Reporting on Reawaken America

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:

Renee Ricci, Citizen Journalist

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.

Interview with Pastor Doyle

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.”

Lance Wallnau

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.

Leon Benjamin

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.

Why the MyPillow Guy?

At the Reawaken America event in Batavia, Mike Lindell – “The MyPillow Guy” – was a star. When he came to the stage as a final presenter, the audience gave him a raucous standing ovation. Why? Most of us never heard of him until he became a public supporter and donor of Donald Trump. Now he’s almost a “hero” to people who follow this tour and the Christian Nationalism movement.

Mike Lindell with Donald Trump at the White House

MyPillow infomercials on late night TV since 2011 and national media attention helped him build a 1,500-employee manufacturing business of pillows, linens, slippers, and more in Chaska, Minnesota. Never one for politics until 2016, his meeting in Trump Tower that August made him a staunch supporter of Donald Trump, which is why most of us now know who he is.

As Lindell tells his own story, he was a gambler and cocaine addict for 30 years until 2009 (just two years before his company “took off”). As he tells it – mostly the only way we “know” much about his life – he prayed to be free of the addiction and the desire left. Maybe so, but he remains a man willing to lie and to use people to be in the spotlight. He did not publicly profess to be a Christian until 2017, yet now he is acclaimed as one used by God to help bring what he called “the greatest revival for Jesus Christ in history.”

Liberty University in 2019, while Jerry Falwell, Jr. was still president, invited him to speak and awarded him an honorary doctorate (a man who dropped out of college after a few months). Falwell said about him: “I can’t think of anybody else who epitomizes the principles that built this school more than Mike.” And in his speech, Lindell said, that “he sees his success in the business world simply as an afforded opportunity to share his Christian faith. … The pillow is just a platform for a much bigger thing. …. My calling is to speak out the word of Jesus.”

Mike Lindell at Liberty University

As he spoke in Batavia, I jotted down this question:

How can Christians lie so much?

In his presentation, Lindell spoke in detail about “the stolen election.” He blames cyber technology which he calls “an evil threat in our nation.” He says it is the work of the “deep state” and a “unigovernment.” He referenced the Georgia primary and how “one precinct reported no votes for one candidate until they looked in the machine” to find the votes (whatever that means) and told similar stories. He claimed that “54 countries have lost everything due to machines.” This wild, nonsensical claim got applause when he followed it with “machines have to go.” He also claimed that “a New York Citizens Audit found huge discrepancies between Secretary of State and County Boards of Elections … that names and identities have been changed … that people serving are not who the people elected.” Stuff and nonsense, as the saying goes.

When nonsensical claims, conspiracy theories, and fact-checked lies are believed and applauded at these events by people who claim to be Christians and Patriots, our nation is threatened and the reputation of all Christians is dishonored. Here’s more of what Mike Lindell said at a 2019 CPAC conference:

“Donald Trump invited me to meet him at Trump Tower in New York City. I walked into his office with high hopes on August 15, 2016. I walked out of that office after meeting with him, and I knew God had chosen him for such a time as this. … God answered our prayers, our millions of prayers, and gave us grace and a miracle happened on November 8, 2016. … We were given a second chance and time granted to get our country back on track with our conservative values and getting people saved in Jesus’ name.”

Even some on the far right are backing away. Lindell bought three hours of airtime on OANN – One America News Network – “to broadcast Absolute Proof, a documentary that makes false claims about the election.. … OANN broadcast a lengthy disclaimer before the program saying the claims were Lindell’s alone, but that the 2020 election results ‘remain disputed and questioned by millions of Americans.’” That’s not much, but it’s a start.

In January 2022, “Lindell claimed that he possessed ‘enough evidence to put everybody in prison for life, 300-some million people’ for their part in the alleged 2020 election fraud, which, at the time, was about 91 percent of the U.S. population.”  Stuff and nonsense.

