On Wednesday, January 6, 2021, hundreds of white terrorists stormed the Capitol building in Washington D.C. in the name of Trumpism, patriotism and “revolution.” Amidst the mob dressed in riot gear and carrying armed weaponry, “Jesus Saves” was held up on posters, clothing and even wooden crosses. An ironic statement when juxtaposed next to the noose hanging on the west side of the Capitol building.
This paralleling of Christian faith and patriotism has existed in American history for centuries as justification for the maiming, murdering, kidnapping and total degradation of Black people and people of color. Many of the white people who stormed the Capitol on Wednesday are regular churchgoers who profess Christanity. The roots of their white faith is grounded in racist theology dating back to segregation and Jim Crow laws. Rather the mob we witnessed this week all identified as Christians is not clear, but for the ones who held up those signs, clearly faith and country share a bed. In between the sheets of that bed is a historical devotion to separatism.
In 1961, a few weeks after the “Freedom Riders” bus attack in Montgomery, Alabama, a leading pastor by the name of Henry Lyons spoke these words: "If you want to get in a fight with the one that started separation of the races, then you come face to face with your God," he declared. "The difference in color, the difference in our body, our minds, our life, our mission upon the face of this earth, is God given."
Lyons’ speech was passionate and he was insistent that a Christian church should remain white because, simply, “God said so.” Likewise, we see that same rhetoric when we engage with the doctrine of the “Proud Boys,” an intolerant, far-right, neo-fascist and male-only political organization that promotes political violence in the United States and Canada. Recently, this group has acquired a lawsuit from Asbury United Methodist Church, a historically Black church, after ripping “Black Lives Matter” signs from the church’s property and setting them on fire in the street. The destruction of these signs happened at three other churches in the same city and is reminiscent of the historical bombings, burnings and attacks on Black churches by racist hate groups. The Proud Boys are similar to, if not the same as, the Klansman of today and the past.
At the heart of these political and prejudice tantrums, white supremists use God to justify their terroism. In the past, the Bible was used to justify Black chattel slavery. White pastors, such as James H. Thornwell, encouraged their flock to not feel guilty about the morality of slavery and professed that it was not sin. The misuse of Biblical passages, a false sense of “charity,” a separation of spiritual and political issues and a myriad of other reasonings quelled any shame that some slave owners could’ve possibly felt. Though culture and values change, the recent coup reminded many Black Americans that not much had changed in the country’s dealings of Black people versus white people.
Many took to Black Twitter tweeting comedic memes about the police's futile efforts in stopping the mob and how different the situation would look if it were Black people storming the Capitol. The double standard was evident as footage surfaced of law enforcement removing the barriers for the mob and allowing them to pass through to the Capitol. The terrorist demonstration is a traumatic reminder of white Christanity and how it is weaponized toward non-whites. The intersectionalities of white Christanity are inclusive of white nationalism and white supremacy where neight Black or brown people have a voice.
The coup at the Capitol is evidence of their fear that “their America,'' which is their God, will be dismantled and destroyed. Holding up a sign professing “Jesus Saves” should not be mistaken as an offer of salvation for those who mobbed the Capitol. Instead, it is a reminder that their salvation is exclusive to white people and only through accepting their doctrine of nationalism will we all be saved.