History will report that on Jan. 6, 2021, two weeks before the end of Donald Trump’s term as the 45th president of the United States, Trump told thousands of his supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., to march to the U.S. Capitol, where he promised to meet them and “watch” while the House of Representatives and Senate met to officially open, count and announce the Electoral College tally for the 2020 presidential election.
History will report that Trump publicly and falsely asserted weeks before Jan. 6, 2021, that the 2020 presidential election was “rigged,” that his bid for reelection was “cheated” and “robbed,” and that politicians across the nation were obligated to refuse to certify the 306-232 Electoral College tally by which Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were defeated by President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.
History will report that on Jan. 2, 2021 — four days before Jan. 6 — Trump made an hour-long phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger during which Trump repeatedly pressured Raffensberger to “find” 11,790 votes and declare Trump winner of the 16 Georgia Electoral College votes for the 2020 presidential election.
Trump did not meet his supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. Instead, he settled himself in the White House and watched — perhaps with his characteristic pathological glee — as they stormed the Capitol, broke windows, scaled walls, invaded the offices of members of Congress, assaulted, injured and intimidated Capitol police and other law enforcement officers, and forced the proceedings of the House and Senate to be delayed. Trump cheered as his supporters went on a rampage aimed at halting the proceedings to confirm the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as president and vice president of the United States.
Trump’s white, so-called “Christian” supporters did nothing to challenge, let alone condemn, his lies about the 2020 presidential election. Robert Jeffress, Jack Graham, Franklin Graham, Paula White, Richard Land, Albert Mohler, Kenneth Copeland and Mike Huckabee did not call on Trump to stop lying. They were conspicuously silent while Trump incited his supporters to threaten politicians who refused to go along with his false claims about the 2020 presidential election.
“Trump’s white, so-called ‘Christian’ supporters did nothing to challenge, let alone condemn, his lies.”
These self-proclaimed “Christians” have not been condemned by their congregations or their so-called “evangelical” peers. Albert Mohler wants to become the next leader of the Southern Baptist Convention. Expect Southern Baptists to fulfill that aspiration.
Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge did not call on Trump to stop lying. She did not condemn Trump’s attempt to pressure Brad Raffensberger to “find” enough votes and falsely declare Trump the winner in Georgia. A day after Trump’s supporters invaded the U.S. Capitol in a ploy to stop Congress from confirming the Electoral College result, Rutledge has not issued a statement condemning the brazen attempt by Trump’s supporters to prevent the peaceful transfer of presidential power.
Rutledge wants to become the next governor of Arkansas. Expect white, so-called “Christian” voters in Arkansas and other political opportunists to support her aspiration.
People who falsely branded peaceful protesters as rioters and insurrectionists in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arberry, Rayshard Brooks and the maiming of Jacob Blake last year have not accused Trump supporters of committing insurrection and causing mayhem. Expect them to remain silent.
None of the Trump supporters I have mentioned by name has called on Trump to be censured. None of them has called on Congress and Vice President Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and declare Trump unfit to exercise presidential power.
Each person I have named claims to be a follower of Jesus.
These are harsh truths.
Unlike others, I do not believe that white Christian America is dying. White Christian America is experiencing a sinister surge of white supremacy, patriarchy, militarism and imperialism fueled by deceitful claims of anger and white grievance. Donald Trump’s presidency has exposed white religious nationalism as a colossal deceit, a heresy if you will, by which white supremacist and patriarchal authoritarianism now threatens democracy in the United States. The U.S. Capitol was stormed by neo-fascists whose loyalty to Donald Trump is based on white religious nationalism, patriarchy and militarism.
“White Christian America is experiencing a sinister surge of white supremacy, patriarchy, militarism and imperialism.”
Jan. 6, 2021, was a low day. But people of color, women, immigrants, people who hold religious views that are considered “minority,” people who are LGBTQ and others know it was not the first time we witnessed such behavior.
We recognized the attack on the U.S. Capitol as stemming from the same hatefulness the world witnessed on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, when future U.S. Congressman John Lewis and other unarmed peaceful Americans were savagely beaten by white supremacists and domestic terrorists dressed up as law enforcement officers on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.
It stemmed from the same hate the world witnessed last summer when unarmed peaceful Americans were attacked by domestic terrorists dressed up as federal law enforcement officers near Lafayette Park in Washington, D.C.
It stemmed from the same hatefulness voting rights activists recognized when Chief Justice John Roberts led the U.S. Supreme Court to gut the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by its decision in Shelby County v. Holder. Roberts and his voting partners in that decision did to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 what domestic terrorists tried to do to Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.
What happened on Jan. 6, 2021, in the U.S. Capitol was inspired by the same hatefulness that murdered Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968 and that killed men, women and children in Oklahoma City in 1995.
And the hatefulness we observed at the U.S. Capitol was merely another version of the hatefulness that soon-to-become-former Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell drew on to prevent U.S. Circuit Judge (now Attorney General designate) Merrick Garland from receiving a confirmation vote in 2016 after the death of former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Four years later, in the opening weeks of 2020, we saw that hatefulness operate in the U.S. Senate when McConnell and John Roberts orchestrated Donald Trump’s sham impeachment “trial.”
It is high time we admit these harsh truths to ourselves and one another. \Perhaps then we will take up the hard work of confronting and uprooting the hatefulness that threatens our democracy.
Then again, history shows that perhaps we will not.
Wendell Griffen is an Arkansas circuit judge and pastor of New Millennium Church in Little Rock, Ark.