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Zealot or Antichrist
January 13, 2021, 10:18 AM

Dear Friends,

How we react to the events in Washington last week will likely depend on one’s political leaning. Were those who busted their way into the Capitol “patriots” or “anarchists”? At the very least, they were zealots intent on disrupting the election process in the House and Senate. Zealotry comes in many different forms. The spectrum runs from those who would destroy life and property to achieve their goal to those who dress up in outlandish costumes to root-on their favorite sports team.

Zealot or anarchist, in my interpretation, differ from patriot often only after the outcome is known and history from the winning perspective writes the story. Examples in our history identify those Boston townspeople, on December 16, 1773, who dressed up as Native Americans, boarded at least one British ship and proceeded to throw its’ entire cargo of English Tea into the harbor are considered American Patriots. To the British they were anarchists, terrorists, or zealots, and criminals. We have even given the incident a “cute” name – The Boston Tea Party. In the 1850’s, the Abolitionist, John Brown saw that peaceful action to abolish slavery was ineffective and believed only violence would end it. In October 1859, he led the raid on the federal armory at Harpers Ferry, Virginia which killed seven people and wounded at least ten others. He was unable to get many slaves to join his cause and was soon captured, condemned, and executed for inciting a slave insurrection. He is the first person executed for treason in the United States. Was he an anarchist, terrorist, or zealot? From history’s perspective of slavery in the U.S. to the present, can we say that his cause was in fact a just one – simply pre-mature for his time. Could he now possibly be considered a “patriot”, sacrificing himself to further the abolishment of slavery one hundred and fifty years later? J. Robert Oppenheimer, “father of the atomic bomb” made possible the largest mass killing in world history to that point (he didn’t pull the trigger). He was viewed as a patriot for many years until he publicly came out during a governmental debate against the creation of the Hydrogen bomb in the 1950’s. In 1954, he had all his security clearances revoked and was effectively stripped of any political influence. Is he to still be viewed as a patriot or an “anti-nuclear use” zealot? Would Martin Luther King Jr. or Mahatma Gandhi be considered zealots or anarchists? Even Jesus had a zealot as one of his disciples.

I believe these last three differ from the rest because of their belief in non-violence to achieve their goal, even Simon the zealot because of his time with Jesus. All three -King, Gandhi, and Jesus - showed great zeal for their cause while respecting life (their own and others) to promote change. This required great discipline for themselves and their followers; not to fight back, but to maintain focus and to press forward in peace. What we saw last week was not an affirmation of life or value, or justice. The change they sought was through threat and intimidation without concern for other people’s well-being.

You and I in the church – following Jesus’ example - are still charged to maintain both our self-discipline and our care and compassion for others. The Gospel’s truth is that people change their hearts more fully when they are embraced in love rather than coerced by fear. Considering the violence, we have seen, our witness and ministry are needed now more than ever. Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9).

In Christ’s service together wherever He leads,