When I began to follow the growth of this movement 15 years ago, most people thought “the religious right” was losing its power. Now a far more extreme version of this Christian Nationalist movement holds events with thousands of people around the nation. They have a powerful network of social, broadcast, and print media. They know how to dominate the news and spread their “message” farther every day.

And here we are. Too many people still want to dismiss the “nonsense” and trust that enough people will recognize lies for what they are. Yet “election deniers” are elected to state offices and the U.S. Congress where they will hold power to manipulate election results. What can we do?

Know the facts.
Speak up.
Challenge lies.

It is not too late. Do it now.

Michael Flynn’s “Holy War”

Associated Press reporters and a PBS Frontline crew were at the Reawaken America event in Batavia, NY. They reported in a PBS Newshour story that “The AP and Frontline bought tickets for the Batavia event after Clark invited ‘Frontline’ to attend one of the tour’s shows. Reporters spent two days listening to speakers and observing the events from inside. On the second day, security escorted a ‘Frontline’ reporter from the grounds because, he was told, Flynn believed he intended to cover the event unfavorably. When an AP reporter began interviewing people attending the event at the end of the second day, she was also reported to security.”

PBS Newshour

Since I bought a ticket and stayed quiet, I was able to experience the full two days so that I could write these posts. The article’s summary statement is absolutely true: “ReAwaken acts as a petri dish for Christian nationalism and pushes the idea that there’s a battle underway between good and evil forces. Those who are considered evil include government officials and Democrats.”

Michael Flynn

Their story is part of an ongoing investigation from The Associated Press and the PBS series “Frontline” that includes the upcoming documentary “Michael Flynn’s Holy War,” premiering Oct. 18 on PBS and online. I encourage you to watch it. I will. The AP article and the PBS documentary both describe how Michael Flynn is raising “an army of God”:

“The tour serves as a traveling roadshow and recruiting tool for an ascendant Christian nationalist movement that’s wrapped itself in God, patriotism and politics and has grown in power and influence inside the Republican Party. In the version of America laid out at the ReAwaken tour, Christianity should be at the center of American life and institutions. Instead, it’s under attack, and attendees need to fight to restore the nation’s Christian roots. It’s a message repeated over and over at ReAwaken — one that upends the constitutional ideal of a pluralist democracy. But it’s a message that is taking hold. A poll by the University of Maryland conducted in May found that 61% of Republicans support declaring the U.S. to be a Christian nation.

The article quotes Katherine Stewart, author of “The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism,”who attended a March 2022 ReAwaken America show at a church in San Marcos, California. She said it was like entering a “parallel messaging universe.”

“The leaders of the ReAwaken America tour are really driving people into a fact-free echo chamber,” Stewart said. “They have been persuaded and manipulated into believing they’re doing what’s right for their country. But all of their good intentions are being harnessed in service of an agenda that’s dividing our country as never before and, frankly, leading to the potential destruction of our democracy. ”

Katherine Stewart

On Sunday, October 30 at 6:30 pm ET, I will moderate a public webinar with Katherine Stewart, sponsored by Rochester, NY organizations who share this concern for our democracy. You can find the event information and required registration link here. Anyone is welcome to register and join us for the evening.

This article and documentary are focused on the role of Michael Flynn in this movement. Here’s what I wrote in an earlier post of mine on Flynn:

Michael Flynn posted a video on the Fourth of July in 2020 where he recited an oath to the QAnon conspiracy theorists . After the election, Flynn “called on Donald Trump to suspend the constitution and declare martial law for the military to run a new election … and ran a full-page ad in The Washington Times that claimed the extraordinary executive actions were necessary to avoid the alternative of an imminent ‘shooting civil war’.” All of this qualifies him for hero status in this movement.

