Does Johnson Really Believe All That 'Biblical' Shuck And Jive? Nah
Everybody in the South has known somebody like House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA): an amiable, polite, well-dressed religious crackpot who’s either completely out of his mind or pretends to be for career purposes. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
If you’re an ambitious politician someplace like his hometown of Shreveport, there’s no penalty for professing belief in all manner of absurdities calculated to reassure God-intoxicated true believers in backwoods churches that you’re one of them. Everybody understands, especially the people who put up the money.
There’s nothing in the Bible, for example, that compels Johnson to profess disbelief in climate change—although he could probably manufacture something, if challenged. There are, however, plenty of oil and gas wells around the Ark-La-Tex, as the area around Shreveport and Texarkana is called, and the people who own them mean to extract every cubic centimeter from the ground and turn it into cash. The bulk of Johnson’s campaign funds come from the petrochemical industry.
Never mind that finding oil requires hiring geologists that understand the actual age of the earth, some 13.8 billion years, rather than the 6600 decreed by Answers in Genesis, the Kentucky theme-park Johnson once represented, with its life-sized Noah’s Ark exhibit and sea-faring brontosauruses. The congressman has insisted that the Bible story represents historical truth.
It’s the same with evolution. As a creationist, does he take his children to physicians who reject biological science as a Satanic lie? Even in Shreveport, those can be hard to find. So, it’s all a shuck and a jive. Almost everybody who’s been to college—Johnson has two degrees from Lousiana State University—understands the rules of the game, and everybody plays along.
In media interviews, Johnson is anything but shy about advertising his piety, recently describing himself to Fox News propagandist Sean Hannity as “a Bible-believing Christian.” To understand his views, he said “pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s my worldview.”
A skeptic might observe that Scripture has been interpreted in rather a lot of different ways over the centuries. To Johnson, however, it’s only in Southern Baptist churches in North Louisiana that perfect fealty to God’s word has been achieved. All others are heretics or worse.
Also during his interview with Hannity, however, Johnson displayed a newfound willingness to accept political reality. He told his host that gay marriage is a settled issue and that there’s no national consensus on abortion. In the past, he has blamed legal abortion for mass shootings: also, feminism, no-fault divorce laws, and the “sexual revolution.”
"When you break up the nuclear family, when you tell a generation of people that life has no value, no meaning, that it’s expendable,” he told a New York magazine interviewer in 2015, “then you do wind up with school shooters.”
Because to the fundamentalist mind, only two possibilities exist. Either you agree with them on every issue, or you’re “of the devil” and an enemy of God. Indeed, Johnson has compared same-sex marriage to the right of "a person to marry his pet."
Which come to think of it…
Who starts purring madly when I climb into the marital bad at night? My wife or Martin the cat? Who gets up early to read the newspaper, and who stays wedged by my side? Have I chosen the wrong gender and species?
But I digress. Rep. Johnson claims firmer views. See, when the U.S. Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion” it really means that Protestant fundamentalism rules.
Similarly, when Thomas Jefferson wrote that “It does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are 20 gods or no God,” he really meant to establish a Biblical republic based upon a literalist reading of scripture. That this is absurdly ahistorical matters hardly at all. It’s called “Christian Nationalism,” and millions in the so-called Red States have chosen to believe it.
Theirs is an embattled faith. According to Johnson, “it is only and always the Christian viewpoint that is getting censored. The fact is the left is always trying to shut down the voices of the Christians.”
And yet God has elevated a champion. “I believe God has ordained and allowed each one of us to be brought here for this specific moment,” he said during his first speech upon being elected Speaker.
And that champion’s main purpose, he has made clear, will be elevating, Donald J. Trump, that thrice-married, career adulterer, pussy-grabber and adjudicated rapist to the presidency. Johnson was one of the prime movers among GOP congressmen trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election, crafting absurd legal arguments even the Republican-majority Supreme Court rejected out of hand.
Think about it: Trump re-installed in the White House.
Wouldn’t that be a glorious day for the Lord?
Gene Lyons is a former columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, a winner of the National Magazine Award, and co-author of The Hunting of the President.
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