Storming United States Capitol

Methodist Pastor Addresses U.S. Capitol “Desecration”

UMVoices on January 8, 2021

Editor’s note: Today’s UM Voices contributor is the Rev. Andrew C. Thompson, an ordained elder in the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church serving as senior pastor of First Church Springdale. UM Voices is a forum for different voices within the United Methodist Church (UMC) on pressing issues of denominational concern. UM Voices contributors represent only themselves and not IRD/UMAction.

Dear Church family,

“…with liberty and justice for all.”

That is the way our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag ends: “with liberty and justice for all.” They are important words. In order for us to live in a nation where liberty and justice exist for all people, we must be a nation that abides by the rule of law and respects our democratic process of government. Prior to moving to Springdale in 2015, my family and I lived in the city of Marion—the county seat of Crittenden County. On the façade of the courthouse in Marion reads the statement, “Obedience to the Law is Liberty.” I always loved to read that sentence when I would drive by the courthouse, and I think it speaks to a deep truth. Without the rule of law, we will end up with the rule of tyranny. And the way that we would get there is through chaos, disorder, and violence.

What we witnessed in our nation’s capital yesterday almost defies belief. As I watched and prayed for our country throughout the afternoon, I found myself gripped by a strange mixture of emotions: anger, fear, and sadness. At one point, I saw an image of a rioter who had broken into the chamber of the U.S. Senate and was lounging in the vice president’s chair taking pictures with his phone. I have been in that chamber myself, and it is hallowed ground for our Republic. The disrespect that was shown in that moment, and the desecration shown to the Capitol building throughout the afternoon, are outrageous.

Following the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, a woman supposedly asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well doctor, what have we got—a republic, or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

I believe the events of the past seven months or so have shown us how fragile our Republic can be given where we are in our history and culture right now. Last July, left-wing agitators repeatedly attacked and tried to burn the federal courthouse in Portland, Oregon. Yesterday, right-wing rioters broke into and vandalized the U.S. Capitol. In the latter instance, the rioters were disrupting the electoral process by which we choose our government and effect a peaceful transfer of power. These are assaults on the very form of government that we hold dear; in the case of what happened yesterday, it was a threat to our democracy in the building that, more than any other, represents our government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

As a pastor, I try to exercise real discipline when it comes to making statements that could be construed as political. Given that we have a politically diverse congregation, I see that as my responsibility in order to respect the various views and convictions of our members. Yet it is possible to make a political statement that is not a partisan statement—that is, a political statement about what it means to be an American who believes in our form of government and believes that it is worth struggling to preserve. So with that in mind, let me offer this: I have, in my life, had the opportunity to travel to countries on four different continents. Some of those countries have governmental systems and political histories that we would never wish on ourselves. What I have learned from visiting those nations, learning their histories, and speaking with their people is that no country on earth is immune from the dangers of political violence and tyranny. Indeed, the only thing that holds a nation together is the collective determination of men and women of good will to preserve the society they have been given and hopefully improve upon it for their children. In the United States of America, we have all been given a great gift; but in order for it to be preserved and passed on to the generation that will follow us, we have to come together in respect, love, and mutual good will. What we have seen over the past year—and what we saw yesterday in particular—will only get worse if we do not make a concerted effort to restore decency, respect, and a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood among the citizens of our nation.

As Christian people, we should be at the forefront of healing and repairing the social fabric of America. What can you do to contribute to that? Ask yourself that question. How can we all be advocates for compassion, care, and beauty in our world? Colossians 3:14-15 says, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” An attitude of love, peace, and thanksgiving seems to me to be a good place to start. These need to be commitments that we not only feel but also act upon.

Our land is hurting, and we all need to join together to work toward its healing. I pray that God grant us the grace to do so today, and every day from now on.

May God bless you during this challenging time ~

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Andrew C. Thompson
Senior Pastor

The Rev. Andrew C. Thompson is an ordained elder in the Arkansas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church serving as senior pastor of First Church Springdale.

