The new speaker of the House of Representatives opened up about his Christian faith and how it informs his politics in an interview with The Daily Signal, in which he stressed the importance of treating political opponents with dignity and respect while adhering to fundamental truths.
Speaker Mike Johnson discussed the Christian principles of America’s Founding Fathers, the greatest moral threat he perceives to society, double standards in the media when reporting on the religion of Republicans versus Democrats, support for Israel, and more.
“You’re seeing Washington engage for the first time in a while with a leader who is open and honest about his faith,” the Louisiana Republican said Tuesday, addressing criticisms of his faith-infused rhetoric. “Again, this is the way it always was until recent times. And so I don’t find anything particularly remarkable about this at all.”
“It’s who I am,” added. “It’s how I think.”
Johnson, 51, was chosen as speaker during a closed-door meeting of GOP members last week, and the House voted on his speakership last Wednesday afternoon. His ascent to the speakership came after many rounds of voting by House Republicans on former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, and House Majority Whip Tom Emmer of Minnesota.
Government as a Design of God
“I don’t believe there are any coincidences,” Johnson said in remarks to Congress, delivered minutes after he was chosen as the new speaker Oct. 25. “I believe that the Bible is very clear that God has ordained and allowed each one us to be brought here for this specific moment and this time.”
He explained to The Daily Signal that some media misconstrued the statement and portrayed it as self-aggrandizing.
“It wasn’t that at all,” he said. “It’s a central premise of the Bible that God invented civil government.”
Like many Americans of faith, Johnson sees government as a “design of God” and “a gift to mankind in a fallen society.” The Bible teaches those in authority are ordained by God, he said, noting that God raises some individuals up and sets other individuals down.
“While that may seem odd to some people now, in previous generations of America, that was almost universally accepted as truth,” he added. “The Founders wrote about it extensively, and our leaders throughout the history of our country have spoken in similar terms.”
Strong reactions from the media and lawmakers on Capitol Hill to his faith-infused rhetoric may be due in part to the secularization of society, Johnson said, pointing to polling showing that fewer and fewer Americans are attending church.
“We’re becoming a more secularized society,” he said. “To me, that is something we need to pay close attention to. In their admonitions to us, the Founders were very clear that to maintain a republic like ours, to maintain a constitutional republic—a government of, by, and for the people—there has to be a consensus on virtue and morality.”
The new speaker quoted President George Washington, who said in his farewell address, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”
He also quoted the second president of the United States, John Adams, warning that, “Our Constitution is made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for government of any other.”
“They were very clear,” Johnson said. “Subsequent presidents that followed them were very clear that that had to be a central part of our society or we would be in trouble. That explains a lot. I think it’s a root cause of a lot of societal ills.”
Greatest Moral Threat to Our Culture
Asked what he believes is the greatest of those societal ills facing the United States currently, specifically in a moral context, Johnson responded: “The lack of belief in absolute truths.”
“We live in an age of moral relativism, which has become postmodernism, which is gradually becoming nihilism, the idea that if there is no truth, then you can believe anything or everything or nothing,” Johnson explained. “I think that in a sense, it sort of unties us from the moorings that have kept us in safe harbor as a nation.”
Many people these days are beginning to feel that modern society is “rudderless,” he said, adding: “We are adrift as a nation. We’re in uncharted waters.”
“People feel this, and they say it in their own words, elected officials, citizens around the country.”
The United States seems to have lost sight of what actually holds us together, the speaker mused.
“E pluribus unum,” Latin for “out of many, one,” is anchored in the premise that there will be a common consensus that we are one, that there is a truth, and as our nation’s motto articulates very clearly, that we are one nation under God,” Johnson emphasized.
That motto was added in 1962 above the rostrum in the House of Representatives as a rebuke of the Cold War-era Soviet Union, he said, and as a distinction between United States’ beliefs and the Marxist, communist, or socialist premises that God does not exist.
“We were built on the exact opposite premise, that there is a God and He’s the one that gives us our inalienable rights,” Johnson said. “Where you begin with either of those premises, you lead to very, very different results. And my contention is the same as what the Framers’ was … that the reason we are the extraordinary, exceptional nation that we are is because we begin with the truth. I think we deviate from that at our peril.”
Attacks on the Speaker’s Faith
Some media outlets and commentators have been quick to paint Johnson’s faith as extreme and radical, criticizing him for his former work at Alliance Defending Freedom and for his defense of state marriage amendments defining marriage as between a man and a woman.
Johnson pushed back on the idea that he would behave in a hateful manner toward anyone.
“It’s been rather jarring to see some of that, the way it’s been portrayed,” the fourth-term lawmaker said. “Anyone that they’ve been able to find who knows me or has ever worked with me … I’ve not seen one person who has actually interacted with me who says that I have a hateful bone in my body.”
“I don’t go through life judging others or diminishing them in any way,” he said, adding, “It’s impossible, if one follows the commands of the Bible, to be a hateful person, because the greatest commandment in the Bible … is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and spirit, everything you have, and then you love your neighbor as yourself. And everything else is wrapped into those commands.”
As he defended the state marriage amendments back in the early 2000s, Johnson said that he sought to love those on the other side of the aisle.
“It wasn’t personal. I didn’t diminish anyone in any way. Quite the contrary—I think that’s what we are supposed to do.”
