Monday, January 11, 2021

What Next?

In the aftermath of last week's Washington MAGA riot (Trump supporters' violent attack on the U.S. Capitol), media attention has naturally focused on what the Congress should or could do to hold President Trump accountable, in particular, what form that might actually take - for example, Trump's impeachment (increasingly likely), conviction (quite uncertain), and disqualification from future federal office (relatively easy, but only possible if he has first been convicted). 

But that is not the only accountability that is needed. Trump is not the only person who needs to be held accountable for what has happened in our country. Whether or not he is impeached, whether or not the 117th Congress can rise to the occasion and deal with its own recalcitrant members, there is also the question of what how various Christian communities in our country can and will  examine their own consciences and respond to what David French has called "a violent Christian insurrection" that "invaded and occupied the Capitol."

Why does he call it "a Christian insurrection"? 

"Because so very many of the protesters told us they were Christian, as loudly and clearly as they could," French writes. "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." Also, the attack took place less than a month after the "Jericho March" as it was called, "an event explicitly filled with Christian-nationalist rhetoric so unhinged" that it had caused French himself to warn about “a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence.”

French's analysis is the most compelling I have read with regard to the religious aspect of what has happened, and it deserves to be read in full:

French  contends "that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies ... 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."

Examples of what he calls an enabling lie are "America will end if Trump loses," and "The fate of the church is at stake if Joe Biden wins."

Such enabling lies "not only dramatically exaggerate the stakes of our political and legal disputes, they dramatically exaggerate the perfidy of your opponents. Moreover, when the stakes are deemed to be that high, the moral limitations on your response start to fall away."

"And so the enabling lies spread. They poison hearts. They poison minds. They fill you with rage and hate, until along comes the activating lie, the dangerous falsehood that pushes a person towards true radicalism."

Against all this, he calls upon "courageous Christians who love Christ and His church ... to lead with honesty and understanding," and remember that one's "political opponents" are also one's "fellow citizens," and  that there is now "no political 'emergency' that justifies abandoning classical liberalism, and there will never be a temporal emergency that justifies rejecting the eternal truth."

Again, one really ought to read the whole thing!

Meanwhile, I am also remembering something that the same James Madison, who warned that "there is a degree of depravity in mankind which requires a certain degree of circumspection and distrust,” also wrote in Federalist 55, “so there are other qualities in human nature which justify a certain portion of esteem and confidence. Republican government presupposes the existence of these qualities in a higher degree than any other form.”

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