My thoughts on Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol

I’m in shock over this week’s events at our nation’s Capitol. If you are a praying person, will you join me praying for our country.

We need to open ourselves to God, asking for insight in how what we might do as individuals and in the groups we’re a part of to being healing to our nation. 

There will be a lot said about yesterday’s events in the days and weeks (and months) ahead. I am sure there are those I will agree with and those with whom I will disagree. However, we should remember one of the founding principles of the Presbyterian Church. “There are truths and forms with respect to which men of good character and principles may differ, “our Book of Order states. In these things, it is the “duty both of private Christians and societies to exercise mutual forbearance toward each other.” How we relate to those who think and believe differently from us is a telltale sign of the trust we have in God.  

That said, as a follower of Jesus and a pastor, these are some things that weigh heavy on my heart. 

Words matter

First, our political rhetoric has gotten out of hand. It seems people on all sides think that if the government doesn’t do what they want, or if the vote at the ballot box doesn’t go their way, it is a personal affront and they have a right to take things into their own hands. While the right to peacefully protest is a hallmark of our nation, we do not have the right to incite violence or to intimidate others. If this doesn’t stop, we’re going to destroy ourselves and our nation.  

The problem of white privilege

Next, as many of my African American friends have pointed out, if those who attacked our Capitol were people of color, there likely would have been more bloodshed. White privilege is real. You can see this with the supposedly Q-anon leader stomping though the Capitol with bull horns, dressed like Hagar the Horrible. Had he been a person of color, instead of roaming around like a pagan Viking, his blood would likely be flowing across the marble floors. 

The misuse of Jesus’ name

Finally, as I posted on Facebook on Wednesday afternoon, I was offended to see people on the porticoes of the Capitol with signs and flags bearing Jesus’ name. These were not law-abiding protestors. They had already pushed past the barricades set up for those protesting. The above photo I snapped from my TV screen. The sign says, “Jesus Saves.” I doubt such a sign will convince non-believers that Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Would the Jesus, whom we know through the Gospel stories, be seen taking part in such a demonstration? 

No, Jesus, the one who had the power to call down angels to save himself, refused to take part in any insurrection. He also stopped his followers from going down such a path, telling Peter to put away his sword. My advice for those who carried such signs and symbols yesterday is to leave Jesus out of whatever devious plans they concoct. If they really believe in Jesus, they should immediately drop to their knees and beg forgiveness. Such signs are a violation of the commandments. It’s blasphemy.  

Let’s pray

We all need to be praying and confessing. We need to confess our failure to live up to our ideals as we seek a better way forward. I offer this simple prayer: 

 Lord, what we witnessed this week was humbling and scary. We are blessed to live in a nation rich with opportunity. We are grateful. Yet, we realize our hands and our hearts are not clean.  Forgive us when we did not speak up for justice, when we did not support those being demonized, and when we didn’t challenge false and dangerous ideas. Show us, Lord, how you might use us to build bridges with others who have also been created in your image. Use us, in the words of Francis of Assisi, to be an instrument in your peace. Lord, what can I do to further your kingdom?  Amen.  

37 Replies to “My thoughts on Wednesday’s riot at the Capitol”

  1. It was shocking to see it on the news and then the close ups of the rioters, (insurrectors?). It’s very kind of you to share and write a prayer. I believe peace will prevail when ‘it’ is gone from office.

    1. I’m not as optimistic. Since the 90s, there’s been an unground dissent within our country. Maybe we will get through it as we did back in the 70s when there was a radical underground group who did things like bomb the capitol. Now instead of radical leftist, it’s radicals on the right wing. It’s not just a few of “liberals,” or even communists. There is a racial tone to their message. The fear of what some see, as America becomes less white, causes some to go underground into these militia groups.

  2. Thanks for this post, Jeff. I was shocked, but not surprised. I have been praying for our country and will continue to do so (not nearly as eloquently as you though). I’m terribly sad and worried, but I think we will pull through this. There are a lot of very fine people in this country, and I believe the good way outweighs the bad.

  3. Well said. It definitely would’ve been treated differently if the people who attacked the Capitol had been Black. As you said, more bloodshed. More tear gas. More riot gear. More everything. Where was the strong response to this as there was for BLM protests?

    I have so much more to say but won’t.

    Thanks for this!

    1. I don’t tend to write a lot about politics, but… We have an issue with race that has not been resolved and won’t go away and you could see it in this event. It’s horrific to think of what these thugs wanted to do.

  4. I can’t really add anything, the previous comments have pretty much cover my own thoughts.
    More importantly, I’ve had to review my own political posts to examine if my words got the best of me. While they mostly seem within the bounds of sanity, I can easily imagine a conservative-minded person would view them as disrespectful and radical.

