There’s a comprehensive new report out from religious scholars and prominent Christian faith groups in the U.S. that dissects the role Christian nationalism played in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and also previews ways in which Christian nationalism could be harnessed to embolden future acts of political violence.
Religion News Service reported on the new study, which was sponsored by the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, along with the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The head of the Baptist Joint Committee, Amanda Tyler declared in unveiling the report this week that the concept of Christian nationalism was utilized to “bolster, justify and intensify the January 6 attack on the Capitol.” While there have been plenty of reports and think pieces published in the last year — including this TPM Cafe piece — on the role those who support the idea of Christian values infiltrating public life played in election overturning efforts (and the ways in which Trump hijacked the movement for his own ends), this is the most comprehensive account yet on how the growing movement strengthened the ideas behind the attack.
There are some obvious links between the religious right and the attempt to carry out a coup. We all witnessed the prominence of Christian symbolism used by protesters on Jan. 6 — the Christian crosses on display on Capitol grounds, the “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” banners carried by Trump supporters, white men praying in circles inside the U.S. Capitol after the break-in. This is in-part a clear manifestation of the religious-right’s decades-long effort to court and marry evangelical voters to the Republican Party, (think: Southern Strategy) that was on display in overwhelming evangelical support for Trump in 2016.
The report also dissects the calm before the storm — looking at the escalating role evangelical events in the D.C. in the days leading up to Jan. 6, like the Million MAGA March and the Jericho Marches, might have played in the ultimately violent insurrection.
But authors of the report also looked at the ways in which prominent alleged insurrectionists adopted evangelical language leading up to the attack to urge action and political upheaval — conflating religious rhetoric with militant violence. The report was mostly written by Andrew L. Seidel, a director at the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who pointed to one example of this phenomenon in the report, per RNS:
He pointed to William McCall Calhoun Jr., a Georgia lawyer who reportedly claimed on social media that he was among those who “kicked in Nancy Pelosi’s office door” on Jan. 6. (Calhoun later claimed in an interview with the Atlanta Journal Constitution that he did not personally enter any office.)
“God is on Trump’s side. God is not on the Democrats’ side,” Calhoun allegedly wrote in a social media post. “And if patriots have to kill 60 million of these communists, it is God’s will. Think ethnic cleansing but it’s anti-communist cleansing.”
Seidel suggests that Christian Nationalism — a concept, in part, focused on the idea that man answers to God and God alone, secular laws be damned — was not only the driving force behind what happened on Jan. 6, but also the common denominator among the various groups and individuals who ended up carrying out the attack.
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