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It’s all too common for white evangelicals to “No True Scotsmen” away their brethren who behave badly. Many of them did just that after the insurrection at the Capitol a few weeks ago, despite the fact that some carried crosses and prayed directly to Jesus before unleashing their wrath.

Evangelical minister Rob Schenck doesn’t do that. In a refreshingly honest article for Religion News Service, he rightly explains how this radicalization came from inside the church.

While evangelical participation in and support for the Jan. 6 event profoundly saddens me, I’m not shocked by it either. Big-name preachers, ministry celebrities and political figures have stoked fear, resentment and affront among my fellow believers for nearly half a century.

These fear-stoking tactics date back decades, from the “Satanic Panic” of the 1980s to the (false) predictions that Barack Obama would arrest and persecute Christians. Those same fears are being peddled again about Joe Biden‘s presidency, despite the fact that they didn’t come true last time.

Until the insurrection, I saw these new soldiers of the cross as paper tigers, quick to comment on Facebook but otherwise carping cowards in the digital shadows. After Jan. 6, I now see them mobilized for literal urban warfare. My community has gone from merely toxic to dangerous. One pastor called recently to warn me he and his people are “armed to the teeth — and I mean that literally!”

Religious, social, political and legal authorities must take this new threat seriously and act on it. For my evangelical colleagues who care about this heretical defection from the faith, I remind you of what we once demanded from other groups whose members committed violence in the name of religion: Your silence is complicity. You must acknowledge the danger you are harboring and unequivocally denounce terrorism committed in the name of religion! 

There shouldn’t be anything controversial about pastors condemning violence and calling out others who fan the flames of violence, hatred, and conspiracies. They can do it without endorsing any particular candidate. People who claim to have the gift of discernment should be able to see that.

How many other white evangelicals who remained silent for too long will use their positions to create positive change?

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