On the Capitol Siege, President Trump, and Epiphany

Jen Bradbury
Jan 07 · 5 min read

Like so many others, I watched in horror yesterday as domestic terrorists seized the US Capitol.

I’ve been in the Capitol building.

As a child, I visited it with passes from my Illinois senator. As an adult, I availed myself of my rights and went to Capitol Hill with the ALS association to advocate for a national ALS registry after my grandma died from the horrific disease in 2006. That day, I stood in awe of our democracy… I felt something – maybe even pride – when I walked through the Capitol.

Yesterday as I watched that same building under siege, I wept. There were times when I wanted to turn off the TV, hoping I’d accidentally turned on Angel Has Fallen or a similar movie.

Only it wasn’t.

It was reality.

And while I should have been surprised, I somehow wasn’t. In so many ways, this seems like the somewhat predictable ending to Trump’s presidency.

Don’t get me wrong.

That didn’t make this siege any easier to watch.


Of course, all of this happened on January 6.

We now know that this is when congress certifies presidential elections.

But as a church leader, this date is significant for another reason.

It’s the start of epiphany, the day on which we remember the journey of the wise men.

As a children’s pastor, I hate this story because it includes the slaughter of the innocents - the story of the execution of baby boys two and under ordered by King Herod in an attempt to exterminate King Jesus. Like Jerome Berryman says in his Godly Play script dealing with this narrative: “It is part of the story that many leave out, because it is too sad.”


For the last several months, one of my interns and I have been working our way through Chuck DeGroat’s excellent When Narcissism Comes to Church: Healing Your Community from Emotional and Spiritual Abuse.

On the very first page of his book, DeGroat quotes John Gartner, a John Hopkins University Medical School psychologist as saying that President Trump is a “malignant narcissist, demonstrating features of aggressiveness, paranoia, grandiosity, manipulation, entitlement, projection, and more.”

I suspect King Herod demonstrated these same features.

If he did then the slaughter of the innocents suggests narcissism leads to horror – to destruction.

Yesterday seems to affirm that.

Trump’s narcissism led to horror – to the destruction of life, people, and some would even argue, our democracy.


In Godly Play, Berryman uses Giotto’s illustration of the Massacre of the Innocents to talk about the slaughter of the innocents with children. His script says,

"The scene is set for the arrival of the Magi. It was a terrible thing. The mothers and fathers were very sad. You can see that many babies have already been killed. The soldiers took them from their mothers. No one really looks happy in the picture, not even Herod. Look at the mothers’ eyes. The artist tried to make them look very, very sad. See how long and narrow they are? I guess the story is over then, isn’t it? No. The baby Jesus did not die in Bethlehem.”

Yesterday, amidst my sadness, I found myself thinking about that last line a lot.

“The baby Jesus did not die in Bethlehem.”

Epiphany is the season of light.

The season of light includes one of the most horrific events ever… And yet, throughout the season, our focus is NOT on that one event but rather, on Jesus, who is the light of the world.

Yesterday, epiphany began with an act of treason that was in every way horrific. It’s one that should be denounced by all Americans. 

I can only hope that in the same way that epiphany’s ultimate focus is not the horror of the slaughter of the innocents but rather the light of Christ, yesterday's dark events will ultimately lead to light.

But it’s far too soon to know that for sure. Any suggestion otherwise would be an empty platitude.

So, instead, as I continue to sit glued to the news, I keep thinking,

“The baby Jesus did not die in Bethlehem.”

Destruction seldom gives Herods what they want.

It didn’t in Bethlehem some 2000 years today.

And I can only hope that it didn’t yesterday in Washington DC.