President Donald Trump’s evangelical Christian supporters are speaking out against the hundreds of rioters who temporarily seized control of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as Congress was meeting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election.
Trump’s closest evangelical allies forcefully condemned the mob’s use of violence, but many avoided pinning blame on the president, who just hours earlier had incited his supporters to march to the Capitol. Several Trump allies equivocated about what groups were responsible for the unprecedented scenes. Some floated the theory that the mob was dominated by far-left activists, while others reminded followers that violence can come from both sides of the aisle.
Texas pastor Robert Jeffress, a loyalist who has supported some of the president’s most controversial actions over the past four years, tweeted that “disobeying and assaulting police is a sin whether it’s done by Antifa or angry Republicans.” Another ally, Georgia pastor Jentezen Franklin, tweeted that violent protests and breaking the law are always wrong, “no matter who does it...liberals or conservatives.” Trump’s longtime spiritual adviser Paula White-Cain said she denounced violence and anarchy “in any and all forms.”
Franklin Graham, son of the late evangelist Billy Graham and a staunch Trump supporter, said he was “deeply saddened” by what happened. Earlier in the day, he had expressed doubt on Facebook that the election won by Democrat Joe Biden was over.
Liberty University’s Falkirk Center, a conservative think tank founded to defend America’s “Judeo-Christian heritage,” called the violence “unacceptable & anti-American.” One day earlier, the center had been calling on its supporters to never stop “praying, caring, and battling for our republic.” The center’s fellows have vociferously defended Trump’s debunked claims that the presidential election was stolen. One fellow, Trump attorney Jenna Ellis, tweeted that the violence was “not a display of patriotism or conservatism” ― but doesn’t seem to have budged on her conviction that the election was stolen.
As Congress convened Wednesday evening to certify President-elect Biden’s victory, another Falkirk fellow, Christian author Eric Metaxas, criticized Republicans who had dropped their objections to the certification. Metaxas, who has spent weeks spreading election fraud theories, pinned a tweet to his Twitter feed Tuesday of a photo released by the Islamic State purporting to show the beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians. Metaxas had added the caption, “What price are you willing to pay for what you believe in?”
There was a distinctly Christian nationalist presence at the riot. One of the rioters who entered the Senate floor appeared to be carrying a large white flag with a blue canton and red cross, which is often called the “Christian flag.”
Christians were among the thousands of protesters who converged in Washington, D.C., this week, collaborating with groups like “Stop the Steal” to plan a series of prayer vigils and marches that began Saturday. Participants used religious symbols and practices to showcase their support for Trump, including by singing contemporary Christian songs, blowing shofars and gathering in prayer circles, according to Religion News Service.
Some planned “Jericho marches” around key government buildings, a reference to the biblical account of the Battle of Jericho. According to the Bible, the ancient Israelites, with direction from their leader Joshua, captured the city of Jericho by marching around its walls once every day for six days. On the seventh day, they marched around the walls seven times, blew ram’s horns, and shouted ― and the walls of the city crumbled. Afterward, the Bible says, the Israelite army charged in, destroyed the city and killed nearly every living thing in it.
“Just as Joshua was instructed to march around the walls of Jericho, Jericho Marchers march around at a specific place and time until that darkness is exposed and the walls of corruption fall down,” the movement’s website says.
Jericho March organizers had planned for participants to march around the U.S. Capitol at noon Wednesday. That morning, they delayed the march by one hour, stating that they would first attend a Trump rally at the Ellipse, just south of the White House. At the rally, the president continued to spread lies about election fraud and exhorted his supporters to continue the “fight” and walk to the Capitol.
The rioters waved Trump and American flags as they breached the Capitol and stormed onto the Senate floor and into House chamber. One woman was fatally shot during the riot, and lawmakers and staffers were forced to go into hiding.
Trump later shared a video on Twitter urging people to “go home” while repeating lies about election fraud and telling his supporters that “we love you.”
Some American evangelical leaders have called on Trump to explicitly denounce the riot. J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination, called on Trump to “condemn this mob.” Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, blamed Trump for “unleashing mayhem,” while Russell Moore, president of the SBC’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, simply tweeted that “Character matters.”
Beth Moore, a Southern Baptist Bible teacher, went even further by denouncing the way that Christianity was used by some protesters.