Christianity cannot be a means to an end. If it is reduced to such, it will be used to justify any abuse. The American church has been used as a means to an end for much of its existence. Today is a representation & stark reminder of that sordid history.  

As we remember and mourn the anniversary of the insurrection, we cannot ignore the Christian language used leading up to and in the attack. 

The American Church is guilty of participating in this because it allowed leaders to propagate lies. It did so because much of the church has lost its way. Instead of being the church Jesus called us to be (serving and loving the poor, the marginalized, the orphaned & widowed) it looked to the seat of American power and coveted. 

Sitting and watching the horror as brave men and women were attacked, imagine our horror when we see signs proclaiming Jesus’ name. And then people standing on the floor of congress declaring it “holy ground” in circled prayer as violence spread through the buildings! Not only was I genuinely scared, for the first time in my life, for our democracy, I was furious & embarrassed to have my name associated with any of the “christians” at the attack. 

It created in us a faith crisis. Do we continue in an institution that is so horribly corrupted that it could and continues to spew these evil lies? Or do we leave it for good? My wife and I talked seriously about leaving something we had dedicated our lives to. It was an agonizing process.  

For us, we decided to stay and actively be the change we longed for.  

Throughout church history there are watershed moments so immense that everyone felt the before and the after. I truly believe that we are living in the middle of one of those watershed times. We have a church that, once again, needs a reformation; a reckoning. We have an institution that has long used guilt and shame to communicate a vengeful God. We have an institution that platforms, then hides, and re-platforms spiritual/physical/sexual abusers. We have an institution that is more interested in seeking political power rather than laying down that power for a towel & basin.  

In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, we see Jesus warning a group of religious leaders called the Pharisees. In that conversation Jesus goes to great lengths to show them just how corrupt they had become. He calls them things like “brood of vipers”. When he does so he is telling them that they are the offspring of a serpent. Which refers back to the creation poem and the serpent. He is calling them cursed and that their actions, despite being able to trace their lineage back to the 12 tribes of Israel (a really big deal), show who their true father is. They were evil and complicit in the evil being done to God’s people. 

Jesus calls them that directly after a verse that allows us to judge (not in the sense of worth but in sense of discernment/wisdom) people and institutions for what they are. Jesus says to them “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit…” Matthew 12:33 

In other words, you can tell a lot about a person (or organization) based on the fruit (or outcomes) they produce. Does that person or organization produce good things? Like love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness? Or do they produce things like jealously, discord, selfish ambition, fits of rage, factions & envy? (Found in St. Paul’s letter to the ancient church in Ephesus) 

Which of those sounds like what happened one year ago today? If it produces peace and joy then the fruit is good and therefore the tree must be good. If it produces jealously and selfish ambition then the fruit is bad and therefore the tree must be bad. That’s it. That’s the equation Jesus gave us. We must accept the outcome of that equation.  

It is time for us to lay down our desire for human power. The church was never meant to be coupled with any political ideology. The church is called to be outside the influence of politics and politicians. The moment the church got in bed with a political movement, it lost any actual influence it could have had.  

It’s time to reclaim that.  

It’s time to reclaim the mission of the church. 

It’s time to reclaim the body of Jesus from the brood of vipers.  

That doesn’t happen at a ballot box (although it can help). It happens when those claiming to follow Jesus actually do so. When we decide to take care of the orphaned, widowed, the outsider we reclaim it. We must fight and advocate for the outsider just as much as we do for ourselves. We must bring down systems of oppression that continue to keep people on the outside.  

All of that starts at grassroots; a community level. Shift, we cannot change the world but we can change our community. We will do that, not through elected officials, but through loving and serving as Jesus called us to. We will love those the church has long forgotten or refused to love. We will earn trust of people groups that the church has trampled on. We will serve them in ways that actually help and not feed our egos & Instagram accounts.  

We will ignore the cries of the institution that will claim our loving and serving is “too wide”, “too broad”. That we should, for some reason, be more exclusionary in how we approach our city.  

To that I say, with zero hesitation, an emphatic NO.  

No, we will not stop.  

No, there is no one we won’t love.  

No, there is no place we won’t go.  

Watching the footage of the evil that happened one year ago today still produces the same visceral gut reaction. But this year is different. This year we have an opportunity to do something about this.  

We can either cede the church to nationalism and white supremacy or we can be a church for the rest of us. We can show them, with our lives, what the church was meant to be.  

Shift…they must be told; they have to be shown:  

They are the hidden treasure. 

They are the found pearl. 

And that we are (with tears of frustration but steeled by love) a church for the freaking rest of us!