Rolling Stone magazine must have given its affluent liberal readers a feeling of breathless anticipation.
“The Key to Mike Johnson’s Christian Extremism Hangs Outside His Office,” the story’s alarming headline read. Oh no. What could it be?
According to co-authors Bradley Onishi and Matthew D. Taylor, the Republican House Speaker showcases his “Christian Extremism” by flying the Pine Tree flag, better known as the “Appeal to Heaven” flag.
You read that correctly. The flag designed in 1775 by Joseph Reed — lieutenant colonel in the Continental Army, aide-de-camp to General George Washington and future signer of the Articles of Confederation — has become, in the twisted imaginations of Onishi and Taylor, a symbol of “Christian Extremism.”
Readers unfamiliar with the flag’s history might nonetheless recognize it from its brief appearance during the opening montage for the 2008 HBO miniseries, “John Adams.” That montage, coupled with the theme song, remains one of television history’s most stirring introductions.
According to Onishi and Taylor, however, that flag now “leads into a universe of right-wing religious extremism.” In fact, “in the past decade it has come to symbolize a die-hard vision of a hegemonically Christian America.”
Onishi has taught at the University of San Francisco and elsewhere. Taylor works as a “senior scholar” at the Institute for Islamic, Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore. Hence the go-to academic jargon, “hegemonically.”
Their reasoning regarding Johnson and the flag could not be more tortured, but here it is in a nutshell:
Modern Christian leaders who believe in prophecies and other supernatural elements of the ancient faith have adopted what the authors pejoratively labeled an “aggressive theological vision.” Many of those same leaders have supported former President Donald Trump. Thus, they regard the 2020 election as stolen. In fact, some protesters carried “Appeal to Heaven” flags outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Well, despite the authors’ hand-wringing over one of the most obvious straw men ever created, Onishi apparently thought his co-authored story would receive a favorable reception on X, formerly Twitter.
“Mike Johnson, second in line to the presidency, flies a symbol of insurrection and violence outside his office. It is a window into his religious extremism. @TaylorMatthewD and I wrote about it for @RollingStone,” Onishi posted on Friday.
Mike Johnson, second in line to the presidency, flies a symbol of insurrection and violence outside his office. It is a window into his religious extremism. @TaylorMatthewD and I wrote about it for @RollingStone:https://t.co/sQqmZuYHS7
— Bradley Onishi (@BradleyOnishi) November 10, 2023
A “symbol of insurrection and violence” indeed. Ask Washington and his fellow revolutionaries.
As for the flag’s present-day context, suffice it to say that social media users found Onishi and Taylor’s hyperbole unpersuasive.
“If this level of pearl-clutching is what’s behind your labels of ‘insurrection and violence,’ I guess I’m now a violent insurrectionist in your book, and I simply don’t care,” one user wrote.
If this level of pearl-clutching is what’s behind your labels of “insurrection and violence,” I guess I’m now a violent insurrectionist in your book, and I simply don’t care.
— J Caleb Jones (@JCalebJones) November 15, 2023
Some X users focused on the flag’s history and scoffed at the authors’ strained interpretation of its modern meaning.
“Lol. These people: ‘Historically’ it’s awesome and wholesome and thoroughly American. But ‘in the last decade’ we say it’s poison!” another user posted.
— Matt Mehan (@MTMehan) November 16, 2023
“You did not need to write such a long article to claim your hatred for America, its Founders, the Father of our Country, and Christianity. If your only concern is a flag that was flown during his day, then you are the odd man out in this question,” another user wrote.
You did not need to write such a long article to claim your hatred for America, its Founders, the Father of our Country, and Christianity. If your only concern is a flag that was flown during his day, then you are the odd man out in this question.
— Paul A. Mancuso (@pmancuso) November 15, 2023
That final post summed up the authors’ basic perspective. In short, one suspects that Onishi and Taylor regard “Christian” and “Extremism” as interchangeable terms.
With that in mind, no doubt Rolling Stone’s readers felt satisfied. After all, the story affirmed their fantasies about Christianity, Trump, Jan. 6 and every other bugbear that haunts the affluent liberal’s imagination.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.
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