A Look Back: What Evangelical Leaders Said About Jan. 6 Attack

By Steve Rabey
Trump riot attack
Some who gathered outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, carried Bibles and other Christian symbols. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has become a national Rorschach test. Different people discern different meanings in the chaos, destruction, violence, injuries, and death. Here’s a look at what some top evangelical leaders and institutions have said about the events of that day.

Franklin Graham

The son of famed evangelist Billy Graham and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, tweeted at 5:20 p.m. on Jan. 6: “I am deeply saddened by what took place in our nation’s capital today. Our country is in trouble.”

Graham also expressed support for protesters at the Capitol and blamed Antifa for the violence: “The people who broke the windows in the Capital did not look like the people out there demonstrating. Most likely it was antifa. For people busting windows, they need to go home. But for people standing out there peacefully holding flags, and protesting, they have every right to do that.”

Graham’s Jan. 14 Facebook post attacked House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump for inciting the Jan. 6 “insurrection,” comparing them to Judas, the betrayer of Christ. “Shame, shame on the ten Republicans who joined with Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats in impeaching President Trump yesterday. After all that he has done for our country, you would turn your back and betray him so quickly? . . . It makes you wonder what the thirty pieces of silver were that Speaker Pelosi promised for this betrayal.”

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David French

The attorney and pundit expressed his views in a Jan. 10 article, “Only the Church Can Truly Defeat a Christian Insurrection,” writing:

“I’m going to be honest. I can’t shake the sadness. I can’t shake the anger. We have to be clear about what happened in Washington D.C. on January 6th. A violent Christian insurrection invaded and occupied the Capitol.

“…(T)his attack occurred days after the so-called Jericho March, an event explicitly filled with Christian-nationalist rhetoric so unhinged that I warned on December 13 that it embodied ‘a form of fanaticism that can lead to deadly violence.’

“…(T)he right-wing Christian riot was motivated by terrible lies…The problem is that all too many Christians are in the grips of two sets of lies…I hope and pray it doesn’t take a war at home for Christians to gain the eyes to see and ears to hear the truths that rebut our enabling lies.”

Michael Brown

The Messianic Christian columnist, radio host, Bible scholar, and author of Trump Is Not My Savior supported most Trump policies while criticizing the “cult of Trump” that can lead otherwise rational people to put their faith in everything he says, and oppose anyone who disagrees. He spoke out about the Capitol attack in a Jan. 6 Tweet.

“The spirit of lawlessness and anarchy is always from below, not from above, whether it’s BLM-Antifa rioters who set our cities on fire or pro-Trump protesters who just breached the Capitol. Both are dead wrong.”

Thabiti Anyabwile

The pastor, author and Gospel Coalition council member distinguished between the Jan. 6 attack and the 2020 demonstrations for racial justice in a Tweet:

“When people marched in the streets this summer, they marched to make laws more just and equitable. When folks stormed the Capitol in insurrection, they trampled over the very citadel of law in a ‘revolution’ that would destroy it. Do not equate these aims.”

Michele Bachmann

The former Republican congresswoman and dean of the Robertson School of Government at  Regent University was praying in the Capitol chapel as the attack took place.

In a Jan. 6 prayer call with Christians, she said the rioters weren’t Christians or Trump supporters. “You know the kind of people that we were with. The nicest, friendliest, happiest – it was like a family reunion out there. It was incredible, it was wonderful, and then all of a sudden, this happens.” She said the attack wasn’t caused by “the Trump crowd, this didn’t look anything like the Trump crowd or the prayer warriors.”

Eric Metaxas

The author, activist, and radio show host has written pro-Trump children’s books (Donald Drains the Swamp and Donald Builds the Wall) and spoke at Jericho March rallies on and before Jan. 6. In a 5:57 p.m. Tweet he said:

“There is no doubt the election was fraudulent. That is the same today as yesterday. There is no doubt Antifa infiltrated the protesters today and planned this. This is political theater and anyone who buys it is a sucker. Fight for justice and Pray for justice. God bless America!”

