As an American, as a Black man and as a Christian, the deadly attack on our nation's capital on Jan. 6 was difficult to watch.
Of those three distinctions, the one that takes precedence in my life is my faith. Before I was an American, before I was Black, I believe Christ died for me.
The violent acts of Jan. 6 were not about standing for American democracy, justice, equal rights, religious freedom or holding up the banner of Christ, as some have claimed.
"What happened Wednesday was not of God — at all," a local pastor told me last week. "It goes against Islam. It's against Buddhism. It goes against Judaism."
"What voices are we allowing to be the loudest in our lives?" the Rev. Michael Alello, pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic, said last week during his powerful message "Rediscovering Our Baptism is an Invitation to Listen" from Mark 1:7-11. "It doesn't matter whether you're on the far right or the far left, any voice that promotes violence, any voice that stirs up something within us that is not of God is not the voice that we should be listening to."
As I watched with shock, I was reminded of the disturbing images I saw on television as a child of peaceful protesters during the civil rights era. Police attacked them with dogs, turned hoses on them and beat them with their batons.
I thought of great civil rights leaders like Baton Rouge's own T.J. Jemison, John Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who promoted nonviolent protests and boycotts in the South to protest the inequality that was a harsh reality for millions of Black people in housing, education, employment, public transportation and businesses.
I thought of the thousands of people of all races who were so moved by the killing of George Floyd and other Black men and women, they locked arms and marched through the streets with signs and masks. I thought about how angry I was to see the bad actors who used their cause to loot, riot and generally make trouble.
I thought about standing in line with my son for nearly two hours in November in the middle of a pandemic to exercise our right to vote — a right that wasn't given to us. It was a right for which many Black people had to fight.
Those were all legitimate reasons for peaceful protests.
As I got more and more upset with the events of Jan. 6, God gave me another thought: "the gospel, the gospel, the gospel."
I was convinced more than ever of man's need for the gospel. So many people are misguided and lost.
Often we think "sharing the gospel" means to bring it to foreign mission fields or to those who come to the soup kitchens at our churches. The challenge of the gospel is sharing the good news and love of Christ with those in high places, with those we may find reprehensible or unlovable. The gospel teaches us to see all men — from the homeless guy on the streets of Baton Rouge to the guy scaling the steps of the U.S. Capitol — as potential disciples.
Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20: "Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
In light of last week's events, I found hope and encouragement from U.S. Senate Chaplain Barry Black, who was among those "hunkered down" during the siege. I have longed followed and respected Black and got to meet him last February during the Louisiana Governor's Prayer Breakfast in Baton Rouge.
Black was the keynote speaker and was invited by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, a regular at Black's Bible studies on Capitol Hill.
"We have not had domestic terrorism on this level — this demonic level — in the history of our nation," Black said in an online interview. "This is a darkness. There is something borderline satanic about what we witnessed."
Yet, Black said God's light will shine in the darkness. He said he spent about 2½ hours holed up in a secret location with about 80% of the Senate and a significant amount of their staffers. During that time, he was asked to pray with many individuals and groups.
Always the preacher, Black said he recalled four things he was able to share. First, he told them there was nothing to fear.
"This isn't the worst thing we have had in the history our nation," he said. "We went through World War I. We went through World War II. We've had worst moments. I told one lawmaker, who suggested these times are so challenging, that slavery was pretty bad also. This is not our first rodeo."
Then he shared "no weapons formed against us shall prosper" from Isiah 54:17.
"It doesn't mean the weapons won't form. It doesn't mean God will not permit it to come against us," he said. "I've lived long enough to realize just when I need him most, Jesus is near."
Thirdly, Black spoke of Psalms 5:12.
"The righteous — the believers — of Christ are surrounded by the shield of God's favor," he said. "God can take what looks like a setback and turn it into a triumph."
And lastly, he shared Romans 8:28.
"I said to them if God is working for the good of them who loved him, let's make a commitment to major in loving him and minor in everything else," Black said.
We must believe that God is working things out. In the meanwhile, the church must work to share the gospel.