As the Jan. 6 anniversary approaches, much has been discovered about the thousands of Americans who broke through the barriers, bashed in windows and assaulted police officers at the U.S. Capitol.
Religious Dispatches writer Robert Jones looked into the merger between white supremacy and white evangelism as "Jesus Saves" signs and "Jesus 2020" and the Christian flag mixed among the Donald Trump campaign signs and MAGA hats. In fact, at one point, the Christian flag was paraded through the congressional chamber after officials had been evacuated to safety. The Religion News Association even went so far as to call Jan. 6 the "top religious event of 2021."
While Jan. 6 was clearly a Trump event, the different communities involved were all linked through the commonality of white Christianity.
This attitude was captured by the University of Alabama's Religious Studies Department in a digital project with the Smithsonian. The site looks at what they call "Uncivil Religion" during Jan. 6.
"We contend that religion was not just one aspect of the attack on the Capitol, but, rather, it was a thread that weaves through the entirety of the events of Jan. 6," explained the project's leads Michael Altman and Jerome Copulsky.
The report explained that some who participated in the event were brought to Washington, D.C. as part of the "Jericho March," a group that was "imitating the siege of the city of Jericho by the Israelites described in the book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible."
The day before the attack, Christianity Today reported that the group was attending the riot to "pray for a Trump miracle." The story cited Southern Baptist author and Bible teacher Beth Moore and author and First Amendment lawyer David French as being among the few willing to speak out against the ways in which the evangelical community has canonized Trump.
"I have never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism,” Moore said on Twitter in 2020. "This Christian nationalism is not of God. Move back from it."
It's a similar observation made by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who interviewed several Capitol attackers who conflated Trump with Jesus Christ. Goldberg heard phrases like, "It’s all in the Bible. Everything is predicted. Donald Trump is in the Bible. Get yourself ready."
The participation of the Jericho March was the second time they came to Washington, after first holding events in Dec. 2020 as Trump's legal filings were being dismissed in court. Evangelical broadcaster Eric Metaxas addressed the crowd, drawing criticism from his friend Rod Dreher in The American Conservative in the days that followed.
"I have known Metaxas since 1998," wrote Dreher. "He is one of the sweetest men you could hope to meet, gentle and kind, a pleasure to be around. Not a hater in the least. Though I have not supported his Trumpist politics, I would not have figured him for someone who would go as far as he did on the Kirk interview. What kind of person calls for spilling blood in defense of a political cause for which he does not care if any factual justification exists? What kind of person compares doubters to Nazi collaborators? A religious zealot, that’s the kind. The only way one can justify that hysterical stance is if one conflates religion with politics, and politics with religion."
Samuel Perry and Andrew Whitehead wrote for TIME that it's critical to remember the Christian nationalism on display Jan. 6, 2021 "because evidence is mounting that white Christian nationalism could provide the theological cover for more events like it."
The evolution among white Christian evangelicals to Trumpism is part of another trend showing a growing racism index among the group. The 2020 Associated Press VoteCast Exit Polls ranked the median score on the Racism Index: 78 out of 100.
In Perry and Whitehead's annual studies included in their book, they have measured Christian nationalism using questions about whether people think the government should declare the United States a "Christian nation." They also ask about the separation of church and state and whether America's success is part of "God's plan."
The researchers tracked the support for Jan. 6 attackers beginning in Feb. 2021. Over seven months support for prosecuting the attackers among the "true believers" plummeted 22 points from 76.3 percent to 54.2 percent. Those who said they stood with the rioters also doubled from 13.6 percent to over 27 percent.
Perry and Whitehead believe that the reason for increased support among the Christian nationalist community comes from their co-devotion to Donald Trump. To make matters worse, other researchers have found that Christian nationalists seem more inclined to buy into conspiracy theories like those around the COVID-19 vaccine and QAnon world.
Robert Jones closed his piece by calling this a "time of reckoning" where evangelical leaders must decide whether they're moving forward with "defensiveness and inaction" or rededicate themselves to shoring up a healthier faith for the future. Many evangelical leaders have chosen the side of Trump while others are struggling to lead their flock back to Jesus.
"My hope is that enough of us will awaken from the fevered nightmare of white supremacy and finally choose a future in which we work shoulder to shoulder with our Black and brown brothers and sisters to achieve the promise of a multi-racial, multi-religious America," said Jones.
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