Spiritual Lessons from Sedition

by | Jan 13, 2021 | 13 comments

We as a nation have been reeling from the events of last Wednesday at the Capitol when rioters from a nearby Trump rally pushed past Capitol police, broke into the Capitol and violently interrupted the work of Congress in certifying the electoral process votes. The lawless crowd—replete with Trump flags, Confederate flags, and anti-Semitic sweatshirts –was incited by the president and led by some members of Congress.

The sense of grief, outrage, confusion, and anger has been palpable. All four living presidents who preceded Trump have called this sedition or insurrection.

From a spiritual perspective, there are several things that are worth noting.

First, the events took place on Epiphany, the ancient celebration of the incarnation. Yet instead of revealing divine light and life, they revealed the darkness of white supremacy, while illuminating the danger of leadership built on lies.

Second, preachers addressed their congregations on the Baptism of the Lord Sunday. This is the same day on which Christians are called to remember their baptismal vows. United Methodists vow to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of their sin. Additionally, they accept the freedom and power God gives to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

Spiritually speaking, could this mob scene have been better timed? White supremacy has needed to be routed for a very long time. But how do we actually accomplish living into our baptismal vows? What does repentance look like?

There are efforts to impeach the president, and to silence him on social media, both of which seem like important steps to take. But will his inability to serve as president again or to rile up 88 million people at a time solve the problem of us?

No.

It’s easy, and satisfying, to point the finger and say, “that person or those people are the problem.”  But to be alive in America is to swim in the waters of systemic racism, to breathe the air of polarization, and to accept the inevitability of division and blame.

To truly repent of national sin takes more time than a public censure or de-platforming.  (Although four years of this president’s cruelty and lies has felt quite long indeed.) Repentance requires a deeper, more personal review.

This is where Lectio Divina comes in.

This ancient style of reading and hearing the scriptures calls us to enter into the frame of the story. As a scripture passage is read slowly, four times, listeners are invited to visualize themselves as different characters in the story, imagining each character’s feelings and motivations. The net effect is that instead of distancing oneself in blame, judgement or even pity from heinous characters—say the angry mob who called out “Crucify him!” or Pilate who gave the order, or the Roman soldiers who nailed Jesus to the cross—the listener gains a bit of understanding, even compassion.  Out of this shifting perspective, the listener moves into forgiveness of the other, and repentance of their own sin.

Ultimately, as Christians, we are called to manifest a higher consciousness, and to live into Jesus’ Kin(g)dom vision. I pray that these expressions of life are built on racial equity, and trustworthy leadership, among other qualities. But, you can’t step into a new future saddled with old resentments. We must live into our baptismal vows. Lectio Divina provides a step in that direction.

13 Comments

  1. Mike Pike

    excellent words and insights, Rebekah – thank you for this !

    Reply
    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      I appreciate your words, Mike. These are not easy times. Hope you are well!

      Reply
  2. Leigh Goodrich

    Thank you for these words and perspective, Rebekah

    Reply
    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      You are welcome, Leigh. How are you addressing your congregation at this time?

      Reply
  3. Steve Pudinski

    Rebekah, you are a voice of calm that needs to be heard. I pray your words are shared not just on this site, but others as well. Grace and peace.

    Reply
    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Thank you Steve. Feel free to share with others this would speak to.

      Reply
      • Jeannette Thomas Shegog

        Words of wisdom for a better county.

        Reply
    • Neely Landrum

      Rebekah, I appreciate your comments, especially about remembering our baptism
      I tell my congregations that many of us do not remember the actual baptism because we were infants. We can remember what God has done and is doing in our lives as a result of our baptism. I just have a couple of questions I am thinking through.
      1. The attack on the Capital is an abomination by persons who broke the law. It is just to be outraged at this. Where was the outrage about violence, destruction, and burning in places like Portland and Chicago?
      2. I know that hate filled speech is deplorable and should be removed. We are a divided country. It seems that the best way to bring unity is through honest dialogue. Is removing persons from social media (Not just Trump) who have a conservative belief the best way have honest dialogue? What happened to Parlor?
      3. I know that the there is strong emotion following the attack on the capital. Is impeachment of the president a week before he leaves office a way to bring unity to the nation? I heard just now on a news station that there are those who want to impeach Biden and then Harris after she replaces him. It seems to me that pandemic relief and the business of the nation is more important than political attacks on those we do not like.
      These are just questions that I am grappling with and welcome thoughts from others.

      Reply
      • Rebekah Simon-Peter

        Hi Neely,

        Thanks for your comments, and for your grappling with these issues. I think these are issues that are worth considering.

        I’d be curious to see what others have to say. In the meantime, I’ll share some of my thoughts. First, a word. Neely, I know you to be a caring pastor, who is thoughtful, and conscientious. None of my thoughts are about you Neely or meant to be disrespectful of you. Rather they are aimed at the situation before our nation as a whole.