Rod Dreher

The conservative writer, blogger, and editor condemned the Capitol attack and railed against Trump and his old friend Eric Metaxas in a Jan. 6 article in The American Conservative:

“My God, this is what Donald Trump has done to this country: he has incited a mob to storm the US Capitol. . . . This is on Donald Trump. This is an assault on constitutional democracy. It’s not happening at the hands of Antifa. It’s not happening at the hands of BLM. It’s a MAGA mob, 100 percent.

“What a complete national disgrace. There are no words. Any Republican lawmaker who stands behind Trump after this is not a patriot. Any American who stands behind Trump after this is not a patriot.”

Sean Feucht

The star of the 120-city “Let Us Worship” tour of “worship protest” events against COVID and loyal supporter of Trump said in a 4:05 p.m. Tweet on Jan. 6: “Standing against violence in cities across America should be a shared and CONSISTENT value. Whether it’s Seattle, Portland, Kenosha, Minneapolis or DC – it has no place on our democracy.”

Jim Daly

The CEO of Focus on the Family since 2010 Tweeted at 2:58 p.m. on Jan. 6: “Peaceful protest is one thing – but violence has no place in American politics. It is despicable. Please join me in praying for peace. Please join me in praying that law and order will be restored in Washington, D.C.”

Daly, who hailed Trump as the “most pro-life president of my lifetime,” has been silent about Trump’s role in the attack, which he called “a stunning and sickening display of mass lawlessness.” But Daly acknowledged long ago that voters chose Joe Biden in a legitimate election, and hosted a livestreamed Inauguration Day of Prayer 2021 after “it dawned on me that no one is organizing corporate prayer for inauguration day, and it’s really important for us as Christians to pray of our country.”

Tony Perkins

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, a conservative policy and lobbying organization, spoke out on a Tweet issued at 2:07 p.m. on Jan. 6:

“The violent, lawless actions at the U.S. Capitol building against Congress and Capitol Police are wrong and dangerous for our republic. Lawlessness is not the way, and such actions makes it difficult for law-abiding Americans to fight the good fight. Pray for our Republic!”

Perkins held Trump blameless for the attack, suggesting that Antifa may be behind it, as he said on Jan. 7: “There are those who will say that the real villains of the siege were Antifa or some other fascists in disguise. And that may be true.”

Jack Graham

The pastor of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas Tweeted at 2:02 p.m. on Jan. 6: “Violence at our nation’s capital is to be condemned and law and order must prevail. Pray for our country. This is heartbreaking.”

J.D. Greear

The pastor, author and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention Tweeted at 1:03 p.m. on Jan. 6: “Peaceable transitions of power have marked our Republic since the beginning. It is part of honoring and submitting to God’s ordained leaders whether they were our choice or not. We need you, @POTUS to condemn this mob.”

Rev. John Hagee

John Hagee, senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, and founder of Christians United for Israel, which supported Trump, tweeted at 2:21 on January 6:

“The events we are witnessing at the Capitol today are an un-American abomination and a disgrace to our democracy. There is absolutely no justification for the violence that is transpiring. There is nothing patriotic about storming our Capitol.”

Hagee did not blame Trump or his supporters for the attack in his Jan. 6 statement, or Jan. 10  sermon. Hagee, condemned the assault by “a rebellious mob,” saying, “This was an assault on law. Attacking the Capitol was not patriotism; it was anarchy.”

Kay Cole James

President of the Heritage Foundation and former executive at the Family Research Council, Kay Cole James, expressed her views in a statement released by The Family, a national network of Black conservative leaders.

“The violent storming of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday was a repulsive display of evil, not a peaceful demonstration that is emblematic of America, and we condemn it in the strongest terms possible. Equally disturbing are the conspiracy theories related to the election that led to it, which are being fueled by some politicians in our Party. We must examine reports of voting irregularities to build trust in our democracy, but the results of the election are clear – there was no widespread fraud on a large enough scale to overturn the election. . . .”

