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One year after Jan. 6

R. Albert Mohler Jr. | Will America defend its constitutional order?

The U.S. Capitol at dawn this morning Associated Press/Photo by J. Scott Applewhite

One year after Jan. 6
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The events of Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, D.C., were of a scale that demands the nation’s attention and urgent concern. The meaning of those events is now a maelstrom of partisan division, fueled by both the media and the political class. Right now, even the briefest of conversations about Jan. 6 reveals at least three Americas.

In one America, the events represented nothing less than an attempted coup against the lawful government of the United States, an insurrection that threatened to topple over two centuries of constitutional government. In a second America, the chaos at the Capitol was just evidence of a political demonstration that grew out of control and a mob that took over what was intended as an orderly protest against charges of electoral malfeasance. In the third America, probably representing the mainstream of the nation, the events were a national embarrassment, a riot against lawful order, a stark portrait of political violence, and a sobering vision of a crowd out of control.

The images of Jan. 6 were truly horrifying, and bizarre. We saw mobs march to the U.S. Capitol and invade our greatest architectural symbol of constitutional self-government. We saw them break into the Capitol by force, disrupt government, halt the certification of the 2020 presidential election, and even threaten the lives of elected officials, including the vice president of the United States, Mike Pence, who was presiding over the certification process. Some even dared to carry Christian symbols. Many people feared for their lives and others, including members of the Capitol Police, were seriously injured.

We saw the desecration of the Capitol, with a mob of Americans—some of them looking like middle America and some looking like escapees from an institution—breaking into congressional offices, putting their feet on historic furniture, and expressing total disdain for our constitutional order. A nation that tolerates this kind of behavior and lawlessness undermines its own legitimacy. Thankfully, the events of Jan. 6 were not swept under the rug.

But this was not a coup, nor even an insurrection, legally defined. There was no involvement of the military or of any other conspiring sector. No unit of government joined the attack, and the only military and law enforcement personnel involved, thank goodness, were there to protect the constitutional order and not to overthrow it. An insurrection, legally defined, requires “a full-on rebellion against the government.” A coup seeks to topple a government. That did not happen. What did happen was a riot, which is itself a form of violence.

History will record that the certification of the 2020 presidential election did take place, and the declared winner, Joe Biden, took office as the 46th president of the United States exactly as scheduled on Jan. 20, 2021. The House of Representatives has launched an investigation and the courts have handed down hundreds of criminal convictions. More will follow.

The images of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol are more than enough to awaken Christian citizens in America to the fact that we are a nation in political crisis.

What did happen was bad enough. And the passions behind those events were incited and flamed by the 45th president of the United States, Donald J. Trump. The mob was encouraged by the president, whose undeniable sins of commission and omission on that day will be debated for generations to come.

The left now uses the events of Jan. 6 for its own political purposes, which generally involve citing “Jan. 6” as supposed justification for whatever progressive legislation it currently pushes. The right now uses the passions of that day as energy for a second Trump administration. Democrats can’t stop talking about Jan. 6 in a pose of moral righteousness, ignoring the fact that much of their outrage is directed toward political opportunism. Republicans don’t want to talk about the day at all, because they see themselves stuck between the need to rally the most ardent Trump supporters and the need to look politically responsible. The dominant media class uses Jan. 6, incessantly, to deny legitimacy to anything conservative.

An honest look at Jan. 6 requires a full consideration of the efforts by the left and the right to undermine political norms. The Left is largely in control of major cultural institutions, but nonetheless, often takes to the streets in riots that are celebrated by the media and the liberal commentariat. The most irresponsible elements of the right marched right to the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 and brought humiliation to the nation. Where is sanity and respect for our constitutional order to be found?

We must hope that the needed virtues are found, first of all, among American Christians, who honor constitutional government precisely because we know the dangers of human sinfulness unleashed. The images of Jan. 6, 2021, at the U.S. Capitol are more than enough to awaken Christian citizens in America to the fact that we are a nation in political crisis. That political crisis points to an even more basic moral crisis, which Christians know is really a spiritual crisis.

In that sense, Jan. 6 was a wake-up call for the nation and this first anniversary of the event is a sobering reminder of the massive challenges facing our constitutional order. We will find a way to preserve our grand experiment in self-government, or we will lose it.