        To be clear about where I am coming from: my comments and perspective are informed by my history as a Jewish Christian, a pastor married to a Latino, and a religious heritage that carries the generational memories of the KKK and the Holocaust. I did not vote for Trump the first time or the second time.

        1. I spent some time re-checking my understanding of what happened in Portland, especially using PBS as they are a non-partisan news source. This is one of the links I used: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/federal-presence-in-portland-gives-protests-momentum.

        Yes, it is clear that there was violence in Portland, and in other cities around the country during the summer. That violence was not right. The violence, however was a small subset of millions of people who came out in peaceful protest throughout the summer in response to a string of black people unjustly killed by police.

        Personally, I do not equate the small subset of people who devolved into violence with the rise of white nationalism in the US, how the president of the US has used this ideology to create a “base” and then called on them to do violence, or turned a blind eye while they did, to other members of our society. To my mind, violence in Portland and the assault on the symbolic heart of democracy are two different things.

        (As an aside: Something else that confuses me about Portland: the Mayor of Portland, and the Governor of OR consistently asked Trump to remove federal officials, as their presence inflamed people and created more of a backlash. He refused. So I find those dynamics confusing. I’m not sure what to make of them.)

        2. Unity coming through honest conversation is an ideal I share with you, Neely. Trump, however, seemed unable to engage in honest, fact-based conversation, or honest reflection on his own leadership. His tweets have been fact checked many, many times throughout his presidency. He demonstrated a verifiable pattern of lack of truthfulness.

        Personally, I don’t think that lying is a conservative value. The socially and fiscally conservative folks I know don’t value dishonesty. Especially the Christian conservatives I know. Ultimate truth is a huge value for Christians conservatives. For that reason, I don’t believe Trump is a good figurehead for fiscally, socially, and economically conservative folks. My conservative brothers and sister deserve better! Someone who actually lives true conservative values.

        Over and over again, courts threw out Trump’s “cases” alleging election fraud. The evidence for it just wasn’t there. Republican election officials agreed with the courts. Agreeing on the fact that this was an honest election, as determined by the people who are in charge of overseeing elections, would be a good place for the nation to begin honest conversation.

        As to Parler being shut down, it has been part of stirring up the white supremacy movement, and does not discourage hate speech or disinformation. is this really the kind of society we want to be?

        I think there are important questions that need to debated in US society as white supremacy gains a larger following, with increased visibility: does free speech include organizing for white supremacy and the hate speech that goes with it?

        Post WWII Germany was faced with these same questions. They have generally answered the question “no.”

        This PBS article has clear information to share: https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/capitol-attack-forces-reckoning-with-radical-right-wing-political-factions

        3. How we get to unity…I’m not sure. I believe it has to do with a vision that calls us all forward into a positive future. I don’t think the foundation of unity comes from “pardoning” Trump by not holding him accountable for his behavior, and essentially allowing him to run for a second term.

        I get that the “optics” of a second impeachment days away from Trump leaving the White House are not good. On the one hand, it seems like overkill. On the other hand, a second impeachment means the president can’t run for office again. That’s worth the bad optics in my mind. Trump has shown how dangerous he is. Not because of any fiscally, economically, or socially conservative policy values he may hold, but because of his willingness to cater to white supremacists, and to call them, in a pattern demonstrated over time, to violence. This mob threatened ALL of Congress, as well as the very processes of democracy.

        As a Jewish Christian, who is well schooled in the dangers of white supremacy, all of this disturbs me greatly. Apparently, it has disturbed US legislators as well, including ten Republican legislators. They too were under attack at the Capitol.

        I realize that my answers may not satisfy you, Neely. However, I am grateful that you and I do not need to see things the same way to know that we have a whole host of issues that we do agree on, and that we care about each other, and the future of our nation.

        With respect, Rebekah

        Reply
  4. Mike Wakeland

    This was really quite helpful, both in content and in tone/spirit. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Thank you Mike. It’s not always easy to strike the right tone and hit the right content. The events of the last week have been sobering, and convicting.

      Reply
  5. Kirt Moelling

    Thanks, Rebekah. Pointing the finger is an easy trap to fall into, without acknowledging our sinful complicity….

    Reply
  6. Rebekah Simon-Peter

    Yes, Kirt, far easier to see what “they” are doing wrong, than to step back and look at the whole picture. Not that evil shouldn’t be called out. But evil is generally bigger, with more tentacles, than can be noticed by simply holding the frame around “them.” In the case of white supremacy, I absolutely believe that ideology needs to be called out for what it is…small-minded, dangerous, hurtful, evil, and destructive. Yet, to live in America is to participate in systemic racism, and benefit from it, or be destroyed by it.

    I appreciate your weighing in, Kirt.

    Reply

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