Robert Jeffress

Trump advisor and senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, which has performed the pro-Trump hymn, “Make America Great Again.” Jeffress Tweeted at 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 6: “Disobeying and assaulting police is a sin whether it’s done by Antifa or angry Republicans.”

Jeffress called the Capitol attack evil, a crime, and a sin, but he holds Trump blameless. “The president has every right to hold the view that the election was fraudulent and to invite those who share that belief to peacefully protest. He neither called for nor condoned the despicable actions of those who invaded our Capitol and assaulted the police.”

Greg Laurie

The evangelist, author, and pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship sent a brief Tweet at 1:41 p.m. on Jan. 6: “Alarmed by images from our nation’s Capitol. Vibrant protest is American. Violence & anarchy is not. I condemn it. Will you join me – Democrat & Republican – in praying for America?”

Albert Mohler

The President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary did not vote for Trump in 2016 but did so in 2020. Mohler condemned Trump in a Tweet sent at 2:06 on Jan. 6: “What we are seeing in Washington now is the refutation of our American commitment, a form of unleashed anarchy which is the enemy of ordered liberty, and President Trump is responsible now for unleashing mayhem. Pray that God will rescue us from this.”

He followed up the next day with a podcast in which he said: “What we saw in Washington, what we heard from the president of the United States, not just yesterday, but in recent days is an attempt to subvert the very constitutional order that he took an oath of office to defend . . . The president of the United States has sought to de-legitimize the entire national election process.”

Beth Moore

The author and Bible teacher Tweeted at 2:48 p.m. on Jan. 6: “I don’t know the Jesus some have paraded and waved around in the middle of this treachery today. They may be acting in the name of some other Jesus but that’s not Jesus of the Gospels.”

Russell Moore

The former President of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission now directs Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project. He issued a number of Tweets and statements, starting with a 12:28 p.m. Tweet on Jan. 6:

“This mob attack on our Capitol and our Constitution is immoral, unjust, dangerous, and inexcusable. What has happened to our country is tragic, and could have been avoided.”

In a Jan. 11 article, “The Roman Road from Insurrection,” he called the attack “a moral abomination incited by the president,” and challenged those who downplay the seriousness of the Capitol attack. “If you can defend this, you can defend anything.”

Pat Robertson

The CBN founder and host, founder of Regent University, founder of the Christian Coalition, and former Republican candidate for President, said a “madness” had come over Trump in a video clip Tweeted by Right Wing Watch: “There was a madness yesterday, and it came on Donald Trump.”

Ray Ortlund

The former pastor is President of Renewal Ministries. His brief Tweet, sent at 3:38 p.m. on Jan. 6, featured a photo of Trump and this verse of scripture: “One sinner destroys much good” (Ecclesiastes 9:18).

Jim Wallis

The author, social justice activist, and founder of Sojourners magazine and community, Jim Wallis,  called for Trump’s removal from office in a Jan. 7 Facebook post: “President Donald Trump incited a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol yesterday. As faith leaders, we must call for his immediate removal from office.”

In an opinion piece published the morning of the Jan. 6 attack, Wallis warned faith leaders not to remain silent about “two fundamental religious issues at stake” in Trump’s seditious “heresy:” his disregard for truth, and his embrace of “the biblical abomination of racism and its ideology of white nationalism.”

Rick Warren

The founder and senior pastor of Saddleback Church and bestselling author Tweeted on Jan. 6: “Armed breaching of capitol security behind a confederate flag is anarchy, unAmerican, criminal treason and domestic terrorism. President Trump must clearly tell his supporters ‘We lost. Go home now.’”

