Adobe Stock | Inset: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s critics are having another field day criticizing his Christian views after a video surfaced of him speaking to Pastor Jim Garlow on the World Prayer Network, calling American culture “depraved.” The conversation occurred just weeks before Johnson became speaker. While discussing the country’s fiscal situation, Johnson began to discuss options for the new speaker and mentioned that God would “raise up” someone to come into the position. He also mentioned the possibility that some moderate Republicans could nominate a Democrat Speaker of the House and that it would be a “game-ending play.” He was then asked if “this could be a time of judgment for America.” Johnson cited lowered church attendance, the majority of Americans not believing in absolute truth, teenage girls contemplating suicide at high levels, and a quarter of young people identifyng as LGBTQ+ as moral issues facing the nation. Citing Ecclesiastes, however, he noted that there “is nothing new under the sun.” He stated that God has worked through seemingly hopeless situations before and wondered if America would collectively repent in order to be spared incoming wrath. “I believe that that will happen,” he stated. He quoted John Quincy Adams, “Duty is ours, results are God’s.”

Johnson’s comments and closing prayer, where he called for America’s repentance, were quickly scooped up by his critics, with Rolling Stone questioning his capacity to lead. “The prayer calls underscore the new House speaker’s alarming alignment with Christian nationalism — the extremist movement that holds America is not a secular democracy but was founded as a Christian nation and should be governed to uphold a fundamentalist morality… It raises questions about whether the Republican, who’s now second in line for the presidency, is leveraging his power not just to avoid a government shutdown, but to appease an angry deity — and avoid a more permanent Heavenly Shutdown.” Vanity Fairripping Johnson’s comments out of context, ran a headline “Mike Johnson, in October, Said America Was Going to Hell Because 25% of High School Students Identify as ‘Something Other Than Straight.'” MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” lambasted the comments, with host Joe Scarborough calling Johnson hypocritical. “There’s so much hypocrisy to go to here about a guy, again, trying to undermine our institutions. The guy who led in the House of Representatives, the attempt to undermine the United States Constitution, an American presidential election, and an attempt to basically end American democracy,” he said. He mocked Johnson, calling him “this Jeremiah of our times.” “Why do Republicans hate America so much?” he asked. Bill Maher, no friend of Johnson’s, did however clarify statements that compared Johnson to the Taliban by his guest, Republican Illinois Representative Adam Kinzinger. “There is no difference between Christian nationalism — which is what [Johnson’s] representing — than the Taliban,” said Kinzinger. Maher, however, pushed back a little. “Yes, the reason why Mike Johnson said depraved America deserves God’s wrath? Homosexuality,” he said. “They don’t like it. But in our country, we don’t actually kill them, even the crazy far-rights don’t throw them off of roofs. If you can’t understand that, you can’t understand anything.”

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