“…for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light9 (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them…But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light” Paul the Apostle
“…you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.“. Jesus the Christ
For democracy to work and triumph over authoritarianism, it’s important to have at least two parties, representing differing views of how a nation should be governed. Issues of taxation, gun rights, state rights, how far the liberty of individual rights extend, what role federal regulations ought to play in capitalism are all matters worthy of spirited debate. In our idealized form, we’ll vote people into power to represent our views, and then our elected officials will work together to find paths forward to address pressing issues. Sometimes red ideas will prevail; other times blue.
This is all well and good and appropriate.
What’s on the table right now in the current January 6th hearings, however, isn’t a red/blue debate. In fact, its not a political debate at all (In spite of charges to the contrary by some members of the party loyal to its former leader).
The issues are truth and light, which are theological, not political. The question on the table for America is simple: Are we willing to pursue the truth of what happened on and leading up to January 6th? Are we willing to acknowledge what is discovered, and own it? Are we willing to look carefully at any breaches of trust and abuses of power that were done under cover of darkness and, as Ephesians 5 says, “expose them to the light” in order that we might learn from them?
If we're unwilling to seek the truth, unwilling to bring deeds done in darkness into the light of day in order that they might exposed, then our problem isn’t political, it’s theological. You can vote for low taxes or high, more environmental regulations or less; you can oppose or favor various levels of access to abortion, and favor or oppose every American being able to own as many assault rifles as they want - those are discussions for another day. But the discussion for this day is not whether Democrats or Republicans have a better vision for America. It’s this: Are we willing to own our history; confess our history; and repudiate the shortcomings of our history so that we learn from them and never let it happen again? And that question includes, but is much bigger than January 6th.
”If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves” is how the Bible addresses matters like January 6th, and slavery, and Japanese internment camps, and the persecution and marginalization of minorities and immigrants, and our violation of treaties made with Native Americans, and Jim Crow laws, and lynchings, and a host of other things.
I believe evangelical Christianity in America has a foot in grave, having lost large swaths of credibility. It’s not because of political leanings, (though it will always be a lie to believe that any single party or ruler of a nation will accurately represent the values of God’s “not of this world” kingdom) but because of its seemingly intentional unwillingness to hold events up to the light of truth, confess where there are failings, and move forward to healthier ground. All through the Bible, the “people of God“ displayed an aversion to truth. That’s why they killed so many of the prophets in the Old Testament. It’s why, when Stephen told spiritual leaders in Acts 7 that they were “always resisting the truth”, they literally “covered their ears” as a response. It’s why they wanted Jesus executed and a known murderer set free in his stead, even after Pilot said, “I find no fault with this man.” They might as well have shouted “we CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH”.
We don’t need to cover our ears today in order to avoid truth. We can just change the channel, and we’ll find “alternative facts” that are really nothing more than diversion from real failings - failings that could, if named and collectively confessed, can become the foundation of a healthier future.
When I hear people say, “I don’t want my children to grow up guilty for feeling white” as a basis for not taking a hard and painful look at the points where our history has failed to live up to our beautiful ideals, I say this: Dachau stands as a testimony to what happened in Germany in 1930’s and 40’s. It was a work/death camp for political dissidents, homosexuals, gypsies, and anyone who resisted the ideals of the third Reich. Stand there on a winter’s day (as I have) when its 20 degrees (-5c) and windy, and hear about the 5am role calls for prisoners wearing only flimsy cotton, a roll call where any movement for up to four hours could get you beaten or shot, a roll call filled with men, women, and yes, children too, some of which were publicly hung as examples. If you’re like me, you’ll be moved to the core and ask, “how could this have happened in the land of Bach and Martin Luther?” then you’ll search for answers and grow.
It would have been the easiest thing in the world for the German government to bulldoze that camp after the war as part of an effort to build a brighter future by ignoring the past completely. After all, it’s valuable real estate, a suburb of prosperous Munich, and it’s presence a reminder of a dark time. Instead, on any given day, there’ll be not only tourists, but bus loads of German elementary school students. They’re taking the tour, learning about how easily people can be swayed by a charismatic leader who makes false promises; how easily we look away when power is abused, simply because the economy seems to be working for the moment; how easily we remain silent when, against our better judgement, the “other” is vilified and made a scapegoat, how dangerous are the idols nationalism.
They’re owning their history. That’s not politics. It’s theology. It’s called “confession” and “renunciation”. Because they did that hard work and built on the foundation of their mistakes, it’s been difficult for neo-nazis to gain a foothold. They’re there - but not enough to matter.
Truth will set you free. Bringing dark deeds out into the light of day will enable those deeds to become a redemptive part of a people’s story.
If the current hearings were a circus display of democrats tossing insinuations and innuendo at the wall in hopes that something might stick, I’d call it political. When both republicans on the committee, and the huge majority of witnesses are part of the previous president’s supporters and inner circle, including family members and nearly the entire Department of Justice, it becomes clear that this is a search for what really happened, so that we can collectively own it, learn from it, and make sure it never happens again. ”The truth will set you free…”. “Everything brought into the light becomes light.”
Or we could just change the channel. Yes, I believe democracy hangs in the balance, but that’s not why I write. I write because I believe the testimony of God’s people hangs in the balance. Will we be remembered for abject denial of reality, or an unrelenting commitment to truth, even if its painful? How you answer that question isn’t political. It’s our faith’s credibility that hangs in the balance.
Check out the new youtube video on the importance living out from a place of fullness here