January 6, 2021. My son’s 6th birthday. A date none of us will soon forget.
I brought my son into my office so he could watch the events unfolding at the U.S. Capitol. I wanted him to know why everyone would remember his birthday. On the first day of virtual school for 2021, he spent the morning learning about Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. He spent the afternoon learning about Donald Trump.
You look at things differently as a parent. You worry about the future. You wonder about what kind of country, what kind of church your children will inherit. You try to imagine what it’s like to see through kindergarten eyes as pistols are drawn in the U.S. Senate chambers. You try to explain why the Confederate flag has been marched through the hallways of the U.S. Congress.
You try to explain why so many family and friends champion the cause that brought these protestors to breach the Capitol Police and occupy the Senate rostrum. You try to explain why they see it as their Christian duty to prevent the peaceful transfer of power.
But you can’t explain it. Because you can’t hold back the tears.
It’s been a long four years.
Nearly 20 years ago I worked in that building, as a lowly intern for Congressman J. C. Watts and the House Republican Conference. In the evening I raised money for the Republican National Committee and President George W. Bush. I came to Washington to serve my country in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks that rocked my college years. I came to help Congressman Watts establish what would become the Department of Homeland Security. I came to put my faith into practice—to defend the United States, to protect the unborn, to preserve the freedom of Christians around the world to worship God.
I left with no desire to return, at least to work in politics.
Four years ago many of us who follow politics closely were surprised by President Trump’s victory. Even many of us who did not support him nevertheless hoped and prayed for the best. We had been wrong before; we could be wrong again. We knew many friends and family of good faith who voted for him, even reluctantly, and we wanted them to be right. We wanted them to be vindicated. We wanted President Trump to rise to the occasion. We wanted the Oval Office to change him, to call forth reserves of courage and charity, of modesty and humility.
Sometimes that’s what we saw. The last time I invited my son to watch political events was the introduction of Amy Coney Barrett as President Trump’s third nominee to the Supreme Court. I wanted him to know my hopes that during her career, mothers and fathers would no longer be allowed to put their children to death, that our God-given and constitutionally mandated rights to exercise our faith would be protected, even as our beliefs become more and more marginalized.
I wanted him to see someone he could look up to as she serves her country by defending our Constitution.
Role models can be hard to come by today. How can you look up to a president who welcomes violence when it serves his cause? Or politicians when they tell lies because they aspire to the praise of his adoring masses? Or church leaders when they pass along the same lies, or go silent and leave the political discipleship to talk radio?
It’s been a long four years.
I am proud to be an American, but I have no defense for curious and confused brothers and sisters around the world as they watch our U.S. Capitol under siege. I have no explanation. I don’t know how this happened. I don’t know how a nation with so many churches allowed this to happen. I don’t know why so many professing Christians wanted this to happen.
And I don’t know how it ends.
I think about the next generation watching the hangman’s gallows erected on the west side of the Capitol. I was born shortly after President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, and only one week after he was shot. I grew up thinking we were supposed to admire politicians.
I know better now. Politicians reflect us. They’re scared of us. And January 6, 2021, shows why.
Politicians reflect us. They’re scared of us. And January 6, 2021, shows why.
God Is Not Ashamed
I’m not called to figure out what’s next in Washington, D.C. I left that life behind 20 years ago. We can pray that law and justice would prevail, that God would protect the city and the government he has ordained for our good (Rom 13:1).
So I focus on the church. We can’t like what we’ve become these last four years. Never could I have suspected what I’ve seen from long-time friends, from family, from mentors I’ve trusted and admired. It’s one thing to defend conservative values—which I still hold, which I share with many who voted for President Trump. But nothing we’ve seen today, that we’ve seen since November 3, is conservative. And it’s not a surprise, either, to anyone who’s listened to President Trump. He wanted this. He got this.
There must be a better way.
There is a better way.
Just a few blocks away from the U.S. Capitol, I found an unexpected refuge that summer back in 2002. Between two jobs I didn’t have much spare time. But it was a pleasure to worship morning and evening with the saints of Capitol Hill Baptist Church. I knew nothing about the church before my first visit. At that time I never met the senior pastor, who preached only once that summer. Yet in this church I found what I never saw in the U.S. Capitol. I found real, lasting joy. I found eternal purpose. I found unity across political disagreement. I found good news that no election could overturn. I found a calling to serve a cause much bigger than myself, much bigger than any country.
I found a deeper and unshakable faith in Jesus Christ.
The world does not need crosses erected on the Capitol grounds as shots ring out inside the Senate chambers. The world needs what I found in that church on Capitol Hill. The world needs a church that lives for another world, for a “kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28-29). The church needs men and women of faith, “strangers and exiles on earth,” who seek their homeland in the new heavens and the new earth, who seek a better country—a heavenly one (Heb. 11:13-16).
I’m ashamed by what I’ve seen today. But God is not ashamed of his people. And he has prepared for us a city—not Washington, but the new Jerusalem. If we will seek this city together, if we will humble ourselves over what we’ve become and throw ourselves in repentance on God’s mercy, then we might yet show this world a better way. Not a cross under which we march on the Capitol, but a cross on which our Savior suffered with joy so that we might be saved from sin.