Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change, though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God. God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved. – Psalm 46:2-5 excerpts (NRSV)
My daughter was due to be in Washington, D.C., last fall as a new college student, until the pandemic closed her campus like so many others. Yet even from the distance of Zoom lectures, she is already noticing that D.C. has a front-row seat to national and international news.
Washington, D.C., isn’t a city that quakes easily. The tremor of a big national headline is rarely earth-shattering and often routine: a road closure due to security, a Metro car crowded with weekend protestors, a neighborhood (re)landscaped by the federal budget. Election seasons come and go. So do protests. So do buses full of tourist schoolchildren. Government shutdowns are local, personal, and regrettably predictable. So is gentrification. So is suburb expansion.
When insurrection erupted in the capital city on January 6th, what stood out to me most was the uncanny normalcy of it all – chanting crowds, racist violence, white presumption – like a deeply rooted mountain that vainly casts shadows across the valley and has no interest in making room for the sun’s light. It was not a dramatic quaking that smashed windows of the Capitol building. It was the mountain itself. It was not a tsunami that shouted lies on the floors of the House and Senate. It was the very heartbeat of the ocean’s tides.
The arrogant mountain stands in plain sight. We need not fear it or be surprised by it.
The seething ocean pulses in rhythmic aggravation. We need not tremble or turn away.
Let the mountain of hatred crumble in a landslide. Let fear drown in its own tides. Let the whole earth quake until our sins against one another disintegrate to dust. Where God is among us, we shall not be moved.
Steady my trembling heart with courage, O God. Calm my rapid breath with love. Bolster my faith in beloved community. Now I am ready for hatred to crumble, within me and all around me.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and the co-author of Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.