This Is America

Everyone has already made up their mind. Not about what happened in DC. But about what we want to believe happened in DC. That matters. Profoundly. The reality we live by and live in, our worldview, will—without much effort from us—interpret and assign meaning & value to much of yesterday’s events. Even filling in the blanks where reporting fails. Whatever we want to believe is more plausible than much else. So why write? That’s my heart as I sit here typing.

In a world of flash opinions, I’m not sure I have much to add beyond what has already been said. I found it repulsive, idolatrous, seditious, unjust, and hateful. A bastardization of the Christian faith for political power. Maybe you saw the same. Maybe you didn’t. What do we do about this? Because our future in part hinges on our ability to agree. Was yesterday America?

I’m all too aware that I have family & friends, yes foes too, who processed a very different reality unfolding in DC than what I saw. I’m also well aware of others I love, family, friends, and foes, who saw exactly what I saw and then some. I have this to say: we’re not all right. We can’t be.

Until we can agree on reality—on what is true—it’s hard to talk reason. To appeal to logic, or common experience. What one woman calls conspiracy another man calls reality. Logic, reason, & arguments fall short when our hearts want something to be true. I sense that. Don’t you?

Bonhoeffer says it well, “history’s immanent justice rewards and punishes the deed only, but the eternal justice of God tries and judges the hearts.” Whatever history records of January 6, 2021, whatever we remember or think happened, God knows. I don’t say this to be dismissive, as that phrase is usually deployed. I say “God knows” because his knowledge gives light to ours. He parses our wishes and wants and tells us the truth deep below the surface. The gospel, after all, is a public claim about our souls and societies. About forgiveness of sin and the Kingdom of God. But yesterday, I saw a different sort of kingdom go public.

A good part of the shining “city on a hill” meant to be the Church in America is observing a black out. Meant to herald an advance notice of God’s kingdom, meant to live righteously as his body in the world, majority culture (white) Christianity has made itself busy trying to sit in the seat of American power. It traded prophets for partisans. And has paid a great cost: fellowship with African American, Latino, and Asian brothers and sisters and credibility with a broken world who sees nothing but a complicit whitewashed version of Christianity. I believe that’s true.

And for many, the “great cost” isn’t those things above—it’s power and privilege. This is to our great shame. That the prevailing concern in so many white spaces has been securing power while ignoring how that very power has denied and diminished dignity of our fellow brothers and sisters. How else are we to explain the sight of the Christian flag with the Confederate battle flag flying in the people’s chamber? The white civil religion, a hollowed out shell of Christianity animated by the pride of life, had its day of revelation & reckoning by the spirit of Trump. Still, some will disagree.

Now more than ever, I’m not persuaded of any need to convince with words or plausible arguments of what I saw yesterday, or even what I see God doing writ large in our day. But, as Paul says, I do aim to lead a life that is a demonstration of power. Kingdom power. The kind that trades comfort for a cross. Privilege for service. Pilate’s seat for a crown of thorns. That by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians‬ ‭3:10-11‬)

To that end, its time to stop talking. Start living. Let Jesus judge on the Day he’s promised. Until then, I’m reminded persuasion isn’t a tidal wave of facts and logic. It will prove difficult even still for some to entertain these events as a coup or insurrection. How much more difficult to persuade the world of the significance of events in a weekend outside the city of Jerusalem on a cross, and an empty tomb? Even still, I choose to live by them.

The persuasive power of the Spirit of Jesus is in the slow drip of welcoming hospitality mixed with the occasional pebble in your shoe. What is that? It’s a kernel of uncomfortable truth we’d all prefer to ignore. Shared in the safety of belonging but also with a twinge of unsettling. It’s not a boulder that crushes us, it’s a pebble to annoy us into examining our way of seeing the world. Yesterday was a big pebble.

This is America. This is who we are, not anything else. This wasn’t beneath us. Only beneath our intentions. We are known by our actions. The Christian flag was flown and the cross of Christ lifted high as guns were brandished and police lines crossed. I make the sharpest distinction between the Christianity on display in DC and the Rabbi King many follow, including me.

Leaving judgment to Jesus, we ought never issue apologies for trying to follow this risen Rabbi King, to do what he said we ought, to band together as His body, to remember him, to care for the orphan and the widow, to defend the cause of the oppressed, and to speak the gospel of this Kingdom and welcome new family in his name. Even when doing this brings cries of “that’s too political”. Especially when doing this costs you the hand of fellowship. That is precisely when Jesus’ words start to make sense.

One day, Jesus will tell us who was right—not just about DC, or 2020, but most importantly, he will tell us who was right about Him, like the Scriptures say.

And you know, the proof of who was right is not our theology confessed, but our theology lived. What in your life and mine only makes sense if Jesus is risen from the dead? In America and the world right now, that looks a whole lot like telling the truth—about racism, Christian Nationalism, injustice, abuse, and sin in all its forms, in hope of the Kingdom of God while loving your enemy and neighbor as yourself.

Published by Jared Stacy

Jared is an American Pastor, writer, and PhD Candidate in Practical Theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

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