To clean our house, we must name the mess

Posted 2/17/21

Only seven Republican senators voted to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the mob attack on our Capitol building Jan. 6. Yet, there is widespread disapproval of the rioters.

The …

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To clean our house, we must name the mess

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Only seven Republican senators voted to convict former President Donald Trump for inciting the mob attack on our Capitol building Jan. 6. Yet, there is widespread disapproval of the rioters.

The violence on that day was appalling. At least 140 police officers and security guards were injured. Those men and women were beaten and bloodied, pepper-sprayed and trampled. Their fingers were snapped, their eyes gouged and they suffered heart attacks as a result of repeated tasing by rioters. Five people died, including one security guard. And the insurrectionists intended more bloodshed, even the assassination of elected officials like Vice President Mike Pence.

Numerous photos and videos documented rioters waving Confederate flags, brandishing neo-Nazi insignia and yelling racial slurs. Despite this clear evidence that groups were affiliated with white supremacist and nationalist groups, some Americans still believe the false claim that the attack was carried out by members of leftist groups like antifa — meaning “antifascist,” a term that describes far-left-leaning militant groups.

Let the record show: The arrests of actual rioters have linked these individuals to far-right groups such as the Three Percenters, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys. Those who attacked our fellow citizens and threatened our very democratic process were homegrown terrorists. We must condemn not only the attack but the toxic ideology of white supremacy that motivated them.

Long ago, Jesus of Nazareth said that the truth would set us free (John 8:32). I am reminded of how this same rabbi compared a person’s inner life — thoughts and motivations — to a house (Matthew 12:43–45; Luke 11:24–26). The metaphor holds that an “unclean spirit” may be removed from a house as if taking out the trash. But Jesus added that each of us must remain vigilant after the initial spring cleaning, for that same unclean spirit will return with more spirits. If they find the house neat and in a good order, they will cause even more disarray than the original mess!

It is true that Americans have addressed injustices in our past. In the 150-plus years since the Civil War, we have abolished slavery and legislated equal rights. Trailblazing men and women of color have integrated nearly every aspect of our common life, contributing to the general welfare with their genius and talent as well as raising their own stations in life.

But on Jan. 6, we witnessed a racist mob invade our Capitol. They more than made a mess of things. There was blood on the floor. In this case, the unclean spirit was white supremacy. This hateful ideology has come back with a vengeance, and it is the responsibility of every person who calls this nation home to name and denounce this evil that has arisen in our midst.

In modern culture, we do not think of unclean spirits in the same way our ancestors did. Yet, ancient advice remains relevant. We must remain vigilant about cleaning out malevolent ideologies.

The truth is, racism is not a thing of the distant past. We are neither a post-racial nor colorblind society. Such falsehoods, even if they are well-intentioned, still prevent us from recognizing the real and present threat of white supremacist terrorists.

As we witnessed Jan. 6, we avoid the truth at the peril of our national soul.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.


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