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One Nation Under God?

One Nation Under God?
The words of the Pledge of Allegiance have been rendered meaningless
St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington DC targeted

By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
June 2, 2020

"I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Anyone who went to school after 1954 learned this version of the Pledge of Allegiance. Now, more than 60 years later these words are being rendered meaningless.

America is no longer "... one nation under God indivisible ..." America seems to be a nation divided, not united. It is a nation which has jettisoned God; a nation which solves its problems with violence, rather than willing cooperation and mutual understanding. It is anation being ripped apart at the seams.

Unrest is pouring out into the streets. Daytime peaceful protests over the senseless death of George Floyd in Minneapolis ha\ve morphed into riotous anarchy after the sun goes down in Washington ... Los Angeles ... Atlanta ... Denver ... Seattle... Phoenix... New York ... Miami ... Dallas ... Chicago ... Indianapolis ... Des Moines ... Louisville ... Detroit ... Philadelphia...

And the protests may not even be over a rogue racist Minneapolis cop's cruel criminal activity, but rather that of a power-hungry peace officer mercilessly flexing his police muscle and Mr. Floyd just happened to be black. Black and white America is reacting.

On May 25, former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee planted in the back of Mr. Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes even as the Houston-born transplanted Minnesotan struggled for breath. Officer Chauvin repeatedly ignored Mr. Floyd's pleas and the appeals of bystanders. The cop nonchalantly kept his hands buried in his pants packets as life slowly drained out of his handcuffed suspect. This is depraved indifference. As a result, Mr. Floyd died and Officer Chauvin was fired, eventually being arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. America first peacefully protested, then erupted into night after night of anarchy and lawless disorder.

One short week later, on June 1, the Floyd killing, with its resulting protests and now ongoing rioting, has chased the still evolving COVID-19 story off the front page and became the network news show's lead story.

The flag has been burned ... Police departments have been reduced to ashes ... City halls have been set ablaze ... Stores have been looted ... Businesses have been left smoldering ... Post offices destroyed ... Church property set on fire ...

The children's nursery at St. John's Church was torched late Pentecost Sunday night. The historic Episcopal church on Lafayette Square, just steps from the White House, is a favorite house of prayer for presidents, stretching back to 1816 with President James Madison.

The nursery is located in Ashburton House -- the church's parish hall. Ashburton House dates back to 1836 and was named for Lord Alexander Baring the first Baron of Ashburton (1774-1848).

The Ashburton House was the Washington residence of Lord Ashburton while he was negotiating the 1842 (Daniel) Webster -- (Lord) Ashburton Treaty with the United States to help establish the jagged eastern boundary between the United States and Canada.

The Washington Post reported Monday (June 1) that the "D.C. police said a small fire was deliberately set in the basement. Under police escort, D.C. firefighters quickly extinguished it. Fire department spokesman Vito Maggiolo said the blaze did not appear to cause any significant damage."

However, Matt Gregory with WSAU9 reports: "Just talked to the rector from St. John's Church. He says the fire was in the nursery-it did not spread, but the nursery just a burned-out shell now."

The Rev. Rob Fisher is the XV rector of St. John's. He and his family were out of town for a long weekend when the Justice for George Floyd protests started to turn violent. His church has yet to reopen due to the COVID-19 shutdown of in-church worship services.

"My family and I had in fact left town on Friday for what we hoped would be a long weekend of R&R. We were essentially camping, almost totally off the grid. This morning our plan was to drive to where there was cell reception and watch the Pentecost service together," Fr. Fisher explained in a Pentecost Sunday posting to his parishioners. "However, word got to me that the protest activity was intense and growing, so we quickly changed plans and drove back here as fast as we could."

As he returned to Washington, DC, his fears for his historic church grew.

"The protests that began peacefully grew to something more, and eventually a fire was lit in the nursery, in the basement of Ashburton House," he wrote. "Like many of you perhaps, I had little access to information about how bad the fire was while it was happening. It felt horrible to see glimpses of smoke rising by the stairs to our entrance on national TV, and then to have it confirmed with an up-close video showing the flames in the basement."