What can we do to oppose this movement and minimize its power in our nation? First – learn as much as possible about Christian Nationalism and the larger anti-democracy movement. Read my posts. Watch the PBS documentary. Read the many articles available online. Attend the October 30 webinar. That’s a start. Second – talk with people in churches and community organizations. Tell them what you’re learning, and encourage them to find out more. And third – Take action. Vote for people at every level of our government who are not part of this movement, who are publicly opposed to it – people who will deny it the power it seeks to destroy democracy as we’ve known it. Together, we can do it.

Intrigue of the Movement

Patrick Byrne intrigued me as one of the final presenters at the Reawaken American Tour in Batavia, NY. He stirred my curiosity. Byrne holds graduate degrees in Philosophy from Cambridge and Stanford. He founded a company ( with $2.5 billion in 2020 revenue. His father and Warren Buffett (a rare multi-billionaire who lives humbly in Lincoln, Nebraska) are friends and in business together. His manner of presentation drew me in to listen, but what he said appalled me.

Patrick Byrne

His 15-minute talk focused on Frederick Douglass, a former slave and abolitionist, and referred to Douglass’ famous Fourth of July speech on July 4, 1852, in Rochester, NY. Why would he do that, I wondered. How does Frederick Douglass fit the context of this event? He didn’t quote the speech, directly, of course – or anything Douglass said. Rather, he abused his legacy of fighting for true freedom and misconstrued the meaning of his words to make Douglass sound like he belonged to the MAGA movement. Douglass, he said, “urged us to protect our rights.” Byrne claimed that “we are about consent – the consent of the governed” and called him a “defender of constitutional rights.” He even styled himself to be “a Frederick Douglass Republican.”

Frederick Douglass

Frederick Douglass would be appalled at this abuse of his name and legacy. Some of his words might sound to this crowd as if they meant the same thing:

“To side with the right, against the wrong,
with the weak against the strong,
and with the oppressed against the oppressor! …
With brave men there is always a remedy for oppression.”

That’s only because the MAGA movement twists reality and the meaning of language to claim they are on the side of “the right, the weak, and the oppressed”! They speak of tyranny of government as if it is 1776, and they are patriots fighting against the British, when they actually are fighting on the side of the Confederacy in 1860. And that’s what Douglass would say to them.

Byrne claimed that systemic racism is nonsense, that U.S. “history is the exact opposite of what people demonstrating (and CRT) are claiming,” and that “there is not a shred of white identity in this movement” – and the crowd applauded. I can imagine the crowd’s angry, vitriolic, even violent reaction Douglass would invoke with his actual words:

“American justice is bound by the law to hear (only) the side of the oppressor. Let this damning fact be perpetually told. Let it be thundered around the world, that, in tyrant-killing, king-hating, people-loving, democratic, Christian America, the seats of justice are filled with judges, who hold their offices under an open and palpable bribe, and are bound, in deciding in the case of a man’s liberty, to hear only his accusers!” … For my part, I would say, Welcome infidelity! welcome atheism! welcome anything—in preference to the gospel, as preached by those divines. They convert the very name of religion into an engine of tyranny, and barbarous cruelty. …. All this we affirm to be true of the popular church, and the popular worship of our land and nation—a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God.”

Intrigue has a second meaning, other than curiosity and fascination. It also can refer to people making secret plans which are illicit and detrimental to others. The second meaning describes the leaders of these events and of The America Project, and would-be leaders of this nation – Michael Flynn and Patrick Byrne, for instance. Claiming to be patriots working to “save America,” they boldly and publicly undermine all trust in our elections and elected officials. They praise the January 6 insurrection. They threaten violence in the streets if the FBI and DOJ – and Congress and the Courts – continue to investigate Trump for criminal behavior. And all the while, they cloak themselves in the language and symbolism of the Christian religion. But what I experienced at this event is in the words of Frederick Douglass: “a religion, a church, and a worship which, on the authority of inspired wisdom, we pronounce to be an abomination in the sight of God.”

