Mike Johnson claims to hate the devil. Maybe he should look in the mirror

As a Christian minister, I believe in God and the devil — and I know whose side today's pious Republicans are on

By Nathaniel Manderson

Contributing writer

Published December 3, 2023 6:00AM (EST)

Mike Johnson (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)
Mike Johnson (Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images)

Where is that devil and what is he up to? First of all, like in any good horror movie, the devil is always right here in the house. In the case of the current evangelical political machine, the devil is all too often wearing pastoral robes and expensive tailored suits. For many years, the evangelical church has pointed to the devil outside in the world, but the devil is the one doing the pointing. Secondly, the devil is always up to the same thing: creating division through fear. 

Believing in the devil certainly has its disadvantages. It's an odd thing. Essentially there's almost nothing I am afraid of, except the dark basement in the triple-decker apartment where I live. It's difficult to admit this, I can often be spotted running upstairs from that basement just in case the devil, or some demon or Freddy Krueger, is going to get me. It's embarrassing. I understand, intellectually, how stupid this fear is. I'm 47 years old, reasonably well educated and a big, strong guy. But if I head down to get my laundry at night, suddenly all 6'2'' and 225 pounds of me is running up my back stairs — because devils are typically slow and won't be able to get through the door to my apartment once I make it there. Plus, my apartment lights will be on. The devil can't survive in the light — which is helpful advice for confronting evil, by the way.  

This unnatural fear also prevents me from being able to enjoy a good horror movie. I've tried, a lot. It always ends with terrible results. Especially if there is a demon involved, or some possessed kid. Then I can't even go to the bathroom at night and have to hold it until morning. It's brutal. And all of this comes from when I was told that the devil was trying to hurt me — that the devil hates me and wants to keep me from God. This thinking can mess up a kid badly, even when he's a 47-year-old man.

In the minds of too many American evangelicals, those who don't hold to your faith are not simply against your ideas. They're being manipulated by the devil himself to destroy everything you love.

The devil is causing problems in current American political culture, in so many ways and for so many reasons. In the minds of too many evangelical Christians, those who do not hold to your faith are not simply against your ideas but are being manipulated by the devil himself to destroy everything you love. All who do not believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ and accept him as their savior are potentially, or very likely, under the control of the "Enemy."  

I was recently watching "90 Day Fiancé," an amazing source of human understanding and wisdom, and I was struck by one of the show's obnoxious couples. I hate this show and all the people on it, I promise — I just need to find out which couple makes it before I stop watching it forever. Or until next season, at least. Anyway, one couple on the show are mega-Christians and making sure they don't have sex before they get married.  At one point they're trying to decide about the ethics visiting each other, which could be complicated because they might be tempted to have sex. "We can't do that," said the man in the couple, "because the devil hates us and I hate that devil." So it would appear that the devil loves convincing people who are not married to have sex, and that's how he plans to destroy mankind.  

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This leads me to the latest Republican speaker of the House, Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a super-evangelical who apparently believes that the devil is at work in our country, gradually destroying the American family, democracy and Christian liberty. Now, to be clear, as a minister who believes in God, I am compelled to believe in the devil. But I see him much more at home within the evangelical movement than in most liberal causes. It is well understood in Christian history that the best place to disrupt goodness is through the church itself. Consider the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the history of American slavery, the attempted genocide against Native Americans and the oppression of women. All these evils are or were firmly backed by biblical theology — at least, as many Christians understand it — and, in my opinion, are all fully endorsed by the devil himself. This is now true of the evangelical political movement, which I believe is led by the devil and his followers.  

As a Christian minister who believes in God, I am compelled to believe in the devil. But I see him much more at home in the evangelical movement than in most liberal causes.

You see, if the devil is real I am pretty sure he doesn't care about same-sex marriage, taxes on the wealthy, building a wall along the Mexican border, denying health insurance to poor and working-class people or even abortion. The devil isn't about issues. He wants to control and mislead people and get them to do evil things. Currently, the evangelical agenda advanced by people like Mike Johnson involves ignoring the needs of the poor, the sick and immigrants from foreign lands. They support Donald Trump — which should be enough evidence that the devil is real, by the way — and believe that our planet's population of 8 billion people started with a man and a woman in a garden. Yikes!

Here's the truth: There is evil in this world. That is evident to anyone paying attention, and for the most part I see it in people who loudly claim to be pure and good. You can certainly find that hypocrisy on the "liberal" side as well, but honestly it's more common among the evangelical leadership, whom I know very well. Jesus gave his sternest warnings against the religious hypocrites of his day — those who misuse the word of God to oppress or subjugate people and restrict their rights. Jesus knew, as we must know too, that the real evil, the genuine devil, is often found in the pulpit. The devil has many followers. He sells many books. He runs for president. He misleads God's people.

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I feel afraid when I fetch my laundry from the basement, because I know the devil and his minions are real. My irrational fear of my back hallway and that dark basement is based on something I know to be true. As that remarkably ignorant man said on TV, the devil hates us and I hate that devil. Mike Johnson, Donald Trump and the evangelical leadership that supports these evildoers are being controlled by the devil. They tap into evil desires to control, manipulate, and condemn the very people Jesus taught his followers to protect, serve and love.  

Just as a quick example of this evil and manipulation in action, just watch as Donald Trump appears to alter his position on abortion. It's obvious to anyone paying attention that Trump, much like the devil, couldn't care less about abortion. It is an issue manipulated to motivate followers and put evil people into power. But now that the abortion issue is hurting the Republican brand, Trump will of course shift his views to win, because power is more important to evil than following any moral code. 

To combat that power, those who oppose Trump and his evangelicals must remember the plain truth expressed 2,000 years ago by Jesus Christ. His ministry of Jesus revolved around two ideas: Serving the poor, the sick and the despised outsider, and exposing religious hypocrisy. Defeating Trump is simple, or at least it ought to be: Listen to the working poor, to blue-collar Americans, and expose the evangelical leaders who just want to sell books, gain power and fly in private jets.  

Evil only loses if the people at the bottom pull together. Just as the lights in my apartment scare away the devil who may be pursuing me, it is time to shine the light on these massive hypocrites in evangelical leadership and the Republican Party. If we stand together, they will be forced to retreat into the dark basement, at least for now. 

By Nathaniel Manderson

Nathaniel Manderson was educated at a conservative seminary, trained as a minister, ordained through the American Baptist Churches USA and guided by liberal ideals. Throughout his career he has been a pastor, a career counselor, an academic adviser, a high school teacher and an advocate for first-generation and low-income students, along with a paper delivery man, a construction worker, a FedEx package handler and whatever else he could do to take care of his family. Contact him at

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Christianity Commentary Conservatives Devil Donald Trump Evangelicals Mike Johnson Religion Republicans