Religion scholar slams Virginia Trump fans for transforming Jan. 6 flag into a 'partisan tribal totem'
Trump supporters pledge allegiance to flag at January 6 rally (Screengrab).

At a rally for Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin on Wednesday evening, Trump supporters brought onstage a flag that was allegedly waved at the "Stop the Steal" January 6 rally that immediately preceded the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol. Youngkin himself did not attend this event, but the spectacle quickly came under fire from Democrats.

"Glenn Youngkin was endorsed again tonight by Donald Trump at a rally where attendees pledged allegiance to a flag flown at the deadly January 6th insurrection," said former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, Youngkin's Democratic rival. "Beyond disturbing, this is sick. And Glenn is honored to have Trump's endorsement."

And, noted Robert Jones, founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, it signified that the partisan impulses of some Trump supporters are taking on a ritualistic, religious tone.

"These actions ARE the sacralization of this particular version of our flag, in a way that subverts its use as a unifying symbol and reinterprets it as a partisan tribal totem," wrote Jones on Twitter.

Polls have shown McAuliffe with a single-digit lead in the Virginia race. Youngkin has been forced to walk a fine line, keeping Trump at a distance in a state President Joe Biden won by 10 points while at the same time making subtle appeals to the former president's base.