It’s a familiar scene in movies and tv shows… One character calls another after an argument, and as soon as the other person answers, they start their call with, “Please don’t hang up!”
That is how I feel as I start this post. I am begging you, please don’t hang up. Please hang in there with me. I promise this isn’t more of the same platitudes you’ve been hearing for the last, oh, I don’t know, 2,000 years or so.
If you blame the riot at the Capitol last week on Christians, please don’t hang up.
If you believe that Christians are responsible for all the hurt and division in our country, please don’t hang up.
If you roll your eyes every time someone starts talking about being a Christian, please don’t hang up.
Because you guys, I feel the same way.
Yep. I said it…
I am a Christian, and I agree with these statements.
I have blood on my hands.
My arthritic, bony, peace-loving hands.
The riot is my fault, and here’s why…
The riot is my fault because I knew what was going on, yet I said (almost) nothing.
The riot is my fault because I have a platform, and I didn’t speak up enough about the things that matter.
The riot is my fault because I sat quietly while others represented me and my faith in ways that directly conflicted with my values.
The riot is my fault because I allowed extremists to publicly call themselves the “silent majority,” when I knew full well that my church, my friends, my family, were made up of peace-loving, imperfect, love-driven Christians who outnumber ten-fold those claiming to represent me. Who claimed to represent us, the greater Church collective.
The riot is my fault because I did not call out the hypocrisy of those loudly crying out that they were “forced into silence,” when the very nature of their national platform made them not only the opposite of silent, but the perpetrators of intimidation and bullying against all of us afraid to speak up for fear of retribution, condemnation, and isolation from our faith.
The riot is my fault because I was too intimidated by the bullies in the vocal minority to rise up, peacefully, if meekly, and say “Enough! You do not speak for me!”
And so, I speak my confession today, for love of God and Country.
I hope this does not deter the atheists, the agnostics, and those of other religions from reading to the end. Because you need to hear this. We all need to hear this.
These are words from a Christian you probably haven’t heard before, because I and others like me have been silent for far too long.
I speak my confession today as a corroborator in not only the shameful riot in Washington, D.C. last week that led to the death of five people and the injury of many others, but to the toxic, disgusting climate of hate that has festered and grown in our nation over the entirety of my 44+ years on this planet.
This is how the true silent majority in this nation feels…
We are okay with other people disagreeing with us.
We are fully aware that we don’t have all the answers, that our sacred book – The Holy Bible – though wise and life-giving, has also been parsed, over-translated, and even in some versions manipulated by flawed and broken humans who either intentionally or otherwise fall short of the true Word of God, in order to serve their own sorely misguided and yes, sometimes even evil, purposes and egos.
We know that we all carry our own sin, and that is where we need to direct our attention, rather than the behaviors of others.
We know that the word “sin” is triggering for many who have had this word used against them to condemn, isolate, and emotionally abuse them. Many – if not most – of us are in that category ourselves.
We know that there is vast diversity within the Christian faith. We do not assume that everyone who identifies as a Christian agrees with us on matters of faith, morality, and politics.
As followers of the true nature of Christ, kindness, forgiveness, and unconditional love are our core values, and when we diverge from that path, we are no longer following the teachings of Christ, regardless of whether we call ourselves Christian or not.
We refuse to condemn others who vote differently than ourselves.
We refuse to condemn ourselves and those we love when we make mistakes, when we are weak, broken, confused, questioning, and beautifully imperfect.
We refuse to pray for the election of any given political candidate or party, because we recognize that all human beings and institutions are flawed, and that God’s will will be done, regardless of who is in office at any given point in time.
Instead, we pray for the wisdom of our leaders and the electorate. We pray that God speaks into the hearts of the voters to do His will, and whatever happens at the polls during any given election, we have the faith to recognize that regardless of the outcome, God will use it for the good of all mankind, in His own time, even if we as mere humans cannot see and understand His divine plan.
