Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. FFRF.org

Congress members join panel: Insurrection’s ties to Christian nationalism

Vol. 38 No. 05 June/July 2021
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

FFRF’s Andrew L. Seidel moderated a recent panel discussion of Jan. 6.

Members of Congress attended a private panel discussion on March 23 about “Christian Nationalism and the January 6th Attack.” The panel was organized by the Congressional Freethought Caucus, which was founded by Rep. Jamie Raskin and Rep. Jared Huffman, who asked FFRF’s Director of Strategic Response Andrew L. Seidel to moderate the discussion. The panelists included Robert Jones, CEO and founder of PRRI, author of White Too Long: The Legacy of White Supremacy in American Christianity and The End of White Christian America; Amanda Tyler, executive director of Baptist Joint Committee and organizer of Christians Against Christian Nationalism; and Juhem Navarro-Rivera, political research director and managing partner at Socioanalitica Research and senior fellow at the Institute for Humanist Studies. At least 10 other members of Congress participated in the panel and many asked questions.

To “set the stage,” as he put it, Seidel recounted some of the imagery from that day. Here’s how Seidel kicked off the panel discussion:

Thank you, Rep. Huffman.

Christian nationalism ripped off its mask on Jan. 6 and the conversation that some of us had been having on the margins entered the mainstream in the wake of the attacks. Amanda Tyler and the Baptist Joint Committee had been warning about it for more than a year. Robert and Juhem have been studying it and other demographic changes that are driving the fear and possibly the rise of Christian nationalism. I wrote a book saying that Christian nationalism was un-American and called it “an existential threat to our republic.” Since Jan. 6, I’ve been scouring the photos, videos and court cases, and I am more convinced than ever about the role Christian nationalism played. But I want to set the stage a bit, to remind us all of just some of the Christian nationalism from that day, especially since some of you experienced it from a very different perspective.

Paula White began the day with a prayer; one that added “the United States of America” to the Lord’s Prayer written in Matthew 6. The rally ended with Trump calling on his mob to march to the Capitol. His last words were “God bless you and God bless America.” On their march to the Capitol, the Proud Boys were hailed as “God’s Warriors” and knelt for a prayer that was full of typical Christian nationalist rhetoric about restoring the nation. 

One attacker carried a Christian flag on the floor of the Senate. The absurdly self-proclaimed “QAnon Shaman,” who led a prayer in the Senate about patriotism, Jesus, and restoring the nation — ended the prayer in Jesus’ name. One of the praying insurrectionists gave an interview later and said of the Senate prayer: We “just consecrated it to Jesus. . . That to me was the ultimate statement of where we are in this movement.” A third praying insurrectionist posted a video saying “I just wanted to get inside the building so I could plead the blood of Jesus over it. That was my goal.” He said he would start a prison ministry when he was sent away for his crimes. Another insurrectionist told her social media followers why she did it: “To me, God and country are tied — to me they’re one and the same. We were founded as a Christian country.”

The imagery is now infamous. The huge wooden cross, juxtaposed with the gallows from which they wanted to hang you. They signed the gallows as if it were a yearbook writing “Hang them high,” “In God We Trust,” “God Bless the USA,” “Hang for treason” and “Amen.” 

The flags and signs were clear: Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president; one nation under God; in God we trust; Jesus saves; Jesus 2020; bible verses and crosses. One sign simply said, “I am on your side, signed, GOD.” A bible was seen raised above the crowd as it surged through one of the entrances. One of the people who entered the Capitol was a Catholic priest who admitted on camera to exorcising the demon named Baphomet. Another was a youth pastor from Florida. 

They sang the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” (“Glory Glory Hallelujah, his truth is marching on . . .”) and prayed in the Rotunda. One group, the Jericho March, had been founded by two federal workers who were sent visions from their god to “let the church roar,” they named their rallies after a biblical genocide and re-enacted it by blowing shofars and declaring that the “this is one nation under God,” alongside the “Stop the Steal” charlatans. It wasn’t just imagery and rhetoric, it was a devout belief that this is a Christian nation that God chose Donald Trump — Trump himself said “I am the Chosen One” while looking up to the heavens — and that God was on their side. The attacker who kicked in Speaker Pelosi’s door, hoping to tear her “into little pieces,” was an attorney. His rantings were recounted at one of his hearings after being charged, “God is on Trump’s side. God is not on the Democrats’ side. And if patriots have to kill 60 million of these communists, it is God’s will.”

From there, Seidel, the panel and the congressional members had an engaging discussion about the role Christian nationalism played in the insurrection.