More evidence is surfacing that when it comes to the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, white evangelicals are living in a fantasy world of their own creation, a place informed by conspiracy theories, not facts.
Samuel Perry, a professor in the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Sociology, posted an item to Twitter recently concerning Americans’ thoughts on the insurrection. The key takeaway is that nearly 70% of white evangelicals believe that “outside agitators” like antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) mixed with the crowd and started the violence.
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%.
Even as events were unfolding on Jan. 6, Christian nationalists began a desperate effort to shift the blame from Trump and his supporters to left-wing groups. On the day of the attack, for example, evangelist Franklin Graham issued a tweet blaming antifa. Several other Christian nationalist leaders quickly picked up that line.
But these folks have a problem: There’s absolutely no evidence for their claims. The FBI issued a statement saying it had uncovered no evidence of antifa presence during the attack; more to the point, several people have been arrested in conjunction with the riot, and they’re supporters of former President Donald Trump. They didn’t try to hide who they were. They were proud of what they did. They took pictures and video of themselves sacking the Capitol and posted them to social media. Some of them apparently plan to use “Trump told me to do it” as their legal defense.
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.
The philosophical principle of Occam’s razor teaches us that simple explanations are usually the best. In this case, the simpler explanation is also true: A mob of racists, neo-Confederates, Trump cultists, Christian nationalists and other extremists came to Washington, D.C., for a rally. They were whipped into a frenzy by Trump and assaulted the Capitol in an effort to disrupt a normally ceremonial procedure to certify the election of Joe Biden. People were killed, and the Capitol was vandalized.
That may be an uncomfortable reality for white evangelicals, but it’s truth all the same. As the people who attacked on the Capitol go on trial and Congress launches its own investigation, more unpleasant truths are going to emerge. White evangelicals would do well to come to grips with what really happened on Jan. 6 and let go of the fairy tale that makes them feel better but does a disservice to history, accountability and decency. Failing to do so only makes them look foolish.
Photo: Trump supporters attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Screenshot from The Washington Post.