Yesterday, the United States Capitol was infested with a predominately white mob of domestic terrorists fueled by hate, fear, and conspiracy. These events occurred, not by coincidence, during the Feast of Epiphany, a moment in Christian history when the light of the star above the Christ child revealed to humanity the radical love and justice that was just born. As the light of Epiphany shone over us, it morphed into spotlights that lit up scattered moments throughout this terrorist attack.
As the terrorists marched to the capitol, they carried multiple signs saying, “Jesus Saves.” Some carried the ever so controversial “Christian flag.” A cross was erected in front of the Michigan state capitol. Terrorists were videoed chanting, “Christ is King.” The spotlight revealed to some of us that THIS IS AMERICA. THIS IS AMERICA. AND THIS IS THE AMERICAN JESUS.
This Jesus is white. This Jesus speaks English. This Jesus holds an American flag. And this Jesus has no care for justice, for equity, for inclusion, for a radical love. No, this Jesus is homophobic, transphobic, and racist. This Jesus is only interested in death dealing theology that uses fear to consume souls. This Jesus died on the cross but didn’t look at the criminals beside him and offer them grace. This Jesus rose from the dead but is indifferent to life abundant for Black and Brown people, immigrants, the poor, queer people, Asian, Native, COVID sufferers and anyone who is not straight or white. This is the Jesus that stormed the capitol building. This is the Jesus that was exposed, unearthed, brought out from the shadows.
But is this the Christ child that was laid down in those humble surroundings? Is this the Jesus whose star shined bright?
Scripture explicitly locates Jesus as a Palestinian Jew – a Brown man who spoke Aramaic. Jesus was born in the midst of tyranny and as a baby, was even searched for to be killed because his birth threatened the power of a tyrant who plagued his people with taxes and an abuse of power. Jesus fled with his family to Egypt making them refugees. As he taught in his adult life, Jesus spent more time with the sick and the poor than he did with those who are rich. He ate with societal outcasts, broke down barriers, healed people, fed people, and met their needs. And Jesus’ death was anything but glorified. It was a lynching. It was orchestrated by the state, by the empire because of his radical love and the threat it posed on power. And the resurrection of Jesus was a resistant act that told that power that it will not win. The power that oppresses will not win.
But, this Jesus, the Jesus of scripture, is a stranger to some. This Jesus, if walking down the street, would be ignored, or thrown in jail. This Jesus, if storming the capitol, would have either been arrested before he got to the sidewalk or shot on the spot. This Jesus would not hold a flag because this Jesus worships God and God alone. This Jesus would condemn the actions we saw yesterday.
For many people of color, the actions against the democracy of this country are no surprise. For many, doing so in the name of Jesus is no surprise. That light revealed to them long ago that this is America, and this is American Jesus.
And when white surprise is plastered across media feeds, we must ask, why? Why is there ignorance of the American Jesus by so many white people? Why are words of white bigots and demagogues not taken seriously and only characterized as fluff? Why did thousands of white terrorists so easily gain access to what was believed to be a safe and secure space while Black and Brown protestors couldn’t even get to the sidewalk? These questions of why should be illuminated in the Christian mind and heart because this is what the light has revealed – the foundational, ever present white supremacy.
Unbound is a Christian platform that holds to the unwavering Christ of justice and of scripture. Unbound condemns these actions of white supremacy, racism, bigotry, terrorism, and violence. And we will continue to hold the light on each other, hold each other accountable, call out sinful systems, and create spaces of discomfort because that is what Jesus would do. But condemnation and even prayer are not enough and if they are backed by inaction, they are nothing but words.
This is a call to action- a calling to face what is being revealed in the light, calling us to examine ourselves. This is a calling to call your representatives. Get involved locally. Continue to call out bigotry. And always do so in love and in light.
Rev. Lee Catoe
Editor of Unbound