Published 4:40 p.m. Thursday
By Lib Campbell
Among those who pledge to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, how many are needed to stabilize and keep our Democracy? Is it 60? Is it five good people willing to come forward and tell truth to power for a cause greater than their own ambitions?
The January 6 Select Committee has revealed much about people who failed to keep sworn oaths of the offices they hold. Their failures invited a different kind of oath keeper. The Insurrection was orchestrated by Oath Keepers who pledged themselves to a cause of a different stripe, one of overthrowing the Republic. Oath keeping is a promise on steroids. It is a giving of oneself to something greater than oneself. Oath keeping is akin to covenant making. Oaths and covenants are important, but even more important are the causes, purposes, and people to whom we make our oath.
The first oath I remember making was to the Girl Scouts. “On my honor, I will try:
To serve God and my country, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law.” The Girl Scout Law is, “I will do my best to be honest and fair, friendly and helpful, considerate and caring, courageous and strong, and responsible for what I say and do, and to respect myself and others, respect authority, use resources wisely, make the world a better place, and be a sister to every Girl Scout.”
Not a bad thing to pledge oneself to.
The second oath I remember taking was in the church when I joined. More question and answer than pledge. Confession, Repentance, and Nurture are part of that vow. And a pledge to support the church by prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness.
My third oath was a marriage vow. Do you take this man? I do. We vowed to honor and keep, in sickness and in health, till death do we part. This has worked well for us for nearly 57 years. It’s not always easy to keep vows. We make promises sometimes that we cannot keep. It’s in the “not keeping” that troubles come.
Not keeping our oath – to God, to spouse, to country – leads to breakdowns, divorce, shame, anarchy. There is oath keeping, and there are Oath Keepers. Oath keeping is a positive way for us to live in covenant with one another and with shared values, like those outlined in the Girl Scout Law. Oath keeping means trusting one another and building sustainable community for the good of the world. The Oath Keepers have pledged themselves to something else, co-opting a very necessary human connection.
Failure to keep oaths is on full display these days. There are House members and Senators, including one notable former House Member and two Senators from North Carolina, who have forgotten their oath to protect and defend this country. We hear crickets from most of them. This country belongs to all of us, not just to Donald Trump. Where is the voice of these who have given their oath to speak into the lies and grift and vitriol we hear today? What do they think the end game of their silence and complicity will be?
Oath keeping is serious; failure to keep oaths that build a better world will end badly somewhere down the line. Then what?
Lib Campbell is a retired Methodist pastor, columnist, retreat leader and keeper of the blog www.avirtualchurch.com. Contact her at email@example.com.