R. Albert Mohler Jr.

Albert Mohler is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Boyce College and editor of WORLD Opinions. He is also president of the Evangelical Theological Society and host of The Briefing and Thinking in Public. He is the author of several books, including The Gathering Storm: Secularism, Culture, and the Church. He is the seminary’s Centennial Professor of Christian Thought and a minister, having served as pastor and staff minister of several Southern Baptist churches.


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Please let Marvin Olasky and other World editors know that Jan. 6th was not a coup nor an insurrection. Thank you.

Mike Doherty

I disagree with the statement that Albert Mohler makes: "The mob was encouraged by the president, whose undeniable sins of commission and omission on that day will be debated for generations to come." I have listened to (read over), just once, mind you, Trump's speech on that day of January 6, 2021, (seemingly, at that time, found only on Al Jezeera), and I did not find words that were insurrectionist sounding. Did anyone else? Also, the recent document, "Capitol Punishment" presents what appears as evidence that anti-Trumpers were gearing up to storm the Capitol without any encouragement from the Right. Clearly the facts have not come to full light, and they really may never do so. But, in this day and age, if you and I (or any of us) say "I don't know" or "I'll wait for the evidence to come out" about the storming of the Capitol, and don't have a clear opinion/judgement to render on a matter like this right away, we often are ostracized. The world baits us to have an immediate opinion about everything, and we have to be careful about that. Better to listen to others' thoughts first, then share what we have seen and heard with a willingness to have a change of mind, then discuss things in a calm manner (e.g., agree to disagree). We each have to be very careful to understand how we (ourselves) each think about things and form our opinions about them. We all want narratives that support our agendas, but we must walk in meekness and humility because only Jesus has a lock on all knowledge and truth.


Why are people who have been charged with trespassing still in jail? Has any of them actually been charged with insurrection, and how exactly did their behavior hurt anyone in Congress? How many of them have even been tried? Why are they not treated like Antifa rioters from the previous summer who destroyed businesses and vandalized official buildings and were out of jail the next day? What terrible crime did they commit that doomed them to solitary confinement? What happened to the right to a speedy trial, or the presumption of innocence until proven guilty? Why did Capitol police ignore protestors who were trying to get them to stop the guy who was breaking a window? Why was an unarmed woman shot to death? What about the BLM activist (disowned by BLM, but he identified himself that way) who was in the area near Ashley Babbitt with a CNN reporter, who was charged and then shortly afterward released? I respect Mr. Mohler, but it doesn't sound as if he has looked into anything other than the media's version of events.
And how are the American people supposed to seek redress of grievances if a million peaceful people are called insurrectionists and held responsible for the actions of a few who may all have been false flag "protestors"?

Tom HanrahanOlderMom

1) excellent questions about jailed people and comparison to rioters from summer of 2020. I wholeheartedly agree. It seems like lack of justice.
2) the author here clearly (correctly) stated that people were part of a riot and NOT an insurrection. Yes, other voices have used the term insurrection
3) a million? Not even close. Tens of thousands.
4) the false flag issue has been thoroughly debunked and some originators have retracted their claims


I agree Trump never should have made a big speech & provoke anger to the crowds! If he was not there I think this would not have happened! Also, this was nothing compared to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor! VP is a fool for comparing the riot to those past events!


Thank you Dr. Mohler for your opinion. I think we all need to remember that this is exactly what it is, Dr. Mohler's opinion. I believe there are too many unanswered questions regarding the events of Jan 6, 2021 for anyone to come to a conclusion of the motive, reason, or even the after thoughts of the events. There are at least 3 Americas, but limiting it to only the 3, as Dr. Mohler has stated, doesn't include the other America who is confused and unaware of who, how, or why the events of Jan 6, 2021 unfolded...I believe this is the vast majority of America, even though they think they know what happened. This, the real truth, has not been revealed yet, and may never be. The events themselves are horrible, but the reason for the events, which each of us can only speculate, are of greater concern. We can't conclusively "judge" any of the actors, including Donald Trump, in and around the events because judgment requires an understanding of who, how, and why people did what they did. We can guess, but as believers in Christ we know that we cannot know the heart of man by watching videos at home.

I value your opinion Dr. Mohler and you are well entitled to it. But I caution us all to not take it as undeniable truth. I think it wise for us all to be careful not to unintentionally rewrite history with our opinion.


