Christians are trying to make sense of the revolt (not revolution) which occurred at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Some are openly condemning the activity and blaming the President. Others are blaming black activists or are downplaying the event. This post outlines some of the ways Christians are doing the latter, and how I’ve responded to them. I hope they can be of use to others. I’m also very open to your own thoughts and experiences, which you are more than welcome to share via my Facebook page, Twitter, or in the comments below.
- Spreading false information.
One of the common responses is attributing yesterday’s attack on the Capitol to “Antifa.” This was something which also occurred during the Twin Cities riots in June. It shouldn’t be unsurprising. When evil is attributed publicly to one’s group, an easy response is to say that it was a setup perpetrated by one’s enemies. The claims that Antifa perpetrated yesterday’s attack have been widely debunked, but they are still spread by Christians.
The best way to respond to these claims is by providing correct information. However, do not absolve them of their responsibility to fact check in the future. One response I’ve used after others have corrected some of these Christians has been:
“I hope that the responses cause you to dig in more deeply the next time something on social media is attributed to ‘antifa.’ You were both duped by and contributed to the spread of false information here. It’s a form of bearing false witness, and it’s an act of charity that others have pointed this out on this thread.”
Some will respond by trying to argue about Antifa and this summer’s events, rather than by focusing on the evil which we saw yesterday. This is called “whataboutism.” It’s a rhetorical tactic used to deflect away from an issue, by instead focusing on a different issue. Know how to identify and respond to it.
2. Comparing what happened yesterday to the rioting and looting which occurred over the summer.
I’m not defending looting here. But the situations are quite different. One was an attack on retail stores. The other was an attack on the seat of the United States government, where Congress was gathered and then had to be evacuated.
Ultimately, this was unlike what occurred over the summer. Protestors marched from the White House, where a sitting U.S. President addressed and inflamed them, directly to the United States Capitol, where they disrupted a sitting Congress which then had to flee in the midst of an election certification. When the rioters took over the Capitol, someone tried to announce that the President had called for peace and wanted them to go home. However, the rioters dismissed this. They thought this was just “fake news” (a slogan which our President has engrained upon their minds as the response to anything they do not want to hear). They then marched into the Capitol with Nazi and Confederate paraphernalia. For the first time in United States history, the Confederate flag was brought into the Capitol building.
There are interesting comparisons to be made between yesterday’s domestic terrorism and this summers’ looting and rioting. For example, President Trump referred to black activists this summer as “thugs” and “mobs,” while yesterday’s activists were labeled by his daughter as “American patriots.” In response to black vandals, Trump responded, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In response to yesterday’s vandals, Trump responded, “We love you, you’re very special.” Trump and his supporters send a clear message: if you are black looter, you are a thug, and we will shoot you. If you are a white insurrectionist, you are a patriot, and we love you.
Undoubtedly, many Christians want to remove race from this conversation altogether. They believe that race is unfairly brought in to these conversations by liberal marxists wanting to take over society. What they fail to take into account, however, is that people actually expelled Congress and took over the Capitol yesterday, and those people started their morning on the White House lawn being encouraged by the President. Those people erected a noose outside the Capitol building, seeming to suggest: “We conservative Christians will lynch you (black people).”
3. Saying that the Democrats are just as bad.
I’m not a fan of the Democrats, either. But they’ve never done anything like this.
Hillary’s supporters could have done this. But they [checks notes] didn’t. Instead, Hillary gracefully conceded on election night, even though she believed illegal activity had contributed to President Trump’s win. And, as Kaili Joy Gray pointed out on Twitter, “When Democrats lost in 2016, they knitted pink hats and donated to Planned Parenthood.” Dr. Ray Truant pointed out, “When Jimmy Carter lost, he started building homes for low income earners.”
4. Saying that, in God’s grand scheme of things, this is of little significance.
There is no argument defending the “God’s plan” claim which does not beg the question. Essentially, this is an argument using a form of spiritual manipulation. It subtly accuses those who are alarmed, troubled, and angered by yesterday’s events of not “letting go and handing it over to God.” This also occurs when Christians look upon personal tragedies and respond, “It’s all a part of God’s plan.” This response doesn’t actually help anyone. It just pressures them into silence.
As a Christian, I would not accept people who say that abortion, for example, shouldn’t be worried about because “it’s all a part of God’s plan.” Christians who use the “God’s plan” argument would never accept it in the case of abortion. Because it’s not actually an argument they believe in. It’s an argument they use to shame people into silence.
The last four years have created a situation where, for the first time since 1812, the United States Capitol was taken over by domestic terrorists. Christians are responding in ways which downplay, excuse, and obfuscate. Non-Christians are watching and see these horrific acts, and the responses to them, as something which may be a part of Christianity. Many Christians are watching and worrying the same. The responses I’ve outlined above contribute to the sorts of fanaticism which we saw yesterday. This Christian will not tolerate it.
I’m not saying that everyone must comment on everything. But the President’s supporters just committed an insurrection and rioted in the name of Christianity. Black Americans (some of whose grandparents were enslaved) watched the Confederate flag go through our Capitol building. Jewish Americans saw conservative Christians take over the Capitol wearing “6MWE” shirts (the message stands for the claim that 6 million Jews were not enough). Now they’re watching Christians defend, downplay, and obfuscate what happened. Many are tired of having to defend themselves by themselves. Now would be a good time to step in.
Chris Damian is a writer, speaker, attorney, and business professional living in the Twin Cities. He received his B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. and M.A. in Catholic Studies from the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of “I Desired You: Intellectual Journals on Faith and (Homo)sexuality” (volumes I and II). He is also the co-founder of YArespond, a group of Catholic young adults seeking informed and holistic responses to the clergy abuse crisis. In his free time, he enjoys hosting dinner parties and creative writing workshops.