Like many people, I was shocked as I watched the events that unfolded at the Capitol on Wednesday, January 6. There was part of me that could not believe that this was actually happening while at the same time, part of me was not surprised at all given all the displays and statements of hate, violence, divisiveness, selfishness and self-serving idealisms that have been growing and spreading in so many different ways. There have always been divisions, differing opinions, various points of view and disagreements. However, in recent years, the anger over such disagreements has increased to the point that civility, listening and working on compromises have all but disappeared especially when it comes to politics. The founders of our country did not come together holding hands and singing love songs. They had differing views on what the journey to democracy would look like. They had disagreements about procedures, policies and laws that would govern the efforts to begin a government that would serve all people. The only reason that we have a Republic today is because those involved in the formation were willing to listen, compromise, adapt, yield and in some cases, let go of their own desires and beliefs. Why are we at this point now where there are so many incidents of hatred, stubbornness, name-calling, attempts to diminish the worth of another human being and a refusal to accept anything except what is wanted and when it is wanted?
While I admit that I did feel some anger that people would desecrate the symbol of what we as Americans hold near and dear, I also felt pity for many of those who were fooled into believing that violence was the way to get what they wanted. I felt sorrow for those who for one reason or another are guided, directed and manipulated by conspiracy theories, half-truths, lies and deception. It does not excuse their actions and certainly does not exempt them from dealing with the repercussions of their choices, but it left me feeling sorry that so many fell prey to those who seek power, prestige and glory at any cost. I felt sad that some people are left looking for meaning and become easy targets for those who want to be viewed as important no matter or who it leads down the path to destruction. I can’t say that I felt much sorrow for those who were responsible for leading the people to believe that this was the path to getting what they wanted. It does, however, bogle my mind that so many cannot or will not see how they are manipulated. I do not care what flavor of politics that person adheres to, whether to the right or to the left, it just amazes me that some people simply refuse to see that they are being manipulated, not to promote something that is beneficial, but to create power, glory and status for an individual. Every conspiracy theory, every lie that is told, every half-truth that is uttered is born of some individuals desire to get what they want. These individuals know that there are others who feel a yearning, believe that something is being withheld that is preventing the achievement of happiness or someone seeks to destroy them. They may not know who will fall victim to their efforts, but they understand very well that someone will and then a movement is born. Such things have been around for a very long time but for some reason we have reached the point where those who accept the conspiracy theories, lies and manipulations believe that anyone who does not accept it is the enemy, are out to destroy them or are withholding the key ingredient to bliss. At the source is a craving for power. That which drives it is greed. That which sustains it is deception.
I remember all too well watching the events of September 11, 2001. It was a very sad, grim and sobering time for the United States as terrorist attacks were carried out within the confines of our borders. So many lives were lost. So many people were injured. The horrible feelings of vulnerability, fear, confusion and bewilderment filled the air. By the evening of that fateful day I felt dread, fear, heartache and had the belief that nothing could possibly be okay again. But then September 12th happened. It was a day filled with people coming together. It was a day to help anyone in need of help. It was a day when there were so many volunteering to help that some enthusiastic volunteers had to be turned away. It was a day when those who were stranded far from home because airports were closed and no air travel was permitted were welcomed, supported and given comfort. It was a day where divisions disappeared, disagreements were forgotten and a concern for others filled the hearts of people. It was a day of prayer as people recognized that we needed something greater than that which resides within the hearts of human beings to ever continue on, heal and have any hope for a brighter future. I remember being encouraged by so many wonderful signs of people coming together, lifting one another up and becoming symbols of hope. In all of these actions a clear message was sent to those who perpetrated the horrible acts of violence. It was a message that said that their desire to instill fear, their acceptance of the conspiracy theories and lies and their hope for dominance would never be victorious. Their actions left sadness and grief at the loss of life, but they would never achieve what they were really seeking. They had failed. I had hope. I believed that a new day had been born. I believed that everyone who had witnessed the resulting actions could now understand the promise of Resurrection in a more personal way. Yet in the twenty plus years since then, much of what had been achieved in those days and weeks after the horrible terrorist attack seems to have eroded. Instead of working for a stronger sense of unity, a greater willingness to help and a more profound understanding of Resurrection, we have been moving to greater individualism, more visible acts of selfishness and greater belief in wanting what we want, how we want it and when we want it. This is the new terrorism that we face.
I have listened as too many people have justified lies and behavior that should be unacceptable to any civilized people. I have become concerned that as soon as some do not get their way, there is a bombardment of insults, the other person is demeaned, bullied and slandered. I have witnessed some taking on the approach of terrorists to get their own way. They try to instill fear, enlist the support of others and act as though they are justified in what they are doing.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still signs of kindness, love and selflessness. I have not become fatalistic. However, I see in even some who are willing to help, support and lift up a sense that they are only interested in displaying those traits to those who believe what they believe, want what they want and are not on the opposite side of ideologies, goals and desires. It is worrisome and causes me to wonder what will possibly lie ahead for us. I do hope and pray that we become once again the people who learn how to disagree civilly, challenge compassionately and recognize that the quest for power, prestige, wealth and status can so easily lead us away from that which will allow us to be happy, prevent us from celebrating that which is truly important and deter us from recognizing the true blessings in life.
As people of faith, our complete trust must be in God and God alone so that everything we are involved in, even politics, can benefit from the way that God has called us to live. Throughout history we have heard the results that come from putting aside God’s ways. Misery, unhappiness, agony, war, violence and suffering for many is always the end result of believing that a way other than God’s is better. Peace, togetherness, an ability to overcome life’s challenges and hope comes from following the way that has been given to us by God. When people have justified greed, selfishness, self-serving laws and corruption, societies suffer. When people have forgotten the call to help those who suffer and instead buy into the pursuit of power, glory and prestige, they become weak. This is true in every aspect of life from individual businesses to Government to even the Church. Yet, this is not something that can be forced on people, it must be accepted. It must be witnessed.
I believe God is calling each person to open our hearts to a way of life that calls us to live as those who know that we are blessed by God. We are called to accept that we do not get to determine the value of another’s life because God values us all. We are called to accept that we do not have to waste our time and efforts justifying our mistakes because we know that God is ready to forgive. We are called to believe that we were not made to seek power, prestige and glory because God has already given us what we need and promised us eternal glory. We are called to be those who do not sulk when we do not get our own way because we have complete trust in God’s way.
I pray that rather than buying into or promoting conspiracy theories, lies and half truths, we may be strong in the belief that truth brings light and gives us the common goal of overcoming challenges, obstacles and disappointments.
I pray that government may work to once again become the place for an exchange of ideas, a willingness to work for all people, where all sides are heard and compromise keeps us from thinking that the extremes can bring what we are looking for.
I pray that disagreements do not negate the worth of the other human being. That name calling, insults and the demeaning of others does not remain as an acceptable replacement for the expression of views, exchange of ideas and the opportunity to expand or even change what we accept.
I pray that not getting one’s own way is not viewed as weakness, defeat or a lessening of a person’s worth but instead becomes an opportunity for growth, continued discussion and acceptance that one person is never always right.
I pray that our country may be a beacon of hope, an inspiration for mutual cooperation, an example of compassion and a symbol of what it means to view every person as meaningful, important and a gift from God.
I pray that each one of us may learn from the moments of life that have offered us hope, wisdom, peace and the revelation of God’s presence.