Oceans of Justice, Rivers of Fairness
One year later, some thoughts on 1.6.21
On January 6, 2021, I was off grid, a few miles into a snowy trail in the frigid Rocky Mountains. My friend and I shivered our way out to a frozen lake and back before returning to the land of wi-fi and cell service.
While I trudged through wind and snow, protestors gathered in Washington D.C. wearing “make America great again” caps, carrying American flags, confederate flags, Trump flags—alongside crosses.
I opened Facebook to photos of smoke, a noose displayed on the lawn, rogue people scaling walls, a shirtless man in a buffalo hat, and a prayer in the rotunda; hands outstretched, eyes closed: Jesus Christ we invoke your name.
I wept that day as I thawed out in front of my laptop screen.
I wept for the deception of American exceptionalism, the idolatry of identity politics, party allegiance, Christian nationalism under the guise of patriotism. I wept for the Christians who saw the same headlines and photos as I did and remained silent. I wept for the ones who excused it.
I was told my perceived hatred for Trump blinded my objectivity; the insurrection was no big deal. It was fake news, unrepresentative of real Republicans.
In her infamous and important book Jesus and John Wayne, historian Kristin Kobes Du Mez highlights the trajectory that led to Trump’s election and evangelical support, which culminated in widespread election denial and a Capitol riot. What happened on 1.6.21 was just a matter of time, decades of evangelicals inserting themselves into the Oval Office, endorsing candidates to push their agendas (defeating communism and saving “the family unit”), believing culture was the battleground and a “moral,” conservative ideology was the solution. Evangelicals adopted warrior rhetoric; they talked of spiritual and physical battles, taking up swords, obliterating the enemy.
Du Mez writes, “Conservative evangelicals knew they were called to fight the Lord’s battle. It just wasn’t entirely clear what that battle would be.”
Months before the election, I saw bizarre beliefs circulating Facebook. One post claimed the rapture would be delayed if Trump was elected. If Trump was elected, he wrote, Jesus would tarry and America would be exceptional again. But if Biden was elected, well…it would be the beginning of the end. For many evangelicals, the end of Trump and a new Democratic president was terrifying, an obvious conspiracy.
The Lord’s Battle, it seemed, was a fight for America, a fight for Trump, a fight against evil Democrats, a fight to delay the end times, a fight against election fraud. I’ve long heard politics are a matter of personal conviction. But in the last few years, this sentiment wavered. I was told true Christians can’t vote for Democratic candidates; Christians must support the candidates who oppose abortion–no matter how concerning their past, actual politics, manipulation, rhetoric, or hubris.
But here’s the thing: convictions can be wrong. Convictions can lead to neighbor hate and Jim Crow laws and anti-mask protests and an attack on the Capitol. If the (C)hurch exists to shepherd and shelter, it should be shepherding people towards convictions of wholeness, flourishing, and justice. Personal convictions don’t matter if they lead to political idolatry and violence.
The Prophet Amos declares in Amos 5:13: “Justice is a lost cause. Evil is epidemic. Decent people throw up their hands. Protest and rebuke are useless, a waste of breath…You talk about GOD, the God-of-the-Angel-Armies, being your best friend. Well, live like it, and maybe it will happen.”
Live like it.
What does living for a God of justice and wholeness and love look like?
It certainly doesn’t look like blind allegiance to an unjust, irreverent leader, or policies over principles, or hundreds smashing windows and breaking down doors and daring to invoke God’s name in a rotunda they commandeered while threatening violence and death to politicians they dislike (how can we forget the noose?).
“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” (Amos 5:21-24)
A few months ago, the phrase “let’s go Brandon” became synonymous with “fuck Biden.”
A video of a mega church went viral with hundreds chanting during a “ReAwaken America” tour: “let’s go Brandon!” led by a person on an American-flag-decorated church stage, a church where, I imagine, the pastor would never dare say fuck, especially from the pulpit.
They say “let’s go Brandon” because they won’t say the “f” word.
They sanitize language to make it more palatable.
But the message is clear: fuck anyone who gets in our way.
What difference does it make if the “f” word is used or some innocuous name?
It’s the same thing.
What does it matter if crosses are carried alongside guns, a noose erected beside a Jesus Saves sign, a threatening president carrying a bible?
The artifacts lose their sacred importance, appropriated symbols of violence instead of hope, healing, or love.
Religiosity can’t disguise the hostility,
Censored words can’t cover up the underlying hate.
“I can’t stand your religious meetings,” your piety, your Christianized swear words….
The infamous prayer in the rotunda was not a holy moment; it was an example of taking the Lord’s name in vain in the co-opting of religion. I do not recognize their christ. I want nothing to do with the throwing up of hands, the skewed belief Christian faith has anything to do with the events of 1.6.21. I wonder how many people are more offended by the “f” word than the insurrection, how many churches continue to say “it’s a matter of personal conviction” instead of shepherding their congregations out of deception and towards the truth?
God desires oceans of justice, rivers of fairness. This, I believe, is why the church exists: to seek the flourishing and wholeness of our communities, to take up swords and turn them into plowshares, to provide shelter to the abused, compassion to the hurting, open tables to the lost.
We have no place on Capitol lawns, in angry chat rooms, in the dismissal of violent patriotism. We can sanitize our language, avoid “f” words, act in ways that appear righteous.
But what God wants, all God wants, is overflowing, never-ending justice, fairness, love.