“When Peace Becomes Obnoxious”

Police set off percussion grenades in front of the US Capitol building during the riot on January 6, 2021. (Reuters: Leah Millis)

A Reflection on the Siege of the U.S. Capitol by Domestic Terrorists

Lord, public shame belongs to us, our kings, our leaders, and our fathers, because we have sinned against you. – Daniel 9:8 (CSB)

On January 6, 2021 Democracy was attacked. While Senators and House Representatives debated the electoral votes from the state of Arizona, domestic terrorists scaled the walls of the U.S. Capitol. Shattering windows and breaking doors, insurrectionists entered the offices of elected officials and even illegally entered the Senate floor. A most egregious act was to see an anarchist standing from the very podium only moments earlier Vice President Mike Pence and Madam Speaker Nancy Pelosi stood.

Framed as a “March for Trump” with self-proclaimed protestors decrying voter fraud and mistrust in the electoral process, the nation could not help but compare the treatment of Black Lives Matter protestors to how police dealt with the anarchists who only yesterday lived to tell of how they illegally broke into a federal building vandalizing the edifice and the private property of elected officials.

America Has Not Changed

This was not a display of liberty. This was not a display of justice. The concern of these terrorists was not national peace nor the integrity of our electoral process. Yesterday’s violence was a result of eight years of a Black president, four years of a Trump presidency, and the election of the country’s first Black and Indian, female Vice President. The anger, vitriol, and ignorance espoused from these terrorists is an outgrowth of the racist, bigoted rhetoric exemplified by the President of these yet to be United States.

This siege of the U.S. Capitol revealed to the world that White nationalism remains the greatest threat to democracy and political progress here in America. It further solidifies that White supremacist terror is not a figment of the American imagination, a memory of the country of old. This mutiny may have been incited by President Trump, but it was fueled by the wounds of a lost Civil War exactly 160 years ago.

As a White nationalist walked the Confederate flag through the halls of the U.S. Capitol it became clear to me that some Americans are still reeling over the loss of the Civil War. White supremacists and the descendants of the confederate leaders of the American South are still grieved over the federal mandate of the emancipation of enslaved Africans. They are still enraged over decades of society’s attempt to embrace and acknowledge the humanity of Blacks, the Indigenous, and other people of color.

“When Peace Becomes Obnoxious”

How American leaders and citizens respond to this moment will either show our courage or our cowardice. Now, is not the time to cry aloud for a peace that longs for the absence of tension. Exactly 8 days before the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and 11 days before his national holiday, I am reminded of a sermon he delivered in Montgomery, AL on March 18, 1956 entitled, “When Peace Becomes Obnoxious.”

Delivered the day before his trial for violating Alabama’s anti-boycott law, King declared, “peace is not merely the absence of…tension, but the presence of justice.” As he continues, his words seem to resound as the courageous reminder we all need to hear: “And even if we didn’t have this tension, we still wouldn’t have positive peace. Yes, it is true that if the Negro accept this place, accepts exploitation, and injustice, there will be peace. But it would be an obnoxious peace. It would be a peace that boiled down to stagnant complacity, deadening passivity. And if peace means this, I don’t want peace.”

I can’t help but agree. For if peace means the objection of a Biden-Harris administration, then I don’t want peace. If peace means the rejection of Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, then I don’t want peace. If peace means the acceptance of government corruption, then I don’t want peace. If peace means turning a blind eye to White supremacist terror, then I don’t want peace. If peace means four more years of Donald Trump as President of the United States, then I don’t want peace.

True Peace

The peace I long for my country is the peace Jesus speaks of John 14:27 when he says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” The peace of Jesus is a security in Him, His power, His presence, His just kingdom. It is not a peace that seeks to escape or avoid tension. But instead, it is, as Dr. King wrote a “peace [that] is the presence of positive good.”

So, as we reflect upon the events of yesterday some in shock, horror, dismay, and others a numb nonchalance accustom to such violence, my lament for us is that we do not run from these moment. “Don’t let your heart be troubled or fearful.” Now is not the time to backdown on the work of justice. Now, more than ever do we need a peace that does not shrink in cowardice, but stands in the face of aggression; stands in the face of racism; stands in the face of anarchy; stands though the heavens fall and remains steadfast to the work of producing “the presence of positive good.”

My Prayer

I close with the final words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s sermon: “Our Father God, who dost overarch our fleeting years with thine eternity and dost undergird our weakness with thy strength, in the midst of the pressures of another day, as we face its vast concerns. Above all else save us from succumbing to the tragic temptation of becoming cynical.”

This is my prayer…in Jesus name,

Amen.

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