Saving America from Evil

Two Saturday speakers at the Reawaken America Tour in Batavia NY acted out a specific form of Christianity at the heart of Christian Nationalism. Amanda Grace, founder of Ark of Grace Ministries, claims to receive prophecies directly from God. So did Hebrew prophets. So have many people through time. As we hear words of “prophecy” from people who claim a spiritual gift and “a window into the supernatural,” even for those of us who accept that such mysteries can be reality-based, the question is whether it “rings true” or “comes true.”

Amanda Grace

She spent much of her 15 minutes on stage “speaking words of prophecy,” sometimes with speaking in tongues and mostly in a loud voice. One claim was that there is “a spirit sitting on the Empire State Building” and that New York State “wants to destroy Trump and anyone who loves this nation.” As if they are one and the same.  Since such a supernatural being would necessarily be invisible, no one can prove it’s not there anymore than she can prove it is. Many people in the audience under the tent evidently believed her claim and applauded what she had to say about New York wanting to destroy both Trump and “those who love this nation” – meaning, of course, people like them.

Another of her prophecies was that there would be “a complete overthrow of the system in the next three months.” Putting a deadline on a word of prophecy does make it easier for other people to know if “came true,” but how does anyone know what “overthrow of the system” actually means. It’s open-ended enough to deny the meaning someone else might give the phrase to say it didn’t happen. This kind of “word,” though, spoken to a receptive audience of thousands of like-minded people stirs up their antagonism toward “the system” (however they define it) and their hope that it will be destroyed.

Christian Nationalism combines two historical traditions in the Christian religion. One tradition believes that if “true” Christians are in charge of the nation, it will become the nation God wants it to be. The other tradition builds on the image of the ark – Noah’s ark – as a place of refuge from the evil world to be destroyed by God – or by the “people of God.” These two speakers build their work especially on the foundation of this second tradition. The world is full of evil when Christians – in their particular, limited view of that faith – are not in power. Until they are, God cannot be in control, and evil and darkness will continue to destroy the nation. While that continues to happen, “we” must stay in “the ark” together for safety.

Amanda Grace proclaimed that “God is not done with this evil nation.” She also called it God’s covenant nation – a core tenet of Christian Nationalism. The next speaker carried that theme further. Bernadette Smith, co-pastor with her husband of The Eternal Word Church in Grandville, MI, said that “we are God’s anointed people … to eradicate the darkness in this nation.” She urged the audience to “be liberated with the truth.” One danger of this movement is that their “truth” is very specific and limited to what they are convinced is a “biblical worldview” – which a great many Christians deny as truly “biblical,” rooted in Scripture and the Gospel. The danger comes out of the merging of that “worldview” with an authoritarian, political power, willing to use violence if necessary.

Several speakers, including this African-American speaker, attacked CRT (Critical Race Theory) as an attempt to divide “us.” Pastor Smith embraces the idea that “we are all one people” and that anti-racist education that talks about systemic racism is wrong because it divides us – as if our nation has not been divided. A third of the speakers at the event were Black and understandably denied charges of white supremacy against this movement. Systemic racism, however, is undeniably a historical reality of our American history. It is also a reality of the role of the Christian Church in this country because it supported slavery in the South and separation of races in the North. It still does in many places. To dismiss the evil of racism as an attempt to divide us is a willful denial of these realities.

This reversal of historical realities characterizes the movement. People in the audience and all of the speakers were absolutely convinced that they are being persecuted. For two days, we were told that a nebulous “they” want to destroy them, to rob them of their freedom. Liberals, the “woke,” Democrats, progressive Christians, social justice advocates – everyone considered to be part of these groups – are part of the “they.” People at this event feel deeply that “they” are destroying our nation, and they must stop it and change it and make Christian America great again.

Cloaked in Religion

Michael Flynn drives the movement behind the Reawaken America Tour, organized by Clay Clark. General Flynn’s military career, including counterterrorism and special operations in the Middle East, positioned him to start the Flynn Intel Group in 2014 that provided intelligence services globally. In 2016 he became national security advisor to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and in January 2017 was appointed National Security Adviser. Three weeks later, he resigned and eventually pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. – and was pardoned by President Trump a few weeks before he left office.

