Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) became Speaker of the House less than a month ago. Since then, a national audience has become aware of a slew of questionable remarks, associations, and policy positions: The congressman has been criticized for blaming school shootings on no-fault divorces; he has been critiqued for working hand-in-hand with legislators like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) to gut gender-affirming care for teens; it has been mentioned that Johnson even claimed that if people gave birth to more “able-bodied workers,” then Republicans wouldn’t need to cut Social Security and Medicaid.
Where could he get such ideas? There has been extensive reporting on Johnson’s connections to Christian nationalist organizations, too. Now, another troubling fact about the House’s most powerful man has surfaced.
On Wednesday, NPR reported that the speaker has ties to the New Apostolic Reformation, an extreme far-right Christian movement seeking to dissolve the US’s separation between church and state by “any means necessary.” Johnson reportedly has fostered relationships with several NAR leaders, including Pastor Jim Garlow, who has hosted online prayer sessions for “U.S. election integrity”
“I’m so grateful for the ministry and your faithfulness,” said Johnson during an August interview on Garlow’s radio show. “It’s a great encouragement to me and others who are serving in these sometimes rocky corners of the Lord’s vineyard.” But, the NAR isn’t your average conservative Christian cohort. Unlike other believers, they have wholeheartedly embraced and led an effort to spread Donald Trump’s lies about the 2020 presidential election results. As my former colleague, Emily Hofstaedter, wrote:
NAR adherents share goals with other conservative Christians—outlawing abortion, fighting marriage equality—and were especially instrumental in the movement to keep a defeated Trump in power. In his audio documentary Charismatic Revival Fury, Matthew Taylor, a scholar at Baltimore’s Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies, explains how 15 charismatic leaders met with high-level Trump administration officials in the lead-up to January 6 to discuss “spiritual warfare strategies”; of the six protest permits issued that day, four went to NAR-affiliated charismatic church groups. “A lot of NAR people just embrace the Big Lie,” says [André] Gagné, propelled by the claims of their prophets: “‘It’s not true, and God showed us.’”
Johnson’s bonds with this movement shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s even faintly familiar with his rhetoric. The Louisiana legislator has spent nearly two decades trying to cram religion into secular spaces under the guise of “religious freedom,” with the help of the Alliance Defending Freedom, a powerful conservative organization where he spent years as a spokesperson and an attorney.