  1. Comment by Dan W on January 8, 2021 at 6:36 pm

    Pastor Andrew, I agree Believers do need to step up. It would be helpful if we could stop fighting each other for a minute, but I know that won’t happen.

    I would like to commend my fellow Georgians for how they conducted themselves in the 2021 Special Election for the US Senate. We put up with endless negative campaigning from all sides, gigabytes of political text messaging, literal tons of giant campaign mailers, and constant scorn and derision from the national/international press. Millions of Georgians peacefully and respectfully voted (maybe a few non-Georgians or late Georgians.) Thousands of Georgians came out to campaign or work at the polls. Millions are elated at the results and an equal number are disappointed, but we will continue to live, work and worship together.

    The events at our nations Capitol this week will understandably overshadow what happened in Georgia, but I wanted to thank everyone who participated. We will continue to be courageous and hopefully quick to forgive, and pray for each other. AMEN!

  2. Comment by Nancy Buttke on January 8, 2021 at 9:11 pm

    I agree with most of what is said here. Your initial statement blaming right wing rioters is what turned me off. These are being shown to NOT be right wing rioters. This kind of statement IS political in spite of you not wanting to be political. It is also the kind of statement, without waiting for investigation, that is partially responsible for me leaving the United Methodist church. Too many statements have been made about conservatives in the UMC that are derogatory and not true, another reason to leave and find a church that is Biblical and respects all people, including conservatives.

  3. Comment by John McAdams on January 8, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    I would be more impressed with these laments over what happened at the Capitol if the same people had condemned the riots and looting in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

    But maybe Thompson did. Is he on record with such?

    And it would also be good if things like this were condemned:

    Nobody who applies a double standard, depending on who is using the violence, has any moral authority.

  4. Comment by Brandon McGrath on January 8, 2021 at 10:52 pm

    how do people clothe themselves in love if they aren’t born again and know nothing of Christ. All you methodist pastors preach the same message of love and change without preaching of the importance of surrendering our lives to Jesus.


  5. Comment by Donald on January 9, 2021 at 7:49 am

    Look carefully at the massive number of videos showing the vast majority of those who were in the nation’s capitol behaving themselves.

    Then look with equal care at the videos of those who attacked the Capital building. See those folks just behind the front lines with backpacks? Those are the controlling supervisors of the mob. Those backpacks are filled with bricks and other weapons. If you think they’re just computer bags or lunch bags, you need to take a course in Civil Disobedience 101. These are the ANTIFA members.

    If you can’t find the course, I recommend you read this book review or buy the books in the journal “Terrorism and Political Violence.” The review is written by a professor I know well!

    ANTIFA: The Anti-Fascist Handbook and From Fascism to Populism in History

  6. Comment by Keith on January 9, 2021 at 8:31 am

    I do not see any more of a desecration than when our self serving betters meet there to do the nations business. I also believe there is more to this than meets the eye. Many of the protestors were invited in. Plenty of evidence for that. Some certainly broke in. It seems a false flag episode.
    I work very hard trying not to be too cynical, but it usually turns out I was not cynical enough. Pray for our country , it’s all we have left.

  7. Comment by John Smith on January 9, 2021 at 11:15 am

    When people refer to the Capital as sacred ground, talk of desecrating the Constitution, etc. I cringe. When a minister confuses the sacred and secular I shake my head realizing we have found the heart of the problem.

    The founding fathers are not prophets, the capital is not holy ground, the constitution is not sacred scripture, and members of the government are not part of the priesthood. But now that we look to the government for answers, protections, safety and meaning God is ignored, at best given lip service in prayers invoking a strange god intending to curry favor with the government.

    Shouldn’t the ordained elders remember to what they were ordained? Or do they really like the China model?

  8. Comment by Brother Thom on January 9, 2021 at 5:43 pm

    Far too much is being made of this event. The loss of life is tragic. Ashli Babbit was killed by a Capitol Police Officer while trying to enter thru a window. She never stepped foot inside the building but was shot dead nonetheless. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was attacked by insurgents and later died from his injuries. Three others died of natural causes on the Capitol grounds. We pray for each of their families and friends. We are also in prayer for the Officer that shot Ashlie Babbit, and his/her family.

