MAGA Mike’s bad religion and bad politics

U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) addresses the U.S. House of Representatives on Oct. 25, 2023, for the first time as its speaker. (Screenshot/C-SPAN)

Don’t you hate it when people with more certitude than understanding try to boss everyone else around? That is what happens when religious fundamentalists gain political power.

In an interview with Sean Hannity, new House Speaker Mike Johnson said, regarding questions about his positions on the issues, “Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”

Some of Johnson’s defenders claim that his critics are attacking him for expressing his Christian faith. They misrepresent the criticism. It is not his faith but his fanaticism that we are faulting.

MAGA Mike is for individual freedom — but not my freedom to marry whom I choose, and not my nieces’ reproductive freedom. He’s for limited government — except when he wants to police bedrooms. He’s for the rule of law — except when he wants to overturn an election.

Johnson wrote in 2004, “Experts project that homosexual marriage is the dark harbinger of chaos and sexual anarchy that could doom even the strongest republic.”

Now he assures Hannity regarding marriage equality, “This has been settled by the Supreme Court.” That is just what several far-right members of the current Court said regarding Roe v. Wade at their confirmation hearings.

Johnson is pushing a nationwide abortion ban. He supports Trump’s Muslim ban. He is part of the pro-Russia caucus. He used to work for the notoriously homophobic far-right group Alliance Defending Freedom. He thinks that anyone who does not share his particular religious beliefs is without morals. And he was a leader in trying to help Donald Trump steal the 2020 election.

This extremist is second in line for the presidency.

People like Johnson talk as if the reference to a Creator in the Declaration of Independence brings in their entire theocratic program. Pardon me, but according to that document, the inalienable rights with which the Creator endowed us include the pursuit of happiness. When you insist on dictating other people’s happiness, you rob them of it.

Christian nationalists, whose fanaticism dishonors both Christ and our nation, never explain how queer people are a threat. The bullies simply take it for granted that any difference from their own preference is a threat. They are as quick to judge others as they are to gloss over their own failings. Yet recent news stories about sexual abuse of young people have featured ministers and youth pastors, not LGBTQ+ rights advocates and drag queens.

In Scripture, where some Christians find compassion and humility, religious bullies find cruelty and obscurantism. Happily, God gave us the brains to resist the bullies.

People like Johnson are wrong on both the Constitution and the Gospel. But it is crucial for us to recognize that not all fanatics foam at the mouth. Some are mild-mannered and polite.

The United States is not a Christian nation. The Founders made this clear in the Establishment Clause. Religious bullies simply do not care, any more than they care about Christ’s admonition against making a public show of religion (Matthew 6:5-8). They use the Bible as a weapon rather than a source of reflection. Johnson’s claim to be divinely anointed is a reminder that he does not care what voters want.

Then there is the Black boy he took in a couple of decades ago when the boy was 14, though Johnson never filed adoption papers. The son, Michael, never appeared in Johnson family photos.

Johnson talks of Michael: “He says to people — he shares his testimony — that were it not for our intervention in his life, he would certainly have joined a gang, gotten on drugs, wound up in prison or dead on the streets somewhere.” Shares with whom? Does Johnson think this is the inevitable fate of Black boys?

Something smells fishy here. What is Johnson hiding? And shouldn’t someone who has been so free with attacks against gay people expect journalists to check out his story?

At a recent hearing, Rep. Maxwell Frost, himself a devout Christian, distinguished between Christianity and Christian nationalism. That distinction is vital. Bullies have no monopoly on religion.

As for patriotism, you would think that public officials sworn to protect the Constitution would not be so quick to support insurrections and fake electors; but these zealots’ overweening sense of entitlement makes them think they can rewrite it to suit themselves.

Speaker Johnson has expressed extreme views on a range of topics for years. Let us do him the honor of taking him seriously, and do all we can as voters to make his tenure and the Republican House majority brief.

Newsletter Sign-up