Following the horrific events at our nation’s Capitol, on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, I saw the sacred in the responses of a Democrat and a Republican. I also remembered the mob holding up its symbols of the sacred.
On the TV show 60 Minutes, the Democrat Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, was asked to describe her feelings during the time when the Capitol was attacked. Before words came to her mouth, tears came to her eyes, and she mentioned feeling that something sacred had been violated. The opposite reaction, that of hot rage, came from Republican Senator Mitt Romney when he spoke of his outrage when this place of sacred gatherings had been ransacked.
The United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. is not a religious temple. But it is the seat of sacred trust for all of us who love and serve our country.
How did it get this way? The last words of the Declaration of Independence of 1776 say, “…with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” At the origins of American citizenship is “sacred Honor.” That’s why we serve in wars, pay taxes and volunteer for civic duties. The sacred is at our core.
Some countries want to be a Hindu country or a Jewish or a Muslim or a Buddhist or a Christian country. Not so with the United States. From the start, we wanted to make room for all religions to bring their sacred revelations, writings and worship here. The very first Amendment to the Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof… “
What America was doing was creating a sense of the sacred in its union in order to defend each religion’s own sense of the sacred – “divine Providence” protecting the nation and the nation protecting all of the religions. And the holiest place of this country’s sense of “sacred Honor” is invested, quietly and with dignity, in the Capitol building on Washington, D.C. Desecrate that, and you rip at the soul of all that holds us together and the trumpet for religious persecution is sounded.
The mob that stormed the Capitol wanted to put this country in reverse and undo our highest ideals. The symbols of what is sacred to the mob were in plain view: in a noose, a Confederate flag, a swastika, a personal flag to replace the American flag, a guillotine, vows to kill our leaders! Clearly the harassment and death calls for Jews, Muslims and all except Christians became pillars of the insurrectionists’ aspirations.
A double-edged attack was waged on January 6th. First, it was an attack on the “sacred Honor” that has bound this country together for 245 years. Second, it was an attack on our nation’s intent to “make room for all religions to bring their sacred revelations, writing and worship here.”
January 6, 2021 forces all of us, personally, to choose and commit to America and the Sacred.