Roar, then… A reflection on January 6th

I’ve been trying to find the word to describe what I’m feeling. What do you call the combination of anger, sadness, fear, and hopelessness? It feels primal, close to that edge of fight and flight. It is the emotional sense of a coiled self ready with a full-body, full-throated eruption of a yell or a scream. It is the feeling of an impending growly roar that tries to stop the momentum of the force coming at me. At us. It is the loudest possible, “No!” I can muster. That’s what I feel like at this moment.

It doesn’t stand alone. It stands right along with a gallery of feelings for which I don’t have a single word. The feeling of wanting to shake someone out of a stupor. The feeling of wanting to pull two fighting parties apart. The feeling of not being heard. The feeling of being swept up away by the times. The feeling of being beat into submission by conflicting opinions. There are more, but they all bring that sense of an impending roar of “No!” or “Stop it! or “Wake up!”

Sometimes, in a moment, all we have is our voice. Sometimes it is essential to roar. This is one of those moments. In the last 48 hours, the US Capitol building was overrun by political protestors, conspiracy theorists, white supremacists, male supremacists, and christian supremacists, temporarily bringing a halt to recognizing the election of a new president. The grounds of the Washington State Governor’s residence were briefly occupied by protestors, too. The US had its highest one day number of deaths due to COVID. The US government auctioned off the drilling rights to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The justice system rationalized police violence against another black man. The unemployment rate continues to be high. It became clear the US has no idea how prevalent new and more dangerous COVID variants are because we have no nationally organized genetic testing programs. 

If there were ever a moment to roar, this would be that moment. So, roar with that all your might, all your fear, all your anger, all your sadness and, all your hopelessness. Roar and watch the world stop in its tracks for at least a moment. Roar and feel the power you have. Roar until you release what needs to be released and express what needs expressing.

And then…

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

Roaring can only take us so far. It can be the exact right thing to do, but it is an action that creates a pause, an action that makes room for a solution. It is not a solution in and of itself.

This week’s lectionary from Psalm 29 talks about the roaring voice of God:

The voice of the LORD is over the waters;

the God of glory thunders,

the LORD, over mighty waters.

The voice of the LORD is powerful;

the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.

He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Sirion like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.

The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl,

and strips the forest bare;

and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

  • Psalm 29:3-9 (NRSV)

But this roaring voice of God is not the solution. This Psalm ends with:

May the LORD give strength to his people!

May the LORD bless his people with peace!

  • Psalms 29:11 (NRSV)

The Holy Roar makes room for the strength of people committed to keeping the peace.

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

Dr. Cornel West has frequently and famously said, “Justice is what loves looks like in public.” Peacemaking is what grace looks like in public. The Church needs to be involved in both doing what it can to encourage a form of justice that makes way for peace and a form of peace that makes way for justice. There is wisdom in the protest chant, “No justice! No peace!” Reverse the phrases, and that’s true, too. “No peace. No justice.”

The religious community has a deep reserve of love and grace to draw from and share, even considering the wells these elements are drawn from are imperfect. We have messed up sharing justice, peace, love, and grace countless times. Those in our Churches – and our churches themselves – have been the victims and perpetrators of injustice; victims and perpetrators of violence; the unloved and the unloving; the condemned and the condemner. This reality is, at least, as old as the scriptures.

And the call to a different way is, too. As we continue turning on each other, the Church is called to help people turn toward each other. That doesn’t mean we don’t speak hard truths or disagree, or sometimes, work to undo each other’s actions. It does mean that we refuse to hate and depersonalize each other. It does mean that we work to love each other even when we don’t like each other. It does mean that we commit not to harm each other and stay open to what might be experienced as harmful.

Take a deep breath. Let it out slowly. Take another deep breath. Let that one out slowly, too.

Roar, Church. There is honesty in a roar. If there was ever a time to roar, this is it. Love, Church. There is healing in love. If there was ever a time to love, this is it. Show grace, Church. There is hope in grace, and the world needs it. If there was ever a time to show grace, this is it.

What does God require of us but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God?

With hope, Mike

——–Rev. Mike Denton Conference Minister of The ​Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Church of Christ

You can give to the ministries of the Pacific Northwest Conference by going to and clicking on the “Donate” button​.​

Follow me on Twitter @denton_rev