How 150 years of apocalyptic agitation culminated in an insurrection
By Matthew Avery Sutton, WSU professor of history
White evangelicals believe they see truths that you and I cannot.
While Americans around the country watched an inflamed mob overrun the Capitol on January 6, the evangelical participants in that mob saw something else: a holy war. Insurgents carried signs that read “Jesus Saves,” “In God We Trust,” “Jesus 2020,” and “Jesus Is My Savior, Trump Is My President.” One man marched through the halls of Congress carrying a Christian flag, another a Bible. They chanted, “The blood of Jesus covering this place.”
As law enforcement authorities and media outlets track down and identify these insurrectionists, we are beginning to understand who they are and what they wanted. Amid the QAnon adherents, antisemites, neo-Confederates, and revolutionary cosplayers were the evangelical faithful: those who see themselves as the vanguard of God’s end-times army. Their exultant participation in the riot represented some of the most extreme political action that any group of evangelicals has taken in recent history.
These Christians apparently believe that they had no choice but to try to overthrow the Congress. For months, various evangelicals have claimed in sermons, on social media, and during protests that malicious forces stole the election, conspired to quash Christian liberties, and aimed to clamp down on their freedom to worship and spread the Christian gospel. They felt sure that the final days of history were at hand and that the Capitol was the site of an epochal battle. As one evangelical from Texas told The New York Times, “We are fighting good versus evil, dark versus light.”
Much has been made about the evangelical community’s relationship to Donald Trump.
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