Michael Flynn

To some in this movement, Michael Flynn is a hero – “America’s General” – and he plays that role well. On Saturday of this event, inside the church building next to the vendor displays, Flynn held what he called a press conference. Positioned in front of a huge backdrop with his image and the U.S. flag, and joined by a few other speakers, he was “interviewed” by The Epoch Times. Flynn said “our purpose is education for people with hope, helping them to be involved in our country. America has been reawakened, and we will continue with our mission.” Flynn was joined in this press conference by three men: Patrick Byrne, Kash Patel, and Aaron Lewis.

Together their “mission” became clear – to oppose the “tyranny” of an “out of control” government. “Even the Republican party is being infiltrated by the enemy,” Patrick Byrne said. “Our elections are junk. Both parties are corrupt.” On his website (, he talks about the Deep State and the stolen 2020 election. He claimed that “DHS just released a report saying election machines are flawed, casting real doubt on the 2020 election.” In fact, DHS has said the opposite.

Kash Patel

Kash Patel’s first comments included the debunked claim that the government will hire 87,000 armed IRS agents. He talked about how “the federal government cannot decide how our elections are run because of states’ sovereign rights,” and added that “people don’t trust our election system.” That’s true for some people, of course – people in this movement where everything they hear undermines any remaining confidence in our government. His attack includes writing children’s books like this one – The Plot Against the King, which Trump just this week said should be read by every schoolchild.

Aaron Lewis, a Black pastor from Connecticut, more subtly challenged the government. “Martin Luther King is my hero because the FBI deemed him an enemy – for the same reason we are being opposed.” In his 15-minute spot later in the day, he continued his theme. “The overwhelming majority of leadership needs to be replaced,” he shouted, and “we refuse to co-sign a narrative that does not work for our people, for humanity.” He meant the narrative of Critical Race Theory which he says claims this movement is white nationalist,, white supremacist, racist. “They use lies against us,” he shouted.

All of this was captured on video by staff from The Epoch Times. They say that their “mission is to bring you a truthful view of the world free from the influence of any government, corporation, or political party. We aim to tell you what we see, not how to think; we strive to deliver you a factual picture of reality that lets you form your own opinions.” A quick review of their website or their ubiquitous newspaper will tell you otherwise. They operate in 35 countries with a media group including TV stations and YouTube channels, through which they have spread QAnon and other conspiracies, including anti-vaccine misinformation and claims of fraud in the 2020 election. That, of course, is why they were there, prominently involved.

Michael Flynn posted a video on the Fourth of July in 2020 where he recited an oath to the QAnon conspiracy theorists . After the election, Flynn “called on Donald Trump to suspend the constitution and declare martial law for the military to run a new election … and ran a full-page ad in The Washington Times that claimed the extraordinary executive actions were necessary to avoid the alternative of an imminent ‘shooting civil war’.” All of this qualifies him for hero status in this movement.

This side-event avoided religion, but the whole event was cloaked in it. Aaron Lewis is a pastor. Michael Flynn publicly claims to be a Christian. Patrick Byrne says he wants to protect “religious freedom,” a code word in this movement for traditional conservative Christianity. Kash Patel seems to be someone who uses this Christian Nationalist movement for his own purposes. These are sad times for those of us who are Christians who choose to follow the teachings of Jesus. They are dangerous times for this nation when 61% of Republicans (according to a story released today) favor “declaring the U.S. a Christian nation.” Join me in standing up to challenge this movement.

Rude and Crude

At the Reawaken American Tour in Batavia, “rude and crude” characterized the language and demeanor of some speakers. The program described one Saturday morning speaker, Doug Billings, as “the man who Glenn Beck and General Flynn have referred to as the next Rush Limbaugh.” For 37 years, Limbaugh set the tone for this radical right movement on his radio show, and he seemed to revel in being rude and crude day after day.

