Eugene Goodman served in the Army and was deployed with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq. His awards include a combat infantryman badge, which indicates that he was in ground combat.
On January 6, he found himself in ground combat once again.
The Washington Post describes a video clip “that captured not only the terror of the day, but the values at stake: a lone Black police officer in the marble halls of the US Capitol building, facing down a mob of mostly White rioters who had stormed in bearing Confederate flags, weapons, and vows to reclaim a lost election.”
Goodman worked to hold back dozens of rioters. Twice he retreated up a flight of stairs to lure them away from the Senate chambers. The Post interviewed an expert who stated that Goodman’s actions “helped to avoid a tremendous tragedy.”
After the video of his actions went viral, Officer Goodman told co-workers, “My job is to protect and serve. And on that day, I was protecting.”
Violence in state capitols tomorrow?
In the continuation of a tragedy I never thought I would witness in America, an FBI bulletin warns: “Armed protests are being planned at all fifty state capitols from 16 January through at least 20 January, and at the US Capitol from 17 January through 20 January.” FBI officials are asking police chiefs in major US cities to be on high alert.
In response to such threats, President Trump declared a state of emergency in the District of Columbia and ordered federal assistance to supplement local response efforts. Authorities will also close the National Mall to the public on Inauguration Day.
The president released a video Wednesday evening in which he stated: “I unequivocally condemn the violence that we saw last week. Violence and vandalism have absolutely no place in our country, and no place in our movement. . . . No true supporter of mine could ever endorse political violence.” He also addressed reports that additional demonstrations are being planned: “There must be no violence, no law-breaking, and no vandalism of any kind.”
However, I continue to see questions about the acceptability of such violence as a means to an end. Commentators have compared the Capitol Hill riot to the American revolution. Our ministry has been asked about the Jewish conquest of Jericho and the Canaanites and about Jesus’ driving money-changers from the temple area.
While I am in no way concerned that anyone reading this article is planning to participate in violent acts, I do want us to think logically and biblically about this issue in preparation for what may be very difficult days ahead.
The Capitol riot and the battle for independence
Following the Capitol attack, Rush Limbaugh stated on his radio program, “There’s a lot of conservatives, social media, who say that any violence or aggression at all is unacceptable. Regardless of the circumstances. I’m glad Sam Adams, Thomas Paine, the actual tea party guys, the men at Lexington and Concord didn’t feel that way.”
He was not the first to make such a connection. In response to the riots last summer, New York Times columnist Charles Blow tweeted, “It is estimated that the Boston Tea Party, the riot that gave birth to this country, resulted in $1.7 million dollars (in today’s dollars) in property damage (tea). I’m just going to leave this right here for whoever needs to read it.”
However, as I noted in response, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin strongly disapproved of the perpetrators’ conduct. Unlike the nineteen deaths that occurred in protests last summer, there were no violent confrontations of any kind in Boston with British soldiers or Tory loyalists.
The battles of Lexington and Concord to which Limbaugh referred were initiated by the British. American soldiers fighting for their independence did not attack British noncombatants here or in England.
Since the riots last summer took more lives than were lost in the Capitol insurrection, some correctly note that it is hypocritical not to denounce the former while condemning the latter. But it is also hypocritical to do the reverse. All lawlessness is lawless. Criminal violence in Portland is just as criminal in Washington, DC.
Canaanites and money-changers
What about Jericho and the Canaanites? As I have written previously, the Canaanites lived in wicked rebellion against the will and purposes of God (see Deuteronomy 18:10–14). The Jewish conquest was intended to cleanse the land of horrific immorality and idolatry and was conducted as a military campaign.
What about Jesus and the money-changers? Our Lord used his whip not against people but to drive the animals from the temple area. At no point did he endanger or harm humans.
The biblical stance on violence is clear: “Do not envy a man of violence and do not choose any of his ways” (Proverbs 3:31). We are “to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle” (Titus 3:2). The “works of the flesh” include “enmity,” “strife,” “fits of anger,” and “rivalries, dissensions, divisions” (Galatians 5:19–20). In a command that speaks directly to those plotting violence in our cities, God says, “Do not plan evil against your neighbor” (Proverbs 3:29).
The Christian response to those with whom we disagree is to pray for them (Matthew 5:44) and seek reconciliation with them (Matthew 18:15). In a democracy, we can utilize our governmental process to seek change (cf. Romans 13:1–7; 1 Peter 2:13–17). Christians are to “keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable” so that “they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).
“Only love can do that”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who was born on this day in 1929, observed, “The beauty of nonviolence is that in its own way and in its own time it seeks to break the chain reaction of evil.” He also famously declared: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
How will you help someone experience his light and love today?