There is enough blame to go around.
The kook fringe QAnon shaman types are easily manipulated and delusional. They are churned up and revved up by conservative talk radio hosts who see ratings in their rantings.
That now having been said, the WSJ ran a great op/ed about those responsible for the security of the Congressional bldg. The author of the piece was retired US marine who had worked as Sergeant At-Arms in the capitol. Congressional oversight was supposed to be done by a committee. Amy Klobuchar, we mean your committee. The congressional staffers who drafted a report about the "insurrection" were not about to write anything harsh about their bosses.


If I believed there was no truth about the stolen election I may say there is redeeming value to this article. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence showing the election was stolen where the Democrats sealed the deal with the January 6th riots which the FBI incited.

Added comment Jan 17

I do believe Trump had every right to try to prevent the stealing of the election and I myself was frustrated that the VP didn’t take more action in light of the details of the election. Pence was willing to let things slide like so many other weak evangelicals. At the very least he should have raised questions about the election and stalled the vote by reading out the irregularities state by state.

The storming of the Capitol was a foolish move by some on the right and was used by the left to squelch the resistance to the election steal and target not only Senators but also conservatives and anyone who raise issues about the election. It appears that the FBI was involved in inciting the storming of the Capitol and hopefully when the Republicans gain control of the Senate a real investigation can start in what really went down. It is a very serious matter when investigating organizations of government are used as political tools and shows the fascist nature of the Democratic Party.


The documentary "Capitol Punishment" was good preparation for hearing all the mainstream media's claims today, and not lose my respect for our country and its citizens. This thoughtful analysis by Dr. Mohler helps me balance both pictures. ;) Thanks!

Dave Swanson

Spot on and exceptionally timely in the wake of our president's ..bogus temper tantrum delivered on network TV this morning. One additional observation: I believe Democratic leadership anticipated the riot and successfully used it against our former president, whose personality made him vulnerable to this political maneuver. Spiritual revival is our only hope for preservation of our Republic, which requires application of Judeo/Christian values for its continued existence.

not silent

Thank you for this sober analysis of these troubling events. I would add that people with any strong viewpoints rarely respond positively when perceived opponents get in their faces and point out all they are doing wrong. It’s human nature to double down when we feel threatened.

I suspect many readers and commenters feel angry about events from the past few years. What they may not realize is that the people they see as opponents or possibly as enemies ALSO feel threatened. Please understand: I’m not saying all sides or views are equivalent. I’m trying to point out that almost everyone is upset about SOMETHING.

Regardless of who is “right,” it’s rarely helpful for opposing (or disagreeing) sides to try to work things out while they are angry, fearful, or gripped by strong emotions. It’s hard to think logically in that state, and it’s easy to say things that might have been unintentional but can never be unsaid.

Even if some individuals or groups are “right” in every viewpoint and others are wrong, I question how helpful it will be in the long run to force the “right” views on those who are wrong. I think it’s likely to produce more anger and more violence.

We all want to feel heard and for someone to acknowledge our struggles and pain. I have found that starting out by listening to the other side (even if I strongly disagree) and seeking any point of agreement can often open a door to a helpful discussion. Even God (who is always right and could certainly force us all to do his will) said to the people (who were clearly sinful and wrong), “Come, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18)

Salty1not silent

You are assuming that both sides are motivated by pure motives. If your adversary is not motivated pure motives, then should you try to sit down and talk to him? I would put forward Nehemiah as an example where he ignored his adversaries and focused on his agenda of building a wall to keep the bad guys out. You can read it in Nehemiah 6. I would say that we shouldn’t accept the Democrats attempt to politicize Jan 6 and we should call them out on it. Here is an example of how Biden is using the riot as a pretext to label us as terrorists so they can essentially jail their political opponents (see Tucker Carlson commenting on him ordering an investigation on January 6th and then they report the greatest terrorist threat is internal terrorism by the right.


Should we pretend the Democrats have good Will in investigating the Jan 6th riot? I would say we should follow Nehemiah’s example and call them out in their duplicity!

not silentSalty1

I’m afraid you are wrong about my assumptions, Salty. In reality, I don’t assume anyone has “pure” motives! I assume all sides are just as human and flawed as I am. That is why I keep saying we must look to the Lord and seek his guidance.