that stands at the core of the Trump base. It is telling that many of the president’s claims originated in the dark corners of the web among QAnon conspiracy theorists and message boards often frequented by white supremacists. These sites also call on Trump supporters to come to Washington on the day of Wednesday’s congressional vote — and to come armed. ...This is no longer just politics, it is theological heresy, and one that needs to be exorcised from white Christianity in America.
An attempted coup, rooted in white nationalism, is now standing at the ready. When a president continually lies, then calls for action based on his followers’ belief in those lies, that reasoning isn’t just circular — it is evil. More is at stake now than politics. Let’s call it a choice between theological integrity and the idolatry of white Christianity in America. It is now the pro-Trump white Christian leaders who need to break their silence and allegiance to Trump and recommit their allegiance to the truth, and ultimately to following Christ.” See https://sojo.net/articles/sedition-and-silence.
On January 6, the Editors of America, The Jesuit Review, echoed Wallis’ alarm, calling for accountability, repentance and reckoning after the storming of the Capitol. “This is an outrage. It is contrary to everything this country stands for and represents a clear and present danger to the constitutional order of this country. This attempt to disrupt and destroy the democratic process should be repugnant to the hearts of all Americans and must be denounced from every platform and pulpit in the country.
It must be noted that the cause of this violence is obvious. For more than four years, President Trump has waged a campaign of demagoguery and division, stoking our fears and prejudices for his personal gain, all while undermining the foundations of the constitutional order. He has been abetted by an army of supporters and apologists in the media and within the Republican Party, who, by turning a blind eye to his worst excesses, also bear some responsibility for today’s events. The right-wing extremists and white supremacists who stormed the capitol today were responding to years of dog whistles as well as overt encouragement from Mr. Trump and his closest supporters. In addition to the complicity of Mr. Trump’s unwavering allies, all Christians are left to reckon with the fact that the name of Jesus and the warrant of the Gospel have been publicly invoked by those defending not only Mr. Trump himself but also his cynical, destructive attempts to reverse the clear results of the presidential election.
...“‘This isn’t who we are,” President-elect Biden said in response to this outrage. With respect, Mr. Biden, what has happened is in truth a part of who we are, and America must face that fact. Yet it is also true that if Americans can summon the courage to face this moment together with honesty and hope, then we will discover once again that the best of who we are as a country can overcome our worst impulses of the national spirit.” See https://www.americamagazine.org/politics-society/2021/01/06/protestors-capitol-riot-239661?utm_source=piano&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=7228&pnespid=j7dkt_lbXgWNAefLXwUZHENrQ6CDLPCx1XqwjyTz.
Michael Gerson asserted that Trump’s evangelicals were complicit in the desecration of our democracy on January 6. “The practical effects of the fascist occupation of the U.S. Capitol building were quickly undone. The symbols it left behind are indelible. A Confederate flag waved in triumph in the halls of a building never taken by Jefferson Davis. Guns drawn to protect the floor of the House of Representatives from violent attack. A cloddish barbarian in the presiding officer’s chair. The desecration of democracy under the banner “Jesus Saves.”
This post-apocalyptic vision of chaos and national humiliation was the direct and intended consequence of a president’s incitement. It was made possible by quislings such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) and Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who turned a ceremony of continuity into a rallying cry for hatred and treason. In the aftermath, Republican legislators who still don’t support Trump’s immediate removal from office by constitutional means are guilty of continuing complicity. All this leaves President-elect Joe Biden in a difficult position. Prudence would advise two weeks of patience and then an upbeat attempt to turn the national page. Justice would dictate arresting, trying and imprisoning President Trump for sedition at the soonest possible moment. As of now, I am in the justice camp. The only way to restore boundaries of law and decency is to enforce them.
...As white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, misogynists, anarchists, criminals and terrorists took hold of the Republican Party, many evangelicals blessed it under the banner “Jesus Saves.” The political and religious costs of a tight evangelical alliance with violent bigots and crackpots were easily foreseen. I and many others foresaw and foresaw until our fingers ached at the keyboard. Yet Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress and the others either shut their eyes or shared in Trumpian hatreds. “There has never been anyone,” said Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, “who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!”
...The collapse of one disastrous form of Christian social engagement should be an opportunity for the emergence of a more faithful one. And here there are plenty of potent, hopeful Christian principles lying around unused by most evangelicals: A consistent and comprehensive concern for the weak and vulnerable in our society, including the poor, immigrants and refugees. A passion for racial reconciliation and criminal justice reform, rooted in the nonnegotiable demands of human dignity. A deep commitment to public and global health, reflecting the priorities of Christ’s healing ministry. An embrace of political civility as a civilizing norm. A commitment to the liberty of other people’s religions, not just our own. An insistence on public honesty and a belief in the transforming power of unarmed truth.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/trumps-evangelicals-were-complicit-in-the-desecration-of-our-democracy/2021/01/07/69a51402-5110-11eb-83e3-322644d82356_story.html?utm_campaign=wp_opinions_pm&utm_medium=email&utm_source=newsletter&wpisrc=nl_popns.
Around 200 Trump supporters gathered at the S.C. State Capitol in Columbia on January 6 to share common cause with protestors in Washington, D.C. seeking to overturn the election of Joe Biden. “Zach Dunn, president of conservative group OverWatch USC, said he was at the protest because of “what many people see as a fraudulent election,” he told The State. Elections officials throughout America have said there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election. Dunn agreed there is no proof, but believed there was enough circumstantial evidence to warrant an investigation. “Much of the world is ignoring truth, and that’s why we’re here today,” said Tom Ward, 63, who spoke at the protest and favored investigating the election.
Michelle Graham, chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of SC, was at the protest using a microphone and speaker to decry what she believed was election fraud. “We want to support Trump, but this isn’t necessarily about Trump. It’s about the integrity of the elections,” Graham said. “All of them should be investigated, even if we won.”Several protesters wore QAnon shirts; others waved “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and a group of about 15 men standing together were wearing the Proud Boys’ yellow and black attire. One man walked around the State House saying the “Hail Mary” prayer out loud while marching alongside other protesters carrying pro-Trump banners. The Columbia, SC, protest was in stark contrast to the scene in Washington D.C., where rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol building to delay Congressional certification of a Joe Biden victory.” See https://www.thestate.com/news/politics-government/article248315605.html.