Capitol Hill – Words That Weaponize
“Politicians from both sides of the spectrum, republicans and democrats alike, have weaponized motivated reasoning.” (Peter Ditto, a social psychologist at the University of California, Irvine.)
WASHINGTON – The violent and deadly pro-Trump riot inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 marked a dark day in America. What started as a congressional and democratic exercise in the peaceful transfer of power with a joint session of Congress counting certified Electoral College votes from the states, devolved into death, destruction, and chaos when a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol building, breaking windows, ransacking lawmakers’ offices and clashing with police. (FOX NEWS)
Five people died as a result of the incident – including a Capitol police officer who succumbed to his injuries on Thursday. The siege prompted Congress to temporarily halt the Electoral College vote count, which early the next morning formally cemented President-Elect Joe Biden’s victory.
Other violent incidents have broken out inside the Capitol building – but none on the same scale.
The nation witnessed the siege with deep horror. It was historic – albeit a particularly dark one. The last time the U.S. Capitol was attacked was more than 200 years ago during the War of 1812. A painting depicting the Battle of Lake Erie appears on the Senate side of the Capitol and a sharp observer may have noticed one of the first professional photos to be released in the midst of Wednesday’s attack showed a man waving a Trump flag in front of the painting.
Capitol Hill is the seat of the U.S. government, home to the domed United States Capitol, Senate, Houses of Representatives, and the neoclassical Supreme Court. The capital is the home of American democracy, and so the storming of the Capitol is incredibly symbolic and incredibly troubling for people not just in Washington, but for people across the country and around the world.
WORDS THAT WEAPONIZE
The words of Peter Ditto, that politicians have weaponized motivated reasoning, hold the key to understanding the siege in Capitol Hill. The tragedy of Capitol Hill is not what happened on Wednesday 6 January but the twelve years of “weaponized reasoning” that preceded it, not only from the political podiums of the USA, but from the pulpits of a divided American Church.
The world we live in cannot afford for America to lose its witness as a beacon of freedom and a symbol of democracy. What happened on Capitol Hill is a tipping point in global politics and unless Christians, who have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) and the mandate to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9), find a way to engage in reconciliatory discussions, the future of this glorious nation is on a road of self-destruction.
In understanding this stark reality, that our words have the power to weaponize people, we at dia-LOGOS would like to create a platform where different views can be shared with a heart to listen to one another, to be disarmed of aggression, and to find ways to reconcile our differences.
We therefore start this first article with a DISCLAIMER and A CONCLUSION
This article is placed under the category of DISCUSS, not DISCOVER nor DISCERN. It is a call to dialogue (dia-LOGOS), to reason together and to find reconciliatory solutions, not dividing opinions. This is not THE truth but A truth. There will be many that disagree with any article at any given time. That’s OK. We need to find ways to engage in dialogue. As Christians, we do not have the luxury to demonise those who differ from us.
What we say matters. How we say it matters even more. Capitol hill bears witness to that.
In James 3:1-12 we find the key to reconciliation, taking care with the words that we speak, and to guard against the inappropriate use of our tongues.
Regardless of how we view the presidency of Mr.Trump – the policies, the victories, the appointments in the Supreme Court, the international Breakthru’s and treaties signed, the rallies and the economic achievements – the reality is that he will be mostly remembered for what he said, the content of his speeches , the consequences of his words and the conclusion of his term.
According to James 3, words have the power to direct, destroy or delight. The message that President Trump communicated before the siege did not contain the actual words of destruction, but it did direct people to destructive action. Our words can build character, strengthen minds and give hope but it can also create fear, sow suspicion and move to destruction. It is not what was said that mattered but how it was said.
Dr. Jacqueline L. Nophlin, pastor of Household Of Faith Community Church in Bristol, describes it as follows:
“James points out three ways the tongue of a Christian is the indicator of spiritual health or spiritual death:
- It has the power to direct, as he uses the “bit” and the “rudder” in verses 3-4 to illustrate how words can direct others into the right or the wrong path. We are warned of idle words, half-truths, and deliberate lies.
- It has the power to destroy, in verses 5-8, James tells us the tongue is a small member of the body, but it can cause the worst damage. What the tongue says comes from the heart. An evil tongue spreads poison, but a spiritual tongue is a medicine. A tiny spark can start a whole forest “fire.”
- It has the power to delight, found in verses 9-12, the fountain, or the spring cannot give salt water and fresh water at the same time. The tongue cannot speak blessings and curse at the same time (Proverbs 18:4). A tree cannot bear two kinds of fruit at the same time (Proverbs 13:2).
