Renee Ricco, local “citizen journalist,” posted a video report of her experience at the Batavia, NY Reawaken America Tour. We experienced the same event, but her report differs significantly. She saw it as “a diverse group of speakers on different topics from God, love of America, health and wellness, and politics. … and that there was a time in this country when we could agree on God and love of country.” Here is the video:
The 3,000 participants likely agreed with her views. I did not. Ms. Ricco presents as a rational, unbiased journalist, but she is not. Her website link doesn’t work, and her YouTube channel seems limited to reports on this event and an earlier revival at the same church, with some recent interviews with the GOP candidate running against NY Congressman Joe Morelle. Her interviews highlight themes of Christian Nationalism and are filled with the language of a movement that sees itself as representing God and truth against people who reject it.
Her report begins with a dismissal (if not direct attack) on all other media reports. She says that “content was enlightening and provided a different perspective from the same old daily news.” She found “no basis in reality from the articles I read prior to this event,” and wondered “if anyone writing this stuff ever attended an event.” And “I wonder if those assigned to cover this event from the media are even allowed to present the truth….It is low-level reporting…and just stirs up people’s emotions.” As if that’s not what is true of her.
Ms. Ricco interviewed Paul Doyle, pastor of the Cornerstone Church that hosted the event. His words are unapologetic Christian Nationalism. Here are some excerpts:
“I’m tired of events being cancelled because they have a conservative Christian bent to them. ….
“I hope to see the fear come out of the Christian community, that they don’t have to be intimidated by the cancel culture. … The Christian voice gave the input to found this country … and it’s being cancelled out. … Get back to believing in God, get back to believing America was God’s idea in the first place. Why would we want to cancel the very voice of the One who started this country?”
“America is a welcoming, tolerant nation because of Christianity. It’s why there’s so many multiple different ethnicities in America. … Churches are resistant to this idea because of fear. There are churches that have bought into the narrative of mainstream media, big tech, and Hollywood that owns the narrative. … We don’t have a voice of Christianity anymore. We have a voice of the culture.”
Ms. Ricci then shifted the interview to talk about the idea of the Separation of Church and State:
Ricci: “It was intended for the state to stay out of the church, not the other way around.”
Doyle: “It’s almost like a sound bite. They take it of context and don’t read the rest (of Thomas Jefferson’s letter)….They want the church to be quiet.”
Ricci: “Would you ever be associated with anything that would ever denigrate any group of people?”
Doyle: “Our church is multi-ethnic … ‘browns, whites, blacks’ … We are a church that loves people.”
On Renee Ricci’s YouTube channel, you can find three other interviews with speakers at the event. All of them follow the same style of unabashed admiration for the interviewee and asking leading questions. One is with Aaron Lewis, pastor and candidate for governor of Connecticut, fairly low-key. The other two are with unabashed Christian Nationalists.
Lance Wallnau, a self-proclaimed apostle, prophet, and movement leader who coined the term “Seven Mountain Mandate,” had “a vision” in 2016 that the next president would be like King Cyrus in the Hebrew scriptures – a man who did not believe in God but was chosen by God to rebuild the nation of Israel. That man, of course, was Donald Trump whom he has met with and prayed over. In his interview, he claims that churches opposing Reawaken America and this movement are” agreeing with the slander and are on the wrong side of God.”
Rev. Leon Benjamin, pastor, “apostle,” and candidate for Congress in Virginia pastors two churches, one in Virginia and one in Tulsa. He is “Clay Clark’s pastor” – the organizer of this tour. He spoke of “freedom,, unmasking the lie, telling the truth” and of “election fraud, mask tyranny, religious tyranny, economic tyranny.” He listed areas of influence in society that this movement seeks to dominate, and they are the “Seven Mountains of Influence” of Lance Wallnau and many in this movement. He said about Reawaken America that “the message is unity and there is no racism. … (and) we have to choose what’s right, either good or evil.” The clear implication, of course, is that anyone opposing the Tour and this movement chooses evil.
The language and values of Christian Nationalism embedded in these interviews require much more “unpacking” than I can do in one post. I will continue to write on it as we seek not only understanding but answers to what we can do to challenge it. Follow my blog (if you have not yet), and watch for announcements of a new online course available around Thanksgiving. Meanwhile, watch the videos and follow the links in my posts. Learn all you can. Be confident and assertive in your knowledge as you speak out against this threat to our democracy.