Watching the assault on the Capitol Building January 6 filled me with a flood of thoughts and emotions. I tried to write these down multiple times and in multiple ways. But the only thing that finally made sense was to write what my audience needed to hear.
I openly wept on January 6.
Watching what happened in Washington, D.C. on that day brought me to actual tears. I found myself not surprised, but bitterly disappointed that this was happening. It made me sad and filled me with anger and rage at the same time.
What caused me the greatest pain were the shouts of proclamation and the flags that some people waved throughout the crowd.
“Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President.”
“Make America Godly Again.”
Cross raisings in Washington and in state capital protests.
I saw nothing of Jesus Christ in these events. If His presence was honored, it was in some non-visible way. Some might try to argue that these shouts and signs were good things, or that these are not connected to the political rancor. This is historically and presently disingenuous. The clear equation is that support of the President and the capitol insurrection are equal to support of the God who is revealed in Jesus Christ.
In all of the things that we witnessed on January 6, I did not see one thing that made me think about Jesus, feel closer to Jesus, or insinuate that the people involved really understood the life and purpose of Jesus
As I often do, I sat down to write about this as a way of processing the events and subsequent emotions. I started multiple drafts of blogs and letters that all ended up in the virtual “file 13.” If we were in the old days of typewriters, the tossed papers would overwhelm my office floor.
In scrambling for some manner of making sense of this, I turned back to the people that matter most: my primary audience. I began to ponder what I would say to my students at Limestone University, to our faculty, and to our staff. Rather than considering what I wanted to say or what I felt at that moment, I tried to think of what they might need to hear to give them hope in the midst of this chaos.
Here is the result, a letter that went to the University community last Tuesday.
To our students and Limestone family,
By now, you have probably seen, heard, or read about some horrific events that took place last Wednesday, January 6, at the United States Capitol building in Washington, DC. A significant group of people pushed into the building and disrupted the work of the United States government.
Among this group, some people carried crosses, signs, or banners of crosses, or shouted the name of God and Jesus at different times. Several flags flew with “Jesus” or “Jesus Saves” on them; and even one said “Trump = Jesus” on it. The use of Jesus’ name in such circumstances certainly caught my attention.
I suspect that you, as college students, have awareness and strong opinions about what happened last week. You may have strong political opinions. Christian leadership does not allow us to bury our heads in the sand when we witness troubling events. Last week’s riot deserves our attention and requires a Christ-centered response.
This writing is my attempt to offer such a response.
At this time, let us be challenged not to focus our energy on diverse political stances. Instead, let us focus our energy on spiritual development and growing our Christian leadership in a way that guides us in all that we say and do.
And that focus is where we turn now, in the middle of this crisis. Our tasks is not to hold up banners or flags or t-shirts that say Jesus. It is our task to be the hands and feet of Jesus—no matter who occupies the Capitol or the White House.
I believe that Christians are responsible to be involved in public issues, and it is our civic duty to participate in government on acceptable levels. However, we are never called to put our full faith in politics, in elections, in candidates, or in our ability to gain power. Beyond that, the Scriptures warn us to never, ever put our full faith in people or empires: kings, presidents, political parties, power leaders, the wealthy and famous, or even pastors. Our faith is to one whose name is above all names.
With that in mind, our response to last week’s events is incredibly simple and direct in an incredibly complicated situation.
We lead by seeking Christ alone. We educate ourselves by learning and following the ways of Jesus Christ—no matter who is in the White House. What we saw from people calling out the name of Jesus, while breaking windows to get inside the Capitol, does not reflect the teaching or path that Jesus Christ offered to his disciples—or to us.
Limestone holds to its heritage as a Christian University. We are called to carry on that heritage, as those who are learning and developing in Christian leadership. How do we carry this forward through political turmoil and the use of the Lord’s name in extremely strange ways?
Again, the answer is simpler than it seems. We do not put our trust in empire, country, or the leaders of such. We put our faith in Christ alone. We seek Christ above all things, and instead of all things if necessary. We look to the Scriptures to find what Christ says, does, and requires of us—and we follow that, with all of our heart.
This means that we take action to lift up others and meet their needs. We listen to those that we do not (or cannot) understand, and we try to see their struggle. We work to live together as a community and live as those who love Jesus. We strive to learn more about the life of Christ and figure out ways to live out that life.
No matter who is in charge in Washington, DC, we are STILL called to seek out Christ and follow Christ. This means that we love the Lord, love our neighbors as ourselves—and live out these commands in how we act towards others.
In spite of the turmoil of recent days, I look forward to getting back to school and doing what we are called to do. I look forward to searching for Jesus and figuring out how to live the way that Christ did—in all things, and no matter how hard it might be.
Let us take heart in the words of one of my favorite songs:
No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life’s first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand
If any of you has a need to talk or process any of this, please do not hesitate to reach out by text, email, or simply drop by the Chapel. I am glad to continue to “work out our salvation” together (Philippians 2:12) and to share any concerns and hopes that you may have.
As we fill the space between the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. and the inauguration of the 46th President, may we remember that the most admirable of people are still people. Those that are truly great will not point towards themselves, but towards ideals of One who is greater.
This is the time to fully commit ourselves to stop listening to who others say Jesus is, and find the reality of the Living Christ. Only in that can we also make the choice that Dr. King did: to pursue the way of love, as the power that can bring meaningful, lasting change to the heart of humanity.
If you have thoughts or questions that you would pose to me, I encourage you to reach out as well. firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.