WASHINGTON (RNS) — Asked by lawmakers earlier this year to describe those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, District of Columbia police officer Daniel Hodges told the House select committee tasked with investigating the insurrection that “it was clear the terrorists perceived themselves to be Christians.”
Two members of that same committee, Democrat Rep. Jamie Raskin of Maryland and Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, also independently noted in conversations with the press the incidence of Christian nationalism.
“Had there not been some of these errant prophecies, this idea that God has ordained it to be Trump, I’m not sure January 6 would have happened like it did,” Kinzinger, an evangelical Christian, said on a Christianity Today podcast episode in March.
Indeed, the influence of Christian nationalism among the Jan. 6 rioters was clearly evident in the flags and banners they waved. In the days before the assault, “Jericho Marches,” based on the Bible’s Book of Joshua, circled Capitol Hill praying for the election results to be overturned. When rioters stormed into the Senate chamber on Jan. 6, they huddled in prayer.
Yet the committee’s final report, released late on Thursday (Dec. 22), an 845-page document, mentioned Christian nationalism by name exactly once, and only in passing.
Some prominent Christian leaders have pressured the committee to examine Christian nationalism, sending a letter to the members earlier this year urging lawmakers to investigate the ideology’s impact on Jan. 6.
On Friday, the Rev. Nathan Empsall, head of the group Faithful America and a signer of the letter, released a statement in reaction to the report, saying, “The January 6 committee only giving only passing mention to the pivotal role of Christian nationalism in its final report is a missed opportunity to fully understand what led to violence at the Capitol — and to prevent future political violence.”
The report’s one overt reference to Christian nationalism came when describing supporters of Nick Fuentes, a right-wing Catholic who was in Washington, D.C., the day of the insurrection but has not been accused of entering the building itself. The report notes that Fuentes’ followers, often self-described as “Groypers,” have “repeatedly promoted white supremacist and Christian nationalist beliefs,” but did not elaborate in detail as to how.
Devotees of Fuentes’ group America First are known for chanting “Christ is king,” as they did in Washington the morning of the insurrection. Fuentes himself is one of several extremists who began openly associating themselves with Christian nationalism by name after the insurrection.
Women blow shofars during the Jericho March on Jan. 5, 2020, in Washington. RNS photo by Jack Jenkins
The report also makes multiple mentions of “Jericho March” events that led up to the Capitol attack, though the committee did not delve deeply into the religious tenor of those gatherings, despite hymn singing, banners with religious slogans and even the blowing of shofars by those in attendance.
The report does repeatedly cite a Washington Post oped by Peter Manseau, in which the historian and founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s Center for the Understanding of Religion in American History, catalogued how religious beliefs influenced one rioter’s participation on Jan. 6.
Manseau responded to the report in a Twitter thread Friday, lamenting the “scant attention” paid in the report to “the religious dimensions of the attack,” arguing the omission “may prove a disservice to history.”
Manseau speculated the lack of attention paid to Christian nationalism may be a “strategic” move, saying on Twitter that committee members likely did not want to “risk ‘J6 Committee Targets Christianity’ becoming a talking point.”
Kinzinger has been an outspoken critic of Christian nationalism, tweeting his condemnation of the ideology on multiple occasions and rebuffing calls by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene that the Republican Party become the “party of Christian nationalism.”
Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., speaks as the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol holds its final meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, Dec. 19, 2022. From left are Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., Raskin. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Raskin, for his part, told Religion News Service in May 2021 he had taken a personal interest in the “marriage between Donald Trump and fundamentalist Christianity.” He said the tie was a source of “bafflement” for him, but that he had begun reading books such as Kristin Kobes Du Mez’s “Jesus and John Wayne” — a book cited by many scholars who study Christian nationalism.
Just last week, Raskin heard testimony on the subject on Capitol Hill from Amanda Tyler, executive director of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and founder of Christians Against Christian Nationalism.
“Christian nationalism helped fuel the attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, uniting disparate actors and infusing their political cause with religious fervor,” Tyler told the House Oversight Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, which Raskin chairs.
Christians Against Christian Nationalism co-produced a report on Christian nationalism’s role in the Jan. 6 riot but declined to comment on the report’s release on Friday.
The precise reason for Christian nationalism’s general absence from the report remains a mystery. A recent Washington Post investigation into the document’s drafting quoted Jeremy Adler, a spokesperson for Rep. Liz Cheney, who sits on the committee, as saying the Wyoming lawmaker “won’t sign onto any ‘narrative’” regarding Jan. 6 that “suggests every American who believes God has blessed America is a white supremacist.”
Source : ReligionNews