It has taken some time for me to sort out the events of January 6 before writing anything in response. The events of that day literally took my breathe away. Since then, I have regrouped and listened to the responses of others enough to share some observations and concerns.
1). I do not equate the attack on the U.S. Capital as just another protest. I realize that protest is part of our right to free speech, but never violent protest. People should never be harmed nor property damaged. I recognize that large gatherings can be volatile as people express dissatisfactions harbored for years, but attacking the Capital rises to a higher level than destroying private property. Neither can be justified and accountability maintained, but robbing my home and the edifice representing our country are not the same.
Rather, it is a dagger to all our hearts; an insult to everyone, from the founders of our democracy to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so it could continue to live. It is awful when anyone is attacked or killed, but very different if that one person is the president or vice president. It just is! Similarities end when those individuals take their oath of office. Laws are meant to protect us; democracy is built upon differing opinions and peaceful ways to settle them; but what happened at our Capital was not a crowd out-of-control, but a group of insurrectionists with premeditated plans. Peaceful demonstrators do not carry zip-ties and walkie talkies. Currently, there are over 1,000 hate groups in the United States which, up until now, were scattered and disconnected operating in cell groups similar to Al-Qaeda. It appears they have now found each other.
2). If we can agree there was a specific message to be sent by the acts of January 6 then we must also take note of the symbols under which their violence transpired, including the Christian flag. I watched one rioter bludgeon a Capital Police Officer with an American flag and I thought, “People sacrificed their lives for the ideals that flag represents, and beside it, a Christian flag. Hard to believe what Jesus would have to do with shouting, “Hang Pence!” Jesus died, not in support of such acts, but because of them. Jesus looked at his opposition with love, forgiving them even as their actions were the cause of his death. Jesus insisted his followers forgive 70 x 7, not club them 70 x 7. And when, even one person claims to act on Jesus’ behalf in this manner, everyone claiming that name is thrown under the bus as well. Then we wonder why churches are declining and the salvific message embodied in Christ is seen as one more hypocrisy; a load of hogwash.
3). You may not agree with these observations, thinking that a church or its minister shouldn’t be meddling in such things, but these things are not partisan or political unless we choose to see them in that vein. How we act on our beliefs is a human issue, not a political one. Our faith is not something to politicize , but apply to our life and world. It is where heavenly values intersect human existence. It has nothing to do with party identity, but everything to do with Christian identity. It’s why children are taught to not cheat, lie, or steal. It’s what puts integrity behind saluting the flag and kneeling before the cross. It’s about servanthood, not power; lifting up, never tearing down.
Friends, two roads lie ahead of us. One which humankind has struggled to walk for centuries as monarchies fell while the common person was raised up. The other road? Well, just read 'The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire'.
Freedom is a matter of choices. As Thomas Paine said at a critical moment in the birth of our Republic, “The times have met us.” Whether we rise or fall as a people rests on our choices. And as a famous character said in the last of the Indiana Jones movies, the one about seeking the Holy GraiI, “Choose wisely.”
Rev. Keith A. Haemmelmann