As the United States prepares for the end of a nightmarish one-term presidency that seemed to drag on forever, Americans continue to unpack the January 6 insurrection that now even soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell admits was “provoked” by President Donald Trump. On January 16, NBC political analyst Mehdi Hasan tweeted, “#whereweretheyradicalized is a question we’re going to be asking of GOP lawmakers at federal and state/local levels for many, many years to come, sadly,” adding that the answer would lie primarily in “a combo of Fox/OANN/Newsmax and Facebook.”
As I like to say, however, the Christian Right has been doing “alternative facts” since before it was cool. It would be remiss of us to approach the “where were they radicalized” question without addressing how the Christian schooling and homeschooling movement, along with many white churches and other evangelical, LDS, and ‘trad’ Catholic institutions, fostered the subcultures that created the demand for hyper-partisan “news” outlets like Fox News.
The president’s photo op outside St. John’s Church was emblematic of his appeal to the religious right.
He wielded the Bible like a foreign object, awkwardly adjusting his grip as though trying to get comfortable. He examined its cover. He held it up over his right shoulder like a crossing guard presenting a stop sign. He did not open it.
“Is that your Bible?” a reporter asked.
“It’s a Bible,” the president replied.
Even by the standards of Donald Trump’s religious photo ops, the dissonance was striking. Moments earlier, he had stood in the Rose Garden and threatened to unleash the military on unruly protesters. He used words such as anarchy and domestic terror, and vowed to “dominate the streets.” To clear the way for his planned post-speech trip to St. John’s Church, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful demonstrators.
A few hours after the dystopian spectacle, I spoke on the phone with Robert Jeffress, a Dallas megachurch pastor and indefatigable Trump ally. He sounded almost gleeful.