Was the Capitol riot a “Christian insurrection”? Why we must “live as though the truth were true”

Was the Capitol riot a “Christian insurrection”? Why we must “live as though the truth were true” January 11, 2021

“Patriots enlist and defend their country. They work hard, do their best, raise good families. They help their neighbors. They perform civic duties. They grit their teeth and pay their taxes. Then they show up and vote. They compete, they win or lose, but they do both with grace. These are some of the things patriots do.

“Patriots do not storm their own Capitol over a lost election. They do not bum-rush members of Congress. They do not assault strangers. They do not push and shove police officers and trash federal buildings. These are things criminals do, and criminals of any political stripe deserve one thing: the rule of law.” 

Neil Patel, author of this response to the Capitol riot and co-founder of the Daily Caller (a conservative news outlet), is exactly right. 

Now substitute “disciples of Jesus” for “patriots,” and you’ll be right as well. 

Is a “Million Martyr March” coming January 20? 

A fifteen-year veteran of the US Capitol Police and son of a former Senate Sergeant-At-Arms died by suicide Saturday. His is the sixth death related to the Capitol riot last Wednesday. 

Here’s an announcement I never thought I would see: in response to the January 6 attacks, the US Secret Service has stated that they are anticipating and prepared for “all possible contingencies” with regard to the presidential inauguration on January 20. We are also learning that lawmakers may have been exposed to COVID-19 during the lockdown. 

Following the riot, some sought to blame Antifa, but this claim has been clearly debunked. Here’s what I saw with my own eyes last Wednesday: rioters who breached Capitol Hill carrying Christian flags. 

One said, “Jesus is my Savior. Trump is my president.” Others waved “Jesus Saves” banners. One of the first rioters to enter the Senate chamber was carrying a Christian flag. A flag reading “Proud American Christian” with an American flag inside an ichthus—an ancient Christian symbol—was seen as well. 

Ashli Babbitt, the Air Force veteran who was shot and killed while storming the Capitol, is now being lauded as a martyr. Some say they are planning a “Million Martyr March” for January 20 in Washington, DC. 

Faith leaders were “nearly unanimous in condemning” the assault, as NPR reported on January 7. But evangelicals are nonetheless being widely blamed for the riot. 

The Washington Post headlined: “Trump’s evangelicals were complicit in the desecration of our democracy.” The Atlantic called the riots “a Christian insurrection” and added, “Many of those who mobbed the Capitol on Wednesday claimed to be enacting God’s will.” Religion News Service stated, “Evangelicals must denounce the Christian nationalism in Capitol riots.” 

“Put your sword back into its place” 

This article is one such denunciation. 

The Capitol riots had nothing to do with Jesus. No one who assaulted the Capitol was following the teachings of Jesus. To the contrary, these attacks deeply grieved him and are bringing shame on his true followers. 

When soldiers came to arrest Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, “Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear” (John 18:10). Jesus healed the man’s ear (Luke 22:51) and then said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). 

Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). We are told to “be subject to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1) and to pray for “all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:2). 

This does not mean that we agree with everything our leaders say and do. When we do not, we work through our democratic system for the change we seek. We engage with members of Congress—we do not attack them. 

Jesus would not assault the Capitol 

I believe three faith issues underlie much of the Christian nationalism of our day. We’ll close with the first today and discuss the others tomorrow. 

Here’s the first paradoxical fact: Many evangelicals do not trust enough in Jesus. 

We are known for our emphasis on the need to ask Jesus to forgive our sins and give us eternal life. But this emphasis on personal salvation often minimizes the urgency of personal sanctification. 

God wants us to be “conformed to the image of his Son” in every dimension of our lives (Romans 8:29). John taught, “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). We are to “be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Ephesians 5:1–2). 

If Jesus would not slander those who opposed him (Matthew 27:11–14), we must not slander people who oppose us. If he would not assault the Capitol, we must not assault the Capitol. 

A historic opportunity 

By contrast, the Capitol riot, political turmoil, horrific pandemic, and other combined crises of our day constitute a historic opportunity to show our broken culture the difference Jesus makes in those who love and follow him fully. The darker the room, the more powerful the light. 

If we truly love our Lord, we will love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37–39). We will love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We will help those in need as if they were Jesus (Matthew 25:40). We will “pray earnestly” for God to “send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:38), then serve in answer to our prayers (Matthew 10:1). 

The more we love Jesus, the more we will live by the truth of his word (John 17:17) and share his word with the world (Ephesians 4:15). 

Daniel Berrigan once said of Dorothy Day, “She lived as though the truth were true.” 

Let’s do the same, to the glory of God.

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