Believing liars has consequences. This was abundantly clear on January 6. Tens of thousands of people who believed Trump’s lie that he won the presidential election but was “robbed” of the victory through massive voter fraud converged on Washington, D.C. to “stop the steal.”
Those who trusted the man who has proven himself to be the most prolific and vicious liar to ever to step foot into the White House burst into the Capitol Building, creating chaos and leaving several people dead. Because they trusted his lies, they viewed themselves as patriots and defenders of election integrity. But in fact they were enemies of democracy, attempting to overthrow a free and fair election.
Other liars have quickly stepped up to mask the guilt of the Trump supporters. Without any credible evidence they have falsely claimed that other actors were the real criminals. Rabid Trump supporter, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) suggested members of antifa had secretly infiltrated the group to cause the chaos. Leading Fox News prime time stars also made the baseless claim that antifa members inserted themselves in the Trump crowd and that they were the real cause of the invasion of the Capitol.
Not to be left out, well- known right-wing evangelical leader and dependable Trump supporter Franklin Graham likewise speculated without evidence that it was those somehow affiliated with antifa, not the MAGA gang, that attacked the Capital Building. Eric Metaxas, who has been regarded as an evangelical intellectual, baldly lied by saying, “There is no doubt Antifa infiltrated the protesters today and planned this.”
All of these people have for years been eager aids in perpetrating Trump’s stream of lies. And now they are working hard to shelter the Trump supporters from being responsible for the harm they have done. And those ordinary folks on the right who have been quick to believe all Trump’s previous lies and those of his surrogates are again readily believing the liars who are scapegoating antifa to shift blame from the Trump devotees who converged on D.C.
The most dependable of supporters in the MAGA coalition have been white religionists, primarily but not exclusively evangelicals. These are people who traditionally regarded truth telling as a high value. They have often cited from the Ten Commandments, “You shall not bear false witness,” as well as the words of Jesus, “Let your yes be yes and your no be no.” Many of their leaders have railed against liberals, accusing them of ethical relativism.
But especially during the Trump years, they have proven themselves to be the real ethical relativists. They have echoed Trump’s cry, “Fake news!” every time reliable, internationally respected news sources contradict the claims of Trump and other politicians with whom they have aligned themselves. They have condemned scientists and other renowned experts by derisively calling them “the elite,” preferring instead to trust right-wing pundits and conspiracy theorists.
Trump supporting evangelicals have shown that while they may be honest in their personal lives among friends and family, their commitment to truthfulness in public affairs is absent. Their ethical relativism allowed them to compartmentalize their attachment to honesty. “Truth” is whatever serves their interests and protects their partisan political loyalties. This is what allowed Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition to say, “There has never been anyone who has defended us and who has fought for us, who we have loved more than Donald J. Trump. No one!” Such words do not represent a people of the truth but a people of the lie who seek power or security at the cost of integrity.
Regardless of what they may claim, Christians of this sort are not, to cite the words of Jesus, “salt and light,” influencing the world for good, but agents of darkness and deceit. White evangelicals and other Christians who have willingly embraced the lies of Trump or his surrogates and who have chosen to dismiss the apparent truth have discredited themselves before the nation and the world. They share responsibility for the deadly and destructive insurrection of January 6. And they shouldn’t be surprised that their trust in the lies of Trump leads many people to distrust them about Jesus.