How to Talk to Your Kids About Inauguration Day 2021
Today is Inauguration Day. It’s an understatement to say that it is eclipsed by so much that hinders the celebrations that should come today—regardless of your side of the aisle. Instead of a parade, we have a pandemic that dissipates crowds. Instead of the excited hustle and bustle in Congressional chambers, we are in the middle of impeachment proceedings. The Mall, where families would patriotically gather to catch a glimpse of the pomp and circumstance, is closed (though we do love the field of flags display) and we have soldiers in the Capitol.
We have both experienced the pomp and circumstance our nation is proud to display . . . me, as a Naval officer and graduate of the Naval Academy, who stood in formations for countless state events, and sang for two presidents on national television as a member of the Academy’s Men’s Chorus. . . Kristen, a young student of political science who wound up with a ticket to get on the mall for a presidential inauguration and reveled in a full day walking the city in 45 degrees and rain, standing on tiptoes on the mall to see the Capitol steps stage and sitting in stone window sills to spy the motorcade on the parade route.
The inauguration usually represents a day where our attention is focused on the best of what our country represents . . . yet today is more tenuous than it should be. In the midst of all of the confusion facing our nation right now, one thing is clear:
This is not how God wants us to live.
Our God is a God of peace. He calls us to reconciliation. He asks us to put the needs of others before our own, sometimes painfully sacrificing what we want. But, the division that we are seeing today goes so far beyond differences of opinion and actually causes us to dehumanize the “other side.”
Take a minute to confess that. I know I need to seek forgiveness for turning someone with a different idea into just that: their idea that I disagree with rather than the person God created them to be.
For so many kids, today will be their first memory of Inauguration Day. They may be confused. As one kid we’ve heard of asked, “Dad, is this what always happens when presidents leave?”
So how do we talk to kids about Inauguration Day in 2021? Here are a few thoughts, not rooted in my or your political ideology, but from deep within the very same Scriptures that guided our Founding Fathers:
1. Start with a reminder that we are all made in God’s image. Genesis is full of this reference, not just about our creation (1:27) but also about how hurting one another is connected to our creation in God (9:6). We know this . . . John Adams and Thomas Jefferson acknowledged this . . . Abraham Lincoln furthered it . . . MLK fought for it, and we continue to work out this belief today. Our reactions to one another should honor God’s divine creation.
2. Emphasize respect for the institution of our nation’s leaders. Romans 13 calls us to this. In the time it was written, there were leaders who many disagreed with. Sounds a lot like today. But Paul called on Christ-followers to obey their systems of government because it is those systems that foster rule, order, relationships among man, and even pleasure in life. The personalities elected today have been allowed by God, and I think many of us can say that we are sometimes driven to our knees to seek to fully understand why. So even as you disagree with decisions, demonstrate to your children that honoring our institutions . . . the rules, structures, and their offices are the foundation of how we are to live as Christians and as good neighbors.
3. Share a little history lesson on compromise. Diversity of opinion, even to the point of violence, is where our nation started. Gracing our currency since the 1700s, the term “E Pluribus Unum” is literally Greek for “out of many, one.” We had to fight through the Civil War for it, reconstruct a factioned country on it, seek justice through the Civil Rights Act with it as our guide, and continue to wrestle with it today from more angles than our parents managed. While today’s circumstances are different, share with your kids that we have weathered these storms before and that their resolution does not necessarily lay in one single leader. It is guided by a system where these conversations take place—one that allows the participants to listen and compromise and put the unity of a country above any single interest. Our country is set up for that!
4. Talk about God’s call for unity that we have the honor to carry out. I’ll let the Scriptures speak for themselves on this one. Romans 12:18 (NIV) says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” James reminds us that our quarrels come from desires within that are not of God. And Matthew 8 calls us to work with one another when sin creeps in, not against one another. He calls us to humility and to lift one another up. Even in disagreement, God calls us to unity.
5. Remind your children that our security does not rest in a man, but in God. Government, our church, even our home, is not where our ultimate security rests. The Psalms are full of references to God as our refuge, our strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble. He does not promise a life free of strife, but He does promise to be WITH us. That is why He sent His Son, in whom our hope is found in NOTHING LESS THAN Him. And then He sent His Spirit to be our guide. To deny that and place our faith squarely in the hands of fallible leaders and faulty government structures is to deny whose we are. When we remember who our Father is, we can follow the advice of Micah 6:8—to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with Him.
None of this leads to support for one party or another. What it does lead to is seeking wisdom, loving our neighbor, and resting in God’s sovereignty no matter who is in the White House or Congress, or who occupies the streets of D.C. Our allegiance is first to God.
At the same time, we say to President Biden and Vice President Harris, to every new and returning Congressman and Congresswoman, and to every new administration official, welcome. We will pray for you as you navigate this tumultuous time. Our words for you are similar to those of one president to another when handing over the office. We don’t rely on you for healing, but we ask that you join us in bringing healing to our country as we do so with our neighbors down the street.
So let’s start today and pray as a Minno community. And then reflect and work to do just these things as the sun sets tonight and the sun surely rises tomorrow.
Erick Goss, Minno CEO & Co-Founder
with Kristen Hayner, Director of Communications