He joked that the next question he usually gets on the topic is: “Well, [if] you have these deep convictions about what you believed to be true, how could you be a legislator?”
His response to that, he told The Daily Signal, is that every man and woman on Capitol Hill has a moral code and a sense of right and wrong, often anchored in the Bible.
“None of our own convictions necessarily ever become the law,” he said. “There’s 435 lawmakers in this body. It is, by design, supposed to be a consensus-building institution. And so we bring our convictions and our ideas to the table, and we work it out with one another.”
Just because it is no longer “fashionable” to believe in truth doesn’t mean that Johnson intends to change.
“I had a mentor of mine tell me a long time ago, when I was in ninth grade, ‘Mike, always remember this. What is popular isn’t always right. What is right isn’t always popular,’” he said. “And he said, ‘Always do the right thing. And then you let the chips fall where they may.’ So that’s what I’m trying to do.”
Media Double Standards on Religion
The new speaker of the House of Representatives also addressed The Daily Signal’s questions about double standards in media portrayals of faith, such as media descriptions of President Joe Biden’s “devout” Catholicism versus Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s “extreme” Catholicism.
“There’s an incredible double standard in the mainstream media,” he acknowledged.
“Amy Coney Barrett, by the way, is a friend of mine since high school,” he said, praising the Supreme Court justice. “She’s a great friend. We were raised on similar values, and she’s deeply respected because of her intellect and her integrity and her consistency. We need more of that in public life. I’m trying to do the same.”
The Washington press corps are now having to engage with a lawmaker who is frank about his faith, Johnson said—and they aren’t used to it.
“I’ve been in this lawmaking body for seven years,” he added. “I’ve worked so well with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. We have our debates and our arguments in committee and all the rest. But everyone here will tell you that all I ever do to my colleagues is show dignity and respect.”
Johnson reminded The Daily Signal that in 2017, when he was a freshman lawmaker and President Donald Trump had just taken office, he drafted a document within his first few weeks called “The Commitment to Civility.”
That commitment, which he circulated among his freshman class, called for lawmakers to treat one another with dignity and respect.
“I think only two people didn’t sign it,” he said. “We wanted to do things differently.”
After a left-wing gunman shot Scalise during a Republican congressional baseball game practice in June 2017, Johnson says that then-House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., came to him and said, “Hey, you know that freshman project you did? You gotta do that Congress-wide.”
“So we did,” Johnson said. “We circulated it, I think we wound up with 190 signatures on it. Leaders and luminaries from both sides, from [then-Georgia Democratic Rep.] John Lewis to Kevin McCarthy. And that was sort of a guiding document for my class, and for a long time, we kept the temperature down, because we were reminding one another, we made a commitment to be civil.”
Support for Israel
Johnson also addressed what role his faith plays in his support for Israel in light of the brutal Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks that killed more than 1,400 people in Israel and left many more injured. His first move as leader of the House of Representatives was to call up a resolution supporting Israel.
“There is clearly, obviously, a biblical admonition, all Jews and Christians believe, it says clearly in the Bible ‘I will bless the nation that blesses Israel and curse the nation that curses Israel,’” Johnson explained. “And so this is pretty black and white in terms of our faith.”
Even if one does not adhere to this religious view, Johnson said, there are “stacks of pragmatic reasons in our national interest on why we have to stand with our closest ally in the Middle East.”
“They’re the only democracy in that region of the world. They are greatly outnumbered and their neighbors want to wipe them off the face of the earth,” he said. “So every American, regardless of their faith, has a direct interest in a stable and vibrant Israel, because of the values that Israel represents in that part of the world. It’s a stabilizing force there and has been since it became a nation again. And we have a direct interest in ensuring that that stability keeps its place.”
“So, on a question like this, it’s always nice when your faith aligns with pragmatic public policy,” he added. “It just so happens that it does in this case, and I’m not sure why anybody would ever question that.”
Speaker’s Favorite Bible Verse
Which verses from Scripture does the new speaker of the House prefer?
“I love Psalm 37,” he said. “I would call that my life’s passage. The whole psalm. It’s great, and it’s so applicable to these times.”
“In fact,” he added, “I was in the congressional chapel this morning, and there’s a big, thick Bible that’s sort of up on the altar there, in front of the stained glass, and I opened it to Psalm 37 to be open and rested there, because I’ve just found great solace in that.”
Psalm 37 urges the faithful to “trust in the Lord, and do good” and to “fret not thyself because of evildoers.” The psalm, which is 40 verses long, promises that God will deliver the righteous “from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him.”
And asked if there were any past historical or religious figures whose faith and political lives particularly inspired him, Johnson specifically highlighted Billy Graham and Ronald Reagan.
“I’m still enamored with Ronald Reagan and just the way he did the job, his kind of happy warrior mentality … he had deep core convictions and principles he would never compromise,” Johnson said. “But he never wielded that as a weapon.”
“Mike Huckabee said it even simpler when he was running for governor of Arkansas one time,” added Johnson. “He said, ‘I’m a conservative, but I’m not mad at anybody about it.’ I’ve always loved that. That’s my position. I’m a conservative. I’m a principled conservative. I believe in these core convictions, but I’m just trying to share those truths and and spread them and not fight with anybody about it.”
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The post EXCLUSIVE: House Speaker Mike Johnson Opens Up About Intersection of Faith, Politics appeared first on The Daily Signal.
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