There are two moments from Mike Johnson’s early days as speaker of the House that almost perfectly encapsulate the broken way that so many Republican evangelicals approach politics. The first occurred just after the House elected Johnson. ABC’s Rachel Scott started to ask Johnson about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. But before she could finish, Johnson’s Republican colleagues started to shout her down. Johnson simply shook his head. “Next question,” he said, as if the query wasn’t worth his time. It was the kind of conduct that led Florida Republican Matt Gaetz to dub the new speaker “MAGA Mike Johnson.”
The second moment came in his first extended interview as speaker, when Johnson shared the basis of his political philosophy with Sean Hannity of Fox News: “Someone asked me today in the media, they said, ‘It’s curious, people are curious. What does Mike Johnson think about any issue under the sun?’ I said, ‘Well, go pick up a Bible off your shelf and read it.’ That’s my worldview.”
That quote is less illuminating than many people think. The Bible says a great deal about a great number of subjects, but it is open to interpretation on many and silent on many more. (It says nothing, for example, about the proper level of funding for the I.R.S., Johnson’s first substantive foray into policy as speaker.) I know Democrats who also root their political philosophy in the Bible. I’m a Never Trump evangelical conservative and I, too, look to Scripture to guide my mind and heart.
Mike Johnson and I have such similar religious convictions that we once worked together at the same Christian law firm. We worked in different states and different practice groups (I focused on academic freedom), but we both defended religious liberty, and we’d most likely both say much the same things about, say, the inerrancy of Scripture. Yet we’ve taken very different political paths.
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