As I watched in horror what happened at the Capitol on Jan. 6, I thought how the events encapsulated the word “irony.”
The dictionary defines “irony” as “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result.” And though far from amusing, let me offer two examples from Jan. 6.
Irony is when a group that has called for “law and order” participates in an illegal storming of the Capitol that leads to the death of two Capitol police officers.
Irony is when a group that calls themselves “patriots” storms into the Capitol building and brandishes a Confederate battle flag – the exact symbolism against this country.
And as I further reflected on those events, I found myself reflecting on another march on Washington 57 years ago. In contrast to the words of January 6 that promoted hatred and division, we heard the following words then from Martin Luther King, Jr.:
“And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream…. I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!”
Dr. King, whose birthday we celebrate this coming weekend, knew that this task would not be easy. It required courage and unity and faith:
“With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”
I stand these two marches side by side, because they present us with two narratives, two contrasting visions. We are asked as a country right now what story will we tell, what story will we allow to shape us.
Will we continue to promote division and lies and hatred and violence?
Or will we live into God’s vision of unity and truth and love and peace?
Perhaps the final irony of January 6 is that so many of the rioters brandished signs of Jesus and the Bible when their words and their actions were so far from what Jesus and Scripture call us to.
On that same day that Dr. King spoke of his dream, a young man by the name of John Lewis said these words: “To those who have said, “Be patient and wait,” we have long said that we cannot be patient. We do not want our freedom gradually, but we want to be free now! We are tired. We are tired of being beaten by policemen. We are tired of seeing our people locked up in jail over and over again. And then you holler, ‘Be patient.’ How long can we be patient? We want our freedom and we want it now.”
I feel that same impatience now. I want justice to prevail. I want peace to reign. I want love to win.
I refuse to allow those voices of Jan. 6 to speak for me and my country. I refuse to allow those voices speak of my faith in Jesus. I choose the God who said through the prophets, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an everflowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) I choose the God who showed us how to live in Jesus by embracing tax collectors, prostitutes, and lepers. I choose Jesus who said to love our enemies. I choose Jesus who could say on the cross to those who crucified him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
In her novel “The Stone Sky” N.K. Jemisin says these words: “Don’t be patient. Don’t ever be. This is the way a new world begins. … So let’s get to it.”
It is the dream of Dr. King. It is the vision of the Kingdom of God.
Come on, everybody, let’s get to it.