230 Wheaton College staff and faculty have released a statement condemning the attack at the U.S. Capitol, specifically highlighting the “vicious lies, deplorable violence, white supremacy” and “blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols” that were on display in the insurrection. The influential Christian college outside of Chicago is among the first significant evangelical institutions to explicitly condemn the Christian Nationalist presence at the attempted insurrection in Washington D.C.
“In the days and weeks preceding January 6, many more leaders, including many evangelical leaders, could have spoken truth to the disillusioned supporters of President Trump—diminishing the prospects for violence and bolstering the witness of Christian love and the call for justice in our civic life. Some did,” the statement continued. “However, many wittingly propagated lies, or were unduly silent in a just cause. Our Christian faith demands greater courage.”
The statement came on the heels of a blistering round of analysis of just what happened on January 6, when a mob of Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempted insurrection that left five dead including one police officer. The mob was incited by President Donald Trump, who spread baseless conspiracy theories about a stolen election as a way to rile up his base to come to aid his bid to remain in power for another four years despite losing the election.
Many of the rioters were festooned with Christian flair including crosses, “God Bless America” posters and “Jesus 2020” flags, which has forced a long overdue reckoning with the white Christian Nationalism that has infected many evangelical churches across the U.S. Wheaton College’s statement called other Christian leaders on the carpet for ignoring the clear warning signs and entreaties from many Black Christian leaders about the looming threat and apologized for Wheaton’s own lack of urgency.
“We repent of our own failures to speak and to act in accordance with justice, and we lament the failures of the Church to teach clearly and to exercise adequate church discipline in these areas,” the statement said. “Moreover, we grieve over the inadequate level of discipleship that has made room for this type of behavior among those who self-identify as Christian.”
The statement closed with a strategic plan to do better in the future.
We commit ourselves to a more faithful witness in our callings as the faculty and staff of Wheaton College, and will work diligently to provide ample opportunities to show students, as well as the larger Wheaton College and Christian community, how to practice discernment in civic engagement, to demonstrate the connections between love and justice, and to courageously communicate the truth—even and especially when the truth is difficult to hear.
You can read the whole letter here.