What we saw on January 6, 2021 lumbering from the President’s Park South toward the Capitol Building was a Frankenstein Monster finally put together after decades in the making. Just like the fictional creature, this monster will probably end up destroying its makers, and there are many.
Just like it is hard to fault the fictional creature, who is, after all, brought into this world through unnatural and unethical means, I don’t place most of the blame on those who did the marching—or simply showed up. Yes, those who destroyed public property and most especially those who engaged in murder and violence are personally responsible for their actions. However, none of them would have even been there that day without the help of much greater powers and influences.
No, we must place the blame on their many enablers, their creators in fact. Do we need to place blame? Shouldn’t we just prosecute these people and move on? No, such would make a travesty of justice, it would be immoral, and would only ensure the repetition of this event—this insurrection. The creators of this Frankenstein monster must be held to account.
There is not enough time or room here to note every creator of this Frankenstein, which one could even argue goes back to the Reformation. The creators are many. We could note the GOP itself. We could note factors going back to the Civil War. We could note economic reasons, the change from an industrial economy to a technological one. We could cite the continued racist and sexist strain in White America, dovetailing with right-wing, fascist, political ideology. There are many creators of this monster.
However, one, in my opinion, is key. There is one creator that gives this monster life and purpose. While all these other factors/creators, and others, we might say are the salvaged dead body parts needed to put the monster together, they still need the spark of electricity, the almost invisible power that will raise the creature up and bid it walk.
In my opinion, this creator is modern American, white, Protestant fundamentalism/evangelicalism. It’s this factor that gives the monster life and purpose. All those other factors give it a body, a physical presence, but it lays there lifeless on the table. An animating force must now enter the cold slab of pilfered parts for it do the sort of deeds we saw on January 6th.
What gives this grunting creature, laden with mind-numbingly dumb conspiracy-theories, dense and ignorant, its will, is the idea this is for God. This is God’s work. It is light against darkness, good against evil. The same spirit that animated the crusaders as they caused blood to flow in the streets of Jerusalem is alive and well in these same crusaders. They’ve been told that God is on their side. They’ve been told that their work is “righteous,” and those who oppose them oppose God.
Who told them this? Fundamentalists and evangelicals did. For decades if not longer. Did they say it in exactly those terms? Not necessarily, but the intended message was clear. When Henry II asks rhetorically, “Who will rid me of this meddlesome priest?” his guards knew what he meant and what to do. And, so did all those listening to Trump on January 6th. “Who will rid me of this meddlesome election?”
There will be many fundamentalists/evangelicals who will try and extricate or distance themselves from the Court Evangelicals and Trump supporters over the next months and years, whether of the virulent strain or simply those who remained silent for four years. After January 6th, that may prove difficult.
After decades of telling (preaching, teaching, writing books) Christians in their pews that nefarious forces are the go-to explanation for most events, that we are a Christian nation, founded on Biblical principles, that we can’t trust the mainstream media, experts, scholars, or scientists (unless they agree with us), that America is special, that we are to fear people and ideas outside our borders, that elites, Hollywood, and mysterious forces are all out to get us, and that God is on our side, we finally see the spark, the life, the electricity that brought the monster to life.
And that monster on January 6th, under the inspiration and direction of its creators, tried to overturn a legitimate and legal democratic election, foment rebellion, and possibly execute political figures. And their actions led to the deaths of five people, including a police officer.
Let us name names. Franklin Graham. Jerry Falwell Jr. Paula White. Wayne Grudem. Robert Jeffress. Jim Bakker. Eric Metaxas. John MacArthur. James Dobson. There are many others. You helped create this monster. You are partly responsible for everything that led up to January 6th and what transpired that day. You bought the ticket; you get to take the ride now. A ride of infamy and shame.
There were many Nazis in Germany who did not hate the Jews, want them killed, nor wanted war. Many of them just wanted their economy back, their jobs, and to feel proud again of their heritage, land, country, and history. They wanted to be understood. They were shocked to later learn where it all led. They ended up broken, bitter, angry, and disillusioned.
Do you know what we still call them though? Nazis. We don’t care now about any of their reservations or what they really thought—what they really hoped would happen. It was too late. After so much bloodshed, destruction, and damage, no one cared to then try and parse out what “kind” of Nazi a person was.
Yes, prosecute the people who set the house on fire, but we need to hold accountable those who provided the gasoline and matches. They knew better. Until there are public apologies and repentance, they should be shunned and never allowed to move on until they do.
If they refuse, an asterisk should be placed by their names forever, noting we don’t care what kind of evangelical or fundamentalist they were or claimed to be. They were the enablers and creators of something that ended up being a monster. That will be their much-deserved legacy.
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