It is no secret that our country is divided. Has been for a long time, probably even since our inception. These different divisions seemingly want very different countries. I received a text message this morning saying “I think the collapse of the USA into individual nation states is something we might see in our lifetime.” This statement caught my attention because it is something I have felt for some time. Technology is of course at a place today where people are able to say and see whatever we want on a global level instantly. I remember sitting through an FBI training about two years ago and learning that we in fact have been significantly safer in recent years than any other time in recorded history. But because of our increased and instant awareness of everything, it is easy for us to assume great threats. The reality is that we have always lived this way and with these threats, but now our awareness of such has reached new levels. What should be something that raises awareness and uniting people together has in fact caused great ignorance and a visibly greater polarization than at least I have ever witnessed in my lifetime. But as I began to reflect a little more on this statement that we might be witnessing “the collapse of the USA…” the conclusion I have come to instead is that rather than a collapse we are seeing a shift. There seems to be a transferring or a shift of power that is happening in places of influence. Albeit slow, but changing and shifting nonetheless. And this scares those of us who have been on the dominant side of power.
What we witnessed yesterday was a group of individuals who were fueled by fear. Fear has been at the root of the campaign of our President. “Make America Great Again” and “Keep America Great” are both slogans that are rooted in fear. Fear of loss. And this is an effective campaign when we feel like what has worked for us is slipping away. It feels as if our America is being taken from us. The America many have fought for and sacrificed their lives for. Let me be real for a minute… I think our America is slowly being taken over… however, I think it is “being taken from us” by other Americans whose voices have been quiet for too long. Other Americans who have a different color skin, a different gender, or a different ideology than we might have. The Declaration of the United States says, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [and women] are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” If this is actually the case, and we actually believe that all men and women are created equal then shouldn’t the rights and the voices of women and persons of color and persons with different ideologies be equally heard and represented? Our national leadership in no way is representative of the ethnic and gender diversity that is present in our country. I do believe this is changing, and if we were all honest with ourselves I think that this is the very thing that scares us. That somehow our rights will be threatened, or more accurately our ideologies and privileges we have come to expect. Maybe, just maybe, it is time for those who in large part have not experienced “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” to have a chance at this whole American Dream thing too. And yes, of course they will change some things that might negatively affect those of us who have benefited from being on the dominant side of power. But why do we have to jump to the conclusion that our country is collapsing because of this?!? I confess, I have been guilty of thinking this. If it is not my way then it must be wrong. We then begin to look for excuses as to why things did not go our way. I get it. I hate losing. But I still believe that I can lose an election, or rather the person I voted for did not win, and accept it.
As I watched the protests of yesterday, which led to rioting, leading to political violence, and ultimately being correctly labeled as an insurrection, my heart broke. I also could not help but reflect on the protests and riots in my own city that began in the middle of 2020. And then I listened to and watched people defend the insurrection by equating it to BLM protests and riots. I watched as our President again simply refused to concede the election and then with his words he encouraged what will inevitably go down in history as an act of domestic terrorism. I observed a strong defensiveness on his part. An inability to accept that anybody else’s ideology could be true. And this same level of defensiveness permeated throughout much of America. We can disagree. And I think we should actually disagree on a lot. But can we disagree without resulting to violence? Can we disagree but then accept a different outcome than we hoped for? Can we accept different ideologies? Can we find a way to continue to live as a United States with vastly different ideologies?
Violence of course will never work. Just look at history. Violence will always beget more violence. As Jesus said, “All those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword.” Ironically, as people yesterday took up the sword by staging a coup and a “revolution” (as some went on record to say), they waved banners that said, “Jesus Saves.”
This same Jesus who scolded Peter for taking up his sword became the very Jesus that was used to justify a revolution of storming our nation’s capital building. The same Jesus who laid down his life and allowed the Roman government to crucify him, is the Jesus that is being used to justify the insurrection that occurred yesterday. Many Amaricans are angry. Some feel as if this election was taken from them. This probably should make some angry. And it comes as no surprise, just as Peter drew his sword, that many took up arms and took things into their own hands. But let us reflect for a moment on Jesus’ response. He scolded Peter, he then took the guard’s ear that Peter sliced off and reattached it, then he was led to what would become his death.
As we look to the United States of tomorrow, may our response be one of remorse. May we be quick to listen and slow to speak. May our hearts be filled with compassion and curiosity about other’s ideologies rather than defensiveness and justification of our own. And like the Jesus I read about in the gospels, may we always seek to lift other people up, giving voice to those who have not been heard. As Christians we are not called to take up arms and defend our rights, rather we are called to lay down our lives for the sake of others. Power is shifting. Inevitable change is happening. Let’s not be afraid of it. Instead let’s be unusually interested in it and let’s be willing to stay in the room with different ideologies.
We are better than this.