These metaphors, illustrations and analogies, found in many translations, show the power to control. A bit controls the whole horse. A small rudder on a huge ship sets a course in the face of the strongest wind. And one word spoken can accomplish nearly anything or destroy, like that little fiery dart, sending “fire” from the mouth, causing chaos and ruining reputations. Words do matter — the power of the tongue.”
There is no doubt that the majority of peace-loving people in the USA, will find a way of restoring the pursued values of liberty, equality and freedom. But it will take some deep introspection and courage from the Christian community to provide the moral compass.
A MILLENNIAL PERSPECTIVE
This first article is written by Jeremiah Goddard, a former colleague and Christian Youth Worker in Indiana. He is a born-again, spirit-filled believer, husband, and father of four children. He represents a generation of Millennials (born 1982 to 1999 – 82,2 million), who together with Generation Z (born 2000 to 2020 – 86,4 million) represents more than half of the population of the USA. The voice of this generation counts as much as the voice of Generation X and the Baby-Boomers. He writes as follows:
Many people have said that January 6th,2021 is a day to be added to a very short list of most destructive days in US history. A day of precedent after a year of terrible precedents. However, now the focus becomes not just on litigating those involved, but to answer the question: why?
- Why did this happen?
- How could this have happened?
- How could this have happened to the US?
I can only speak with the voice of one person. I believe the ideals that I hold are not unique to people in my age group. Sadly, with the events of Wednesday, I must confess that I was not shocked. Anyone who has followed Donald Trump’s rise to fame, has heard or seen the language in which he speaks. Christians that I know even say: “I don’t necessarily like the way he speaks or acts but I do like what he’s doing as president.” It’s this pass on his words that have fuelled what happened at the Capitol.
Let me immediately add that those that stormed the Capitol does not represent the majority of Americans or even Trump supporters. This was a small group of supporters, but what mattered was what they were able to accomplish. They caused Congress to halt the vote and flee into hiding. They overtook a federal government building in our nation’s capital. They removed the United States flag and tried to hoist a Donald Trump flag. All while carrying Jesus flags and Christian banners. If we want to ask why this happened, we have to look at the language of the man whose supporters they were.
The language of disunity
In Donald Trump’s announcement speech of his intention to seek election on June 16, 2015 he said the following: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
At a rally in Iowa on January 23, 2016 he said the following: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters.”
At another rally in Iowa on February 1,2016 he said the following: “If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously. Just knock the hell out of them. I promise you, I will pay for the legal fees. I promise. There won’t be so much of them because the courts agree with us.”
This list could go on and on. These are but 3 examples of Donald Trump’s unchecked abusive language and only within the first year of his pre-election rallies. This sort of hate filled, divisive language has consequences.
The reality is that when we speak in a hateful language, regardless of intention, there are consequences. I don’t believe Donald Trump meant for this to happen. I don’t believe he intentionally used these words to divide. I believe he used these words to invigorate and bring passion to voters. However, the words and sentiments and the language that he has spoken in for at least the last 5 years, have brought us to the place we currently are in. From my perspective, there is a hatefulness that has been oozing from the American people and especially the American church. We were told that God had chosen Donald Trump, that he was appointed, ordained by God himself. We were told that he would shift the balance and return America to a more Godly time. Unfortunately, these sentiments have the potential to bring an idolizing effect. If God has appointed Donald Trump, how dare I disagree with him? How dare I speak out against him.
We have also been told to be Christian you must vote Republican. There is no alternative. Our political system has been boiled down to just the stance on abortion and in many ways the church has been hijacked by the Republican party. There should never be a party for all Christians because we are citizens of heaven and we seek humility and truth. Not power and not radicalization to a political movement regardless of what it is. If we, as the church, continue to follow this line we lose our voice in peace, love, forgiveness, mercy, and yes, truth. You add to this the many voices of “Prophets” voicing that Trump would win the election. Many, still voicing this even after Joe Biden has been confirmed and there are no other courses of action for anyone, save God himself.
Language of Isolation
Donald Trump in many ways brought the term “Fake News” to the forefront of the world’s mind. Constantly, throughout his presidency and before, he has painted the media as fake news. He has seemingly reserved this for media that doesn’t agree with him. This is a very good tactic for someone seeking political power. If you can delegitimize those who disagree with you, then you can in a way control the perception of you. There is a group of Americans that have shut off all media, preferring to just rely on Donald Trump for the truth. There are other parts that have moved away from mainstream media entirely seeking more fringe sources, some just to Fox News, some just to CNN.
On top of this, there is an all-out assault on fact-checking. Fact-checking is called oppression, suppression, and censorship. We are in an era where fact-checking is the enemy if it disagrees with our opinion. We know that there is confirmation bias. This is the tendency to seek out information that confirms our position. Finally, the tendency to share things on social media that we agree with and don’t care if it’s true.
