As an educator, my role is always shifting, based on the needs of my students. Following the January 6th, 2021 attacks on the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., I spent the majority of my day re-assuring my 9 year olds that they were safe, praying with them for protection amidst the violence, and helping them process the fear that came from seeing the events at the Capitol. My students were most scared by pictures showing rioters attacking police officers, and pointed out that if the police are supposed to protect us, who will protect them? We also prayed that God would remove the hatred, bitterness, racism, and violence out of people’s hearts, heal and deliver them from these evils in the name of Jesus.
From my perspective, 2020 was an opportunity to confront our nation’s collective racism, resurrect bipartisanship in the face of an international crisis, and come to grips with decades of insufficient or half-hearted attempts to support working poor, rural, urban, or other vulnerable populations that just so happen to have been hit hardest by school closings. With so few churches speaking out decisively against the hatred, bloodshed, racism, and political idolatry present in the January 6th, 2021 attacks on the Capitol Building, it seems that many of us have failed this opportunity. I listened to many well meaning individuals pray for corruption to be exposed these past two weeks, hoping it would lead to some kind of miraculous reversal of the 2020 presidential election. Well, God did expose the corruption. He exposed pride, greed, blood-thirst for power, entitlement, horrifying spiritual blindness, idolatry, and a stark lack of love for Jesus.
It is true that the Church and individuals in it need to love one another, but we must also hate evil. Proverbs 8:13 says, “The fear of the Lord is hatred of evil.” Matthew 6:24 says, “No man can serve two masters”. If Christians foment our bitterness from thoughts into words and then actions, we are not following Jesus. Do not put the Lord to the test (Luke 4:12). Christians each need to condemn evil, examine our hearts, and turn back (repent) of any bad root we’ve allowed to grow there. The process of repentance requires sincerity. In repentance, we are expected to name our sins, ask or forgiveness, and walk back (Acts 3:19). There are occasions where our sinful words and actions lead to external consequences that we may also experience. But God frequently and faithfully restores the contrite (1 John 1:9). Indeed, all of us have a deep need for forgiveness and restoration which can only be satisfied in Jesus (Romans 3:23). So many of us have been able to receive the freedom Christ offers through our repentance and God’s forgiveness, and we have been gifted this ministry of reconciliation as a result (2 Corinthians 5).
Precipitating the attacks at the Capitol, there have been increasing debates in the United States about the role of censorship and freedom in speech in media. From my present understanding, persecution related to freedom of speech or freedom of religion in much of the world has to do with assault, murder, imprisonment, clear instances of slander, or other similar crimes. I’m wondering how these instances of persecution compare to the practice of accountability.
Given that “life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21), many Christians believe that our words (birthed from thoughts and into actions) have power to influence real events (James 1:15). Therefore, it stands to reason that we should be accountable for our words. Furthermore, Jesus seems to share this opinion in Matthew 12:36-37, saying “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” If there is an element of verbal confession required in salvation (Romans 10:13), accountability for words should be of no great surprise.
In contrast to persecution, accountability is a category practices whose goal is the communal restoration of one or more individuals who are ensnared by sin through their own actions (Galatians 6:1-5, James 1:15). In holding people accountable, individuals are instructed to restore others “in a spirit of gentleness…lest [they] too be tempted [by sin].” We as individual Christians have often failed to put on this spirit of gentleness, having sought to merely expose wrongdoing without the purpose of restoration. We have not always uttered truth in a means (method) and with an ends (purpose) in accordance with the love of Christ (1 Corinthians 13:1). However, there are also instances where individuals caught in sin fail to take accountability for their actions (Romans 1:24, 2 Timothy 4:10), claiming that the social consequences related to accountability are a personal attack related to freedom of speech OR religious persecution.
We as Christians must hold accountability and gentleness in the same hand. We must learn to distinguish between the consequences of being held accountable for our actions and instances of true persecution (whether related to freedom of speech OR religion). To ignore accountability shows contempt for God’s mercy, which should lead us to repentance (Romans 2:4). To ignore religious persecution or persecution related to freedom of speech is to be apathetic towards the lived experiences of many individuals (including some individuals in the United States).
I believe that these events should be addressed from a spiritual point of view (Ephesians 6:12). From my perspective, the rhetoric and spiritual tenor of the January 6th, 2021 attacks on the D.C. Capitol building demonstrated:
- greed (ex: using concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on the U.S. economy as excuse for riotousness)
- entitlement and self-pity
- blood-thirst for power and control
- racism (use of the confederate flag)
- an unhealthy love of controversy (1 Timothy 6:4) and conspiracy (deceit)
- horrifying spiritual blindness
- taking pleasure in evil (wickedness)
- jealousy (trying to steal control outright)
- Most of all, a stark lack of love for Jesus (idolatry)
While some of the terminology I’ve used here may seem extreme, I believe that explicitly naming what spiritual influences are operating within events gives the collective Church power to bind and render them ineffective (Matthew 16:19).
I am praying that God would bind and render these strongholds ineffective. I am also praying that God would loose (in order):
- sober minded judgment
- servant-hearted leadership
- honor-filled peace
- worship (of God)
- racial equity and solidarity
- a love of truth
- spiritual sight (to see Jesus)
- revelation of our Heavenly citizenship/home
- genuine love, mutual joy
- revelation of the surpassing worth of Christ
- personal encounters with the overwhelming love of Christ
I invite you to join me in prayer, knowing that we serve an inexpressibly great God. In a similar vein, I leave you with the prayers of my fourth grade students, in response to the Capitol Attacks. As we celebrate and honor God for the many things we love about our Nation, we also are praying for God’s direct intervention in addressing the evils we have allowed to grow here unchecked. We are humbling ourselves in repentance, examining our own hearts, and praying that God will heal our nation (2 Chronicles 7:14). Will you join us?