Bill Press is one of my favourite author/commentator/journalists around today, and his most recent column is about one group of people who willfully attempted to overthrow our government just over a year ago. Please note that Press is not talking about the majority of Christians in this nation who are decent people and use their religion for good, rather than evil, but rather about the minority who are using the term “Christianity” to justify their bigotry, their hatred of ‘other’, and their intention of turning this nation into something it was never meant to be.
January 6: Blame the Christians!
It’s understandable, but regrettable: the media was so busy reporting on the possible invasion of Ukraine, it buried an astounding bit of news about the actual invasion of the U.S. Capitol on January 6.
Watching the violence at the Capitol that day, you were probably as puzzled as I was to see members of the mob carrying signs that said: “Jesus Saves.” Well, now we know why. A 60-page report, just released by the Freedom from Religion Foundation and the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, reveals the prominent role played leading up to and on January 6 by conservative Christians.
It’s not just the Proud Boys, Three-Percenters, Oath Keepers, and Q-Anon responsible for planning and carrying out the insurrection, it’s also evangelicals marching under the banner of “Christian nationalism.” According to the report, belief in Christian nationalism was used to “bolster, justify, and intensify” the January 6 attack on the Capitol – and is still being used today to downplay what happened on January 6.
Yes, you heard that right. A certain brand of “Christians” came to Washington, openly and proudly, to overthrow the government – all in the name of Jesus. Or at least in the name of the demented, upside-down brand of Jesus they’ve invented to justify their extreme right-wing politics.
If you’re not familiar with “Christian nationalism,” you should be. I believe it’s one of the most serious threats to our democracy today. It’s especially serious because it cloaks itself in the guise of religion when, in fact, it’s nothing but an extreme-right political movement whose leaders, like evangelist Franklin Graham, pretend to worship Jesus while actually worshipping Donald Trump.
Christian nationalism can be summed up in four major beliefs. One, America was founded as a Christian nation. Two, Christianity, therefore, is our official state religion and deserves special protection. Three, our founding documents were divinely inspired. Four, the only true Americans are Christian, culturally conservative, natural-born – and white. Christian nationalism is nothing but white nationalism with a smiley face. There’s no room in their narrow world (or small minds) for Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, or people of color.
Christian nationalists used to operate below the radar, but they sure didn’t on January 6. It’s like they wanted the whole world to know they were there, even if they were operating in the most un-Christ-like fashion. People carried crosses and other Christian symbols. Outside and inside the building, T-shirts and caps proclaimed: “God, Guns, Trump.” One of the men who erected the gallows on the Capitol lawn wore a sweatshirt reading: “Faith, Family, Freedom.” Washington police officer Daniel Hodges told Congress how shocked he was, while being assaulted by the mob, to see one of his attackers holding a flag with the slogan: “Jesus is my Savior. Trump is my President.”
On one level, it was like a religious revival. On another level, it was what it was: a lawless, seditious, blood-thirsty, armed mob, which did $30 million in damage to the Capitol, mauled approximately 1,000 police officers, threatened to murder the speaker of the House, the majority leader of the Senate, and the vice president of the United States, left four people in the crowd dead, and five police officers who died in the days and weeks following. And all this in the name of Jesus? God forbid!
At the risk of stating the obvious: There is no action more un-Christ-like than the violent attack on police officers and members of Congress we experienced on January 6. And there is no one person on the planet more un-Christ-like than Donald J. Trump. In every way, as anybody who has read the Gospels knows, he’s the very antithesis of Jesus Christ. Donald Trump is the anti-Christ.
Writing in Christianity Today the next morning, January 7, Anglican priest Tish Harrison Warren lamented: “The responsibility of yesterday’s violence must be in part laid at the feet of those evangelical leaders who ushered in and applauded Trump’s presidency.” Fortunately, there are other Christian leaders today who renounce Christian nationalism. In addition to Warren, they include Rev. William Barber, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign; Jim Wallis, president of Sojourners; and Rachel Laser, CEO of Americans United. Their message is simple: God is love. True Christians do not assault police officers, attempt to murder political leaders, or worship a congenital liar and serial adulterer.
Meanwhile, I’m not sure what Jesus was doing on January 6, but I know one thing for sure: He wasn’t in front of the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence!”
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