The ugly scenes of the Trump supporters’ siege on Capitol Hill last night had by this morning become tragic scenes of violence and death. For a republic founded on principles of democracy, this anarchic outburst was as horrifying as it was unprecedented.
It began when Donald Trump gave an explicit rallying cry to thousands of his supporters gathered around the White House and on Capitol Hill, repeating allegations of voter fraud and insisting that he had, in fact, won the election. Perhaps most worryingly of all, Trump stated he would "never concede".
As the voting was taking place to ratify Biden’s election, Trump said that he would be joining with the crowds to walk down to the Capitol, to cheer on the senators and congressmen and women who believe he should still be the president. Trump then uttered these chilling words, “We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” He might as well have been a general on a battlefield, giving orders for his troops to attack the enemy. And attack they did, scaling the walls of the Capitol building, smashing windows and storming the offices and assembly rooms.
The bizarrely passive security forces largely stood by as the mayhem worsened and within hours, tragedy had unfolded. A woman died after being shot by police, and three others lost their lives in the midst of the chaos.
Who knows what will happen now and how yesterday’s events will affect Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, scheduled to take place in two weeks’ time. But one thing has been clarified: the fruits of Donald Trump’s presidency have been proved to be violence, hatred, overweening pride and delusional self-seeking and not the peace, love, goodness and gentleness that are the fruits of the Spirit.
The situation in America remains tense and precarious. Trump is a wild card and some of his followers are out of control – and armed and dangerous. As I woke this morning to the terrible developments, I realised I could let myself get sucked into a vortex of outrage and despair or I could step back and join with what will undoubtedly be millions of people across the world, praying for all those involved and for a just and peaceful outcome.
This past year has seen so much of the breaking up and dissolution of the way things were. Covid-19 has devastated communities and families on a global scale, many who will never again be the same. In the UK, Brexit has demanded a new way of seeing ourselves and a new way of relating to our European allies. It has felt at times as if our whole planet has been rocked and thrown off course. What is happening and where is God?
My faith tells me that God is right here, completely aware of what is going on, grieving with those who are ill and dying, or hungry and cold, or who face losing their livelihoods and homes, and now, with the millions of people in America who are frightened for their future.
I have a choice: either I can run about crying that the sky is falling in, or I can remind myself of the unresting, yet unhasting, nature of the one who stilled the waves
When I take a step back from the tumultuous events of these past months, I see former systems, assumptions and ways of life dissolving around us as we struggle to cope with the ‘new normal’, a state which is also continually evolving. Faced with this reality, I have a choice: either I can run about like Chicken Little, crying that the sky is falling in, or I can remind myself of the unresting, yet unhasting, nature of the one who stilled the waves in Galilee and who walked unflinchingly towards fulfilling what he had come to do.
Is the God I believe in bigger than the pandemic and political chaos, and do I trust that God’s purposes and very being is love? Now is the time for prayer, certainly, but not a prayer of desperation, but of rock-solid faith. Hold God to the test. Believe that God is here with us now, as each of us goes through our own sorrows, doubts and fears. Have faith that the Spirit is still moving across the face of the earth, healing, comforting, disrupting, going about the ultimate work of reconciling all things in Christ.
Given our free will, some people will make choices that end in tragedy and destruction, but God will not be thrown off course. Take heart from the prophet Isaiah, who foresaw great upheaval for his people, but who in the midst of the turmoil heard God’s voice saying, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”
We cannot see what will happen in America, nor can we be sure of what life will be like for us in the months and years to come. But we can choose to trust and to dare to carry on breathing deeply and confidently, while doing what we can to help those who are suffering around us.
One of my favourite hymns is 'Be still, my soul', sung to the tune Finlandia:
"Be still, my soul / The Lord is at your side / Bear patiently the cross of grief and pain / Leave to your God to order and provide / In every change he faithful will remain / Be still, my soul; your best, your heavenly friend / Through thorny ways, leads to a joyful end."
How we navigate the present and what we think about the future depends on whether we trust in the purposes of a loving God who has never left us and who will never leave us and who holds us always in the great eternal now.
Christina Rees CBE is a writer and commentator who was born and raised in America but has spent most of her life in Britain
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