[Written 7 January 2021] — “It’s not time to worry yet,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter, Scout, in To Kill a Mockingbird, when she starts to grow overly concerned about something that might happen. Things that look dire to Scout leave Atticus, with his longer perspective, unruffled. Last evening, as I watched the violence in our nation’s capital, I wanted Atticus to repeat those words. It wasn’t until this morning that I heard his words of strong, calm assurance, “It’s not time to worry yet,” but hear them I did.
On Wednesday, one of the most tragic days in American history (the enemy, after all, arose from within rather than from without), right-wing extremists, incited to action by our own president and his cohort, committed insurrection against our nation’s government and way of life by invading the Capital Building, interrupting the business of Congress, and forcing its members to retreat to safety. Later in the evening, after the mob had been dispersed, Congress reconvened and completed its work to provide for a peaceful transition of power in the White House on January 20.
Conflict is still brewing, and the threat to our way of life is still strong. There is serious talk of impeaching the president or invoking the twenty-fifth amendment to remove him from office. The passions that stirred yesterday’s insurrectionists have not abated, and they seem likely to erupt again. We ought not be surprised when they do.
We need a longer perspective that might leave us, like it left Atticus Finch, less ruffled. We need the faith William Bathurst prayed for in his 1831 hymn.
Oh, for a faith that will not shrink,
Though pressed by every foe,
That will not tremble on the brink
Of any earthly woe! . . .
A faith that shines more bright and clear
When tempests rage without;
That when in danger knows no fear,
In darkness feels no doubt.
Lord, give me such a faith as this,
And then, whate’er may come,
I’ll taste, e’en here, the hallowed bliss
Of an eternal home.
The president and those whom he incited to violence and insurrection do not embody Christian values; in fact, they represent the antithesis of Christian values. (Read 1 Corinthians 13 if you need to be quickly reminded what those values are.) There was nothing of Christian love in their actions. But we have an opportunity, especially now, to be witnesses to those values, to love God with everything we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves, all of our neighbors, even those we call “enemy.” And we start with those closest to us, next door or around the corner, who are on the other side of the political divide. The call and the challenge are great, and the faith the work will require is great. So is the God who supports us through it all.