His flag held high

The Capitol Hill insurrectionists misused symbols of Christian faith.

In the midst of that chaos, they flew a flag. Jesus Saves. I felt ill to see it. How could that mob – those violent thugs – dare hold high his name?

When Trump supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington D.C., attempting a coup at the beginning of January, their Christian nationalism was flagrantly displayed along with their racism and violence. Crosses and scripture references sat beside calls for murder and destruction. The rioters chanted “Trump is President – Christ is King” and spoke of their conviction that this violence was a calling from God to thwart wide-scale corruption. What is our witness in the face of these lies and these symbols?

After many terror attacks around the world, Muslim leaders have been asked for statements renouncing violence done by those who claim the same faith. By and large, the Church hasn’t been pressured like this, which speaks of societal inequality, privilege and racism, but our Christian response can’t be silence. So what can we say?

I feel the echoes of Bruce Cockburn’s song Red Brother, Red Sister: “It left me crying just thinking about it / How they used my saviour’s name to keep you down.”

I hear the faith of Henri Nouwen’s words: “I am beginning to see that much of prayer is grieving.”

I am torn by grief in a world where symbols of faith are misused. But I also know that in these moments, our grief needs to be articulated and shared. Not because the world needs to hear from us, but because we need to talk to each other. As the far-flung Church, we need to lean together and find the words to process the grief and fear we experience for our neighbours and the world. We need to lament together.

Holy change

Of course, it isn’t enough to raise these thoughts here in Christian Courier, but if not here, then where? This publication is a place where we can meet, even in these shut-away days of a pandemic winter. We can share, pray, grieve and hope together. Like the far-flung epistolic communities of the earliest church, we, too, can support each other through shared words of lament and encouragement.

After January 6, I looked to Christian writers for their response.

“The church might look different after this,” Christiana Peterson, author of Awakened by Death, said, “and that might be a really good thing; that those of us who follow Jesus are actually following the God who gave up infinite power to love us and teach us to love each other.”

Shane Claiborne, author and activist, challenged believers: “‘Christian’ means ‘Christ-like.’ If it doesn’t look like Jesus, and it doesn’t sound like Jesus, let’s not call it Christianity. It might just be white supremacy trying to camouflage itself.”

Such prophetic voices offer company and active comfort on strained days. On the wider stage, the World Council of Churches interim general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca wrote an open letter to the member churches in the United States. His words are filled with faithful grief and also reassurances that, in the hard ministries ahead, the larger Church can offer accompaniment, support, wisdom and prayer.

“We are reminded in Proverbs 12:20 that ‘Deceit is in the mind of those who plan evil, but those who counsel peace have joy.’ May your church and country find the peace and joy assured to us in the scriptures. And we pray that God will lead us all together and be our guide on the path of understanding and compassion, towards justice and peace.”

A prayer for all of us in these times and all times.


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