Tuesday Conversations S2E1 [PODCAST] -- Insurrection and Incarnation: White Christians, Trump, and the January 6th US Capitol Insurrection
On January 6th, we White Christians can use Epiphany to dedicate ourselves to protecting democracy from a manifesting threat.
Today is January 4th, but I’m looking ahead to January 6th.
Prior to last year, the chief association Americans had with that date, if any, was its designation in Western Christianity as “Epiphany.” This date on the Christian calendar celebrated the visit of the Magi (or three kings or wise men) to Jesus at his birth, and it marked the end of the twelve days of Christmas celebrations that began on Christmas Day.
The Greek word “epiphany” was tapped because of its association with something rare and significant appearing, and was often used to describe the manifestation of deities to mortals. In the Christian narrative, the word was theologically interpreted to mark the revelation of Jesus to Gentiles (non-Jews) represented by the three kings. (As I noted last month, one of the kings, Balthazar, became the site of early representations of non-white bodies in European artistic depictions of the nativity scene. More on the significance of that here.)
But this date has now become infamous as one of American democracy’s darkest days. As I noted in the Afterword of White Too Long, the US Capitol riot was a stain on U.S. history, ending more than two centuries of pride in an American democracy that had provided 44 consecutive peaceful transitions of power.
Last year, I lamented the overlay of Incarnation and insurrection. But this year, I believe this collision of meanings may prove beneficial. It’s consistent with a related but different historical use of “epiphany” in Greek: to describe the appearance of a powerful enemy or grave threat. As I put it in last Friday’s column, “These awful events had one value: They put on plain display the unholy amalgamation of white supremacy and American Christianity that lives among us today.”
One thing is clear to me this Epiphany. If at any point in American history, white Christians had said a collective “no” to slavery, segregation, and overt discrimination, we could have ended these practices nearly overnight. We clearly and repeatedly failed these tests.
This week, Epiphany provides white Christians—who have been the principal supporters, enablers, and legitimizers of Donald Trump—an exceptionally clear opportunity to say a collective “no” to his attempts to undermine our democracy through lies, conspiracies, and fear mongering. If we fail to do that in overwhelming numbers, we will have given the rest of our fellow citizens their own epiphany about our real commitments—not just to democratic values but also to the Christian values such as truthfulness and love of neighbor we profess to hold.
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PODCAST: White Too Long and the US Capitol Attack
For the first 2022 edition of Tuesday Conversations, I’m bringing you a podcast I did just one week after the insurrection on January 6, 2021. This conversation was hosted by my friend Brian Kaylor at Word & Way (they also have a great substack) and co-sponsored by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. This episode became one of their top podcasts of the year. Click below to listen.
ICYMI, I dedicated last Friday’s column to the threat of white Christian nationalism embodied in the January 6th insurrection. It’s here:
And if you’d like that commentary all under the same cover with the analysis in White Too Long, it’s included in a new Afterword in the paperback edition. We’re still having some supply chain issues with the paperback, but it’s available and Barnes & Noble. Click below to order your copy or buy one for a friend.