On January 6, 2021, American democracy hung in the balance as an armed crowd of Trump supporters forcefully entered the United States Capitol Building to stop Congress from certifying the 2020 election results.
With makeshift gallows constructed outside, many within the crowd chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” Nearby, someone held a sign that read “Jesus Saves.” Throughout the crowd, Christian symbols such as crosses, Jesus fish, Bibles, and Jewish shofars were a prominent feature. Led by QAnon Shaman Jacob Chansley, a group of rioters held a prayer on the U.S. Senate chamber.
As members of Congress were evacuated to a secure location and hundreds of police officers risked life and limb to secure the building, Trump took to Twitter and told rioters, “We love you. You’re very special. You’ve seen what happens. You see the way others are treated that are so bad and so evil. I know how you feel, but go home, and go home in peace.”
After the crowds had been cleared, Congress returned to the vandalized U.S. Capitol Building to certify the election results. Five people lost their lives, and hundreds more were injured. Since that day, four police officers who were present at the Capitol on January 6 have died by suicide, likely as a result of post traumatic stress.
One year later, many American evangelicals continue to deny the significance of these events.
Almost immediately following the attack on the Capitol, many—including evangelical leaders—began spreading a conspiracy theory that members of Antifa had secretly infiltrated the crowd and were to blame for the violence. Some have since walked back those claims, while others have not.
“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,” tweeted Christian author Eric Mextaxas on the evening of January 6, 2021. “This is political theater and anyone who buys it is a sucker. Fight for justice and Pray for justice. God bless America!”
On January 6, 2022, Metaxas indicated that his feelings have not changed.
“Jan. 6th is our Reichstag Fire,” Metaxas tweeted, referring to a 1933 attack on the German parliamentary building that Adolf Hitler used as a rallying event to begin consolidating his power. While the attacker worked alone, Hitler blamed the Communist party. Metaxas’ comparison indicates that he believes Capitol rioters operated independently from a political or religious movement.
“Yes, a crazy person committed arson,” Metaxas continued. “But how the Nazis used that as a pretext for brutally crushing all dissent to their satanic evil is the real story. Don’t be fooled.”
“Today marks one year since the attack on our nation’s Capitol. Many people may disagree with me, but I blame the swamp. If the ‘January 6 Committee’ wants to find the truth about who was behind the attack, they don’t have to look any further than Washington and its corruption,” tweeted evangelist Franklin Graham.