Letter of Reverend Chris Aaron, Senior PASTOR- First Baptist Church Bristol, VA. Please note that this letter was written on January 7, 2021, the day after the attack on our nation’s Capital.
My Dear Brothers and Sisters in the Faith,
Peace and Blessings to all of you in the blessed name to Jesus Christ our risen SAVIOR!
In light of all that's happening in our country with COVID-19, the recent Presidential elections, my friend, Pastor Chris Aaron has addressed issues in a publication to his Church, the community, and perhaps the entire nation. He writes this letter with direct approach yet he speaks from the very core of his convictions as a Christian. With his permission, I shall share his letter.
First Baptist Family,
Like you, I am deeply troubled by what I saw occur yesterday at the Capital Building. I am heartbroken and angry, and I know that you are, too. What we saw yesterday was an act of domestic terrorism. It was insurrection. It was sedition. Members of a violent, riotous mob paraded a Confederate flag through the halls of Congress. They attempted to replace our nation's flag with that of a President. They set up gallows with a noose outside the Capital Building. They destroyed property inside including breaking into the offices of members of Congress. They threatened the lives of elected officials. They placed pipe bombs in the offices of both the Republican National Committee and the Democratic National Committee. They wrote phrases like “Kill the Media” on walls. These terrorists did all of this while chanting “USA” as though they were somehow being patriotic. Some held up banners with the words “Jesus Saves” as though they were somehow being faithful. They did all of this to prevent a largely ceremonial function, the counting of the Electoral College votes by Congress. Though I am starting the obvious, there is power in telling the obvious truth – the actions of this mob were neither patriotic nor faithful. Their actions were cowardly. They were illegal and wrong. They were ungodly and sinful. By all decent people everywhere, their actions must be condemned in the loudest and clearest terms possible.
I do not write to you only condemn the heinous acts we saw yesterday. I write to you as a Minister of the Gospel and your Pastor. To truly move forward and heal from this wound, we have to acknowledge how we ended up here and to state what our best steps are moving toward. Hoses 8:7 reads, “For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads, it shall yield no meal.” Brothers and sisters, we have reaped what we as a nation have sown. We ended up here because people have embraced comfortable lies rather than uncomfortable truths. Yesterday was a another reminder of the danger found in rejecting the truth for a lie, but we have been receiving such reminders daily for nearly a year now. Over 360,000 Americans have died because people rejected the truth for a lie. People have claimed the COVID-19 was no worse than the flue. They've claimed that it's a hoax, Thai it's fake news. Those are lies and because they have been believed, people have died. Yesterday, four people died from the actions that took place at the Capital Building. That is a tragedy. Those people believed that President Trump is the real, legitimate winner of the Presidential Election. That, too, is a lie. The President's legal team has lost over 60 cases in the various lawsuits they have brought before the court, including one before the Supreme Court. If that isn't enough for you, read these words from Alyssa Fatah, the former White House Communications Director for President Trump, former Pentagon Press Secretary, and former Press Secretary for Vice President Mike pence. Yesterday on Twitter she wrote, “Dear MAGA – I am one of you. Before I worked for @realDonaldTrump, I worked for @MarkMeadows & @JimvJordan & the @freedomcaucus. I marched in the 2010 Tea Party rallies. I campaigned w/Trump & voted for him. But I need you to hear me: the Election was NOT Stolen. We lost.”
As you know, I try to avoid making overly political or partisan statements. Until now, I've really only deviated from that once in two years. I preached not a partisan but a political sermon on the Golden Calf just before the election, and in it I warned you of the dangers of making your preceded political candidates into idols. Now, I know that it is a sermon some of you did not particularly care for, but I stand by it. We worship CHRIST alone. That is the Gospel truth. Consequently, we must be careful in how we view and talk about our elected officials. Only Jesus can save us, not a politician. The reason I am wading into this now is the actions we saw yesterday weren't just political actions. They have moral repercussions. And if someone is going to hold up a sign stating “Jesus Saves” while they commit acts of violence, their actions have religious repercussions as well. The truth is President-Elect Biden won the 2020 Presidential Election and his election legitimate. Yesterday showed us the consequences of when we reject the uncomfortable truth for a comfortable lie. They can be life or death. There is a final uncomfortable truth that we must face. I have seen numerous people claim that this isn't who we are as a nation, and tragically. I have to inform you that is also a lie. The truth is this is who we are as a nation right now. If it wasn't, such actions would not have been planned out in the open on social media. If it wasn't, a former KKK leader wouldn't have been in the Georgia State Capital Building yesterday searching for the office of Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger while Raffensperger had to be escorted out by police. There is a public ugliness meanness that has been loosed on our country. Tragically, this is who we are right now as a nation. But this is not who we have to continue to be.
So, how do we move forward? I've seen numerous calls for people to commit themselves to prayer, and I wholeheartedly agree with those calls. We absolutely should pray. We should pray for the health and well-being of our nation. We should pray for peace and wisdom. We should pray for our elected officials as they seek to guide us through this perilous time. We should pray. But there is more that we must do. We must repent. While none of us were personally involved in the heinous acts yesterday, we have all either participated in the careening of our national dialogue or remain silent in the face of it. Far too many times, I have seen people I know, love, and respect post disinformation or intentionally inflammatory material on social media. I've seen them get into arguments uttering information from baseless conspiracy theories. If only for a moment, I've seen them become something other than the person I know them to be: I've seen them become something other than the person God made them to be. Such behavior is not CHRIST-like and it harms our Christian witness. For others, and this is the group I have found myself in far too often we have chosen to remain silent, to remain “polite” rather than calling out such behavior in love. This behavior also isn't Christ-like, and it, too, harms our Christian witness. For this, I must repent, and I view this statement as a tangible expression of my repentance.
I've seen many people try to avoid their own personal responsibility in such a careening by retreating to partisan arguments. They try to compare what happened yesterday to the events of this past summer. A word of pastoral advice – don't. Trying to equivocate on what happened yesterday by comparing it to previous actions isn't going to help us move forward. It is going to entrench us in the muck in which we currently find ourselves. Peaceful protest is one of our legal rights under the Constitution. It shouldbe be celebrated. But violence is never acceptable. It is never ok, regardless of the political persuasion of the one doing it. It is always wrong, and it must always be called out as such. That is why you heard me condemn the violent acts we saw in cities across the country this past summer. Far too often we're more concerned with being right rather than doing right. And the partisan arguments that will inevitably ensue by making such comparisons will create less light and more heat, which is the exact opposite of what we currently need. So, I encourage you to pray without ceasing. I encourage you to model the behavior you hope to see in the world. This is not who we have to be as a country, and while some may view this as naive, I believe that people are watching to see how the church responds. I believe that God can take such ugliness and turn it into something beautiful. It is my prayer that God will and that the church can be a part of that process.
If you would like to come by and pray in the sanctuary or in the prayer room, I encourage you to do so. We can make sure people are physically distanced and wearing a mask while they do. If you would like to talk, know that I look forward to our conversation. The issues that have led us to this place are not going away, so dialogue must be ongoing if we hope to move beyond it. Consequently, we will have an online-Vespers service next Wednesday evening in lieu of our normal Wednesday Night Bible Study. Know that even in difficult times like these, I consider it an honor, a privilege, and a joy to be your Pastor.
Grace and Peace