On Wednesday, Congress met to certify President-elect Joe Biden’s victory while thousands of President Donald Trump’s supporters protested in front of the White House, demanding that the 2020 election results be overturned. “We will never give up! We will never concede!” Trump told his supporters, calling on Vice-President Mike Pence to illegally reject the results of the Electoral College. “All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify — and we become president.”
His supporters took him at his word, storming the Capitol, breaking into the building, clashing with police and sending the political leaders of the United States of America into lockdown. The U.S. Capitol was invaded with Confederate flag waving marauders, who accomplished something the original Confederacy could never quite pull off. There were reports of shots fired into the chamber. The American flag was replaced by a Trump flag. It was anarchy. For the first time since 1814, the U.S. Capitol was breached.
A giant cross was erected in front of the Capitol building. “Jesus Saves,” “Jesus 2020” and other totems of Christian Nationalism didn’t just dot the riot — it was a central element. Christian Nationalism was, and has been, the engine of Trumpism — the black furnace at the center of its malevolent machinery. The events of Wednesday were not just predictable, but predicted. Trumpism is reaping what it sowed.
In November, John Piper drew criticism from many of his fans for announcing that he did not intend to vote for Trump in the election. Though Piper condemned Biden’s pro-abortion position, he argued that Trump’s character was also deadly. “I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person,” Piper argued.
“When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine. It is naive to think that a man can be effectively pro-life and manifest consistently the character traits that lead to death — temporal and eternal.”
“Flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality and factiousness are not only self-incriminating; they are nation-corrupting,” Piper concluded.
Whatever you may think of Piper, his words here proved prescient. The proof is on any cable news channel right now. Trump filmed a video with halfhearted attempt at calling his supporters to stand down, but still sneaked in claims about his “stolen” “landslide election.”
The attempt to separate policy and personality was always doomed. The argument that bad manners are Trump’s only real liability was a fantasy. Trumpism’s awkward partnership with evangelical Christianity has caused enormous harm, and a failed coup in Washington D.C. is all the Church has to show for it. While some Christians who supported Trump did so with good intentions, the warning signs of this venture’s inevitable end were there from the beginning. Bad company corrupts good character. Absolutely bad character can corrupt a whole community. And now just look at the fruit of that poisoned root. Just look at what’s happened: a movement to overturn a democratic election decorated with faux-Christian paraphernalia. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so heartbreaking.
Beth Moore, who has been vocally and consistently calling out Trumpism over the last four years, took to Twitter herself. “I don’t know the Jesus some have paraded and waved around in the middle of this treachery today,” she said. “They may be acting in the name of some other Jesus but that’s not Jesus of the Gospels.”
It’s not the Jesus of the Gospels. Christian Nationalism has wholly consumed whatever Christian vocabulary might have glommed on to it and now is some new beast altogether, one that rushes Washington D.C. the name of Trumpism. There is a biblical symmetry to the whole affair. If you sow fear, mistrust and rage, that’s what you’ll reap. This is basic, Sunday School stuff.
But the Jesus of the Gospels is not storming the halls of power. He is where he’s always been: in the wilderness, meeting with the marginalized and disenfranchised, leaving the 99 sheep behind to find the one that was lost. Those who seek that Jesus will find him. Everyone looking for Jesus behind what happened on Wednesday will find only violence.
Tyler Huckabee is RELEVANT's executive editor. He lives in Nashville with his wife, dog and Twitter account.