Biola University

Barry H. Corey, president of Biola University, 1908, issued a Jan. 8 statement, which said: “ . . . Christian peacemaking is not spineless. Rather, we are to live at peace with everyone as men and women of abiding biblical convictions. As much as we are to be ambassadors of grace, we also need to be ambassadors of truth. Preparing hearts and minds includes loving our neighbor and being reasonable in thought. The antithesis of these was on display Wednesday, reflecting deeper wounds in our nation, in our world.”

Wheaton College

The flagship evangelical institution, Wheaton College, issued two statements on the attack: an official statement that did not blame Trump; and a statement from faculty and staff that did.

The official statement said: “Wheaton College joins citizens across the United States and the evangelical community in decrying the violent attack on democracy we witnessed this past week in Washington, D.C. and lamenting the way perpetrators used the name of Jesus to promote violence, display racist symbols, and attack our nation’s leaders.”

The second statement, signed by 286 faculty and staff of the institution, said:

“The January 6 attack on the Capitol was characterized not only by vicious lies, deplorable violence, white supremacy, white nationalism, and wicked leadership—especially by President Trump—but also by idolatrous and blasphemous abuses of Christian symbols. The behaviors that many participants celebrated in Jesus’ name bear absolutely no resemblance to the Christian teachings or ethics that we submit to as faculty and staff of Wheaton College.”

Pastors at rally

Numerous pastors from across the U.S. participated in Trump’s rally that preceded the Capitol attack, but it appears only one, Tyler Ethridge, a youth pastor from Florida, illegally entered the Capitol. (Ethridge has since been fired.)

  • Tommy Ferrell, who served as lead pastor of Briarlake Church in Decatur, Georgia for 16 years, announced he would be moving on from the 2,300-member Southern Baptist congregation.
  • Steve Berger, founder of Grace Chapel in Franklin Tennessee, attended the Jan. 6 rally in D.C. On Jan. 17, he announced he is stepping away as senior pastor of the church, which is attended by the state’s governor Bill Lee.
  • Brian Gibson, pastor of HIS Church, a multi-campus church in Owensboro, Kentucky, has preached about election fraud and posted a picture on his Facebook feed with the “QAnon Shaman.” In a diatribe published in Newsweek, which is now owned by associates of controversial Korean Christian leader David Jang, Gibson said liberals would use false narrative of Christian insurrectionists to persecute believers. “Absolutely, 100 percent, they’ll go after Christians for this,” said Gibson
  • Ronnie Owens, pastor of Higher Ground Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., went to the Jan. 6 rally with four church members. Owens experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit at the rally, saying he “broke down crying several times.”

Prophets

Researchers James Beverley and Gordon Melton found that more than 150 prophets predicted Trump’s 2020 election victory. Only a handful have admitted they were wrong and apologized, and they have received significant pushback, online attacks, death threats, and diminished audiences.

Most have “dug in,” issued further prophecies about Trump’s immanent return to office, and seen audience numbers and incomes rise. Some have urged their followers to get guns and prepare for a revolutionary war.

Loren Sandford, a Denver prophet, acknowledged and apologized for his erroneous predictions about Trump:

“Instead of strengthening God’s people in the testimony of Jesus, connecting them more intimately and firmly with Him, our prophecies about the election led too many to connect their hope in an idolatrous way to a man or a political party.

“The fruit has been ugly. First, our prophecies failed, and second, we’ve thrown the church into disarray, generated division, caused many people to throw out prophetic ministry as a valid gift for today and caused the name of Jesus to be dragged through the mud.”

Hank Kunneman, who prophesied that Trump would return to office last July 4, remained defiant and asked God to rebuke all critics:

“God, people have laughed at you. They’ve laughed at your prophets, they’ve laughed at your church, they’ve laughed at your intercessors, they’ve laughed at the patriots, they’ve laughed at those that voted for 45. Now I’m praying that their laughter would be turned into silence as you laugh. It’s your turn now, God, to laugh out of the heavens and to show the Earth that you’re a just God.”

