The Capitol Attack and Evangelical Leaders’ Reactions to It

The Capitol Attack and Evangelical Leaders’ Reactions to It January 6, 2021

Hi and welcome back! Today, something absolutely shocking occurred: a whole bunch of Donald Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Thankfully, law and order was restored fairly quickly. In the wake of the attack, evangelical leaders sought to distance themselves from blame and negative attention. Today, let me show you some reactions evangelicals had regarding the Capitol attack today — and explore what they mean.

the capitol building
(Caleb Perez.)

(For those who use visual aids: I’ve put these tweets’ contents into alt/description text fields. I try to do that anyway, but this time I knew it was extra-important since tweets are mostly text. If you find a picture in this post that I forgot to alt-text, please let me know in comments.)

The Capitol Attack.

For months now, evangelicals’ Orange Calf Idol, Donald Trump, has been bellowing and screeching about electoral fraud in the 2020 national election. Evangelicals’ post-truth, conspiracy-theory-addled minds accepted and embraced this claim without a single bit of evidence to support it.

Despite all Trump’s tantrums, though, every single bit of actual evidence supports Joe Biden as the clear winner of the election.

So today was the day that the votes of the electoral college were to be certified as valid by Congress. According to NBC, various Republicans who still lick Donald Trump’s boots had already planned to object to this certification process — without evidence, remember.

(Those Republican lickspittles’ sorta-leader appears to be a young newbie senator named Josh Hawley, who clearly made a Faustian bargain with Trump somewhere along the way. We’ve mentioned him in the past.)

Normally, this humdrum part of the election process would come and go unnoticed. Raise your hand along with me if on this day last year you didn’t even know it was part of the election process. Thanks to Trump’s frantic attempts to steal the election he lost, I reckon we’ve all learned way more information than we ever thought existed about the electoral college! But this time, this certification must have felt to his worshipers like a super-official last step to transferring the Presidency to their tribal enemies.

It was a step too far for them. And they reacted accordingly.

After organizing on social media, especially on right-wing platforms like Parler, a large group of armed protesters swarmed into the Capitol Building. The Trumpistas screamed and yelled and vandalized the place for a while. Eventually, law enforcement and the National Guard restored order, but not before someone died.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated that Congress will be finishing the certification process later tonight. Even Mitch McConnell seems completely on board with her plan.

First: The Radio-Silent Evangelicals.

I wondered what evangelical leaders would say about the Capitol attack.

First, I found a number of them were quiet about it.

Jim Bakker, of course, suffered a major health crisis this past summer. So I wasn’t surprised to see his Twitter (or what I think is his Twitter, anyway) quiet. Dude blew shofar horns when his idol got elected (here’s info about why) and is very quick to screech about revolution and martyrdom, and he embraces every single conspiracy theory Donald Trump peddles. I don’t know what he’d make of the attack on the Capitol, though I’m sure it’d involve lots of praise for Trump’s weak, halfhearted exhortations for peace. But we can only speculate for now.

Other evangelical leaders remained quiet as of this writing.

Marky Mark Driscoll hasn’t said a word about the Trumpistas’ attempted coup. His feed today has contained only plugs for his books. In the recent past, he’s tweeted approvingly about Trump.

Neither has Joel Osteen. His feed remains the usual surreal land of quasi-Christian-sounding platitudes. He tries hard to avoid direct questions about Donald Trump, because that’s not his brand.

None of us like difficulties, but when you understand that without the winter seasons you can’t see greater growth, greater fruit, then you won’t complain. You realize God’s getting you prepared to handle greater weight, greater favor, greater influence. / What you’re constantly talking about, you’re drawing in. When you talk about the greatness of our God, what He can do, declaring what He promised, then you’re going to draw in favor, blessings, increase.
I don’t know if HE even knows himself what he’s babbling about at any given moment.

Now, a lot of these guys are older dudes, so they might not be 24/7 connected to social media. For now at least, this is how the situation looks.

Now For the Trump Supporters.

James Dobson, one of Trump’s sycophantic religious advisors, is quiet too, along with fellow advisors Richard Land and Kenneth Copeland. Guess all that weird, bizarre guffawing Copeland did when Trump lost the election clean wore him out. I haven’t seen anything lately out of James MacDonald either.

Disgraced Trump fanboy Jerry Falwell Jr is also quiet. His new gig, the pseudo-think-tank and culture-war hopeful Falkirk Center, has a Parler presence. But they made sure to officially condemn “the violence” today on Twitter, in between fighting against human rights using rhetoric guaranteed to inflame culture-warriors’ aggressive impulses.

The violence underway at the Capitol is unacceptable & anti-American. We are a nation of law & order & we must work within our system of law. Pray for our nation, for our leaders, & our people, that we might uphold our Constitution & preserve our nation peaceably.

So there. Now let’s get back to the anti-abortion battle by declaring that fetuses equal actual pweshus baybeeeez, so our followers think abortions are actual real live murders of infants! That won’t lead to shocking violence … again … this year.

