Christianity and Crisis
“The time immediately before and during an election
must always be considered a period of national crisis.
The more difficult the country’s domestic situation
and the greater perils it has to face abroad,
the more dangerous that time of crisis is….
The election of a president is a cause of agitation, not ruin.” 
– Alexis de Tocqueville
As I write this reflection, members of the House of Representatives have introduced articles of impeachment against Donald Trump for the second time in his presidency, asserting that he “gravely endangered the security of the United State and its institutions of Government…. interfered with the peaceful transition of power, and imperiled a coequal branch of Government.” (Tocqueville apparently overlooked the time after an election as a time of national crisis.) And God knows our pandemic and reflections on racial justice in 2020 are the kind of crisis setting that Tocqueville describes. Let us pray that we are in a time of “agitation, not ruin.”
What you and I have witnessed over the past week has been the greatest challenge to the republic in our lifetimes, if not since the Civil War. Mob rule is not how we have gotten things accomplished as a nation, though violence rumbles a steady drumbeat in America history. Whether it is the institution of slavery, genocide of American Indians, “frontier justice” in the Old West, lynching that persisted in the South into my lifetime, or the American obsession with guns (not designed for hunting)…all echo that drumbeat.
As Paul asked, “What then are we to say about these things?”
I’m certain that you’ve been wondering what to think and say about the storming of the Capitol last week, just as I have. What can we say about those in the mob who in the same breath claimed to be followers of Jesus, yet were willing to storm our legislature with the intent to interrupt our democracy? What kind of Jesus do they follow?
American Christianity has a range of relationships with government and nation. Some churches (e.g., some White evangelical, conservative mainline and Catholic churches) seem more concerned with “patriotism” than discipleship and see little if any distinction between country and religion. This can lead to Christian Nationalism, a dangerous trend that distorts the message of Jesus. Others take a dramatically different tack, separating themselves entirely from the culture (e.g., the Amish), and still others find themselves in a kind of dialectic between church and state, often challenging the latter (e.g., many progressive churches, Black churches, and some Catholic parishes).
Toxic Christian Nationalism played a part in what we witnessed last week at the Capitol. It played a part in Nazi Germany in the 1930s with the formation of the German Christian movement that considered Adolf Hitler a prophet. It sounds dangerously close to what some Christians say about our current president being chosen by God. I’ve signed a statement condemning Christian Nationalism and invite you to do the same. 
We at Plymouth will continue to be part of the solution to violence and racism. And I invite you to pray for justice and peace to reign in our nation. Working together as people of faith, people who bring their gifts and graces together for the blessed community, we will make a difference together.
 Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America. (NY: Library of America, 2004, translated by Arthur Goldhammer) pp. 147-8.
The Rev. Hal Chorpenning has been Plymouth's senior minister since 2002. Before that, he was associate conference minister with the Connecticut Conference of the UCC. A grant from the Lilly Endowment enabled him to study Celtic Christianity in the UK and Ireland. Prior to ordained ministry, Hal had a business in corporate communications. Read more about Hal.
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