Symbols of Christian nationalism were prominent among the rioters who, on Jan. 6, 2021, tried to prevent Congress from certifying the result of the 2020 presidential election
The election of Mike Johnson as speaker of the House of Representatives marks the first time a conservative religious activist has held a position at that level in the United States, raising hopes for fundamentalist groups.
His background is that of a hard right-wing evangelical, who, as an example, once indicated that his goal would be to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. to zero.
Johnson was largely unknown, but he is the latest triumph of an evangelical religious right that has spent years building access to political power. In fact, as early as the 1980s, the left-wing magazine Mother Jones warned of the growing presence of conservative evangelicals on school and municipal boards, an underlying echelon of power in U.S. politics.
Some academic research shows it has had an impact on the country’s polarization.
A recent study from the Public Religion Research Institute and the Brookings Institution has highlighted the close relationship between evangelicals and what is known as Christian nationalism.
Nearly two-thirds of white evangelicals describe themselves as “Christian nationalists,” a label associated with extremist movements that favor the idea of an authoritarian government which will restore social values and literally demand that the United States be declared a Christian country.
Among them, a significant sector believes that the use of armed violence can be lawful.
Symbols of Christian nationalism were prominent among the rioters who, on Jan. 6, 2021, tried to prevent Congress from certifying the result of the 2020 presidential election.
White evangelicals are estimated to represent around 14.5% of the population, but in the last election they accounted for about 28% of voters. As a group, more than 75% vote Republican.
Therefore, the importance of religious conservatives, specifically evangelicals, to Republicans and their influence on the agenda is not surprising. It was their core voting bloc in 2020 who expressed concern about such issues as abortion, terrorism, and a clean election. It is no accident that these issues figure prominently in Republican election rhetoric or that they try to link them to problems such as the situation on the border.
Johnson was elected unanimously by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives — with a strong recommendation from former president Donald Trump — after three other contenders failed to convince the group and when indecision threatened to create a crisis in the U.S. government.
Johnson’s impact on the lower chamber and U.S. politics remains to be seen. The influence of the religious right may be huge both inside and outside the U.S., but this, too, is only just beginning to be visible.