Guest commentary by Jan Nolting Carter
January 6 will be one of those touchpoint days where we will remember what we were doing when insurrectionists stormed the Capitol. I had finished a morning staff retreat, checked in on my kids and returned some email. And then I thought: the certification of the Electoral College is going to be less than perfunctory this year. I’ll take a look. I watched a bit, but it was fairly generic at 1:00 p.m., so I went back to work. I receive notifications on my phone from the New York Times. Around 2:15 p.m., I started receiving notifications. Like many of you, I turned on the television and left it on well into the night.
In so many ways, Jesus turned the world upside down. He broke the religious rules about who to talk to and who to eat with. He preached about love: loving your neighbor as yourself, loving those who were considered unloveable, loving those who were part of different ethnic and cultural groups. His mission was to usher in God’s kin-dom, a place where everyone is welcome at the table.
Our world turned upside down on January 6, but it was nothing close to the way Jesus would have envisioned. Many of those who stormed the Capitol appropriated God and Jesus for their cause, but nothing about their cause is connected to the God I serve or the savior I confess. The sign “Jesus 2020” was among the most disturbing, along with the large and obvious presence of the Confederate flag in our Capitol building.
Jesus commanded that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbor as ourself. None of the principles espoused by those who stormed the Capitol embrace our primary commandment. That the storming of the Capitol was perpetrated by white supremacists who have so far come out of the event with relatively little accountability underscores the depth of the inequity in our country. If those who did this had been protestors with black and brown skin, I think there would have been a very different outcome.
There has been an escalating need to speak out based on our faith. Good people have hesitated, not wanting to fan flames or “be controversial,” believing that faith and politics are not connected. But they are. Jesus spoke out against the tyranny of the Roman Empire as expressed through Herod and Herod Antipas. He preached for another way of living. We must do the same.
If there is any good to come out of the horrors of January 6 and the continuing fallout, it is my hope that it will unite persons of differing political perspectives. We may have different understandings of how to stimulate the economy, how much government should be involved in our lives and what social issues to focus on, but we can agree that a president encouraging the storming of the Capitol and holding our legislators at gunpoint is unacceptable.
These are days to hold on to our faith, to speak for truth and justice, to rest assured that God is with us and that the light of Christ shines brightly and the darkness shall not overcome it.
Jesus reminded us: “My peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
May grace and peace be with you in these troubling times.
JAN NOLTING CARTER serves at the transitional pastor for First Presbyterian Church of Allentown in Pennsylvania. She is also teaches transitional ministry at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.