January 6, my best friend’s birthday. The day that had plans of a grocery store run, lunch with my dad and catching up on office emails.
January 6, the day I saw domestic terrorism for the second time in my life.
January 6, a date now ingrained in my mind alongside April 19, 1995. Both dates fueled by fear and hate. Both dates dominated by white supremacists and entitlement.
When you grow up in Oklahoma (as I did), you spend your childhood learning about what a domestic terrorist act can do to you, your community and life in general. An entire generation of children learned about it firsthand.
I remember the day that changed my childhood and the years that followed. I remember the night of April 19: My family sat down for a meal and then my sisters and I got to watch any Disney movie we wanted, while my parents watched the news and gathered their thoughts on how they would respond to the questions of their children. I remember not spending much time with my aunt in the weeks that followed, because she was working for the city and spending her time in recovery and cleanup efforts, trying to pull our city back together. I remember that when we were months out from the tragedy, when the world went on their way, during television show commercial breaks, we would be getting bombsite updates, trial updates, overall morale updates.
One thing that Oklahomans pride themselves on is their resiliency because we have survived a communal trauma. Our resiliency runs in our veins. We stand strong when hate tries to break us. We hold one another up when evil tries to break us down.
And while this resiliency is ingrained in me, as I watched the events of January 6 unfold, I felt a wave of emotions — the same wave I felt all those years ago on April 19. I watched as a place of hope, of democracy, of what represents sacred political ground be desecrated. I felt ill, I felt helpless, I felt a wave of sadness come over me.
Then I felt a sense of rage and of anger, I felt like shouting, “We warned you this would happen!” And that was the statement that rang in my ears all day as I watched the chaos unfold. It hung in the air because I have seen firsthand the ways hate and rage play out in the violence of domestic terrorism. I watched as my community lost members at the hands of hatred and watched loved one’s lives change as they processed their experience of domestic terrorism.
As a college chaplain, it has become a vital part of my ministry to speak up against such hate and violence, to share stories of lament and loss, to hold people accountable to their actions — not just because of my childhood encounter with domestic terrorism, but also because of the covenant I entered into at my baptism.
Two questions in particular stand at the front of my mind when I think about the actions and hatred of January 6. The first, “Do you renounce all evil, and powers in the world which defy God’s righteousness and love?” And the following question, “Do you renounce the ways of sin that separate you from the love of God?”
As followers of Christ, as members of the church universal, now is time for us to remember our baptismal vows and to call out the hate we see. We are to call out the evil from January 6. We are to actively renounce the evil of the world, but also acknowledge the ways in which we subtly or not-so- subtly benefit from such evil and hate. We are to admit our fault in this because if we do not, then we fall short in our call to live as followers of Christ.
We did not get into this place and to this event overnight. The cleanup and the processing will not take place overnight. It is a long process and a long road ahead, but one that is necessary. For when we go silent in the face of such hatred, we allow that hate to fester. When we do not speak up on family or friends/ social media accounts when they post falsehoods because we are fearful of what will happen to our relationships, we allow white supremacy to continue to take hold.
As we continue to wade into the aftermath of domestic terrorism, fueled by fear and hate, it is important to hold one another accountable, to call out evil, to renounce our actions and inactions in this mess, to work to bring about the kingdom of God.
If growing up in Oklahoma after April 19 taught me anything, it is that the hard work of love and challenging white supremacy is something that takes a lifetime, because it is so ingrained into our society. But when we all work together, stand up and hold one another accountable change is possible.
May we be mindful of our baptismal covenant and live into its call to renounce evil and hate in this world, so that the next generation will never have to utter the phrase, “we warned you this would happen.”