New Speaker Mike Johnson Attacked For Believing Basic Christian Doctrine
By David Closson/Washington StandNovember 01, 2023
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After weeks of dysfunction following the ouster of former-Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana was elected as the 56th Speaker of the House. Johnson's elevation to the office caps a frenetic period in which Republicans considered multiple candidates before coalescing around the four-term congressman. Although Johnson's unexpected rise to the speakership was welcomed by conservatives, the Left has predictably been apoplectic in denouncing Speaker Johnson's long-standing social conservative views.
Although progressives routinely castigate those who hold convictions rooted in a biblical worldview, the sharp criticism directed toward the new speaker for his Christian faith is nonetheless revealing.
For example, some House Democrats took exception to the portion of Johnson's speech on Wednesday in which the new speaker referenced God. "Welcome to the Republican Era of not even pretending they aren't forcing their religion on Congress and the American people. This is a slippery, dangerous slope to theocracy," warned Rep. Jared Huffman (D-Calif.). Another Democrat, Jamie Raskin, tweeted, "Speaker Mike Johnson? Anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ, anti-gun safety, anti-democracy. This is what theocracy looks like."
Although allegations of Republicans wanting to install a theocracy are not new, the dire warnings of Huffman and Raskin, and the parroting of these claims by some in the media, reveal remarkable ignorance of basic Christian beliefs. Significantly, Johnson has said nothing about theocracy or forcing his religious beliefs on anyone. Rather, the new speaker simply articulated the commonplace Christian perspective that God providentially raises up leaders.
In his speech, Johnson stated, "I don't believe there are any coincidences in a matter like this. I believe that Scripture, the Bible is very clear that God is the One that raises up those in authority. He raised up each of you, all of us. And I believe that God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment and this time."
Far from advocating for a theocratic takeover of the House of Representatives, Johnson's comments merely reflect well-known biblical passages such as Daniel 2:21 which states, "He changes times and season; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding" and Psalm 22:28 where it says, "For kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations."
Other passages that affirm God's role in raising up civil leaders include Isaiah 40:22-23, which says, "It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness." Likewise, Proverbs 21:1 teaches "The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the Lord; he turns it wherever he will."
To put it simply, Johnson's understanding that "God is the One that raises up those in authority" is a widely-held Christian belief that has been taught for centuries. The fact that articulating this basic conviction triggered ominous warnings of an impending theocracy demonstrates the ever-widening gulf between those with a biblical worldview and those without one.
Second, Johnson's elevation to the speakership prompted scores of opposition researchers to investigate the congressman's past writings and speeches for potentially damaging material. Johnson's past comments on same-sex marriage, abortion, and homosexuality were immediately targeted.
For example, within hours of Johnson's election, CNN investigative reporters Andrew Kaczynski and Allison Gordon published a piece provocatively titled: "New speaker of the House Mike Johnson once wrote in support of the criminalization of gay sex." According to the reporters, Johnson once supported an amendment to Louisiana's constitution that defined marriage between a man and a woman.
Moreover, in a 2004 op-ed, Johnson described homosexual relationships as "inherently unnatural." After mentioning other examples of Johnson's purported extremism, the authors note, "Now, Johnson is the speaker of the House at a time when a majority of Americans are strongly supportive of gay rights." Of course, CNN was not alone. Hours after his election, ABC, NBC, New York Times, Vanity Fair, and other outlets published stories that highlighted Johnson's opposition to same-sex marriage.
On abortion, media outlets and Democratic campaign operatives seized on Johnson's past statements. Politico noted that Johnson once served as a senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, "the conservative legal powerhouse behind the case that overturned Roe v. Wade." The article specifically highlighted the congressman's support for a federal heartbeat law.
Other criticism came from DNC Chair Jamie Harrison who released a statement describing Johnson as a "anti-abortion MAGA extremist." Harrison also noted Johnson's sponsorship of what he characterized as "an extreme abortion ban nationwide." Sarah Posner, a contributor for MSNBC, also pointed to Johnson's pro-life record as proof that he is the "most unabashedly Christian nationalist speaker in history."
From a worldview perspective, the criticisms and denunciations of Johnson are predictable. We live in highly partisan times, and the reality is that whoever Republicans elevated to serve as Speaker of the House would be portrayed in the worst possible light. However, it is still significant that much of the initial criticism hurled at the new speaker overlaps with basic Christian convictions.
From the first century, Christians have affirmed the personhood of the unborn and opposed abortion. Likewise, Christians have believed marriage is the relationship between one man and one woman and taught that homosexual behavior is outside of God's design and purpose for human sexuality. The fact that convictions held by Christians for millennia are now openly mocked and disparaged by so many speaks to the rapid secularization of the times.
The newly elected Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is a Southern Baptist who subscribes to the basic tenets of the Christian faith. Like tens of millions of Americans, Johnson's views on a range of issues are informed by Scripture, science, and reason. Although the news media and opposition party are working overtime to convince the nation that Johnson is a "Christian nationalist" with outdated, subversive policy views, that characterization could not be further from the truth.
Johnson's views are in line with an overwhelming percentage of American Christians who share the speaker's worldview. As we will soon find out, this is good news for Republicans, but more importantly, good news for America at a time when convictional, principled leadership is sorely needed.