OPED by Rev. Richard L. Tafel
Church of the Holy City
January 8, 2021
This past week in Washington DC was definitely one of the craziest and saddest in the entire seventeen years I’ve lived here. It only compares to 911, the day that a plane crashed into the Pentagon and the Capitol was evacuated.
As you all know, this past Wednesday a group of home-grown terrorists tried to subvert our democracy by breaking into the Capitol to stop the counting of ballots from the Electoral College. We now know that their goal was to kill or kidnap our national leaders.
No one who follows current events in the slightest way should have been surprised. A few things that happened on Wednesday made it clear to me that something terrible was more likely to happen. When the leader of the Proud Boys (an alt-right militia) was prosecuted in DC Court the day before, I knew this would rile up fragile egos. When it became clear that two Democrats, a Black minister, and a Jewish man had won two Senate seats in Georgia and power would shift from Republican control of the Senate to Democrats, desperation was sure to follow. Not only was this a threat to white supremacists thinking, but it also meant that the President could face punishment from Congress after he leaves office. The final straw was the President himself lit the match encouraging his followers to march to the Capitol to “support” Republican members who pursued a conspiracy theory about the election. It’s clear that some came to town ready for a violent overthrow and events escalated.
I decided to stay in DC this week to keep an eye on the church and because a member of the church has been ill and would likely need to go to the hospital. My apartment is only five blocks from the Capitol, and I was walking on the street when throngs of Trump supporters walked to the Capitol. They were followed shortly by dozens of police cars. I stopped in my local grocery store to stock up when word came that the city would have a curfew. In the supermarket were long lines of Trump supporters and local Washingtonians. The tension even there was high.
When I returned to my apartment I watched online as the first protestors broke through the barricades. With the millions we spend on military and police and the obvious threat of that day, I was, and still am, stunned and furious that there was no plan to stop the attempted overthrow of our democratic system by thugs. I live next to a police station and the sirens have not stopped for the past four days.
You have all watched the scenes play out. What does it all mean?
American politics is a civil religion that provides a forum for us to work out our differences peacefully. The citadel of our nation is the Capitol. I never walk by it or worked in it without being amazed by it. To see barbarians who had broken through security desecrating that sacred space, I felt violated and ashamed for our nation. To see it overrun in this manner saddens me deeply. The image of the secret service with their handguns pointed at a barricaded door sticks with me.
This terrorism came from within the nation. Our own president egged on this group of simple-minded people with grand conspiracy theories. He lit the match. He is responsible –aided and abetted by others.
At this time, four people have died, and many are injured.
As you know, I’ve been preaching for the past four years that the church would need to take a leadership role in creating a place for dialogue. We’ve held pollical dialogues in our church space. Last year this Sunday, I warned that President Trump was represented in the Epiphany story as King Herod. This summer, I warned about his narcissism. There’s nothing surprising in his inciting this riot.
As I watched the insurrectionist breaking into the Capital and hitting police over the head and bashing journalists, you might expect I would be working out in my mind ways we can bridge the gap and come to a common understanding. I was not.
My true reaction may surprise you. I have to be honest with you. I wanted the police to use their rubber bullets on the crowd. I wanted them to release their tear gas. I wanted them to use their weapons if necessary. I know, not what you might expect from the pastor who has been providing training on creating peaceful dialogue.
For our democracy to operate we need order, truth, and justice. When you are dealing with criminals, you can forgive them for their actions, but there must be justice. Evil only responds to punishment. As I said this summer during the protests, once you engage in violence, you must face the consequences. As I said then, vandalizing stores is wrong, but it in no way compares to participating in a coup attempt at the center of the greatest democracy in the world. Late that day, two unexploded bombs were also found at the RNC and DNC. This could have been much worse. Unfortunately, I think there’s more to come.
