A Pastoral Statement on the January 6 Storming of the Capitol

January 7, 2021

Like you, I have been going through a range of emotions related to yesterday’s events in our nation’s Capitol. As your pastor, I wanted to share some thoughts with you about ways in which we can respond productively to the events of the past day.

Try to understand the events we’ve seen from multiple perspectives.

One of the things that I have read over the past day that has resonated with me is that Americans tend to live in different “information worlds.”  Consequently, we don’t have anything close to a shared understanding of reality. Nearly all media outlets have some degree of bias and the lines between reporting, analysis, and opinion are blurred. If you’re like me, most of the time, you consume media that is more likely to dovetail with previously held assumptions. Occasionally, when the Holy Spirit is particularly active within me, I will intentionally listen to news media that is more likely to cut against the grain of the way I tend to see the world. This is often difficult. It feels like screeching nails on a chalkboard. Too often, when I take this step, I spend my energy constructing counter-arguments to the perspectives expressed, instead of listening with a sense of curiosity.

I feel both a sense of anger and sadness at the storming of the Capitol yesterday, but also at the rhetoric and disinformation that helped to cultivate that storming, which has been brewing for a long time. Nevertheless, I know that however I may feel about it, there are many in my circle of friends, family, and church who have felt inclined to support what I understand to be harmful rhetoric and disinformation. They would choose different words for those things, I have no doubt. I know each of them well enough to know that they are not evil and do not wish harm for our country. I hope they know me well enough to know the same about me.  If this is true, I believe we owe it to one another to try and at least understand where another person is coming from. We don’t have to agree. But as Christians, we ought to have strong empathetic muscles.  Seeing things from the perspective of someone else is a good way to exercise those muscles.

This is the narrow way about which Jesus speaks. It is easier to just live our life, seeing the world through our own lens, without making the effort to understand someone else’s way of seeing the world.  But this is the hard work that being a Christian citizen in our country right now requires.  

Jesus and John the Baptist often called for us to repent. The Greek word for repent, metanoia, literally means “have a larger mind” (meta = larger, noia = mind). Seeking out other perspectives helps us to do this repenting work.

Lean in to your faith practices.

Yesterday got me off-kilter.  I was angry at the things I saw. I stayed up half the night reading articles, watching television on my phone, and checking in on social media. I ignored my youngest child so I could watch more news. Perhaps you fell into some of these traps too. We need take time to pray, spend time with God and with our spiritual disciplines. If you got off-kilter yesterday or you’re still off, grace abounds.  Take a deep breath and make a plan to engage in the spiritual disciplines that nourish you. And don’t let those spiritual practices be the end of the story, but let them propel you to Christian action, civic engagement, and courageous conversations.

Part of faith practice is communal. COVID has limited this communal faith practice for a season. Over time, it may have become easier to check out of digital forms of church. This is understandable.  Yet, the truth is, we need church right now.  I encourage you to make the effort to stay engaged.  

Don’t give up on accountability.

I absolutely believe the kind of “perspective taking” that I describe above should be a core spiritual and civic practice of this time and place.  Nevertheless, I don’t wish for that to be understood to mean that “all perspectives are equally valid” or that we should ignore accountability structures for those who have broken the law or engaged in harm. We must be people of accountability and justice. You may choose to do this through your own civic engagement, intentional conversations or other peaceful means. 

Self Care

This is a tender time for all of us. We have lots of emotions swirling through our hearts and minds. It is okay to:

  • Check out for a bit
  • Give ourselves grace for breaking good habits
  • Draw boundaries with toxic people
  • Go to bed
  • Turn off the television, cell phone or computer
  • Engage in a recreational activity
  • Call a friend

We serve a God who saw fit to weave Sabbath rest into the rhythm of life and a Christ who drew away from the crowds at times. Self-care is a gift from God.

Look for resurrection opportunities
I have been pessimistic for some time about the ability of different factions in our country to meaningfully engage with one another and work together for the common good. Yet, I believe yesterday’s events have softened some hearts and that new possibilities exist for our leaders and for ourselves to engage with people who think differently in thoughtful, generative, and productive ways.  We have seen the consequences of what happens if we don’t.

Likewise, I have been worried that the pandemic has taken a toll on our church and wondered if it is something that we’ll ever recover from. I remember that after another tragic day in the life of our nation, September 11, 2001, there was a dramatic increase in church involvement.  People had a hunger both for God and for community in the wake of tragedy. I hope that people both inside our church and in the community have a similar hunger today. This hunger is an opportunity for us – I hope you’ll choose to be actively involved. And when the time comes for us to resume all of our in-person activities, you’ll challenge yourself not to let any habits of being less engaged from church that may have developed to persist.  

We serve a God of resurrections and God is at work making something new out of this too. Let’s be a part of seeing it take shape.

As always, please know that I am here for you as the pastor of this church. If you need to talk you may call the church office at 536-1559 or email me at todd.noren-hentz@umcna.org

~ Pastor Todd