As the dawn unfolded this morning, a silence descended on the western steps of the building, almost like the Capitol itself was catching its breath after the chaos that ensued there yesterday. For though it was not unprecedented–nor even entirely unpredictable, in fact–the disruption in Washington D.C., was still deeply disturbing on both a personal and national level.
My first time in that building, for instance, came as a high school senior when I participated in a week-long seminar with other students from around the country. I was dazzled indeed not just by being in those beautiful halls but by feeling an almost cosmic connection somehow to the many who had walked in those corridors before me. For I found myself not just in an impressive building that is the seat of our government, but in one that is the home of an idea itself, the very notion of democracy.
And so, the images of rioters scaling the walls, breaking windows, and forcing their way into those almost sacrosanct Senate and House chambers hit a visceral nerve for me. For I might have hoped that no matter how heightened the political tensions may be in America today, there would have been some boundaries that even our deepest disagreements would still respect.
The problem is, however, that in allowing ourselves to become so bitterly divided in our politics and culture, we’ve also lost a significant part of our souls along the way. When the President personally denigrates his political opponents (and even allies), for instance, and the Speaker of the House publicly tears up his State of the Union address in full view of the cameras, or when party leaders–or even neighbors–treat one another not just as opponents but as actual enemies, incapable of any good at all, we’ve gone well beyond policy disagreements into the politics of personal destruction.
In the end, however, the real struggle is not between Democrats and Republicans, progressives or Proud Boys, but between serving God and serving ourselves. And in that respect, it is not too much to suggest that what was on full view yesterday in those scenes from Washington was nothing less than human sin run rampant. Unfortunately, it’s the same kind of evil that lurks in the recesses of all of our hearts too if we do not consistently take steps to root it out. For as C.S. Lewis once noted, if God should sovereignly determine to destroy all sin at midnight tonight, who among us would still be here at 12:01?
In Washington, they’ve already begun the clean-up, of course. And by the time that the inauguration of a new president takes place on that western side of the Capitol, having been moved there from the eastern front forty years ago, things may outwardly at least look a bit more normal. But if we don’t fix what’s really wrong with the system—you and me—it will not stay quiet on either side of that building, nor down the street at the White House, or even, in fact, in your house or mine.
Indeed, if anyone is going to short-circuit this cycle of sinful self-destruction that has consumed our country, it may just have to start with us, as we resolutely refuse to be enemies with others.