Rep. Steve King is back in the news and, somewhat surprisingly, it’s not for his overt racism. Not directly, anyway. This time, the Iowa Republican is drawing headlines for comparing himself to Jesus, telling an audience that the criticism he faced earlier this year for said racism reminded him of the persecution Christ had to endure before he was crucified by the Romans. This all happened while King was reflecting on the meaning of Easter, apparently.
“For all that I’ve been through — and it seems even strange for me to say it — but I am at a certain peace, and it is because of a lot of prayers for me,” he said at a town hall event in Cherokee, Iowa. “When I have to step down to the floor of the House of Representatives, and look up at those 400-and-some accusers, you know we just passed through Easter and Christ’s passion, and I have better insight into what He went through for us partly because of that experience.”
The unjust persecution to which King is referring came in January, when the nine-term congressman was widely condemned for wondering why everyone makes such a big deal about white nationalism. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” he said during an interview with The New York Times. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
The comments were not out of character for King, who has long held the mantle as the most publicly racist member of Congress. For whatever reason, though, his latest musings about white nationalism are what caused Republicans to suddenly pretend to care. Statements condemning King’s comments were promptly issued, and the party even voted to remove King from the House Judiciary and Agriculture committees. (When President Trump, who has endorsed King and invited him to the White House shortly after taking office, was asked to comment, he said he “[hadn’t] been following” the story, which at the time was dominating cable news.)
King’s racism finally receiving mainstream attention led multiple Republicans to announce their intention to primary him in 2020. Rolling Stone reached out to three of them asking for comment in the wake of King likening his tribulations to those of Jesus. Iowa State Senator Randy Feenstra did not immediately respond but did lament on Twitter that King’s name was once again in the news.
— Randy Feenstra (@RandyFeenstra) April 24, 2019
A spokesman for businessman Bret Richards wrote that Richards “recognizes that Congressman King’s way of putting things can leave his words, actions and intentions open to interpretation” and that Richards “would encourage federal officials and others to focus on issues that matter.” A representative for the campaign of Jeremy Taylor, currently a supervisor of Iowa’s Woodbury County, pointed to a tweet from Monday in which Taylor wrote, “I understand I’m not Christ as I seek to be more like Him.”
The trials of America’s most vile politicians being compared to those of Jesus is nothing new. When alleged pedophile Roy Moore was running for the U.S. Senate in Alabama in 2017, several of his allies leaned on Christ to defend him from criticism. CNN’s Martin Savidge said Moore’s brother, to whom Savidge spoke over the phone, said he was “being persecuted, in his own words, like Jesus Christ was.” The Living Way Ministries Church in Opelika, Alabama, made the same comparison on its marquee.
A church in Alabama encourages people to vote for Roy Moore. The church is a tax exempt organization, this is against the law. I filled out IRS Form 13909 and I am sending it with this picture. A copy of the form is below in this thread. Just add your name and mail with Pic. pic.twitter.com/G3Zz0RT9OB
— Julie Suchard (@JulieSuchard) December 4, 2017
Taking it a step further, Alabama State Auditor Jim Ziegler told the Washington Examiner that even if the allegations against Moore were true, it’s fine because Mary was underage when she was impregnated with Jesus. “Take Joseph and Mary,” he said. “Mary was a teenager and Joseph was an adult carpenter. They became parents of Jesus.”
A little less than a year later, when then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh was facing a similar onslaught of criticism for alleged sexual assault, Fox News host Greg Gutfield broke out a crucifixion reference. “I know one thing from my 12 years of Catholic church,” he said. “Crucifixion was an important event, because it was designed to establish a wall between justice and mob rule. Christ died so that the mob wouldn’t survive. He got there, he died for everybody’s sins. What the Democrats have tried to do is tear down the wall between justice and mob rule. They’ve decided to crucify once again. That’s what’s wrong.”
Greg Gutfeld just compared Kavanaugh to Jesus Christ and the investigation to the crucifixion pic.twitter.com/zXATHmpMfC
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) October 4, 2018
Then there’s President Trump, whose supporter have compared him to Christ repeatedly, both for what they believe to be his savior-like qualities, and for all he has had to withstand from Democrats. “Trump is the most persecuted man since Jesus,” read a 2017 op-ed headline in the Elgin Courier-News, published by the Chicago Tribune. “Trump detractors, Jesus persecutors have much in common,” read one a year later in Lexington, Kentucky’s Herald Ledger.
According to a not insignificant portion of the country, Trump is a divine figure, anointed by God, and the likes of King, Moore and Kavanaugh are his disciples. They are joined together in a pursuit of American greatness, and anyone who gets in their way is a heretic. “Millions of Americans,” celebrity pastor and Fox News contributor Robert Jeffress said at a July 2017 event, according to Politico, “believe the election of President Trump represented God giving us another chance — perhaps our last chance to truly make America great again.”