Events in the Capitol building and its surroundings shocked me this past week. Along with reacting to those events, I remembered happier moments from 1977 and 1978 when I sang with a college choir on the Ellipse outside the White House by the National Christmas Tree, later in the Rotunda of the Capitol building, and finally as part of the National Independence Day Celebration on the Washington Mall. We sang songs of faith in Christ, but also included patriotic and songs from musicals in the Independence Day performance. The experience sparked an appreciation of memorials and monuments to our nation’s history in me, but couched that appreciation in a lyrical context that challenged me to consider what it means to live as a Christian in a political, national environment.
I understand how it feels to be disappointed and angry about decisions by politicians, to be concerned about the moral direction of the United States. My beliefs in the sanctity of life throughout life, integrity, respect, in truth, in standing up for those who are limited in their ability to defend themselves, in equity of justice and citizenship responsibility have clashed with my perception of decisions or actions taken by both major political parties. I have cried out to God in prayer in sorrow, bewilderment, and anger.
This week, while I heard the anger and disappointment with some electoral results, I did not understand nor approve violent action that took place while elected representatives were counting the votes of the Electoral College and considering objections to those votes. The timing of the actions demonstrated a lack of respect for the process our nation’s Constitution establishes for determining the result of a presidential election. While some protesters seemingly got swept along without knowledge of violent intent, others in video shared while they were breaching the building or texts and messages sent beforehand, threatened harm to the Vice-president, Representative, and Senators inside the building. Those threats included hanging, shooting in the head, and running over with a vehicle. Items were stolen from congressional offices; the Capitol building was defaced by vandalism. A Capitol policeman died, apparently from being beaten by protesters. The broadcasters of the videos and messages and those who have been arrested included people who identify themselves as Christians. This saddens me, especially since some have seized upon Christian flags and banners being present in the protests as a reason to criticize Christianity as a whole.
So, how do we pray when, wherever you stand on the political spectrum, it appears that many are confused and afraid? We pray for truth to emerge, for the ability to discern truth clearly, and for courage to act for justice and peace. I personally have reminded myself of these verses:
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
“But in your hearts revere Christ as LORD. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if its God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:15-17.
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself in Christ, not county people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
The riot did not prevent Congress from fulfilling its responsibilities this past week. After the Electoral College’s votes had been counted, and two objections debated and defeated, Joseph R. Biden, Jr. was determined to be the next President of the United States of America, elected by its people. You may question the fairness or methodology of the election. Remember however, that every state’s governor certified the votes for his or her state after counting, recounting, and auditing occurred if required by law or requested by the loser in especially close elections. Over sixty court decisions have ruled that the elections were conducted according to relevant state laws in fairness and security. Even if you have fear regarding the future, pause for a minute to remember that Jesus, the apostles, and early Christians lived in a political environment where they had much less influence on the selection of their civic leaders than we do. Yet they were able to encourage praying for those leaders that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. We may not be able to control some aspects of national policy making. We can, however, determine how we will conduct ourselves in personal relationships and business dealings. As American Christians, we also can voice our concerns in speech and voice in a responsible manner. We can pray.
While we pray, and try to make sense of the aftermath of the events of January 6, we who profess to be Christians must remember to check our steps to make sure that we are following him. Jesus taught that the two great commands were to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). When we suspect that hate and fear motivate our choices more than love does, we need to pause abruptly, regain focus on Jesus, and recalibrate our course. Pray hard, my friends, and act with love.
God who governs the course of history, humans have rebelled against your will throughout history. Still, people have maintained faith and lived with integrity in very hostile settings. When we face uncertainty and wonder whom to trust, remind us that truth exists, and that we can act with love whatever befalls. Give us courage to call for justice, but discernment also that we may know we when obstruct justice. We pray for the people of the United States of America, that we may know peace, security, and confidence in our government. We pray for President Donald Trump, that he may act wisely, compassionately, and justly in maturity during the final days of this term of office. We pray for President-elect Joe Biden, that he too may act and speak with wisdom and compassion, and that he may work for justice, but also for policies and actions that rebuild unity and trust. We pray that we will be able to live peaceful and quiet lives in godliness and holiness. In Jesus’ name, amen.
- Quotations from the Bible are from the New International Version 2011.