Friday, April 19, 2024

Why did Speaker Johnson change his mind about aid to Ukraine?

Over the last few days, Speaker Mike Johnson has done an about-face on the U.S. providing aid to Ukraine.  In case you didn't know, a group called Republicans for Ukraine gave Johnson an "F" rating for voting against aid every time it came up in the House.  Then, when he became speaker, he continually blocked bills from coming to a vote. 

Now all of the sudden, he's risking the ire of Trump and MAGA Republicans (and possibly his speakership) in support of aid to Ukraine. What changed?

There are those who suggest that Johnson showed his hand by saying that he believes intelligence reports that "Vladimir Putin would continue to march through Europe if he were allowed." But hasn't he been getting these kinds of reports all along? Why would he suddenly believe them now?

While we'll never know for sure, I would suggest that something started happening about three weeks ago that ignited the speaker's change of heart.

In a March 26 letter, the Ukraine Council of Evangelical Protestant Churches urged U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson to vote on providing aid to Ukraine without delay...

Writers of the letter mentioned church buildings being taken away, ministers being arrested and tortured, the Russian bombings of an East Ukraine church, Feb. 28—which killed the pastor—and an apartment building, March 2—which killed 12, including five children and an evangelical pastor’s daughter and infant grandson...

The letter implored Speaker Johnson to come to the aid of evangelical churches in Ukraine because “as Evangelicals, we are being accused of working for the interests of the American Government...Appealing to Johnson’s shared evangelical faith—Southern Baptist—the letter closed by asking for “prayers and action on behalf of 8,000 Evangelical churches in Ukraine.

On March 10th, PBS ran a story titled "Ukrainian Christian Groups Face Violent Crackdown From Russian Forces."

Russia first occupied the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol in early March 2022.

And Russian Secret Services, after persecuting pro-Ukrainian activists, former government officials and human rights defenders, have since targeted the churches and their pastors and congregants.

That was followed by two different letters to Johnson from Baptist leaders in the U.S. urging him to support aid to Ukraine. The first one, dated April 8th, included the signature (among others) of Richard Land, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, on which Johnson once served.

As you consider efforts to support Ukraine, we humbly ask that you consider the plight of Christians. The Russian government’s decision to invade Ukraine and to target Baptists and other evangelical Christians in Ukraine has been a tragic hallmark of the war.

The second letter to Johnson was dated April 17th and signed by several pastors.

We remind Congress that religious freedom is a basic human right that must be protected everywhere. We pray Congress has the courage to stand in solidarity with people of faith. Ukrainian Christians deserve the freedom to worship in peace and embrace their faith without fear.

We call on Congress to provide Ukraine with the financial and military support required to defend herself, stop the bloodshed, and secure freedom of religion within her borders.
I would submit to you that this is the reason Johnson did such an about-face on Ukraine. It was the specter of Putin's persecution of evangelical Christians in Ukraine that changed his mind. 

Don't get me wrong. I'm very relieved at the end result. But it's a good reminder that, to understand someone like Speaker Johnson, you always have to keep in mind where his loyalties lie. They're obviously not with national security or the lives of every day Ukrainians. Instead, they're with his tribe of evangelical Christians.

1 comment:

  1. I also saw some speculation that in the speech he gave during the presser where he changed course that a good chunk of the language he used sounded very much like Mitch McConnell.


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