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.
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.”
I am deeply saddened by what took place in our nation’s capital today. Our country is in trouble. We need God’s healing and we need God’s help. Pray for peace and the protection of our nation. Let’s come together—on our knees.
— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) January 7, 2021
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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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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
— Thabiti Anyabwile (@ThabitiAnyabwil) January 7, 2021
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.”
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!”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.
— Jim Daly (@DalyFocus) January 6, 2021
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, 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.”
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.”
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.”
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. Let’s move forward together. Praying for safety.
— J.D. Greear (@jdgreear) January 6, 2021
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. . . .”
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.”
"I don’t expect the tumult at the Capitol to deter evangelical Christians from supporting Trump." (Franklin Graham) It is time for these "Christians' to repent before it's too late. 😰 https://t.co/Ofaghemawg
— Jonah ben Reuben (@WordFromTheSt) January 16, 2021
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?”
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.”
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.”
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.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) January 6, 2021
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.”
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.”
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).
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.”
An attempted coup rooted in white nationalism today stormed the U.S. Capitol. When a president continually lies, then calls for action based on his followers’ belief in those lies, that reasoning isn’t just circular — it is evil, and today became violent. https://t.co/U9Qc9h0Qj8
— Jim Wallis (@jimwallis) January 6, 2021
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.’”
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.”
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.”
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 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.