People For the American Way

Religious Right Leaders “Fueled the Insurrection”

Op-Ed
Religious Right Leaders “Fueled the Insurrection”
Donald Trump prays during a campaign visit to a Las Vegas megachurch on October 5, 2016.

During his presidency, the religious right was among Donald Trump’s staunchest base of supporters. Many conservative Christians and evangelicals stuck with Trump despite his vulgarity and profanity, his corruption and naked self-interest and his callously cruel policies. And after Trump’s 2020 election loss, many of the movement’s leaders parroted his claim that the election had been stolen.

In a Feb. 8 op-ed published in The American Prospect, People For Senior Fellow Peter Montgomery examines how the religious right’s rhetoric fueled the violent insurrection at the Capitol, and what that could mean for the future of far-right extremism.

Montgomery wrote:

These leaders and media outlets inflated the stakes of Trump’s re-election campaign and post-election efforts to “stop the steal” by portraying them as part of a spiritual war between good and evil. In their telling, Trump was the divinely anointed leader of the forces of light, and his opponents were agents of Satan bent on crushing religious freedom and destroying the American republic. Prayer and calls for spiritual warfare were blended with invocations of “1776” …

When it became clear that Trump had lost, and that his response would be to deny the legitimacy of the election, most of his religious-right backers joined him … Organizers of rallies, bus tours, and other events mobilized under the banners of Jericho March, Stop the Steal, and March for Trump frequently claimed a divine blessing on their efforts …

At the January 6 rally on the Ellipse from which Trump would send protesters to march on the Capitol, White prayed that God’s people would “rise up and stand strong” and that God would give them “holy boldness.” She asked that “every adversary” be “overturned right now in the name of Jesus.” After the insurrection, some religious-right leaders disavowed political violence. Will they also reflect on the ways they contributed to the fear, resentment, and rage that fueled the attack?

Consider this: If you were a patriotic Christian who believed what you were repeatedly told—that a Biden victory would bring crushing religious persecution and leftist totalitarianism—would you be willing to resort to extreme measures to defend your faith, family, and freedom?

You can read the op-ed in full here.

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