(AP) — Support for President Donald Trump has been consistently strong among evangelicals, with some professing that he has been the best friend Christians have had in the White House.
On the first Sunday since a mob of his supporters seeking to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s election stormed the U.S. Capitol and five people including a police officer died, the messages from the pulpits of Christian leaders who’ve backed Trump were as disparate as the opinions of the nation’s citizenry.
They ranged from recitations of debunked conspiracy theories of who was responsible, to calls for healing and following Jesus Christ rather than any individual person, to sermons that made no mention of Wednesday’s chaos and what it means for the future.
Here is a look at what some were preaching to their flocks:
Brian Gibson, pastor and founder of HIS Church, spoke to his Christian congregation and online viewers about his bus tour around the U.S. the past month to speak with supporters of Trump.
“I stand up and represent Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and I preach to stand for the First Amendment. I intend to keep this nation a free nation. HIS Church, we intend to keep this nation a free nation,” he said, referring to both the president’s recent banning from social media platforms and restrictions on church assembly during the pandemic.
Gibson was onstage Tuesday (Jan. 5) at a “Prayer to Save America” event billed as a combination worship service and rally for Trump the day before congressional certification of the electoral votes. As he described the events of the 6th, Gibson questioned how easily the Capitol was breached, raising debunked assertions that antifa supporters were among the violent mob.
“So now I know some, some bad actors went in and I believe potentially there were antifa up there. I think more and more I know there were antifa up there, insiders up there that started that action. And I also know that some Trump supporters followed their lead without a shadow of a doubt because you don’t get 2 million people together without having some radicals in the crowd or some simple people in the crowd that you could lead anywhere, right?” he asked.
The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference who delivered a prayer at Trump’s inauguration and has also advised him, told his congregation Sunday that America needs to hear a message of repentance.
“We must all repent, even the church needs to repent. The American nation will be healed when the American church repents,” he said to some cheers and applause.
“We must repent for making the person who occupies the White House more important than the one who occupies our hearts. We must repent for permitting the donkey and the elephant to divide what the Lamb died for on the cross,” Rodriguez said. “We must repent for voting for individuals whose policies run counter to the word of God and the spirit of the living God.”
Rodriguez, the lead pastor of New Season, said he was praying for a season of “instead of” — “Instead of destroying property, building altars. Instead of confrontation, conversations. … Instead of many under fear, one nation under God.”
The Rev. John Hagee of Cornerstone Church, a staunch supporter of Trump, did not mention the president by name but criticized the assault on Congress by what he called “a rebellious mob.”
“The Secret Service had to escort the vice president of the United States to safety out of the Capitol building. Gunshots were fired. Tear gas was deployed in the Capitol rotunda. People were killed. … This was an assault on law. Attacking the Capitol was not patriotism, it was anarchy,” Hagee said.
His words drew tepid applause from the crowd at his megachurch, but they soon after gave Hagee a standing ovation when he rallied support for law enforcement: “This is what happens when you mob the police. This is what happens when you fire the police.”
“This is what happens when you watch a policeman shot and belittle his sacrifice for the public,” he continued. “Wake up, America! America and democracy cannot function without the rule of law. We back the blue.”
Paula White-Cain, a longtime spiritual counselor to Trump and who served as a faith adviser in his White House, made a subtle allusion to the insurrection ahead of her Sunday sermon.
Calling the nation “deeply divided,” White-Cain condemned “lawlessness” and added that “my hope is never rested in any person, any man. My hope is in Jesus Christ.”
White, who delivered a post-election prayer service in which she called upon “angelic reinforcement” to help achieve victory, also reaffirmed her commitment to the First Amendment — an echo of the warnings from some conservatives this week that their freedom of speech was threatened.
Couer D’Alene, Idaho
The Rev. Tim Remington, the conservative Christian pastor of The Altar church, avoided specific references to Trump and the attack on the Capitol, but offered plenty of politically charged warnings.
“The next two weeks are probably the most important two weeks in the history of America,” said Remington, who in the spring led in-person services in defiance of a stay-at-home order issued by the governor. “I pray the army of the Lord is ready.”
He targeted the media in particular for criticism.
“I rebuke the news in the name of Jesus,” Remington said. “We ask that this false garbage come to an end. … It’s the lies, communism, socialism. I don’t know how we’ve put up with it this long.”
And without going into specifics, he said America “is not seeking the truth.”
“For them to suppress another person’s opinion — it’s wrong, it’s unconstitutional,” he said. “God have mercy.”
Cleveland Heights, Ohio
The Rev. Darrell Scott, the Black senior pastor of New Spirit Revival Center, did not mention the events in Washington.
Scott, an early supporter of Trump’s 2016 campaign who worked with the administration on urban and prison issues, once praised the administration as “probably the most proactive administration regarding urban America and the faith-based community in my lifetime.”
But there was no talk of the president Sunday in a livestreamed service entitled “What God Has for Me,” in which Scott focused on encouraging congregants to recognize God’s involvement in their lives.
Associated Press reporters Sally Stapleton, Luis Andres Henao and Gary Fields contributed to this report.
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