Luke 6:45: The good person out of the good treasure of the heart produces good, and the evil person out of evil treasure produces evil; for it is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.
On Wednesday morning it was Georgia which captured my interest. Who would win? What would happen in the Senate? During my morning Zoom meetings – Tea with the Pastor and the Staff Meeting, I kept an eye on the results and the day was looking better and better. The returns were promising, the Zoom conversations had been great. My next Zoom meeting was with the Interim Search Committee; we were having a lovely time talking with one another, making some plans for the future, when in the background of my computer screen, I saw the headline “Capitol on Lockdown”. Suddenly a day which had brimmed full of promise, re-filled with horror.
We all had many of the same experiences – a day was proceeding, much as you hoped, and then… absolute and complete horror as we saw, together, a mob running up the steps to the Capitol, surging through the halls, driving the members of Congress into safe hiding places.
It wasn’t hard to see what that mob wanted to do – they sought to disrupt the process of certifying the votes of the Electoral College in the deluded belief that, if they succeeded, Donald Trump would simply continue to be President. (In point of fact, if they had succeeded, Nancy Pelosi would become President until things were straightened out.) I could almost appreciate the irony that if there’s anything they’d like less than Joe Biden as our next President, it would be Speaker Pelosi.
But there was no space to appreciate irony on Wednesday. Actual live, theoretically human, people paraded in our Capitol wearing sweatshirts that said “Camp Auschwitz – Work Makes Freedom” or “6MWNE” (six million [Jews] were not enough). Some of the police who were supposed to protect our government opened barriers for the mob to swarm over the building, even while others put their lives on the line. In the midst of all this, a United States Senator was photographed encouraging the rioters. The President encouraged them as well. Today, the Capitol is littered with debris and five people are dead.
How do we understand and cope with the depths of depravity we saw? How do we deal with our own anger?
On Wednesday morning, at Tea with the Pastor, we were struggling with the nature of evil – does evil really exist? Much of the time, we believe that people are basically good. We have stepped away from that old Puritan belief in everlasting evil. But then come days like Wednesday, and scenes such as I described. It is nothing but evil to celebrate the murder of Jews. It is nothing but evil to step away from your responsibility to protect. It is nothing but evil to incite a mob to violence, or to take advantage of that violence to make money.
But evil cannot prevail. That is the truth of the Resurrection. Christ rose from the dead as a sure sign that love overcomes evil.
How do we live with our feelings? I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s incredibly angry. Over the years, I’ve learned two things about times like this, times filled with frustration and anger. First of all, we’re still in the middle of things. It’s natural and expected that we’ll be tossed this way and that. it doesn’t mean we’ve been thrown off our foundations; it means that things are still happening. But we don’t have to indulge those feelings. If you’re angry, you’re angry, but it’s not exactly where you’ll be in seven days.
And the second thing I’ve learned? It’s not to make decisions before I have to, not to take action until it’s necessary. Give yourself time to think things over, to see how it all plays out. We’re not going to forget, but we don’t yet know all we will, especially over the next two weeks.
In the meantime, we’re not going to ignore what’s happened. We, here in Middletown, will wait to see how things play out, but our Senators – Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy – are in the midst of things. “This is a time,” writes Tony Robinson, “to do the right thing.” Love doesn’t mean ignoring evil, or giving evil unlimited permission to do what they want. All people are welcome in God’s love, but all behaviors are not.
Bill Moyers points out that there can be no “moving on” or “looking to the future” before facing the truth. People have broken the law and they are being arrested, will be tried, and will be jailed. Rioters have lost their jobs. Those who instigated, encouraged and supported the riot are being investigated. While we wait for clearness as to what happened and who was involved, we have a job. Our work, our calling, in the midst of all this is to continue to proclaim the power of love.
Where some proclaim that it is the Christian way to “stand up for America” and try to tear down our democracy, we will continue to live our belief that the Christian way is a way of welcome.
We may still wish that evil did not exist, but today we know it does. Out of the strength of our faith in God’s everlasting goodness, however, we will be church, love God and serve our neighbors.