Statement on Recent Events
January 8, 2021
Members and friends of the Reservoir Church community,
For many reasons, we don’t put out statements about most contemporary events. But given the level of shock, fear, and outrage many have experienced this week, as our senior pastor, I wanted to share a part of my own reaction. There are three ways I see this week’s events in our capital, as they connect to our faith and our community.
Last Gasps of a Failed Presidency
In November, President Trump was lawfully, democratically voted out of office. Though he and his supporters have fought those results and defied all democratic norms of peaceful transition of power, their time is up. Wednesday’s failed violent coup attempt is the expression of anti-democratic, white nationalist terrorism, aided and abetted by a failed presidency and the Christians who have continued to support it, even in its resentment-stoked, narcissistic dying gasps. Most of us as children were taught what it means to not be a sore loser. Many of us learned that when we fail, we should take a long, hard look in the mirror and see how we need to change. Some very powerful people and forces in this country have never learned these lessons. Regardless, one way or another, this presidency is over in the next two weeks.
A Tragic and Dramatic Failure of Christianity in White America
As a Christian, and as an ordained minister of the good news of Jesus, it has been important for me to publicly rebuke the words and actions of Donald Trump over these last five years. One reason that is so is that so many Christians and so many white Christians in particular have continued to back this man. In 2016, the majority of white Christians of all the major American Christian traditions voted for Trump. In 2020, 80% of white American evangelicals voted for his reelection. Prominent Christian leaders have “prophesied” and prayed in support of Trump’s power, policies, and presence. While it’s easy to focus on and point the finger at Donald Trump, many of us have some complicity in the brokenness and troubles of this nation we should reflect on. While our church has moved forward and beyond this world, the white-dominated evangelical renewalist cultures that our church was founded within in the 1990s have supported a form of faith in public life that is utterly unprophetic: that ignores racial and economic injustice, that denies science, that loves power and privilege, that is cruel to opponents of their ideology, and that stokes the resentments that fueled Wednesday’s sedition. I believe that Christians, and particularly white Christians in America, have a responsibility to bear a different public witness to the true good news of Jesus. For so many of you – people of color as well those whose religious and cultural background isn’t Christian, this form of faith hasn’t grown in your gardens. And it has in some cases only marginalized you and done you harm. I am so sorry.
One of the best ways I know to live faithfully in response to the troubles of Christianity in America is to week after week, both personally and as one member of the Reservoir community, do our best to prayerfully live and teach a gospel of faith, hope, and love, of justice, healing, and renewal, as we will continue to do.
Further Revelation of Old, Deep Needs for Repentance and Healing
Wednesday’s violence in our Capitol took place on January 6th. In some parts of the Christian world, that is Christmas. In others, it is Three Kings Day. And in many, it is called Epiphany, the day of God’s appearing. All of this Christmas season celebration that traditionally culminates on this day is about revelation. God reveals the depth of God’s love and solidarity with humanity by becoming one of us. The Magi reveal the deep significance of Jesus by worshipping him as a king. Among the other things that happened on Wednesday is that more of the troubled and violent fabric of our nation and ourselves has been revealed. We are a violent nation. We are a racist nation. We are a troubled nation. We aren’t only these things, of course. We are more than that. Yet we are still these things. The worst aspects of this country’s founding sins of racism and violence still trouble us deeply.
All of these troubles are of course so large, much bigger than any one person or any one church. If you need to take a break from the news or just rest or hydrate or take a walk or call a friend, do all those things. Additionally, let’s join together in praying for a peaceful transition of power this month in our nation. Let’s also pray for this country, whether we are citizens or residents or just passing through. America still needs deep movements of repentance, reconciliation, and healing. And let’s redouble our efforts locally to form a community of love and justice and renewal, a church that bears witness to good news of the love of Jesus, the gift of community, and the joy of living for all people. Let us be and grow the Beloved Community among us, in hopes and prayers that God will empower much larger efforts to do the same across this nation and world.