In the wake of Wednesday’s violent protests at the U.S. Capitol, religious leaders encourage people to practice peace, even in times of political dissent.
“People who were not at the event don’t understand that this was a massive crowd,” Gibson who heads up the HIS Church in Owensboro, Ky., said. “One of the biggest crowds I’ve ever seen, that it stretched blocks and blocks, and that most folks had no idea what was happening initially.”
He prayed with scores of people, and said the violence that transpired at the Capitol was shocking.
“There is no excuse for the lawless behavior we saw,” Gibson said. “The Constitution gives Americans the right to peaceably gather, but instigators who incite violence or lawlessness are motivated by something else entirely. Our nation should demand that all of our citizens, regardless of point-of-view, express their frustrations peacefully.
Rabbi Jack Moline, leader of the Interfaith Alliance also denounced the protest Wednesday.
“The sickening sight of rioters storming the U.S. Capitol Building as members of Congress try to carry out their constitutional duties should be condemned by all Americans,” he said in a statement. “We are not witnessing a peaceful protest – this is a violent attack on our democracy.”
Religious leaders across the board took to social media Wednesday to condemn the violence at the Capitol and also to remind people to prioritize peace over violence. Gibson urged people to remember that even in times of political unrest they have a responsibility to pursue truth and justice, and act accordingly.
“The book of Isaiah says, ‘The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever,’” he said. “Peace comes from knowing and obeying God’s truth, and understanding that justice will prevail. Americans should be on their knees, seeking God for His truth, and working actively, courageously, and peacefully to see justice prevail in their communities.”
He encouraged religious leaders to step up and show leadership during this time.
Pastor Robert Jeffress of First Baptist Church in Dallas had a similar message. He said that while he considers President Trump a “valued friend” of five years, he fully condemns the actions that took place at the Capitol.
“Christians rightly condemned the violence by Antifa, BLM, and other groups earlier last year. We now need to condemn just as vociferously the violence we saw Wednesday,” Jeffress said. “All of us celebrate our First Amendment right to protest, but Wednesday’s actions were not peaceful protests, but anarchy.”
He offered several suggestions for practicing peace in a time of unprecedented political division.
“First, we need to make sure we are dealing with truth, not fantasy,” Jeffress said. “Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Whatever is true . . . let your mind dwell on these things.” Too many people are basing their opinions on conspiracy theories from social media rather than fact. Before repeating, or retweeting, anything we should ask, ‘Do I know for sure this is true?’”
Americans should also remember that what unites us is greater than what divides us, according to Jeffress.
Jeffress said he would preach a special message the Sunday before the inauguration to remind people, even those disappointed by the results of the election, to “commend Biden for any good things he does, condemn any wrong things he might do, but above all we have a responsibility to pray for him.”