*This post has been updated to include information about Tyler Ethridge.

Steve RabeySteve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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18 thoughts on “A Look Back: What Evangelical Leaders Said About Jan. 6 Attack”

  1. Stanley Goodwin

    Words expressed then are emotionally cheap. How many today are hard core Trumpists who still believe the election was stolen? Evangelicals are easily deceived and will continue to go the Way of Power and not the Way of Jesus.

    1. Stanley Goodwin, Thanks for truth – “evangelicals are easily deceived” as evidenced by the massive fleecing via the religious grifters we know as “evangelical leaders, e.g. Graham, Jr, Metaxas, Jeffress (a master salesman if there ever was one…), etc.

  2. A very well put together piece by Steve Rabey. Each and every taken-position reported on, jostled the mind regards its ground and putative justification. Two intersecting frames of reference appear to host this field of taken-positions. The first is the circumstance of the USA today; where the complexity of this extends in all directions. The second being Christianity in the USA of today; where that has its own enormous complexity.
    The problem is, that both those inhabited frames of reference, lend themselves across part of what they are, to disagreement which tends towards polarisation. Where, as corollary, its hard to see where consensus and will to change all this for any better, can come about.
    Historically the USA has shown that it can weather and emerge from such civic crises. The pain in that weathering and emerging, often being very great and enduring.

  3. KC (Chris) DELL

    Can two statements be true even if they do not follow the mainstream news. Can a Biblical informed mind not be the Radical Right or the Liberal Left? Are there valid reasons for the insurrection? As a follower of Christ? No. What about an American citizen who is conservative but doesn’t have the blessed hope? Who believe that fraudulent actions have taken place. I think so. Not violent behavior, but implicit action.

    There is evidence that the government had people stir up the insurrection. That create a narrative. It is a logical step following investigations. Trump never said violently attack the capitol.

    I do not believe Trump and Biden could hold the highest office in the world as a Pastor/Elder. They are not qualified.

    The government is corrupt to the core. It is arrogant and cold. Absolute sinners with absolute power is why our government and media is so corrupt. The are many politicians and media members are married or related. Nepotistic atmosphere eclipsed what this country was founded on.

    The thing with Trump is that he isn’t an ideologue. People like Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and AOC. Are career politicians who have zero common sense. They do not know and they do not need to know how to balance a checkbook.

    There is documentation and investigation opened up in Georgia for ballet harvesting. I do believe there has been fraud in the 2020 election. How far and wide? God is sovereign! He causes and uses all things for His supreme purpose and His glory. At the same time. I believe fraud did and will take place.

  4. The United States is a representative republic, the people elect the government. Are we a representative republic if we do not have free and fair elections? A legal vote must be one cast by a legal voter who willfully and personally places that vote. Any other vote is not legal. There are real questions about if there were enough illegal votes to alter the last presidential election and other races as well. The questions have nothing to do with the current parties involved, but everything to do with whether we can function as a representative republic. If our elections aren’t legitimate we are not a representative republic, but something far worse. That raises the question: will decent law abiding, constitution respecting individuals stand for it? If our elected officials and courts do not prevent such things from happening in the future, then what? None of the possible answers are pretty. I pray that 2020 was an anomaly never to be repeated again.

    There were many useful idiots in Washington a year ago, led by Trump who failed to understand who his opposition is. One could see what going to happen from a long ways away. A few people who couldn’t control themselves and many bystanders who tagged along, aided by those wishing to harm Trump. Followed by the pearl clutching and handing wringing of the press and members of congress. The whole event and the investigation of it smells fishy.

    1. It’s interesting how the same GOP congressmen complaining about an allegedly fraudulent election fail to see how that would call into question the votes that got them elected into office as well.
      To question Biden’s legitimacy should involve questioning their own.