Rush Limbaugh

Doug Billings, host of The Right Side Show, was not as rude and crude as the two speakers who followed him, but he was dismissive of people who created “the nightmare” we live in. America right now, he claimed, has a “communist, socialist government…. and “we the people of God must take it back. – If we take it back, we win,” he shouted. “We are the party of life, liberty, and happiness.” This dismissive rhetoric dominated the whole event.

The next speaker brought the crowd to its feet with applause at his appearance on stage. I had not heard of most of the speakers at this event, but the audience had. On Charlie Ward’s website, his story gives no real clues to who he really is and what he does, but if you read his May 5, 2022 newsletter, you know why he was at this event:  

“Good day Patriot: This a very exciting week, the Quantum team are working extremely hard behind the scenes, nothing is in plain sight. This is a military operation, there will be NO telegraphing of information but also no reason to worry. Everything is under control, it’s important that the masses wake up to the truth. This is not an easy journey, people have been conditioned not to question what they see, hear and read. Hard for those who seek the truth to convince them they have been conned by people they believed they should trust.”

During Charlie Ward’s presentation, he was intense, loud, crude at times, building the crowd into a frenzy. Good thing it was only 15 minutes! To get a better sense of the experience, watch his TV segments – or just read the headlines and see the images from links on his website to his TV shows:

The third speaker reveled in being rude and crude. Scot McKay calls himself the Patriot Street Fighter and says he is “giving his voice to ‘we the people’, dedicating his time, effort, heart & soul to maintaining, through his platforms, the undeniable RIGHTS provided by our Lord & Savior- In other words, the beautiful freedoms all Americans enjoy! – Christian Nationalism in all its glory.

McKay came on stage with bodyguards, with video and sound like a wrestling event. In coarse language, he launched into the rhetoric of the “battle of our lifetime [against] the Satanic force out there circling this planet.” He talked about how his family opposed what he is doing and then said to the crowd: “Look around, this is your family.” He talked fast, moving from one idea to another:

  • School boards voting in policies allowing kids to identify as furries
  • Calling George H.W. Bush as a rapist and drug trafficker
  • Urging people to bring Christ consciousness into this world
  • Talking about the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab, and “government at every level doing what they want” – and how in Europe “they’re stand up by the millions” against it all
  • Talk of the military and Trump taking over, using survivalist language to urge people to get ready and saying “this is Christ’s call”

Christian Nationalism and the radical right movement it is part of seems caught in a web of conspiracies and lies, unsubstantiated accusations, and demonizing of “the other.” The mixing of Capitalism, Christianity, and Nationalism combines with aggressive militancy and toxic masculinity to create not only a rude and crude, but a dangerous, culture.

Common Ground?

With decades of work in conflict transformation, I must ask the question: “Do we have any common ground?” We oppose a movement that threatens democracy around the world. It must be challenged and its power destroyed. Yet a movement is made up of individual people. My question is whether I share any common ground with them and if that might offer hope for transformation.

This authoritarian, radical right movement is not a single entity. It includes radical economic and political conservatives, Christian Nationalists, MAGA followers, militia groups, and people who lust for power and money – all of which must be opposed. Are there not, though, individuals caught up in diverse parts of this movement who share desires and dreams in common with mine?

As I wandered among the vendor stands at Reawaken America and listened to the speakers and watched the people, I knew that at some level we all have similar desires:

  • Health
  • Family
  • Happiness
  • A decent income
  • Freedom from fear
  • Trust in our leaders and confidence in our government
  • Hope for our nation and the world our grandchildren will live in

Dr. Mark Sherwood, with his wife, Dr. Michele Neil-Sherwood, founded the Functional Medicine Institute in Tulsa, Oklahoma ( Their stories, briefly told on their website, sound inspiring, and their commitment to the health of the whole person seems genuine. While I might question some aspects of their practice of medicine, I do not doubt that we share some common ground in what we want for people in this life.

