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In front of the Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Leah Millis).

Today marks the inauguration of the 46th U.S. President at the Capitol Building where Joe Biden will be installed on the same stairs that a few weeks earlier was the scene of what David French describes as:

A violent Christian insurrection invaded and occupied the Capitol.

“Why do I say this was a Christian insurrection? Because so very many of the protesters told us they were Christian, as loudly and clearly as they could. The Atlantic’s invaluable religion reporter, Emma Green, compiled considerable evidence of the Christian presence in her excellent report. I saw much of it with my own eyes. There was a giant wooden cross outside the Capitol. “Jesus saves” signs and other Christian signs were sprinkled through the crowd. I watched a man carry a Christian flag into an evacuated legislative chamber…

Are you still not convinced that it’s fair to call this a Christian insurrection? I would bet that most of my readers would instantly label the exact same event Islamic terrorism if Islamic symbols filled the crowd, if Islamic music played in the loudspeakers, and if members of the crowd shouted “Allahu Akbar” as they charged the Capitol…

The problem is that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies. We’ll call them the enabling lies and the activating lies. And unless you deal with the enabling lies, the activating lies will constantly pollute the body politic and continue to spawn violent unrest.”

Christianity Co-opted by Force?

Do you bristle at the suggestion that this was a christian insurrection?

Or do you somehow conflate the Kingdom of God with Christian Nationalism – and therefore think the ends justify the means?

In an earlier post I noted the Christian gospel message is being hijacked as thoroughly as western Islamists have claimed that ISIS has co-opted any other Islamic message. The Christian message is being hijacked by two of the most pernicious of American mutations: the prosperity gospel and Christian nationalism. Paul D. Miller, professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, writes:

“Christian nationalism is a political ideology about American identity. It is a set of policy prescriptions for what the nationalists believe the American government shouldn’t do. It’s not drawn from the Bible. It draws political theory from secular philosophy and their own version of history as well…

It idealizes and advocates a fusion of Christianity with American civic life. That’s a great way of understanding it. Christian nationalism believes that the American nation is defined by Christianity and that the government should take steps to keep it that way to sustain and maintain our Christian heritage.”

For more see interview with Paul D. Miller in “Christian Nationalism is Worse than You Think.”

This hijacking has been going on for some time, and it would be naive to suggest this so-called christian insurrection event is “one-off”. Sadly this is only the predictable strange and violent offspring of those misguided and dislocated from the One in whom we would bear fruit consistent with Christ: 

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

The Greatest Threat today is… Us

The January 6 riot reminded me of an April, 2017 article written by Professor Sunday Bobai Agang, where he notes that the real danger to Christianity is not outward forces – –  it’s the state of the church – it’s those who purport to be Christian but do not appear to follow Christ’s teaching or example.

Many horrible acts have been committed under the banner of radical Islam, and there is a real danger. But the truth is this: Overblown fears about a supposed “Islamization agenda” may actually be distracting Christians from the true threat that is stealing away the authentic witness and authority of Christianity…

Today, many Christians are deeply involved in corruption and flaunt decadent and immoral lifestyles. Our greatest threat is the sin in our own lives…

The Way we Take up our Cross

When Jesus talks about taking up our cross and following Him, there was no suggestion – not the slightest hint – that it would be to take justice into our own hands and enforce some selfish sense of entitlement spurred on by a spurned President who lost his election. No-one should deduce from this comment any partisan preference.  But by contrast Jesus said:

Whoever would follow me must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.

So much of what passes as “christian” in the public square today is so sadly inconsistent and incoherent with the person and teaching of Jesus. Therefore I don’t fault French and other observers for labelling this ugly event as “christian”… I take responsibility to be a better light to the actual beauty of the gospel and the person of Jesus Christ. As the title to his article states, “Only the Church can truly defeat a Christian Insurrection.”

A Call to be Countercultural

So what do we do. What is the Christian response? French writes:

It’s to realize (in the words of Curtis Chang) that “the promise of the Gospel is that if we ‘stand down’ from our culture’s broken attempts to restore our own honor, then in Jesus we are ‘raised to glory.’” “Glory,” he says, “is not some mystical, ethereal, after-life reality. It is the honor of bearing God’s true image: the Jesus who refused to defend himself, who absorbed the shame, and who trusted his Father God to defend and justify him.”

Those are powerful, countercultural words. They don’t relieve us from the biblical obligation to “act justly,” to humbly and faithfully seek justice in the public square. They do, however, rebuke the worldly urge to demand respect. They do rebuke a culture of grievance. And they place our hope outside and beyond the old southern urge to fight harder and with more fury against the opponents all too many Christians have grown to hate.

May we take up our cross… daily