McCarthy and Johnson are both conservative Christians. Only one is on the ‘front lines of the culture war’

Early on Jan. 6, Rep. Kevin McCarthy tried for the 12th time to win enough votes to be elected speaker of the House, with a little-known Louisiana congressman, Mike Johnson, by his side. A group of Republican colleagues knelt in prayer, repenting for their transgressions collectively and asking for divine guidance. The next day, McCarthy was elected speaker, but unity did not last, and by October, Johnson was chosen as the new House leader. Johnson, a fervently devout evangelical, has always been outspoken about his social conservatism and defense of traditional marriage and other biblical values. McCarthy, a subdued Christian, worked on tax cuts and trade policy. The differences in how faith influences these two Southern Baptists mark a significant shift in House leadership. Johnson’s emphasized social conservatism could alienate swing voters, but it could ultimately help to hold the Republican caucus together. Johnson’s rise to speakership is also a boost for former President Trump, who was criticized by some evangelical supporters and received significant support from white evangelicals. Johnson’s critics have pointed out his relationship to the evangelical right, but his advocate maintains that he has integrity, conviction, faith, and conservative credentials. The local attorney for Freedom Guard, Johnson endorses a movement and is seen as a Christian Nationalist by some – seen as a media-manufactured slur and smear. Campaigning on Republican and conservative party agendas, Johnson is known as a person of faith who won’t compromise on morals. Compared to McCarthy, Johnson stands out as being very religious even in the context of a deeply religious Congress. Rep. Johnson told CNBC last month that could be an indication that his critics misunderstand him. In his maiden speech as speaker, Johnson mentioned God seven times, and his strong religious beliefs may help him consolidate his leadership among Christian factions in the GOP.

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