I will be watching closely and demanding justice for every person who broke into the Capitol until all of them are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. These people must experience consequences for their actions. Further, I hope that the political leaders who aided and abetted this insurrection all face some punishment as well. They knew better and perpetuated conspiracy theories on the crowd. I’m afraid this is not the end to violence.
All of this raises the question, what is the role of the church and our church?
As someone who has been deeply involved in American politics for the past thirty years, I can say from firsthand experience that many of the groups who call themselves Christian are not followers of Jesus. Many have welded together Christian fundamentalism with nationalism to create a false faith of christian-nationalism. We saw them march into the Capitol with “Jesus Saves” signs. The fact that Jesus can be used in such ways is a sign of the power of evil. These forces must be repudiated.
Our own tradition offers a unique understanding of what we are seeing. It explains that the old church based on the desire for domination, false teachings, and fake compassion will die away and a new church is being born. My vision for Church of the Holy City is that we can be a place in our nation’s capital to provide a sanctuary for the birth of this newly evolving Christianity that lives out the teachings of Jesus.
It is an important time to take action as well. There are many good Christian groups seeking to tie themselves into the true message of Jesus. In my role as our denomination’s representative to the National Council of Churches, I signed with our national president, Rev. Jane Siebert, onto a letter today calling on the Vice President to remove the President (below).
I have also joined a sign-on letter calling for Trump’s removal with a wide range of Christian groups representing 220000 members spearheaded by Sojourners.
It is important to be clear that the Church of the Holy City will continue to be a place where diverse people with diverse views get to share them openly. We will continue to that, now more than ever. We will do more training as well.
This desire for pluralism should not be confused with our inability to speak the truth to dangerous conspiracy theories. Our call to forgive should not be confused by the ability to seek justice for evil actions.
Our democracy is fragile. It only works when people of good faith seek to resolve their differences in a respectful, democratic, and peaceful manner.
Sunday I will discuss how the day of the attack on the Capitol was Epiphany. Epiphany is when things are revealed. Our own teachings remind us that before good can be done, evil must be revealed. If Wednesday offered that revelation to us, we may learn and grow. If we remain blind to what’s happening, I fear much greater evils will occur. Followers of Jesus have an immense responsibility.
I’m looking forward to working with each of you to find new ways our church can be of service to the Lord in resolving our differences peacefully.
Sunday, I’ll share some spiritual concepts and use our discussion time for us to share how you are feeling and what you feel we should be doing. Ultimately, this work will require more love and more light to pierce the darkness.
I hope to see you Sunday,
Sunday, January 10, 2020
at 5 pm EST
Join Zoom Meeting
Feel free to share with a friend.
Rev. Rich Tafel
OPEN LETTER TO VICE PRESIDENT PENCE, MEMBERS OF CONGRESS, AND THE CABINET CALLING FOR THE REMOVAL OF PRESIDENT TRUMP FROM OFFICE
January 8, 2021
Our faith instructs us to take seriously positions of leadership, not to lead others astray and to be careful about what we say and do. In Philippians 2:3-4 we are taught to, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”
President Donald J. Trump’s actions and words have endangered the security of the country and its institutions of government by inciting a violent, deadly, seditious mob attack at the U.S. Capitol. His words and actions have placed the lives of the people he is supposed to serve in grave danger to advance his own interests. Further, he not only failed to stop or condemn the attack after the Capitol had been stormed but instead encouraged the mob by calling them patriots. This domestic terrorist attack resulted in at least five deaths, including a Capitol Police Officer, and more than a dozen police officers injured. The desecration of the Capitol building was also disgraceful and reprehensible.
For the good of the nation, so that we might end the current horror and prepare the way for binding up the nation’s wounds, we, as leaders of the member communions of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA (NCC), believe the time has come for the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, to resign his position immediately. If he is unwilling to resign, we urge you to exercise the options provided by our democratic system.
In addition, we recognize the need to hold responsible not only those who invaded the Capitol, but also those who supported and/or promoted the President’s false claims about the election, or made their own false accusations.