  5. It’s interesting looking at the various views from Christian leaders in this article. Because we have biased media, it is difficult to know what type of other bad actors were involved in this tragic event. President Trump should have known that the situation was tense and chosen his words accordingly. On the other hand, I am a bit disillusioned with Evangelical Thought Leaders as many seem to have their own agenda’s. I prefer to use my best judgement, given the facts and pray that I make wise choices.

    1. We do know the ‘bad actors’ involved in this tragic event. It was orchestrated by three dishonest men in Trump’s inner circle who were all prosecuted by the federal government for their dishonesty. The three men are Steve Bannon, Roger Stone and Michael Flynn, people who would have been in prison, or on their way there, if Trump had not pardoned them.

  6. I can’t help but wonder how many of those who are critical of Trump feel that our country is better off now under the policies of the Biden administration. Be careful what you wish for.

    1. My question is, should we see a Trump vs Pence choice in the next primary, where will we see evangelical support? I’d be shocked to see Pence win in that scenario. I think most enthusiastic Trump supporters are attracted to the belligerent charisma more than a particular policy.

      1. Loren Martin,

        Pence is a sheer opportunist, and the GOP base and a lot of Christians see through that. Same with Cruz who was routed by Trump for a reason within the conservative base in the 2015-16 primaries. DJT may not be a perfect man, but he delivers a consistent message regardless of the cost to him and is immune to media criticism.

      2. Wilma Ellsworth

        Definitely on the left for me. I never hope to see either Trump or Pence in any government and will never vote for either. I think many politicians are corrupt to the core with Trump being the most corrupt in my lifetime, possibly the history of America, and has completely pulled me from the Republican Party. I couldn’t have seen my self voting Democrat many years ago but I would take a Biden over a Trump any day and while I believe Biden has many flaws, as we all do, I believe his heart is good and he wants to do what’s best for America and to honor God as he understands Him. I dont think Trump ever had a desire to HONOR God. His personality only allows for ONE God, himself.

  7. Obviously this was a terrible and moronic display of support for a political candidate which is something a Christian should not be swayed to tie to their Christian identity. I agree in that respect with the article.

    However, there seems to be a concerted effort for “accountability” that we don’t see when it comes from anyone else. George Bush did some pretty squishy (at best) and questionable stuff and yet he was a favorite of Christians because of his conservative policy. In the same way, Trump for many stood for policy that Conservative Christians support, and actually made some policies that other conservatives wouldn’t. I’m actually hoping he doesn’t run in 2024 so I don’t have to hear about how racist/everything-phobic & -istic he is despite the evidence that the entire lot is mostly filled with likeminded creatures.

    To be clear, Trump wasn’t any more responsible for the riots than Sanders was of the baseball game shooting which happened specifically after he said Republicans were trying to kill people. It’s inflammatory rhetoric but that’s what journalists do too—it gets “woots” from your side.

    I think there’s a ridiculously high level of expectation (“who specifically condemned the President?”) that’s expected from everyone on this list, and to not let it fade as a stupid moment of idiocy for which everyone responsible is held accountable is giving it credibility it doesn’t deserve as a “threat.”

  8. 1/6 was a dark day for our nation. So was every day of left-wing riots over the course of 2020 and 2021. Why is only the *one day* of Capitol rioting ever pontificated on in the hallowed halls of influence?

    I won’t say that the election was stolen from Trump. I will say that nobody wanted to hear all the facts, or do a proper hearing, at the time when it would have mattered. I don’t know if there was meaningful fraud sufficient to tip the results in the swing states this time around, but it has happened before, against the GOP candidate–Norm Coleman in his re-election campaign for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2008 comes to mind. We’re not allowed to talk about that either, even though it’s undeniable.

    If I thought the election was stolen from me I’d be pretty angry too. Trump and company definitely didn’t behave responsibly–but far worse sedition was done all year long, and even afterwards. Remember when Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms actually deputized CHOP zone “security” to set up roadblocks during her summer’s riots, and eight year-old Secoriea Turner was murdered by those henchmen? I don’t see any tears being shed for her.

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