The rhetorical battles that broke out after Wednesday’s violence are just as passionate and therefore just as unreasonable as the violence itself. The demand for impeachment and action against it harm the republic more than the violence itself. Efforts to justify the violence as well. Engaging the nation in a debate about what constitutes incitement is an attempt to divert attention from the most serious problem. It must be remembered that impeachment is a political act in preparation for a court of law. It removes the president from the protection of office so that his actions can be properly judged in the natural order of things. If Trump is guilty of incitement, riot, or any other criminal, our nation’s legal system, if he’s out of office very, very soon, can handle the crime in the normal way.
Violence arises from passion – even instigated violence requires the presence of passion in order for the call to work to occur. A massive, government-harrowing response that shortens something that would happen in just two weeks in normal order is all about passion. Passion can be both positive and negative. In this case it is most negative. It’s passionate hatred. The hatred that now pervades the nation is clearly going both ways, as the passions associated with it make clear.
Most obvious is that we have massive and extremely difficult problems. We have to address them. When violence breaks out in this way, we can no longer avoid the problems and simply hope that they will go away. Reacting to passion with passion, even if it is nonviolent passion, escalates the passions and drives reason further and further out of the situation.
We have to deal with passion before we can deal with anything else.
I think the current situation brings some stories from the life of Christ into a new perspective. Think about when Jesus was on trial for His life:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned him and said, “So you are the King of the Jews?” And Jesus said to him: “It’s like you say.”
Jesus’ response to the passions that brought him to this point was simple, straightforward reason and truth. He did not offer emotional pleadings for his innocence. He did not loudly denounce the illegality of the official acts. He wasn’t broken by the dangerous situation he was in. He simply responded to the passions that wanted to execute him with a dispassionate assertion of the truth. His passion highlighted and illuminated both his apparent innocence and the thoughtless passion that drove those who attacked him.
We can’t do less now – in this situation.
Trying to suppress someone else’s passion is a pointless exercise because during times of such passion you will not be able to hear. We can only examine our own passions and suppress them. We can only make sure that we are in an emotional place where we respond dispassionately.
We also have to be ready to take our lumps. Christ’s dispassionate assertion of the truth in the face of all accusing passion could not avoid his crucifixion. But it made that crucifixion the greatest victory in history. I don’t know what the future holds for us after this point, but I know that there will be some pain in it. We must be ready to endure this pain if this moment is to result in victory of any kind.
As I prepare for church this Sunday morning, I prepare for prayer. Deep meaningful prayer. Before Christ suffered his trials, he went away and prayed. His prayers were so deep and fearful that “his sweat became like drops of blood.” That’s the kind of prayer we need this morning.
We must first use prayer to get rid of our own passions. The old hymn says, “Bring everything to God in prayer.” We need to pour our passions on God so that we can control them in public discussion.
In our prayer we must submit to God and what is to come. As Christ prayed, “Not as I want, but as you want.”
We must pray for all those involved who do not know the comfort and deliverance of prayer – who have no faith in God to bring victory out of this situation. We must ask God to touch their hearts and alleviate their passions, just as he is ours.
We must pray for wisdom for our guidance and for our media.
I have no solutions this morning, I just have prayer. But prayer is a powerful tool.