We refuse to condemn others, because we know that is not our role.
We recognize that these 244 years that our great nation has been in existence is just a tiny drop in the vast sea that is God’s eternity, and we do not have the arrogance to assume that our nation, it’s leaders, and it’s citizens are any more Holy than any of the other nations, leaders, and citizens whom God loves worldwide.
We know that Jesus was neither Democrat nor Republican, and that the United States was designed to be a safe place for all religious freedom, not just our own.
We know it is dangerous, careless, and irresponsible to allow others to do our thinking for us, even if that person is wrapped in the cloth of the clergy, the American flag, or know-it-all condescending self-righteousness.
These traits are both our greatest strength, and our most profound weakness.
In our desire to be fair, to allow others to be true to themselves and maintain their own relationships with God, we remained silent when we should have spoken up.
In our desire to be just, we vote privately, or choose not to vote at all, because we feel that to take a vocal stand is the equivalent of judgement, or that our voice – our God-given voice – holds no strength against those loudly claiming God’s name as their own.
In our desire to be good, we have hidden away our faith, tucked it quietly in our pockets, hoping that our gentleness would somehow represent the true silent majority of well-meaning, soft-spoken Christians.
We thought our silence kept everyone, including ourselves, safe.
We thought our silence was allowing us and others to be free – free to be themselves, free to be heard, free to be imperfect.
What our silence actually has done…
…is empower and embolden those who use the name of Jesus to persecute and condemn others, including ourselves – something that Jesus would never have stood for during his time on earth.
Jesus called these people Pharisees – those who rigidly cling to law over grace, rules over love, and persecution over justice.
We may not have been in the crowd demanding the death of Jesus on the day of His crucifixion, but we were hiding in our homes, wringing our hands, quietly hoping that someone else would have the courage to speak up and say “Enough!”
We may not have been in the crowd on January 6, 2021 outside the United States Capitol, demanding for the death of the very people we elected to represent us, nor were we a part of the social media campaigns that lead to this event, but we were hiding safely in our warm, quiet homes, wringing our hands and hoping someone else would have the courage to speak up and say “Enough!”
Because we know that “sin” can be a hurtful word, we try to tiptoe around the whole idea of sin, and just not mention it at all, even against those who are using the word “sin” to abuse and control others.
And for all of these things, I am deeply and truly sorry.
I apologize to my children, for not modeling courage and character in the face of bullies and tyrants.
I apologize to my husband, for avoiding the tough conversations that may force us to face our personal differences but will ultimately bring us closer.
I apologize to my extended family, for not speaking fully into my faith when challenged, and for sitting quietly by while statements were made that did not represent my understanding of Christ.
I apologize to my friends, for being too afraid to have the really tough discussions, so that we might all grow deeper in faith and friendship.
I apologize to my community, for not better representing someone whom they could relate to and say, “Me too! I feel just the same. I thought I was the only one.”
I apologize to our elected officials in Congress – of all persuasions – for not standing up, speaking up, and lending my voice to the cause of moderation and compromise, and thus putting you in harm’s way.
I apologize to the families and loved-ones of those who died last week, for their blood is on my hands.
I apologize to my nation, for hiding inside the safety of my own silence, quietly wringing my hands and hoping someone else would have the courage to speak up.
Most humbly, I apologize to God, for not doing Your good work when it was so desperately needed; for not having the courage, as Jesus did, to overturn the tables of the moneychangers and the Pharisees in the temple; for not raising my shaking, red-faced, awkward voice for peace and justice in Your name; and for allowing fear and – let’s be honest – outright cowardice to provoke me to silence while bullies, tyrants, and extremists represent Your Holy name in pulpits, on television and radio, and on political stages.
I am sorry, God. I am committed to doing better. I pray that Your hand be upon me as I undertake this very scary and perilous journey towards a deeper relationship with You.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Copyright © 2021 Sara Beth Wald