Peaceful protesting is protected by the First Amendment which allows for "Peaceful Assembly" but that does not include a descent into rioting and anarchy where violence reigns, destruction is incurred, and the rioters help themselves to store inventories.

Bishop Mariann Budde (IX Washington) was one of the "peaceful" protesters as she "stood outside the church earlier Sunday to participate in the demonstrations, when people were handing out water bottles and protesting in a civil manner."

"Today at Lafayette Park across from the White House with Paul Barkett, senior warden of St. John's Church, Lafayette Square. We stood among large, diverse, peaceful crowd of mostly young people," she posted on Facebook Sunday. "Praying for peace as night falls and Mayor Bowser calls for a curfew at 11 p.m. Rob Fisher, rector of St. John's, and I want to organize a constant presence of Episcopal clergy and lay people outside St. John's while the protests continue. Please email or PM me if you feel called to join us."

"There are a lot of things to be heartbroken about, but obviously we wanted the church to be a place of haven and safety," she told the Washington Post.

Reportedly, the church not only suffered the damage to its children's nursery, its American flag was torn from the church and thrown into a fire, a glass door and window were smashed, the church was graffitied, and as a result of the fire, there was some residual smoke and water damage.

By Monday (June 1), the rest of the church windows had been boarded up to prevent further breakage and the graffiti had been scrubbed away.

"I am saddened to learn about the damage to St. John's Church," Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a statement. "But thankfully, no one was hurt. This must strengthen our resolve to live by the way of a kind of love that seeks the good and the well-being of others of our society. And for ourselves. This way of love is the way."

In Sunday's op-ed for the Washington Post, the Presiding Bishop wrote: "As a Black man, I understand the anger in our streets. But we must still choose love."

The Presiding Bishop wasn't the only one to comment on the violence which touched Washington and St. John's.

"These riots have nothing to do with George Floyd. This is about promoting an agenda that many of the participants do not even understand," Lorie Wimble wrote for NOQ Reports. "They see opportunities to cause havoc and steal merchandise. Meanwhile, an iconic church burns."

However, by late Monday afternoon St. John's was dragged center stage into the unfolding Justice for George Floyd demonstrations when President Donald Trump ventured over to the church from the White House, with entourage in tow, to have a quick photo op in front of the fire-damaged Ashburton House parish hall, holding up a Bible.

The Episcopal Church hierarchy speedily responded.

Bishop Budde was "outraged" about Trump's photo op.

"I am going to do everything in my power to disassociate our church from what the President did tonight," she told the Huffington Post.

Meanwhile, Presiding Bishop Curry quickly issued a statement saying: "This evening, the President of the United States stood in front of St. John's Episcopal Church, lifted up a Bible, and had pictures of himself taken. In so doing, he used a church building and the Holy Bible for partisan political purposes."

The media was quick to jump on Trump's ill-advised photo op, pointing out that the peaceful protesters had to be dispatched from Lafayette Square so that the President could stroll over to the church.

The President has been known to attend services at St. John's only a handful of times since moving into the White House. He attended his Inaugural Prayer Service in January 2017, Easter services in April 2017, a National Day of Prayer service in September 2017, and a Lenten service in March 2019. If he does go to church, he prefers to attend Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in Palm Beach, Florida near his Mar-a-Lago residence.

Trump is not an Episcopalian. He has been listed as a Presbyterian and First Lady Melania is a Roman Catholic. Only his youngest son, Barron, is a baptized Episcopalian.

It was at Bethesda-by-the-Sea that Trump and the First Lady were married in 2005 and where his new-born son was baptized in 2006.

Bishop Curry is not at all impressed with Trump's Monday afternoon spur-of-the-moment visit to St. John's.

"For the sake of George Floyd, for all who have wrongly suffered, and for the sake of us all, we need leaders to help us to be 'one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all'," the Presiding Bishop concluded.

Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline

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