Now, I understand the media, all media, has bias. Every single source that you take information from has a certain bias. There are sources such as https://www.allsides.com/media-bias/media-bias-chart that can help to show where your chosen media outlet falls on the list. There is an even larger one that shows the source’s legitimacy https://www.adfontesmedia.com/. Since this is entirely unavoidable, we have no choice but to vary our sources. This is the best way to try to find a balanced perspective. While the Capitol Building in the United States of America was being taken over, I flipped between Fox News, CNN, and NBC news to try to get a balanced perspective. I heard all three say the words, siege, incursion, insurrection, coup.
Now in the scheme of things we find that the words of isolation could push people (voters) away from sources that a politician wouldn’t want their followers to hear. Then if they could, they would delegitmize truth itself through “alternative facts” and even rile people against fact checking.
Language of Fraud
This language started way back in 2016 around the time of the debate with Hilary Clinton. Trump announced the following: “Ladies and gentleman I want to make a major announcement today. I would like to promise and pledge to all of my voters and supporters, and to all of the people of the United States, that I will totally accept the results of this great and historic presidential election… if I win.” This is the very same language he has used throughout his entire presidency. All I can personally say about the allegation of fraud is that I listened during the Senate debating whether or not to reject electors from contested states and Republican after Repblican said they had personally seen no evidence of widespread fraud or irregularity. Every court case that the Trump Team brought forward was rejected and found baseless. It is up to the states to conduct elections, verify and certify elections, period. All of those legal steps were followed and the results were the same. However, even up until after the siege, Trump was still using this language. He tweeted during the incursion, “These are the things and events that happen when a sacred landslide election victory is so unceremoniously & viciously stripped away from great patriots who have been badly & unfairly treated for so long.”
Language of War
Due to the fact that Youtube and most sources refuse to air Trump’s rally prior to the siege of the Capitol the words have been all but forgotten. I was able to find a transcript of the words. He begins the rally focusing on the fact that there are more numbers than the media will report. “The media is the biggest problem we have as far as I’m concerned, single biggest problem. The fake news and the Big Tech. Big Tech is now coming into their own. We beat them. Four years ago we surprised them. We took them by surprise, and this year they rigged an election. They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before.” Then he states, “All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical-left Democrats, which is what they’re doing, and stolen by the fake news media. That’s what they’ve done and what they’re doing. We will never give up. We will never concede. It doesn’t happen. You don’t concede with these steps involved.” He the uses this language of finality, “Our country has had enough. We will not take it anymore and that’s what this is all about. And to use a favorite term that all of you people really came up with: We will stop the steal. Today, I will lay out just some of the evidence proving that we won this election and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election.”
At the very end of the speech Mr.Trump says, “But I said something’s wrong here, something is really wrong, can have happened. And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore. Our exciting adventures and boldest endeavors have not yet begun. My fellow Americans, for our movement, for our children, and for our beloved country, and I say this despite all that’s happened, the best is yet to come.”… “So we’re going to — we’re going to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I love Pennsylvania Avenue. And we’re going to the Capitol, and we’re going to try and give — the Democrats are hopeless, they never voted for anything. Not even one vote. But we’re going to try and give our Republicans, the weak ones because the strong ones don’t need any of our help.”
FInally, “We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country. So let’s walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. I want to thank you all. God bless you and God Bless America. Thank you all for being here. This is incredible. Thank you very much. Thank you.”
He specifically says, to a crowd he has been speaking to, about how evil the Liberals are, how the democrats will destroy America, to walk to the Capitol and give our fellow Republicans the strength to take back our nation.” Remember with this quote that they have been weaponized with anger, hatred, and fear for 5 years, they have been told the media is all lies, and the election was physically stolen from them.
While I watched the Capitol building being taken over I felt the same feeling I did during the riots over the summer. I felt a deep sadness. Sad to see our nation devolve into what it has. Sad to see Jesus flags being carried while people break into the Capitol building right next to Confederate flags and Trump flags. How did we get here? We allowed Jesus to step to the side while we chose a savior that fit our desires. Maybe even fit the true representation of some of our hearts.
The truth that we have forgotten is the truth of humility and unity. We are one nation under God. It is not our responsibility to physically fight for God because His kingdom isn’t physical, it’s eternal. We have forgotten how to relate to those we don’t agree with. We have forgotten the art of tact and true love. “Walking a mile in another’ shoes”. Rioting of all kinds is wrong. Just like the riots over the summer we have to take a minute, step back, and search the reason. Step back and ask why this happened. Then ask God to reveal those things in our own hearts and then give them to him.