Flag bearing the Name Jesus flies during capital insurrection


            Among all the stars and stripes, the stars and bars (probably the first time it has been taken into the Capital), and Trump MAGA banners, I watched a “seditionist” carry a flag with the Name “Jesus” in the assault of the nation’s capital on January 6. It came six days after Christians celebrated the Holy Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ and prayed, “Plant in every heart, we pray, the love of him who is the Savior of the world…” The answer to this prayer, the sanctification that grows within, is one’s increasing awareness, that is, surrender to a power greater than one’s self, the gift of humility; an increasing relatedness to and love for all of creation; increasing hope that longs for transcendent unity and justice; and the freedom that faith brings. Rather, on Wednesday’s rampage we saw a hardness of heart, a stony ground in which there is no growth of awareness, relationship, hope, or freedom. It is not the first time the Name of Jesus has been evoked to destroy. Even at the start Jesus hammers away at disciples’ hard hearts with question after question: “Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” (Mark 8: 17-18)

          President Donald Trump debated his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden on September 29. When asked about white supremacy and the Proud Boys, a white supremacist group, the President told that group to “stand back and stand by.” They did and would be called up just over three months later on the Epiphany as were Herod’s troops long ago to destroy what Herod supposed was a rival “king.” Reaction to Trump’s directive in the debate raised the flag of white supremacy and dismayingly of Jesus.

          For those whose hearts have hardened into white Christian dominance, the rival is not a king but a changing environment that includes people of color as equal partners in conversation, worship, and business. In 25 years the United States will be majority non-white, according to its Census Bureau. Right now more non-white children are being born than white. “Do you still not perceive or understand?” Jesus asks. Robert Jones in his book on white supremacy in American Christianity writes: “By activating the white supremacy sequence within white Christian DNA, which was primed for receptivity by the perceived external threat of racial and cultural change in the country, Trump was able to convert white evangelicals in the course of a single political campaign from so-called values voters to ‘nostalgia voters.’” 1. “Make America Great Again,” a time when society chose to value whiteness and Christianity over others. White supremacy, racism, and antisemitism exist on common ground where race-based binaries are the rule – White over Black, Gentile over Jew, American (white and Christian) over immigrant (the Muslim ban), and so on. Supremacy is about the privileged keeping out the other. It builds walls whether along the Mexican border or in Israel keeping out those who “don’t belong.” One message on the Palestinian side of the Israeli barrier says: “Walls don’t work here, and they won’t work in America.” These steel and concrete walls are the outward sign of a hardened heart.

          Jesus asks, “Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember?” Children of God do not carry a flag with the Name of Jesus in order to tear down! Rather we pray to plant in every heart the mightier power of love. One who remembers is the seventh century monk Martyrius, born in what today is modern Iraq. He writes: “Truly great and mighty is the power of God’s word. For the word of God has changed the offspring of vipers into children of God. So let us constantly sow it within the hard soil of our heart waiting for it to soften it so that the white-ear of life may sprout up in it. For the word of God is at the same time the seed and the water; and even though we have a heart like stone, it will be softened and split up by the water of the Spirit, so that it can bring forth holy fruit that is pleasing to God.” 2. May that same water of the Spirit cause to grow in all – increasing awareness, relationship, hope, and faith’s freedom from constricting narrowness.

1.     Jones, Robert P.; White Too Long: the Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity; New York: Simon & Schuster, 2020; p. 22 (nook edition).

2.     Brock, Sebastian; The Syriac Fathers on Prayer and the Spiritual Life: Introduced and Translated by Sebastian Brock; Collegeville, MN: Cistercian Publications Inc., 1987; p. 224.