What the world witnessed at the Capitol was instead a warped and dishonest portrayal of Christianity, a mob hijacking an entire faith in the same way the 9/11 terrorists hijacked Islam. While the latter was an attempt to bring America to its knees economically, this was an attempt to bring the nation to its knees politically. While one was committed by an avowed enemy of the United States, the insurrection in our capital city was committed by individuals who demonstrated no regard for the will of the majority of the American people, much less for Christian living.
The attack was an assault on American identity, too. My father and uncle served during the Korean War. The names of some of my boyhood friends are engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, a short walk down the National Mall from the Capitol. My son-in-law served in Iraq. Those gleefully parading around Washington were spitting on the graves of the fallen and dishonoring those who wore a US armed forces uniform. Wielding the weapon of faith, they attacked the country they profess to love.
Those Christians who continue to be Trump supporters are models of cognitive dissonance. They are a puzzle for the ages. The dissonance exists between their claim to be loyal Americans and Christians, on the one hand, and their trampling upon the principles of democracy and Christianity, equality before God and non-violence on the other. Efforts to resolve these irreconcilable tensions have resulted in wild conspiracy theories that strike sober-minded people as bouts of delusion. I can only hope that as they ponder their next move — with rumblings of more violence in Washington around the inauguration — there will be some soul-searching among the throngs. God help us if there is not.
To show how far our country as fallen, I only need to look back at my own childhood. I grew up in a conservative American home. My parents were committed Republicans who held traditional values. My father was a minister for 46 years. Twice in my boyhood during the tumultuous year of 1968, my mother woke me with the news that an American leader had been slain. The first was the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and the second was Sen. Robert Kennedy during his run for the White House.
Both times our household was devastated. When I told a friend the story of how my mother was visibly shaken as she told me about Kennedy, he wondered why she was so upset if she would not have voted for him? My answer was an easy one: She was a better American than she was a Republican. And she was a better Christian.
It is time for us to be Americans, whatever our party affiliation or views on specific issues. It is also time for those of us who are Christians to speak out against the misuse of Christianity as a legitimating force for evil. Democracy is a treasured value and quite fragile. We need to protect it, and given last week’s events, we need to pray for it.