Zac VanderLey – Staff Writer
In Sheldon, Iowa, a Ford Focus pulled into its garage on a pleasant January morning. Joya Schreurs, a freshman at Dordt University, had just finished running some errands and decided to check her phone. She gasped.
Schreurs witnessed images of Confederate flags, a lonely gallows, and swarms of people wildly raising American flags as they damaged the United States Capitol. In the midst of jubilant insurrectionists strolling the halls of the Capitol, screams of revenge, and utter chaos stood Christian imagery: crosses, “Jesus Saves” flags, and reports of hymns being sung.
“I was scared,” Schreurs said. “I was afraid for our country.”
Schreurs and many others across America found themselves glued to television screens, afraid something even more terrible might happen if they looked away. After witnessing the events of January 6, she believes she took political stability for granted as a kid.
Scott Culpepper, a history professor at Dordt, was prepping for some of his spring semester classes while listening to a podcast when he found out about the storming of the Capitol. He was surprised, like Schreurs, but not shocked.
“I hoped we could do better,” said Culpepper.
According to Culpepper, the attacks occurred because of a growing lack of confidence in verifiable sources. This skepticism, coupled with confidence in sources proven to be inaccurate, created a dangerous group of people passionately driven by false information.
At Dordt, Culpepper teaches the art of critical thinking in various history classes. This art has been undermined by a political loyalty that rises above truth.
On a KCRG interview, house representative and former Dordt University business administration professor Randy Feenstra spoke on the riots: “It was a sad day for our country to see anarchy occur and damage done to the capitol. That is not what our country stands for.”
Feenstra was at the Capitol just outside of the chamber in his office on January 6 and thanked all the D.C. and U.S. capitol police that protected him and many others.
In the same interview, though, Feenstra referred to protesters as a “wonderful group”. This comment caught the representative some heat and he later qualified his statement, saying the “wonderful group” referred specifically to those demonstrating peacefully. In the aftermath of the insurrection, this sort of waffling rhetoric has been exhibited by GOP members wary of alienating their political base who support the Capitol storming. In a study done by PBS NewsHour and Marist, approximately 18 percent of Republicans support the pro-Trump rioters.
The escalation of the at-first peaceful protest has led many to question the nature of free speech in America. The First Amendment clearly states that each person holds the right “peaceably to assemble” but debate still exists.
“I think we need to look at the root of the problem being protested and ask, ‘is it justified?’” Schreurs said.
“Free speech as long as no harm,” Culpepper said. “But what does no harm mean?”
The U.S. tends to allow and encourage free speech, which Culpepper agrees with, but there are dangers to erring on the side of freedom. Although, interfering must be done carefully, Culpepper said.
The storming of the Capitol just weeks ago was the first time the Capitol had been breached since British troops burned the capitol back in 1814 during the War of 1812. In 1954, four Puerto Rican nationalists shot at spectators and members of congress on the floor of the U.S. House.
“But both those events were created by external threats to the US,” Culpepper said.
The most memorable occurrence of internal violence in the United States comes from the Civil War. After the conclusion of the war and during Lincoln’s second inaugural address, the president preached unity through a scripture-influenced speech.
“We [Christians] can serve that same role now,” Culpepper said.
President Hoekstra in his video welcoming students back to campus reflected on the “terrible day in American history” and told students to focus on “what we can do.” Hoekstra called students to be peculiar: lower the political temperature through love.
“It’s important for Christians to make faith not tied to power,” Schreurs said.
“This doesn’t represent who we are at our best, but at our worse, this is us,” Culpepper said.
Back in Iowa, Schreurs plays “Make me a Channel of Peace” on a grand piano. It’s a hymn written as a prayer by St. Francis. The lyrics guide her in times of unrest and trial:
Oh Master, grant that I may never seek
So much to be consoled as to console
To be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love with all my soul
Make me a channel of Your peace
Where there’s despair in life, let me bring hope
Where there is darkness, only light
And where there’s sadness, ever joy.
Culpepper stays late after class with a student who has a question regarding political differences. Culpepper listens intently as the student expresses their concern. After thinking, Culpepper responds through his experience and knowledge regarding the history of American politics. There is honesty in sober disagreements and beauty in sharing of ideas. The calm comforting atmosphere permeates all of Culpepper’s classes.
“I try and serve, in my small way, in hopes of making things better here at Dordt,” Culpepper said.