That’s how Fr. David Fulton, a Catholic priest from Nebraska, described the atmosphere inside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Among the insurrectionists who stormed the seat of our government that day, he played a unique role: Fr. Fulton performed an exorcism.
“There’s a demon called Baphomet,” he said, who is “dissolving the country.”
We agree there’s a demon pulling apart the fabric of the nation, but we believe Fulton is looking in the wrong place. Jan. 6 was a scary, clarifying moment of the perils facing our democracy and the ways many Christians have — wittingly or not — exacerbated the problem. The violent attack on the Capitol that left several individuals dead included numerous people flying Christian flags, carrying signs about Jesus, and publicly praying for the success of the mob.
Democrats and Republicans initially came together to negotiate a bipartisan, independent commission to understand what went wrong that day and why. The investigation would be modeled after the response to 9/11 and the group’s work would conclude by year’s end to avoid bleeding into the next election cycle. Among those lobbying for the initiative was the family of Brian Sicknick, the Capitol Police Officer who died after heroically defending the process of transitioning political power.
Legislation authorizing the commission passed the House with strong support from both sides of the aisle. But despite the historical precedent, cross party agreement, and advocacy by persuasive stakeholders, a minority of Senators last week used the filibuster to block it in their chamber.
Now there is concern about the questions left unanswered. We ask a big one: Why were so many Christian symbols present that day, presumably being worn, waved, and carried by self-confessed believers in Jesus Christ? As Amanda Tyler of BJC says in an upcoming episode of our Dangerous Dogma podcast, some of what we saw on Jan. 6 was “textbook Christian Nationalism.” What does the Church need (and plan) to do about that uncomfortable truth?
We may not have subpoena power or ornate hearing rooms in Washington, D.C., but in this edition of A Public Witness we explore the evil spirit animating Jan. 6 that abides in too many churches and revealed itself at the U.S. Capitol. This is a demon that needs to be exorcised, but we won’t be calling Fulton to handle the job because, we suspect, he is part of the problem.
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