TERRY MATTINGLY: Religious News Association: Biggest Religious Event of Jan 6 Riots Year |

For reporters who braved the chaos, the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill provided a bizarre buffet — a crowd of Proud Boys, QAnon prophets, former US service members and radicalized Donald Trump supporters who crossed the security lines and, therefore, in history.

Many protesters at the legal Save America rally carried signs, flags and banners with slogans such as “Jesus is my Savior, Trump is my President” or simply “Jesus 2020”. In this context, “Jesus saves” took on a whole new meaning.

Some of that symbolism was washed away in the unlawful attack on the United States Capitol.

In its survey of major religious events in 2021, members of the Religion News Association offered this description of the main story: “Religion figures prominently in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump insurgents. Some express Christian prayers, while others display Christian or pagan symbols and slogans inside and outside the Capitol.

Consider, for example, Jacob Anthony Chansley — or Jake “Yellowstone Wolf” Angeli. With its coyote skin headdress and buffalo horns; red, white and blue face paint; and Norse chest tattoos, self-proclaimed QAnon shaman, UFO expert and metaphysical healer became the instant superstar of this mash-up of political, religious and digital conspiracy theories.

“Thank you, Heavenly Father…for this opportunity to defend our inalienable God-given rights,” he said in a video of his remarks to the U.S. Senate from the vice president’s chair. “Thank You, divine, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent Creator God for filling this room with your white light and your love. Thank you for filling this room with patriots who love you and who love Christ. …

“Thank you for allowing the United States of America to be reborn. Thank you for allowing us to get rid of communists, globalists and traitors in our government.”

It was a strong voice. A big question that will have to be answered in future trials and the United States House inquiry is whether it is true – as the New York Times asserts – that “the deepest corners extremes of support for Mr. Trump have become inextricable from parts of white evangelical power in America. For this to be true, investigators will need to find links between the illegal January 6 attack and evangelicals in major denominations, mega-churches, publishers and para-church groups, as well as seminaries, colleges and the universities.

Here is the rest of the 2021 Top 10 RNAs list:

(2) In Afghanistan, the Taliban forces reimpose a strict Islamic regime after the withdrawal of American troops. Many refugees are fleeing by airlift, while thousands are left behind amid fears for religious minorities, women and other dissidents. It was my choice for the best story of the year.

(3) The United States Supreme Court is considering the Mississippi case to overturn Roe v. Wade and the current legal culture of abortion rights in America. A decision is expected early next summer.

(4) Thousands of government and private sector employees are seeking religious exemptions from COVID-19 vaccination mandates, raising difficult questions about religious freedom. The vast majority of religious leaders support vaccines, but many question government mandates.

(5) Joe Biden becomes America’s second Catholic president, sparking controversy with his public displays of faith – mixed with words and deeds supporting abortion rights, same-sex marriage and evolving forms of gender theory. U.S. bishops are considering how to uphold the Church’s teachings on Holy Communion. RNA members select Biden as Reporter of the Year.

(6) Gallup reports that membership in American religious groups has fallen below 50% for the first time in the eight decades the organization has studied this issue. Only 47% of Americans say they belong to a church, synagogue or mosque in 2020.

(7) The coronavirus pandemic continues to affect religious life, with in-person worship attendance levels remaining below pre-2020 levels. A Barna Research study notes that nearly 40% of Christian clergy are seriously considering to resign, burnout being highest in liberal Protestant denominations.

(8) Investigators in Canada find hundreds of unmarked graves in former boarding schools for Native children, focusing their criticism on religious groups in North America that operated such schools. Several Canadian churches are burned or vandalized.

(9) Popular Bible teacher Beth Moore cuts ties with the editorial arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, appalled by what she calls “sexism” and “misogyny” within the SBC, including widespread support to Trump despite his bragging about sexual exploits with women.

(10) Though rattled by resignations and leaked emails, Southern Baptists reject a right-wing push at their annual convention and endorse an investigation into its executive committee’s handling of sex abuse charges.

Terry Mattingly runs GetReligion.org and lives in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is a principal investigator at the Overby Center at the University of Mississippi.

Ruth R. Culp