We grieve for our country at this difficult time and continue to pray for the safety and security, and ultimately the healing of our nation. Holding those who have abused their power and participated in these immoral and tragic actions, in particular the President of the United States, is one step toward healing.
Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President
National Council of Churches
Rev. Dr. John C. Dorhauer
General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
Chair, National Council of Churches Governing Board
Bishop W. Darin Moore
Presiding Bishop, AME Zion Church
Immediate Past Chair, National Council of Churches
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Vice Chair, National Council of Churches
Rev. Teresa Hord Owens, General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Dr. Néstor Gómez,
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Rev. Paula Clayton Dempsey, Director of Partnership Relations
Alliance of Baptists
Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, Presiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church
Senior Bishop Lawrence Reddick
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Sally Dyck, Ecumenical Officer of the Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Jean Hawxhurst, Ecumenical Staff Officer
The United Methodist Church
Rev. Eddy Alemán, General Secretary
Reformed Church in America
Rev. Jane Siebert, President
Swedenborgian Church of North America
His Eminence Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Ecumenical Director and Diocesan Legate
The Armenian Church, Eastern Diocese of America
Dr. Kimberly Brooks
African Methodist Episcopal Church
Rev. Richard Tafel
Carole Collins, Director of Operation
Alliance of Baptists
Reverend Brenda Girton-Mitchell
Progressive National Baptist Convention
Rev. Dr. W. Franklyn Richardson
Chair, Conference of National Black Churches
Stephen M. Veazey, President (Head of Communion)
Community of Christ
His Grace Mar Awa Royel, Bishop of California and Secretary of the Holy Synod
Assyrian Church of the East
Bishop Francis Krebs, Presiding Bishop
Ecumenical Catholic Communion
Rev. Dr. James Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA)
Presbyterian Church (USA)
During this time when many are suffering financially, the church established an emergency fund for anyone in our community in need. The maximum, one-time gift is $500. There is no application. You just have to ask me. This will be done confidentially. Let me know if you’d like to make your own special donation to this fund. I’m happy to report that it is being used. If you need help, let me know.
Sunday Service Order
First Sunday of Epiphany
January 10, 2021
Light a Candle
Open the Word
Greetings and Check-In
Gracious, God, we ask that you make each of us an instrument of your peace. Weave us into a community showing forth your power and tenderness. Bless us and our differences and undergird our courage to stand together. We call on you today to gather us in your love. Lead us to better know you and glorify you on each step of the journey of our lives. Amen.
PSALM 51 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.
1 Give the King your justice, O God, *
and your righteousness to the King’s Son;
2 That he may rule your people righteously *
and the poor with justice;
3 That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people, *
and the little hills bring righteousness.
4 He shall defend the needy among the people; *
he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.
5 He shall live as long as the sun and moon endure, *
from one generation to another.
6 He shall come down like rain upon the mown field, *
like showers that water the earth.
7 In his time shall the righteous flourish; *
there shall be abundance of peace till the moon shall be no more.
10 The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall pay tribute, *
and the kings of Arabia and Saba offer gifts.
11 All kings shall bow down before him, *
and all the nations do him service.
12 For he shall deliver the poor who cries out in distress, *
and the oppressed who has no helper.
13 He shall have pity on the lowly and poor; *
he shall preserve the lives of the needy.
14 He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence, *
and dear shall their blood be in his sight.
True and False Prophets
15 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
True and False Disciples
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’
The Wise and Foolish Builders
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
28 When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, 29 because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
“Babylon” means everyone who wants to use religion to control others. Trying to use religion to control others is trying to take control of their souls and therefore their spiritual life itself, using as means the divine principles of the religion. In a general sense, then, Babylon means all people who have control as their aim and use religion as the means of achieving it. (Last Judgment §54:1)
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Community Prayer with Lord’s Prayer
(congregation responds, “Lord hear our prayer.”)
Now may the peace that passes all understanding be with you all this day and forevermore.[/fusion_text][/one_full]