The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol began its hearings last week. The revelations have been riveting, with the panel placing the blame squarely where it belongs: in the hands of former President Donald Trump.
The hearings, which continue this week, have amounted to a powerful indictment of a president who, unable to accept the fact that he had lost a fair and free election, egged on a violent mob that sacked America’s most visible symbol of democracy. They assaulted police officers, vandalized the building to the tune of millions of dollars and mauled reporters who were trying to show Americans what was happening.
Trump was responsible, and it’s the committee’s job to make that clear. But let’s not forget his enablers, among them a cohort of Christian nationalists who were among the insurrectionists that day and who, a year and a half after the fact, continue trying to downplay what happened or portray members of the mob as patriots.
We’ve all seen the photos. Some of the rioters who attacked the Capitol hoisted crosses, Bibles and photos of Jesus. They used scripture to justify their actions. The extent of Christian nationalist involvement in Jan. 6 is no longer a subject for debate; their actions have been outlined in detail.
And let’s not forget people like evangelist Franklin Graham, who, even as the horror was unfolding, tweeted that Antifa must really be responsible. Or Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who told his radio audience that it was “still uncertain as to the full composition of the group that breached security and made their way into the Capitol” even though we knew full well they were Trump supporters. Or Sandy Rios of American Family Radio who insisted that the insurrections were left-wingers posing as Trump backers.
All that is bad enough. But equally guilty are people like Paula White, Trump’s spiritual adviser, who, instead of telling the president the hard truth that he had lost the election, fed his delusions. (After the election as the results were clearly not moving in Trump’s direction, White preached a sermon insisting that Trump would secure a second term. “I hear a sound of abundance of rain,” she told her congregation. “I hear a sound of victory. … The Lord says it is done. The Lord says it is done. The Lord says it is done. For I hear victory, victory, victory, victory.”)
But victory was not in the cards for Trump. And had Graham, White and other Christian nationalists been responsible and leveled with Trump, they might have spared the nation a lot of pain.
They chose another course – the course of lies and conspiracy theories. It was a course that ultimately led to violence on Jan. 6, 2021. It’s a course they’re still on; look no further than Tennessee Pastor Greg Locke’s Johnson Amendment-violating sermon last month that included this ominous threat: “You ain’t seen the insurrection yet. You keep on pushing our buttons, you low-down, sorry compromisers, you God-hating communists, maybe you’ll find out what an insurrection is.”
The Jan. 6 committee faces a daunting task – the pursuit of justice. Yes, Trump must be held accountable. But the committee can’t stop there. His enablers, including the Christian nationalists who remain in thrall of him, must be called to account for the chaos, violence and death they helped spawn.
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