    That being said, I can’t personally view the sacking of the Capitol as anything other than an attempt to overthrow the United States government. Several pictures show insurrectionists carrying zip cuffs inside the halls of Congress, not something you would need for a peaceful protest.

  5. Jeff
    Thanks for these healing words . I have been struggling with the events of this last week as I truly believe in the rights of peaceful protest , but what happened was a horrible stain on democracy and our beloved country . I was also horrified by the images of using our flag as a weapon in the insurgence .
    Yes, words matter and we need prayers for forgiveness and healing. Thanks for your leadership on this

    1. I agree with the flags, but since I was focusing more on theological issues, stuck with the signs and the Christian flags. I hope y’all are doing well. I expect the Cape is quiet this time of the year.

  6. A heavy heart is the exact description of how I feel about the recent events. I was never a great fan of Jimmy Carter, but after seeing a recent film about him, I have a new appreciation for our past President. He made a statement toward the end of the film that has stayed with me all week. While this is not verbatum, he said something to the effect that each person must look into his heart and ask what kind of person do I want to be. If we seek to have a heart attuned to the Lord Jesus, we have to mourn the division in our country and speak up against hatred and racism.

    1. Like you, I wasn’t a fan of him and didn’t vote for him (In 1980, when I was politically active, something I haven’t done since, I worked for John Anderson). However, I have come to admire him, I have read several of his books, and have even attended his Sunday school class which was a real treat!

  7. Any time people resort to violence, I’m shocked and dismayed. I was just recovering from all that went on in Portland and other cities in the U.S. when this happened. I don’t care who’s doing the rioting and destruction, in my mind, it’s wrong. Gandhi and Martin Luther King showed us the way, and after all of their sacrifice, we’ve ignored it.
    I want 2021 to give rise to more thoughtful cooperation, so we can all find equity and harmony. I guess that’s a prayer. It certainly is my fervent hope.

  8. Bert from your Michigan roots. We know that which is not sustainable will collapse ultimately. But we still have a duty to mitigate harm whenever possible. We pray that healing continues with us in helping reduce the fear and paranoia so conflated with our American dream of liberty. Lord, have mercy. For Congressman, huddled in U.S. Capitol terror, yet refusing to wear masks in a confined shelter, clinging to “liberty” to the detriment of themselves, colleagues and a nation. Lord, have mercy. Bert Dugan MD

    1. Good to hear from you, Bert. This is an unusual time with the pandemic and masks and how it gets mixed in with everything else going on. Stay safe. Did you travel south, this year? If you come back up I-77, we’re just to the east of it in Southern VA

  9. Terrific…well said. We were so upset by the attack on the Capitol. Surely this craziness has to stop. Thank you especially for your “Words Matter” and the “Misuse of Jesus’ Name” !! Not much we can physically do here…and we are grateful that we are here…but what we can do, is pray for peace and express our gratitude for those wonderful people in our lives. Thank you for your voice of wisdom. It’s very comforting. ~Lil

  10. What a wonderful post. Words do matter and I think that anyone in office should not have any personal social media accounts, just to start with. It’s nonsense and inappropriate. I’ve found most people don’t understand the third commandment as demonstrated by all those signs. What a way to turn people off from any form of faith. It’s sad and disheartening.

    What can we do? As you said, start with the people you know. Learn to listen. Stay away from party lines. Find common ground.

    1. Thanks. We can all listen a lot more. And I like the idea of staying away from party lines (both parties seems to want to do the thinking for people).

  11. I should add that you helped my find the verse in Matthew that explains how Christians should behave when they have a conflicting opinion with their neighbor. Even after exhausting all methods with no results, violence is not an option.

  12. I share your pain, Jeff. I also agree that what encourages and motivates this daredevil behavior is having an audience.
    Imagine one solitary nutjob crashing through a window in the U.S. Capitol Building with nobody cheering him/her on. No sane person would even consider it.
    Imagine a visitor to the building during a peaceful day boldly entering the office of a Representative and sitting in his/her chair at his/her desk and going through the mail and stealing the mail and a laptop. No sane person would even consider it without the support of a cheering mob or a mindless photographer.
    Every person who attended that mob scene from the farthest back row needs to accept responsibility for supporting that rash behavior by not quickly running home.
    There are more than enough excuses to go around.

    1. There is a herd psychology that encourages people to do bad things. Reinhold Niebuhr’s book, Moral Man, Immoral Society, lays out how we, as a group, can do dumb and evil things.

    1. Thanks. I always look back with fondness on my decade in Cedar City and part of it was having you as mayor for much of that time. I hope you’re doing well.

  13. Great words, Jeff. Thank you. While I am horrified, offended and dismayed by the events of this week, I know I have not been doing enough praying.

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