The peculiarities of how American Christianity took shape help explain believers’ vulnerability to conspiratorial thinking and misinformation.
An excellent article from the New Yorker by Michael Luo from March 4, 2021
This might be behind a paywall for you guys, but it is so chilling you might wish to get it from your library. I’ll reproduce some of the article below.
It was among the most jarring scenes of the Capitol invasion, on January 6th. As rioters milled about on the Senate floor, a long-haired man in a red ski cap bellowed, from the dais, “Jesus Christ, we invoke your name!” A man to his right––the so-called QAnon Shaman, wearing a fur hat and bull horns atop his head, and holding an American flag—raised a megaphone and began to pray. Others in the chamber bowed their heads. “Thank you, heavenly Father, for being the inspiration needed to these police officers to allow us into the building, to allow us to exercise our rights, to allow us to send a message to all the tyrants, the Communists, and the globalists, that this is our nation, not theirs, that we will not allow the America, the American way of the United States of America, to go down,” he said. “Thank you, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent creator God for filling this chamber with your white light and love, your white light of harmony. Thank you for filling this chamber with patriots that love you and love Christ.”
Falsehoods about a stolen election, retailed by Donald Trump and his allies, drove the Capitol invasion, but distorted visions of Christianity suffused it. One group carried a large wooden cross; there were banners that read “In God We Trust,” “Jesus Is My Savior / Trump Is My President,” and “Make America Godly Again”; some marchers blew shofars, ritual instruments made from ram’s horns that have become popular in certain conservative Christian circles, owing to its resonance with an account in the Book of Joshua in which Israelites sounded their trumpets and the walls of Jericho came tumbling down. The intermingling of religious faith, conspiratorial thinking, and misguided nationalism on display at the Capitol offered perhaps the most unequivocal evidence yet of the American church’s role in bringing the country to this dangerous moment.
A recent survey, conducted by the American Enterprise Institute, found that more than a quarter of white evangelicals believe that Donald Trump has been secretly battling “a group of child sex traffickers that include prominent Democrats and Hollywood elites,” a core tenet of the QAnon conspiracy theory. The data suggest a faith-based reality divide emerging within the Republican Party: nearly three-quarters of white evangelical Republicans believe widespread voter fraud took place in the 2020 election, compared with fifty-four per cent of non-evangelical Republicans; sixty per cent of white evangelical Republicans believe that Antifa, the antifascist group, was mostly responsible for the violence in the Capitol riot, compared with forty-two per cent of non-evangelical Republicans. Other surveys have found that white evangelicals are much more skeptical of the covid -19 vaccine and are less likely than other Americans to get it, potentially jeopardizing the country’s recovery from the pandemic.
How did the church in America––particularly, its white Protestant evangelical manifestation––end up here?