Self-awareness is not an evangelical’s strong suit on a good day. On a bad one, it’s about the furthest thing from their mind.

These Folks Didn’t Like Trump Anyway.

A small number of evangelical leaders already didn’t like Donald Trump. Unlike the names that have already danced across your perception today, they made their opinions crystal-clear — and got a few digs in as well.

As Mitt Romney was being taken to safety with other Senators, he made sure to summon a reporter to get a statement on record. The New York Times printed that statement in their running live coverage of the Capitol attack:

“This is what the president has caused today, this insurrection.”

That Times article contains a lot of criticism from a whole lot of Republicans, but that stood out to me. That said, even Mitch McConnell seems over Trump’s tantrums today.

In addition, I noticed these tweets from Russell Moore, a big name with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC):

President @realDonaldTrump , you have a moral responsibility to call on these mobs to stop this dangerous and anti-constitutional anarchy. Please do so. This mob attack on our Capitol and our Constitution is immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable. What has happened to our country is tragic, and could have been avoided.

I feel the need to offer some possibly-illuminating backstory here:

A few years ago, Russell Moore almost lost his job over criticizing Donald Trump. His masters at the SBC called him on the carpet over it. He capitulated, his job was saved, and he walked a careful line ever afterward. Now, his criticisms then mostly involved Trump not being quite enough of a culture warrior for King Russell. But the tribe doesn’t care about niceties like that. They demand lockstep.

Not Quite What They Wanted.

Several other SBC members also gave me distinct not-like-this-no-not-like-this vibes. Al Mohler, for example, is super-duper sad about the attack, though he forgets to sorrow over the way he helped bring evangelicals to this state.

What we are seeing in Washington now is the refutation of our American commitment, a form of unleashed anarchy which is the enemy of ordered liberty, and President Trump is responsible now for unleashing mayhem. Pray that God will rescue is from this.

J.D. Greear has been carefully flirting with Trump criticism for a while now. Here’s his response to the attacks:

Peaceable transitions of power have marked our Republic since the beginning. It is part of honoring and submitting to God’s ordained leaders whether they were our choice or not. We need you, @POTUS to condemn this mob. Let’s move forward together. Praying for safety.
About as weaksauce as anybody can possibly get.

For that matter, I don’t think ex-LifeWay faux-researcher and current Wheaton professor Ed Stetzer really liked Trump all that much either. He also condemns the Capitol attack. Well, sorta. You be the judge:

The article he linked criticizes Donald Trump quite heavily, along with QAnon. Of course, without evangelicals’ hard-right turn into zealotry and wingnuttery 30ish years ago, QAnon would have been nothing more than a fleeting blip on America’s radar — if anything at all. As for Donald Trump, he’d never have gotten elected without that shift. (Back when I was evangelical myself, my tribemates all despised Donald Trump. Many of us thought he was literally the Antichrist.)

And Ed Stetzer’s own idols made that shift happen.

And Now, the Folks Who Need to Cover Their Asses.

A number of vocal Trump supporters spoke out against the Capitol attack. These folks had supported Trump to the nines. They’d stroked his glossy pelt in photos like he was the star attraction at a children’s petting zoo and they were kindergarteners on a field trip getting their first look at a real live bull elephant seal. Their cooing over every burp and bellow their idol emitted was nauseating to behold.

And now look what had happened — and very obviously because of their idol’s deliberate rabble-rousing.

Their collective goal today seems to have been simple:

First. Distancing themselves as far as possible from their own tribe’s rhetoric and conspiracy theories.

Second. Making the Capitol attack look like it had nothing whatsoever to do with their rhetoric or those conspiracy theories.

And their process looks a lot like cover your ass (CYA).

Playing Both Sides of a Terrorist Attack Caused By Your Own Leader’s Irresponsible Antics.

In response to the Capitol attack, John Hagee wrote a few tweets that almost sound like he condemns these domestic terrorists, if not the inept politicians who encouraged their violence.

But his statement could also easily be nothing but a bunch of dogwhistles meant to reassure his very excitable flock that he’d be fine with Trump stealing the election. He sounds like he’s trying to appease both the QAnon conspiracy wingnuts in his flock as well as more decent-hearted or rational evangelicals who are beyond horrified at what Trump has wrought in his malignant narcissism.

The events we are witnessing at the Capitol today are an un-American abomination and a disgrace to our democracy. There is absolutely no justification for the violence that is transpiring. There is nothing patriotic about storming our Capitol. There is nothing honorable about / physically attacking our institutions of government. Today, my prayers are with the brave men and women of the Washington law enforcement community and others that are in harms way. May God keep them safe as they seek to remove the violent individuals that have taken over our / Capitol building. Regardless of how one votes,our loyalty is first to God and then to country. My prayers are with our troubled country. I hope you all will join me in praying that this darkness is routed, and that God’s love and peace is quickly restored despite this tragic day.
Start at the bottom and read upwards. I’m not gonna get on him about mis-threading tweets. I’m still quite an idjit with social media myself.

