The fires in the cities do not purify or cleanse. They destroy. The Holy Spirit, the fire of God makes clean those who believe. What renews the world is not the mob that destroys but the assembly of all those who hear the Word and receive the Sacraments, the holy catholic and apostolic church (The Augsburg Confession, Article VII).
Peace demonstrations are in accord with the American spirit and the non-violence of Christianity. Gandhi used a non-violent means (satyagraha, meaning truth force or non-violent resistance) to free India from the British Raj (rule). One of the basic texts this great Hindu leader used was the Sermon on the Mount. Peaceful demonstration is in accord with Christian ethics, but not mob rule and violence.
What should we Christians do in the situation we find ourselves? Pray for the poor, for the people living in the cities, for our leaders that they may be wise and just, and for constructive change, especially in the area of race relations; be instruments of peace; speak to others with gentleness and respect about our Lord Jesus Christ; and provide offerings for the relief of suffering. There is no Christian prohibition against participating in a peaceful demonstration, but violence is totally unacceptable.
Fire is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It burns away our sin, inordinate desires, and idolatry. Any justification for the violence of Christians is sin. God has appointed a civil government to use violence to protect public safety and order. The government is obliged to use it, but not excessively. In the French Revolution a Committee of Public Safety under Maximilian Robespierre was established, but it was not fulfilling its duty properly. In fact, it presided over a Reign of Terror with the co-operation of the mob..
Let the fire of the Holy Spirit increase your ardor for the right and loathing for evil.
Michael G. Tavella
June 9, 2020
Columba, Aidan, and Bede