For eighteen hours over two days, I listened to the speakers at the Reawaken America Tour in Batavia, NY – a new one about every 15 minutes with no breaks. I took breaks, of course, and wandered through the carnival-like atmosphere of the grounds. Under the big tent, it was unapologetic Christian Nationalism with every speaker talking about God and Jesus, about being Christians in a Christian nation – and pleading with the 3,500 people there to “save America now.”
The formal title of this tour is “The Great ReAwakening vs the Great Reset.” One speaker used an old term for Upstate New York as “the burned-over district,” referring to the 2nd Great Awakening 200 years ago when people expected the fire of God’s Spirit to set the country ablaze with a new spirit. This crowd prayed for exactly that – for America to be a truly “Christian nation” again. Christian Nationalism to the core.
Unlike spiritual awakenings in the history of this country, this movement focuses on who is in control of the nation’s government, indeed who wants to control the world. Among the multiple conspiracy theories espoused was one they call “the Great Reset,” where “they” (always the nebulous “they”) used the pandemic – government-mandated restrictions and vaccines – to test “their” ability to control people everywhere. The cry of “freedom” was everywhere. “We” will not let “them” take away our freedoms.
In what sometimes felt like an alternate universe, I listened to the constantly-repeated claims of a stolen election and an illegitimate president – and how Trump will return. Joe Biden (they never called him our president) was called a traitor, along with everyone who stole the election and installed him as president.
Christian Nationalism threatens our democracy by calling for “real Americans”/Christians (only from within their “biblical worldview”) gaining control of every level of government, all while saying “we the people” will take “our nation back.” The rhetoric and “jokes” and casual references to specific groups of people all made clear who does not belong – LGBTQ, Jews, BLM, liberals, Democrats, for instance.
Many speakers challenged the charge against them of promoting white supremacy and violence, pointing out that a third of the dozens of speakers are Black (although 95% of the audience was white) and that there was no violence in and around the event (although there were personal bodyguards and armed security). However, the myth of a Christian nation, chosen by God (historically controlled by white men) dominated the whole event. The idea of systemic racism and white supremacy is anathema to this movement. Only individual responsibility matters, and racism only exists (in their minds) if an individual consciously hates a person of another color. They also denied that they encourage violence, even though speakers regularly used the rhetoric of warfare and enemies and “the mission.” And the main speaker and organizer was always referred to as “the general” (Gen. Michael Flynn). It was not overt, but it was implicit throughout.
In the coming weeks, I will post about my experience at this event, with quotes, details, and reflections – and what people who recognize the threat can do to challenge it.
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