That last bit about his loyalty being “first to God and then to country” really irks me. It could easily mean that he’s at least playing along with Donald Trump’s posturing lies about the election. But time will reveal what he means. I don’t think it’ll even take much time.

CYA: Fundagelical Edition.

First, let’s check out Franklin Graham. He seems to like Donald Trump. In fact, in 2016 he may have been one of Trump’s most important (and loudest) evangelical allies.

I am deeply saddened by what took place in our nation’s capital today. Our country is in trouble. We need God’s healing and we need God’s help. Pray for peace and the protection of our nation. Let’s come together—on our knees.
DEEPLY SADDENED, y’all. So sad he didn’t notice how lurid that last bit sounds.

Mike Huckabee, who similarly supported Trump, managed to work in a dig at his tribal enemies while evading responsibility for his own politics:

This is disgusting! We can't justify mob action and goon activity/lawlessness. We condemned it when it happened last summer. We will condemn it now. We were upset that Dems/media called riots last summer "peaceful." It wasn't peaceful then. Isn't now. Wrong then. Wrong now!

Oh, where would right-wing nutbars be without their false equivalences and their DARVO tactics?

Paula White, one of Trump’s “religious advisors” and quite a whackadoo in her own right, also denounced the Capitol attack:

I always have and will denounce violence, lawlessness and anarchy in any and all forms. I have deep convictions for all people to have protection over the 1st Amendment and freedom of speech. We should be able to do this without becoming violent. I ask all to continue praying

Gosh, she sounds almost compassionate here. I wonder who wrote this tweet for her? Because “compassionate” is not her usual look.

Indeed, back in November Paula White was busily slashing at invisible enemies with an invisible spear while calling for her invisible wizard friend Jesus to send invisible warriors to America. She specified that these angels needed to hail from Africa because I guess African angels are extra-fighty; don’t send her none of them quiet monk-like angels from somewhere like, I dunno, Ireland.

She needed these invisible African warrior angels to fight invisible battles against invisible enemies to ensure that Donald Trump would somehow win the election that he’d already lost. While she was stabbing at air, she screamed repeatedly at the top of her lungs, “STRIKE AND STRIKE AND STRIKE AND STRIKE!”

Yeah, she totally denounces violence, lawlessness, and anarchy. Totally.

In reality, she’s possibly the only evangelical alive who could make people long for the simpler days of Michele Bachmann’s swivel-eyed, pants-on-head weirdness.

An Interesting Trend.

I noticed a trend as I examined the reactions of right-wing Christian leaders to this explosion of violence right in the heart of our government. Did you notice it too?

Donald Trump’s evangelical supporters, by and large, still fear the wrath of this inept, posturing buffoon.

Today, they either avoided the topic of the Capitol attack entirely, or else they condemned it in the mealiest-mouthed ways possible. At all costs, however, they avoided linking Donald Trump to the attack or criticizing him personally in any way. They were careful to avoid showing disloyalty to their Dear Leader. I wonder if they’re afraid that the flocks will turn on them just as quickly as they did on America’s entire election system if they step out of line.

Other evangelical leaders were ambivalent or hostile toward Trump before today. They seemed a lot more comfortable with calling Trump out directly and linking the Capitol attack directly to his lies about the election. They didn’t fear his rage, because they’d already faced it.

And oh boy, y’all, narcissists like Trump can truly lose their spaghetti when they’re denied anything they want. Trump really wanted to win this election.

The Lines Are Drawn.

Since Donald Trump is indeed the reason why those attacks occurred, it’s good that any evangelicals understand that and are willing to speak the truth about it.

I just think it’s interesting that the lines between sides in this situation are so clearly drawn — and so easy to identify. If evangelicals end up schisming over political extremism, these will be the leaders jockeying for control of the factions that result.

And if noticed these things, you can bet the evangelical leaders involved did as well, and so did their like-minded followers.

These folks are all stone-cold authoritarians. Power is the language they speak as well as the only thing they care about.

Right now, evangelical leaders’ goal is to soothe their flocks while maintaining whatever base of power they’ve cultivated over the past few years — and to grab power from their competitors if they can.

NEXT UP: Let’s see if we can get back to that pastor who’s so upset over his redefinition of love losing favor with his flocks as well as with the world outside their bubble. See you tomorrow!

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(Last thoughts: When I heard that Mike Pence was the one who ordered the National Guard to deploy to the Capitol instead of Trump, I immediately suspected that Pence had to do Trump’s job for him because Trump was absolutely incoherent with rage right then — or else trying to talk everyone around him out of stopping what sure looks like an attempted coup. I am dearly hoping this turns into a successful impeachment. A 12-hour Twitter timeout hardly seems like enough for an asshat who actively fomented rebellion against his country for two solid months.)

About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.

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