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Unsettling Advent, Day 19
“By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
The insurrection hit too close to home for me — literally. My family and I live in Washington, D.C., less than a mile from the White House. The BJC offices are across the street from the Supreme Court and one block from the U.S. Capitol.
My colleagues and I have had an up-close view of what happens when violent extremists use prophecy to direct their actions. Believers of QAnon and various other conspiracy theories converged in Washington on Jan. 6 and in the weeks leading up to it, convinced that they were helping to fulfill a prophecy that would keep President Trump in office.
The week after the insurrection, the Dallas Morning News reported on Brandon Burden, one Texas pastor who “shouted in tongues while a woman at the altar waved a large American flag in front of him. In his sermon, the pastor cited ‘prophetic voices’ who have said God told them Trump would be president for eight years.”
Christian Nationalism — the political ideology that seeks to merge our identities as Americans and Christians and sees God’s providential hand as guiding the United States in the past, present, and future — is at work here too. False prophets like Burden justify their calls for violence (he said in his sermon, “We are locked and loaded at the Burden house”) by claiming to be acting on God’s will to favor and preserve the United States. The Christianity at work in Christian Nationalism is muscular, tough, and powerful.
Given what we have endured, we can be forgiven for being a bit apprehensive of prophecy this Advent season.
But unlike the QAnon prophecies, the prophecies of Advent are all about turning earthly power on its head. Isaiah warns, “The strong shall become like tinder, and their work like a spark; they and their work shall burn together, with no one to quench them” (Isaiah 1:31). Amos targets those “that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land” (Amos 8:4). Zechariah prophesizes, “By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).
Advent anticipates a future of justice, righteousness, and peace, not power, wealth, and might. As Christians living in a time of insurrection, may we draw near to these callings of the Spirit and firmly reject the false prophets in our midst.
Amanda Tyler is executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty (BJC) and an endorser of ChristiansAgainstChristianNationalism.org.