Loud With Our Love, A Pastor’s Response to January 6th
Updated: Jan 30
Written By: Teaching Pastor, Nellis Kennedy-Howard
Earlier this month the entire world looked on as rioters flooded the US capitol in a mass rampage to overtake American democracy and to stop the people’s choice for president. Let me be clear, I vehemently oppose and condemn the actions of those who flooded the halls of democracy to wage war, to instill fear, and to cause terror.
January 6, 2021 will go down in history as one of the most publicized displays of hate-filled rage, violence, and racism in the US that the world has ever seen. And perhaps most heartbreaking of all is the name under which so many insurgents waged this war - the name of Jesus.
As a pastor watching the country’s capital being invaded by a sea of red, white, blue and hate, I was filled with a complexity of emotion. I watched the banners, flags, signs, and t-shirts that bore the name of Jesus - which filled me with anger, rage, frustration, shame, and the list of emotions goes on.
Their Jesus cannot possibly be my Jesus. Their God cannot possibly be my God.
In my youth, I would have been devastated if others questioned my identity as a Christian or doubted that I am a follower of Christ. As an adult and as a lesbian, I’ve tried to distinguish myself from those Christians that some may call “Bible thumpers” or “religious zealots.”
The reality however is that the most contemptible, most monstrous, and most atrocious acts of humankind have been committed by those bearing the name of Jesus. Look at the conquistadors, the colonizers of Manifest Destiny, the early leaders of the KKK, and the list goes on. As a result, we have entire generations and populations of people who have experienced the harm of such hate and now reject any notion of Christianity (or any organized religion for that matter).
The domestic terrorists who carried banners of “Jesus 2020”, symbols of crosses, Christian fish, or quotes from scripture have caused immeasurable harm for those who looked on. We may never fully know the impact to which these “Christians” have deterred people from the church, from faith, from religion, or even from hope in humankind.
To all who saw the hate-filled banners and were revolted by the faith of these Christians, I share your disgust. I share your anger. The body of believers that claim the name of Christ are as diverse as the opinions of our nation’s leaders, and as equally (if not more) divided.
Make no mistake, there is no justification for the ungodly and immoral actions committed on January 6, regardless of position or perspective. Such violence, rage, and hate are not consistent with the life that Jesus lived or the messages he shared during his time here on earth. The greatest commands shared by Jesus were not about hate or violence (or even gun rights) - they were about love.
Jesus went so far as to say that all of scripture hangs on love and that our ability to demonstrate such love is how others will know that we are his followers. In short, the banners, the flags, and the signs are all unnecessary. Without love, one is not following Jesus.
The man responsible for inciting such violence has made history by becoming the first president to be twice impeached. He will be out of office in a matter of days, but the impacts of the last four years are long-lasting. The American people have caged children, separated families, spit on religious freedom, fast-tracked the devastation of mother earth, and treated the country as a pressure cooker to divide and conquer on the basis of race.
Either in our silent complicity or through acts of commission, we are all responsible. For me, I believe the Christians who watched the cross-filled flags charge the capital also have a responsibility to act. This is not the time for silence. This is the time to call out the hate for what it is, evil. And to be loud and clear about the life Jesus lived - a life of love, of healing, and of bringing people together in peace.
The men who used their bodies as battering rams while chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” were the same people who carried flags with Jesus’ name. The men who dragged a police officer down the capitol stairs while beating him with an American flag are the same people who carried flags with Jesus’ name. - Now is not the time to be silent. Such hate is never acceptable. It is in silence that we find our own culpability and loss of humanity. Now is the time for us as Christians to be loud with our love.
Sisters, brothers, and everything in between, I know you are still out there. You who upon hearing of a travel ban on Muslim countries showed up at international airports with signs bearing “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” You who march in Gay pride parades holding banners that read “I’m sorry for the ways that Christians have harmed the LGBTQ community.” You who in the wake of the murder of George Floyd marched down the street carrying signs donned with “Black Lives Matter and Jesus think so too.” To all of you, I see you. Let’s show God’s love together. Let’s not be silent. Let’s be loud with our love and let’s demand better of one another. Let’s call out hate and evil together. In the words of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, “Forward together, not one step back!”
Nellis Kennedy-Howard is a Teaching Pastor at Missiongathering Christian Church - a progressive, inclusive, and Christian church seeking to inspire hope, illuminate love, and imagine faith.