The Scriptures say that the truth will set you free.

Right now, millions of white Christians in America are in a fortified prison of our own design; the impenetrable walls fashioned from decades of privilege and self-denial, the bars made of false stories our parents and grandparents told us about how the world works, the perimeter wrapped by jagged layers of white supremacy and nationalism, and closely guarded by a fierce self-preservation that when all else, fails, will fight to allow us escape.

Tens of millions of us have spent decades of our lives in a whitewashed faith story, starring a Caucasian male creator and a lily white American savior, preached by male pastors who usually shared our pigmentation. We were raised to believe that God and guns were natural bedfellows, that the world outside our borders was a danger, that the good guys always resembled us.

It’s why millions of us inexplicably mistook this president for a Christian, despite every evidence to the contrary.

It’s why many of us were able to reconcile his words about grabbing women by the genitalia, his caging of small children, his relentless attacks on healthcare, his repeated onslaught against truthfulness—and still profess undying affinity to him. It’s the reason the incendiary sermons and fabricated FoxNews farces and anti-immigrant rhetoric and nonsensical conspiracy theories, all went down so easily.

And it’s why so many of us watched a lawless mob, assailing the halls of our Capitol, assaulting law enforcement, defecating on memorials to our forebears, and murdering people on live television—and may still not be able to admit the reality because we have been conditioned to believe that people who look like us are always the righteous heroes.

It’s time for the professed followers of Jesus who are truly burdened to emulate the compassion of Christ, to declare what so many of us seem unwilling or unable to: that the attack on the Capitol was white domestic terrorism—committed largely by people who claim our faith and invoke our Jesus and wave our bible and brandish our God. This brutality is an inside job perpetrated by those who share our pews and fill our churches and believe we are doing the same work, and we need to make it clear that they are wrong.

We have to, in this moment of profound urgency, speak without softening our words or compromising our clarity or sidestepping directness in the name of some ceremonial civility, because this is how we found ourselves here.

From our pulpits and in our Bible studies and in our conversations with neighbors and in our family gatherings, we need to bring the ferocity of reality to bear upon those we live and work alongside, if we are to have any chance to reclaiming the religion we believe is trapped along with them.

The only hope our imprisoned brothers and sisters have of extricating themselves from this dangerous mass delusion of white righteousness, is to be confronted with the unadorned truth by those who look like them.

And even if our words fail to rescue those who are entrapped in the white lie of American Christianity—they will remind those who sustain injury and incur wounds and experience terror at their hands, that they are not alone and that their assailants are not unopposed.

Because the saddest reality of these days, is that a man looking like the biblical Jesus would be in the greatest danger in the company of these so-called Christians surrounding our Capitols with weapons that he condemned and violence that he abhorred.

White American Christians, it is long past time we said it without mincing words:

What we’re witnessing in our nation is not protesting, it is not fighting for freedom, it is not a defense of life — and it is certainly not reflecting Jesus.

This is white domestic terrorism that was born in the Church and was been weaned on a theology of supremacy, and it needs to be destroyed. That is the truth that sets people free.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.