    But I want to be clear, this event by a small number of antagonists does not define our nation any more than the month’s tragic riots, looting, arsons, assaults, and murders did following George Floyd’s death. The thousands of peaceful protesters on the Capitol grounds were permitted by the U.S. Department of the Interior. They had always planned to gather at the Elipse and following remarks by the President, march to the Capitol. They did not go there because of the President’s words, they had always planned on it.

    So far two of those arrested for entering the Capitol building are aligned with the far-right extremist conspiracy group QAnon, both are white. The third person, a black man who also made entry to the building told the press that he is a Black Lives Matter activist. None of these antagonists represent the President or the Republican Party. Calling them Trump supporters is like calling the extremists Black Lives Matter and Antifa, Biden supporters. Neither Trump nor Biden can control who creates havoc under their banner.

    As a Nation, we must come together and find common ground. Christians have been under attack for decades, but we have never seen such overt attacks as we have since 2009. My gravest fear is that our religious liberties are further eroded over the next four years. The greatest tools we have are our full armor of God, and prayer, fervent prayer and then pray some more.

  9. Comment by Mark Parris on January 9, 2021 at 6:51 pm

    Thank you for your thoughts and reflections. I agree with the spirit and spirituality of your words shared with your church and with us. In reading some of the comments to your thoughts, I am reminded that listening is not gathering ammo for your next shot. Listening is hearing the heart of the one speaking and hearing them in the context intended. As someone has said, “A text without a context is just a pretext.”

  10. Comment by Steve Dodson on January 11, 2021 at 7:30 pm

    Thank you Andrew and thank you IRD for sharing this insightful and pastoral piece. Andrew’s words inspired me to address my own congregation with a similar message. My pastoral colleagues and I crafted a similar letter this past Sunday. We were able to use Andrew’s inspired work, add our own perspectives, tie in our state’s motto (Wisdom, Justice, Moderation) and weave in reference to this Sunday’s commemoration of our Lord’s Baptism. Thanks for being a catalyst for good.

  11. Comment by binkyxz3 on January 17, 2021 at 4:05 am

    More than a week after this post and facts confirm the capitol event was a staged psy-op run by anarchist groups. Trump supporters are merely the scapegoats (is that a Biblical term?). What say you, righteous pastor?
    Hopefully, the preacher will address the fact the rally did not take place in a vacuum. It is glaringly obvious to anyone with basic statistical knowledge that the election was stolen (Where is my copy of the 10 Commandments?). This was the real crime that made the rally essential. And while you’re at it, address the bearing of false witness this president was subjected to over the last 5 years.
    One can no more dabble in politics than one can dabble in salvation.

  12. Comment by Star Tripper on January 20, 2021 at 12:23 am

    The events of Jan 6 were the Reichstag fire of the 21st century. The author is not a proper leader for this time in our country. The basis of his point of view died many years ago.

  13. Comment by Chet Klinger on January 21, 2021 at 8:15 pm

    Totally good and uniting: “Indeed, the only thing that holds a nation together is the collective determination of men and women of good will to preserve the society they have been given and hopefully improve upon it for their children.”
    Totally inaccurate and totally dividing: “Yesterday, right-wing rioters broke into and vandalized the U.S. Capitol. In the latter instance, the rioters were disrupting the electoral process by which we choose our government and effect a peaceful transfer of power.” Why clergy detest God-fearing, family loyal, liberty loving people of good-will while loving the wicked and deceitful radicals on the left is beyond me. The invaders of a peaceful group of people, who were there within their rights to protest corruption in the voting process and to support their president who has been badgered for 4 years, were the real culprits. The culprits were agitators from radical leftist groups whose mission was to place blame on the righteous patriots, disrupt the debates in Congress on voting fraud, and give the media and the Democrats and some revengeful Republicans all they needed to complete the coup against this president. This pastor, like so many others, should have waited until the truth was told before lashing out their one-sided venom. The progressive left of this church needs to wake up and see where it is taking this church before more souls are lost to Master of Lies.

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