Miroslav Volf and the staff of the Yale Center for Faith & Culture respond to the lies, provocation, sedition, riots, and violence at the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
Hello friends. Like many of you, my colleagues and I have been deeply troubled and grieved by the events of the past 24 hours—and we felt an urgency to affirm together the thoughts I’m sharing with you here. Many leaders—politicians, pastors, journalists—have already spoken up. We join that chorus in hopes that our thoughts and words will help heal our divided country, divided church, and divided humanity, and heal that divided community with the love and peace of Christ. - Miroslav Volf
Yesterday afternoon a violent mob supporting a president who refuses to acknowledge the uncontestable fact of his defeat in last November’s election attacked and occupied our nation’s Capitol building. The immediate sequence of events that led to this attempted insurrection is clear. President Trump spread false allegations of electoral fraud since before the election itself, stoking fear, anger, racial resentment, and suspicion. He recruited Republican politicians into supporting his election fraud claims. He recklessly called for protests on the day Congress was to certify the election results. And yesterday he spoke to his protesting supporters and incited them to violent action, which many of them enthusiastically undertook. In the midst of the violent occupation, rather than quickly and clearly condemning the mob to protect our nation’s capital, he coddled and embraced them, saying: “go home; we love you; you’re very special.”
The most responsible thing to say about the President’s and the attackers’ actions is that they were without qualification wrong. To praise, to condone, to excuse, or to ignore them is to “call evil good… put darkness for light… put bitter for sweet” (Isaiah 5:20).
We are encouraged to see so many Christian leaders already naming yesterday’s wrongdoing for what it was, and we call on all our fellow followers of Christ to do the same.
At the heart of the current effort to deny and overturn the results of the presidential election is the wounded pride of a man who cannot handle the truth of his own imperfection and the fact that he lost a fair democratic contest.
There is a sorrowful, pathetic smallness to this petty woundedness even as it produces momentous—and tragic—consequences. Faced with painful realities that conflict with his self-image but that he cannot control, President Trump has given himself over to wishful thinking, conspiracy theories, and falsehood. He has constructed a pseudo-truth to fit the needs of his immense but fragile and wounded pride.
Many Americans have taken his lie to be their truth. Sadly, but unsurprisingly, among them are many who call themselves Christians.
Many of the attackers yesterday claimed, quite literally, the banner of Jesus Christ. They displayed flags that said “Jesus 2020” and signs that said “Jesus Saves”—right alongside Trump banners and the Confederate flag. It was not only moral failure at work and on display, but also a theological distortion. The roots of these events are not exclusively theological, but they are deeply theological.
Jesus is not a presidential candidate, or a symbol of purified, divinely blessed America. He is the risen and living Lord of all—the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The salvation he offers is not the success of your political candidate or the realization of your national dream. It is forgiveness of sinners, release of captives, healing of the sick, justice for the poor, resurrection of the dead.
Christ is victor, and we may humbly hope to be “more than conquerors” through him. But his victory came in and through a scandalous shame and seeming defeat of the cross.
What we saw yesterday will draw out very deep human emotions. We feel afraid for ourselves, our country, our children, our neighbors. We feel blinding anger and frustration over the lies, the corruption, the racism, the violence, the insanity.
But each of us must wrestle with the question of what we will do with our fear and anger. We do not have the power and influence of a president, but none of us is without consequence. Our individual and collective agency is a gift from God that we must in turn give to each other for Christ’s sake and for humanity’s sake.
What must we do?
We must commit firmly to the truth, even and especially when it hurts our pride, when we lose, and when it calls for sacrifice.
We must orient ourselves toward peace and bearing with one another, being ready to forgive, as we have been forgiven. Indeed, our commitment to the truth is never at odds with love of neighbor. Peace is in fact unintelligible and unimaginable apart from the truth of Christ.
We must stand up for the downtrodden, marginalized, and afflicted, speaking and acting on their behalf, for their good, for their healing, and for their inclusion in flourishing.
We must never compromise or distort Christian faith in service to the idol of political power.
We must restore confidence in our democracy and trust in each other. Suspicion and conspiracy theories have distorted and disconnected us from reality.
We must live constantly from the deep truth that our worth doesn’t come from victory, triumph, or any other kind of power or influence. Our worth is secured by the love of God for us.
May we all become instruments of peace in this time of conflict.
Thank you, listeners and friends.
Miroslav Volf & the YCFC Staff