April 2021 Church & State Magazine | People & Events

A university professor who studies Christian nationalism noted on Twitter recently that nearly 70% of white evangelical Christians believe that “outside agitators,” such as members of antifa or Black Lives Matter, were responsible for the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, as opposed to supporters of former president Donald Trump.

Samuel Perry, a professor in the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Sociology, tweeted about the data in February. Perry and Andrew L. Whitehead, a sociology professor at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, authored the recent book Taking Am­erica Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.

Despite what white evangelicals may believe, there’s no doubt that the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt was plan­ned and led by a violent cohort of Trump supporters. The FBI issued a statement saying it had uncovered no evidence of antifa presence during the attack; and during the assault, rioters, many of whom carried Trump flags and wore Trump gear, took photos and videos of themselves they posted to social media sites.

Police used that evidence, and other leads, to arrest several people in connection with the attack. All are Trump supporters. In fact, some are attempting to use the fact that Trump incited the crowd and told them to march to the Capitol and disrupt a ceremonial process to certify President Joe Biden’s win as a defense in court.

Perry noted that no other group hit a figure this high. The next-largest group mostly likely to believe the antifa/BLM lie is white Catholics, at more than 50%. But among Hispanic Catholics, only about 35% blame antifa and BLM. Fewer than 30% of secularists say antifa/BLM were responsible, and among Black Protestants, the figure is only 10%.

Christian nationalists began trying to rewrite what happened even as events were unfolding on Jan. 6. Evangelist Franklin Graham issued a tweet blaming antifa. Several other Christian nationalist leaders quickly picked up that line.

Writing on AU’s “Wall of Separation” blog, Church & State Editor Rob Boston asserted, “To believe that antifa, BLM or other ‘outside agitators’ infiltrated the event, you have to engage in a series of mental gymnastics so strenuous they should cause brain strain. We’re to believe that these outside forces somehow successfully melted into the mob, led and participated in the attack on the Capitol and managed to all slip away and evade arrest. It’s absurd.”