“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life.’” (John 11:25)
The morning of Jan. 6 began with hope and expectation. As the results came in from the Georgia run-off elections, two progressive men of faith made history as the first Black and Jewish Senators elected to represent the state. It felt like anything was possible.
Suddenly, everything shifted. I turned on CNN in time to watch insurrectionists storm the U.S. Capitol building, only ten miles away from where I sat. I watched in horror as protestors waved Christian flags and signs that proclaimed “Jesus Saves.” What Jesus were they following, that they believed he would condone this act of White Supremacist violence?
I’m reminded that this is not new. People have always misunderstood who Jesus was and what he came to do. He was born into a time of political upheaval and frequent insurrections. Under Roman occupation, many people expected the Messiah to come in military strength to overthrow the government through familiarly violent means. But Jesus came to do something new.
Jesus modeled a life of self-sacrificial love and promoted the human dignity of all people. He didn’t overthrow empires by invading capitols but subverted autocracy through radical love and humility. The way of Jesus is marked not by insurrection but resurrection.
As an activist, my instinct on Jan. 6 was to take action. However, in the middle of a pandemic with the city locked down, many forms of action were not available to us. Instead, my organization, Faith in Public Life, organized a virtual prayer vigil for that evening. It was a multifaith, multiracial expression of solidarity and resilient hope. Through this practice of spiritual grounding in community, we found a collective power that has the potential to transform this country.
The season of Advent invites us to live in the midst of tension. We are reminded of the ways we are still waiting for God to work in the world. It is not a passive waiting, though. We are active participants in this process. Even now, we are at a turning point in our nation. What happens in the following months and years will determine whether or not we continue to have a democracy.
I am heartened when I remember that prayer vigil eleven months ago. We gathered as a form of communion to collectively build a new reality. This year, we will continue to gather in solidarity to do the work of justice and become a beloved community. I invite you to join us. How powerful it is when those who thirst for God’s justice gather together in power and in prayer.
Rev. Jennifer Butler is the CEO of Faith in Public Life. She is the author of Who Stole my Bible? Reclaiming Scripture as a Handbook for Resisting Tyranny. She lives in suburban Washington, D.C. For more on Jennifer, visit RevJenButler.com or go to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.