Dr. Mark Sherwood

As Mark Sherwood spoke on Saturday morning, he talked about our desire to live and not die. Who doesn’t share that desire? He talked about abundant living and a desire for a better life and a nation we want for our grandchildren. Even in that context, though, he also talked about “battling tyranny” – meaning the government and current administration. I disagree with that. He used the “Make America Great Again” language and claimed that our problems are because “we fail to put God first.” While I may agree with that last statement, I am sure we mean very different things by what it means.

Among all the speakers those two days, Mark Sherwood’s presentation brought me to ask the question of common ground, not with everyone but with enough people in this broad movement that we might change the trajectory. I doubt that he and I would agree on many questions of politics or religion, but don’t we share common desires for a better life – for health, family, a decent living, freedom, trust in our leaders?

It’s an opening, a place to begin – like the entrance to a dark cave where we don’t know what’s inside – but can we do it together?  I may never sit down and talk with the Sherwoods, but I know a great many people – family and friends – with whom I share common dreams and desires, but disagree on how to move toward them. This is one way forward in our nation. Sit down with people, listen to each other’s stories – our desires and dreams – and create a new story for transformation in our future.

How Strange

How strange could it get? I did sometimes wonder that during the Reawaken America Tour in Batavia. I have been in Christian circles for decades where people used the language of “spiritual warfare” and prayed against evil and the demonic. There was a lot of that, but it did not seem strange – not even mixed in with the language of political enemies. I knew that was coming.

Bo Polny (, however, surprised me. Unknown to me – he has millions of views on YouTube and more than one website promoting his work as an “analyst” in the Gold, Silver, and Cryptocurrency markets. What does that have to do with a spiritual and political “Reawakening” in America? Then it got stranger.

Bo Polny

He packed a lot into 15 minutes, beginning with a video which included scriptures about vengeance and destruction of enemies and about the wealth of sinners being stored up for the righteous. This was the language of the video, not just my interpretation. There were dark images about war and judgment – and about Babylon – apocalyptic, end-times imagery and language wrapped up in a presentation by someone who works in the Gold, Silver, and Cryptocurrency markets. He portrayed Babylon (understood by many as the world economic power of “the last days”) as the Vatican and Washington controlling us “through a system of corruption and mind control.” Then he spoke like a prophet telling the future saying that “Babylon is coming down this year – the day of vengeance of our God.” That brought applause from the crowd.

The Fall of Babylon

From there it got stranger and stranger. He used bits and pieces of his “research,” abused isolated phrases and ideas from the book of Haggai, for instance, and drew on the language of “end times prophecy” to announce “September 24 as the day when everything, including the economy, will be overturned.” I guess we’ll see what happens in two weeks.

We could dismiss someone like Bo Polny as simply ignorant, maybe deluded, but he represents a part of Christian Nationalism which cannot be ignored. Books like Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America,” by historian Nancy MacLean, tell the 60-year story of how a radical view of Capitalism captivated radical conservative Christianity. What appear to be disparate political and religious streams merged into one movement with the force of a river at flood stage. That’s what we are seeing now. Why would a gold and cryptocurrency marketer use the language and imagery of end-times prophecy to announce the fall of Babylon in the fall of 2022? Seems so strange.

Nancy MacLean

Christian Nationalism merges a specific “biblical worldview” with right-wing politics and claims that America is a Christian nation, with laws to be based in that worldview, and that only people who agree with this are “true Americans” and “patriots.” It also claims that the scriptures of both Jews and Christians – what they call the Old and New Testaments –  teach “capitalism” as a God-given economic system. Anything else – like “socialism” and “wealth redistribution” – are therefore evil. That’s why the movement puts people like Bo Polny on stage.

