A screaming man with his fist raised, a Byzantine cross emblazoned in red on his T-shirt. A white flag with a lone green pine tree and the words “An Appeal to Heaven” flutter over the angry crowd. The Christian flag whipping in the wind from a parked pickup.
Those images on display at the Jan. 5-6 rally and riot in Washington, D.C., have raised concerns that some of former President Donald Trump’s most ardent and dangerous supporters, including groups such as the Proud Boys, Oathkeepers, QAnon, 3 Percenters, and America Firsters, are cloaking themselves in Biblical language to justify their actions.
The flags and other displays are the latest examples of how white terrorists throughout history, including the KKK, have cited Christianity to justify what they claim is their god-given right to control races and ethnic groups, experts said.
The displays — including a prayer from the Senate rostrum by a QAnon shaman who broke into the Capitol — have alarmed some faith leaders that they published an open letter Friday signed by more than 1,400 pastors church leaders condemning the “perversion” of their faith.
“The use of Christian symbols, iconography, scripture in efforts to dominate and exclude are as old the republic itself,” said the Rev. Fred Davie, executive vice president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. “It’s deeply baked into our nation. It’s deep, but it’s also been proven time and time again to be wrong.”
Davie, who served as a faith liaison in the Obama White House, said evangelicalism, in particular, has become associated with American nationalism, specifically white nationalism. Online, some hard-right
Christians find acceptance for their racist beliefs from white nationalists, most of whom don’t share their faith but are united in their hatred.
“We’re talking about a minority within a minority, but it is a powerful minority,” Davie said. “But they do not represent the essence of white Christians in America — or Christians in America overall.”