Rescuing Christianity from Radicalization
On January 6, 2021, our nation was attacked by home-grown terrorists. The aftershock of this insurrection will be felt for years to come. Millions of us watched in horror as newsfeeds streamed the carnage live. Equally disturbing was the footage being streamed by the insurrectionists themselves from within the Capitol.
Outside, they built a hanging station, held sing-a-longs, and chanted everything from “stop the steal” to “kill Mike Pence.”
As shocking as these scenes were, the “Jesus saves” banners, the praying on the Capitol floor and the signs that said “Trump is God’s President” sent so many into tailspins — the link to a radicalized form of Christianity could no longer be ignored.
Around the country and perhaps the world, people are trying to come to grips with an almost-successful coup and its links to Christianity. People were dumbfounded that religious indoctrination could lead to this type of violence.
I however, was not. Having been exposed to this rhetoric for years, I knew the call to a religious war was a part of the brain-washing. Many of us took that call metaphorically — the “attack” on Christianity simply meant that our beliefs no longer governed this American land.
But it continued and grew worse long after I left the church, so much so that one of my followers reported that her pastor recently told his congregants to arm themselves and prepare for the war for our nation that is to come.
This is America in 2021. But this America didn’t happen overnight. The events of January 6th are of a country whose roots are embedded in white supremacy and longs for evangelical Christian belief to be the barometer with which all government policy and National law should be measured.
Since 2015, when then presidential-candidate Donald Trump called for a complete ban on Muslims entering the United States, he has terrified me. His ranting reminded me of the toxic theology of my religious upbringing, and it was no surprise that millions were drawn to him. With his brazen and openly racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic — not to mention brutally abusive — ways, Trump became the voice of a movement that was looking for a leader.
History reminds us that this is a formula for success. Hitler perfected it until the world finally came to realize how dangerous and maniacal a leader can be when they’ll stop at nothing to remain in power.
We can’t pretend to be shocked. The red flags have been waving for centuries, warning us that the white supremacist seeds planted firmly in the American way-of-life would soon bear ugly fruit. Sure enough, a narcissistic megolomaniac seeped through the cracks of our institutional armor and gave a platform to hatred that had been hiding in plain sight.
We were told. Ivana Trump — yes Ivana — Donald’s first wife, told us about his intense obsession with Hitler, keeping his biography at his bedside, to read faithfully again and again.
So while we were busy believing that our social activism was progressing human rights to a new level of equity and justice for all, the anger and the rhetoric was growing stronger and stronger inside living rooms and churches. People were offended that their way of life was being attacked by those who insisted on leveling the playing field in this democratic nation.
In some ways, we are to blame. We should never expect a government system — regardless of how democratic it is — to be the sole protector of human rights. Now we see how easily that system can falter at the hands of a bigoted tyrant.
But here we are, left with the aftermath of January 6th, and — let’s be honest — anxiously awaiting Trump’s next move…
and not if — but when the next uprising will occur.
Yet, even in our darkest days there is hope. That hope comes in the form of a new government administration. Hope comes in the words of a young Black woman who reminds us that “there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it If only we’re brave enough to be it.” [Amanda Gorman “The Hill We Climb” Presidential Inauguration 1.20.21]
And hope also comes in the form of a new awakening in the hearts and souls of the other half of America — the ones who vow to never fall asleep again. They vow to educate themselves, empower the leaders who will protect true Democracy and enforce accountability, including in their churches and homes.
The first step to solving any problem is admitting there is one.
America, we have a problem.
It has been hiding in plain sight for centuries.
No one is more equipped to protect this country than its citizens.
No one has more at stake if the system fails.
We must be diligent in protecting our democracy.
Be the protector.
Be the defender.
Be the light.
Be the hope.