Their “biblical worldview” believes that God gives wealth to the righteous, therefore the wealthy are “righteous.” This is an ancient idea, and there are scriptures which could be used to support that. Not in the gospels, though. Not in the prophets. Not in the words of Jesus. Still, this unassailable “truth” (for them) is at the heart of their movement. That’s why people like preachers of the “prosperity gospel” and billionaire Donald J. Trump are heralded as prophets and leaders. And it’s why people like Charles Koch have funded this movement since the 1960s. And it’s why people like Bo Polny are speakers on the Reawaken America Tour.

Conspiracies and lies

These words from Sir Walter Scott are a good fit for The Reawaken America Tour: Oh what a tangled web we weave / When first we practice to deceive.

Conspiracy theories and lies dominated the 18 hours of this event, and thousands of people cheered and clapped and shouted “Amen!” They were there for a show, and the speakers met their expectations. The underlying deceptions of this event began with its naming. It was publicly advertised as a Fresh Roasted Coffee Fest and Expo in Rochester/Batavia, yet this was always their advertising for the people who actually came:

In Batavia, the theme of the event was “The Great Reawakening vs. The Great Reset.” When the tour began in 2021, it was billed as a “Health and Freedom” event. Organizers often described it as featuring a host of speakers on freedom, faith, health, and family values. However, the event now focused on the idea of a conspiracy of “the global elite” trying to control the world through many nefarious means, including COVID mandates and vaccines. “The Great Reset” is a term coined in 2010 in a book on global economics and social/political changes and used again in 2020 in a book by Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), who wrote about how COVID-19 was changing everything and provided an opportunity to “reset” how we work together to create a more resilient, sustainable world. How did that become an evil, demonic threat to the health and freedom of Americans?

Eric Trump, Michael Flynn, Kash Patel, Mike Lindell, and Clay Clark headlined this event and, along with many other speakers, used the same false narratives of the “stolen” 2020 election, ongoing election fraud (by Democrats), and now the “politicizing” and “weaponizing” of the DOJ and the FBI (e.g. the FBI “raid” on Mar-a-Lago) to stir up the receptive crowd. Shouts of affirmation, applause, even standing ovations was the consistent response from the audience.

The presentations were filled with inter-related conspiracies that share one common theme: “trust no one from the outside.” You cannot trust the mainstream media, the government, politicians, researchers, scientists, etc. You can only believe what we tell you. This was one of several cult-like characteristics of this event – indeed, of a worldwide movement of which this tour is but one part. And the movement is characterized by deceptive use of language, demonizing of “the Left,” and declaring leaders of the movement as the only hope.

Victor Orban, prime minister of Hungary, has been elevated with Donald Trump to this heroic role. Orban spoke at a July 2022 CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) event in Dallas: “I’m here to tell you that we should unite forces … in a battle for Western Civilization.”

This PBS News Hour segment both highlights his CPAC appearance and ways this movement in the U.S. has worked with Orban’s authoritarian dominance in Hungary. (See here for his full CPAC speech.)

Sarah Posner writes that “In a 2014 speech, Orbán claimed liberal values ‘embody corruption, sex and violence’; predicted that the successful nations of the future would reject these values and draw inspiration instead from Russia, China, or Turkey; and claimed that nongovernmental organizations working on building up civil society were actually ‘paid political activists who are attempting to enforce foreign interests here in Hungary.’ (“Unholy,” p. 226, Random House Publishing Group, Kindle Edition)

She connects Orban directly to Donald Trump: “At this critical moment in American history, when the democratic experiment hangs in the balance, this totalizing political and religious culture, rooted in a white Christian nationalist political ideology, was tailor-made to go to the mat for Trump. For Trump’s white evangelical supporters, defending him became indistinguishable from defending white Christian America.” (pp. 259-260) That describes my experience at this event.

What can we do? – We can challenge every deception, every lie, every conspiracy. Wherever we see or hear someone state what we “know” to be false, challenge it. Confront them. Don’t ignore it. Be respectful of the person. Avoid aggressive communication, but be assertive in what we say and how we say it. And stand our ground, not being argumentative, but being confident. Research diverse sources, trust our discernment, and speak up. We can do this.