To Understand Mike Johnson, Look To Small-Town Louisiana

Authored by Darlene McCormick Sanchez via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),

In the classic American film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” an idealistic leader appointed to the U.S. Senate finds himself in a tangle of political corruption and intrigue as he struggles to do what’s best for the people.

(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Getty Images, Freepik, Shutterstock, Bobby Sanchez for The Epoch Times)

Mr. Smith, played by actor Jimmy Stewart in the 1939 film, arrives at Congress from an unnamed Western state after the death of an incumbent senator. Initially, he’s unaware of the dishonest actions of some of his new congressional colleagues, and his inexperience leads the press to take advantage of him.

In the movie, Mr. Smith refuses to become corrupt, proving the importance of decency and honesty and driving home the idea that one person really can make a difference.

The film appears to be as relevant today as it was more than 80 years ago, a cautionary tale for politicians who believe that they can change what they see as a broken system.

Mike Johnson, the new speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives from small-town America, appears to want to do just that.

The Cypress Baptist Church, which is attended by Speaker of the House Mike Johnson and his family, in Benton, La., on Nov. 5, 2023. (Bobby Sanchez for The Epoch Times)

Shaping a Speaker

To understand Mr. Johnson, one must look to the places that shaped him—his church and community.

God is loved in Louisiana. America is, too.

When people speak about Mr. Johnson in his hometown of Benton, their comments always weave back around to his faith, which was demonstrated to the world after he was elected House speaker.

“I want to tell all my colleagues here what I told the Republicans in that room last night,” Mr. Johnson said, addressing the House chamber after receiving the gavel on Oct. 25. “I don’t believe there are any coincidences in a matter like this. I believe that scripture—the Bible—is very clear that God is the one that raises up those in authority.”

Benton has a population of about 2,000 and serves as a bedroom community for the much larger nearby city of Shreveport.

At least 18 churches have Benton addresses, far outnumbering the single-traffic-light intersection in the small downtown.

Couples holding hands stroll through the upscale neighborhood that Mr. Johnson calls home, as children laugh and play on manicured green lawns where American flags wave beneath towering pines and hardwoods.

He’s not afraid,” Marty Treece said of his now-famous neighbor.

Mr. Treece and his wife, Brenda, told The Epoch Times that they believe that God is using Mr. Johnson just like he used former President Donald Trump.

People in the community were excited when they heard that their congressman, a dark horse candidate for speaker, had ascended to the position without a single dissenting Republican vote.

For weeks, Republicans in Congress bickered among themselves in an attempt to elect another speaker, after hardline Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida and seven other Republicans voted to oust sitting Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) with the help of Democrats.

The new speaker of the House, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.), takes a selfie with Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.) after a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 25, 2023. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

All I want to say to Mike Johnson and those Republicans up there is ‘Stand up,’” Mr. Treece said. “It’s just sad that there are so many RINOs [Republicans in name only]” serving in Washington.

Mr. Treece said he likes the way in which Mr. Johnson is approaching the job already, especially in proposing a cut to the IRS budget to find money for Israel in its war with the terrorist group Hamas.

The Treeces said everyone knows that people will try to smear Mr. Johnson. But they feel certain that the new speaker won’t fear the trials ahead because his faith is his backbone.

No sooner had the little-known Louisiana congressman been elected as speaker than both sides of the political divide tried to quantify Mr. Johnson. He had managed to do what heavy-hitters in the GOP, such as Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), couldn’t—get elected as speaker.

Those on the political left dubbed him MAGA Mike, a Bible-thumping fundamental Christian who supported President Trump as he fought against what he maintains was a rigged 2020 election.

To those on the right, especially in his community, Mr. Johnson is known as a devout Southern Baptist who loves family and country.

A politician often said to have no enemies, Mr. Johnson emerged as the right man at the right moment to unite a fractured Republican conference during turmoil at home and abroad, his allies say.

Prayers From Home

Christians in Benton indicate that they see a spiritual significance in Mr. Johnson’s rise in politics.

Cypress Baptist Church—the home church of the Johnson family—was packed on Nov. 5 with believers who came to hear the Rev. John Fream.

“God, continue to lift up our dear friend House Speaker Mike Johnson and his wife, Kelly,” the pastor prayed aloud.

Mr. Fream, known in these parts as Pastor Fream, spoke of being thankful, even in a wicked world.

His sermon dovetailed with Psalm 37, reportedly Mr. Johnson’s favorite Bible verse. It calls on the faithful to “fret not” because the righteous will prevail against evildoers.

Some nonbelievers might scoff at those who follow the Bible, Mr. Fream said in the sermon. He knows some mock the idea that there are only two sexes and that marriage can only be between a man and a woman.

“What was worse, Sodom and Gomorrah, or today?” he asked a hushed congregation from the pulpit.

“They celebrate evil as good. We live in a world that is so upside down and inside out that you say, ‘God, send your wrath.'”

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