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.

What about violence?

Organizers and the host pastor of the Reawaken America Tour in Batavia vehemently denied that violence follows their events. In fact, they announced legal action against NYS Attorney General Letitia James for sending a letter suggesting there might be racial violence. You can read the letter here. And here is a public radio news story about what happened at the event.

To be fair, there was no outward violence, or hint of physical violence, at the event (other than bodyguards and armed security). I did not hear any speaker urge people to riot or join a militia or use guns against anyone. When a constant theme of speakers, however, is that “they are coming for us, and we have to be ready” and “our enemies must be destroyed before they destroy us,” some people will inevitably hear that as a call to take violent action against their enemies.

One speaker on Saturday morning did exactly that. John Michael Chambers is creator and founder of American Media Periscope (, which “has interviewed such patriot guests as General Michael Flynn, Sydney Powell, and Kash Patel.” His website says it is “America’s Patriot Only Network,” and everywhere he speaks  he claims to present “The News Behind the News.” His website, though, is more an online store for books and merchandise supporting Trump and various conspiracies.

His 15-minute speech began with prayer for “our president” and his family (meaning Donald Trump). “The storm is upon us,” he said – “Trump’s signal to patriots.” He uses the language of war and enemies – “We win, they lose … We are at war, on a wartime basis … Evil enemies of freedom.” As he repeated the “stolen election” lies, he even claimed that “all military branches documented it.” This means, he said, that “war has been declared.” If the “military steps in with midterm elections, we win.” And “the media is aiding and abetting the enemy.” This was a call to arms, to rise up for freedom.

This is how wars begin – with demonizing the other and stirring up hate toward “the enemy.” Words like “evil” and “demonic” were used throughout the event by multiple speakers, referring to President Biden, to LGBTQ persons, to “the government,” to the unspecified “them.” Organizers resist the charge that their events stir up fear and hate wherever they go. When speakers, however, constantly use the language of hate – evil, demonic – and call for “enemies” to be destroyed, that is the result. This event builds on a narrative of evil and enemies – a narrative that people in the audience hear and watch all the time on sites like Rumble (, One America News Network (, Alex Jones’ Infowar (, and The Glenn Beck Program (

When speakers constantly use the language of enemies and war and evil, violence will inevitability follow – somewhere, sometime. Our nation must prepare for it.

Why Eric Trump?

Why was Eric Trump at the Reawaken America Rally? Only because he’s part of the Trump family. His “bio” in the program described him as “the son of America’s real President, President Donald J. Trump.” He was there to praise his father to this receptive, boisterous crowd. “We were the first honest family in the White House,” he claimed. He listed multiple achievements for Donald Trump as president, which brought shouts of support and loud applause. The audience believed all of it to be true.

Eric Trump

Eric Trump started right in on the FBI “raid” of Mar-a-Lago because it had just happened and the people there were very aware of it. “Third world gestapo stuff,” he called it, continuing to feed the narrative of unfair treatment of Donald Trump. He used the language of this movement as he touched briefly on multiple topics, all of which are designed to heighten the passions of the crowd … “deep state” – “drain the swamp” – “rigged election” – “corrupt government officials.” Just the names of Hunter Biden, Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton were enough to draw boos and jeers. He said that President Joe Biden “is the worst in the history of this country.“ And brought it to this climax: “Wouldn’t it be nice to have my father back who would actually fight for this country?”

People say all the time that “you can’t make this stuff up,” but they do, of course. Eric Trump did, touting one false claim after another. “This MAGA movement is the greatest movement in the history of the nation, and we’re winning. That’s why they’re raiding people’s homes and weaponzing everything in our country. We’re going to take back America.”

Before Eric Trump left the stage, organizer Clay Clark stepped up to say “I believe God has chosen the Trump family for this moment.” Standing ovation. And someone prayed for the family in very specific religious language and prayed against “the acts of the wicked that the enemy has done.” Although Eric did not use the religious language of the movement, nearly everyone else on stage did. And they could not let him off the stage without two other people doing exactly that. What Sarah Posner describes in her book, “Unholy,” ( accurately describes that moment and the whole event:

In that alternate, conspiratorial reality, any scrutiny of Trump or his inner circle is cast as a plot, deeply rooted in “fake news,” George Soros–funded protesters, Clinton family machinations, or even Satan, to bring down God’s chosen leader of the United States of America. (Posner, Sarah. Unholy (p. 247). Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

Sarah Posner

I recommend this book to all who want to understand more about this movement. It’s not an isolated rally or tour event that’s our concern. We could let that go and move on. Christian Nationalism, combined with a larger political and cultural movement going back 50 years, and building internationally – this is not going away. It is a threat to democracy itself. Read carefully one more excerpt from Posner’s book:

And so an untold number of Trump’s evangelical supporters believe that God has anointed him, God will protect him, and God will smite his enemies. However his presidency ends, the fundamental damage it has inflicted on our democracy will not be healed overnight. His “base” is not an accident of his unconventional foray into politics, or a quirk of this particular political moment. The vast majority of white evangelicals are all in with Trump because he has given them political power and allowed them to carry out a Christian supremacist agenda, inextricably intertwined with his administration’s white nationalist agenda. Conspiracy theories and lies about the core of our democracy—separation of powers, a free and independent press, and the dedication of public servants—run rampant through their print and social media, podcasts, and television programs. The depth and durability of their fervor have disproven the mantra “the religious right is dead” again and again—and their ability to sustain a presidency in the face of unprecedented scandal is the most compelling evidence against that mantra yet. Trump’s white evangelical supporters make up an army of partisans decades in the making, and they will not quietly retreat in the face of defeat. (p. 266, Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition)

What will happen at the polls?

The Reawaken America Tour keeps popping up in news articles. MSNBC yesterday published an opinion column by Anthea Butler that says such rallies “have served as ground zero for organizing designed to encourage political contributions and election fervor among conservative Christians. The rallying call is the big lie that not only claims that Trump won in 2020, but that every election is compromised.”

She quotes Steve Bannon on a World Prayer Network call as saying that “what we need is poll workers. … If we want to win, your congregations have to be in the counting rooms and prepared to have those knife fights.” Their website claims to show people how to “vote biblically” – not that “knife fights” seems like a biblical values – but this organized effort wants more than that. Butler says that “Evangelical churches and large religio-political rallies have served as ground zero for organizing designed to encourage political contributions and election fervor among conservative Christians. The rallying call is the big lie that not only claims that Trump won in 2020, but that every election is compromised.”

Steve Bannon

Turning Point USA represents students and young adults in this movement. Their founding mission focused on educating students about freedom, free markets, and limited government …  all traditional conservative values. However, they have joined forces with the Christian Nationalism movement, creating Turning Point Faith where their home page says, “Together we can restore America’s biblical values. We’re on a mission to engage, equip, and empower Christians to change the trajectory of our nation.”

Today’s movement recruiting Christians to go to the polls exploded with the Christian Coalition, founded by Pat Robertson in the 1980s, and under the leadership of Ralph Reed. Until the last few years, their efforts focused on producing voting guides for “values voters,” ostensibly non-partisan but what everyone understood to be a checklist for right-wing conservative policies promoted by the Republican party. As a midwestern Baptist pastor in those years, I experienced the transformation of Christian “values voters” into Republican-only voters.  

That was not enough, though, for leaders of this movement. As Anthea Butler says in her column: “No longer is it enough to just get voters out to the polls or to pray. These organizations are designed to steer voters to their specific candidates, encourage them to work the polls and watch out for bogus voting. Republican candidates for office are even showing up at these large events.”

My experience at the Reawaken America Rally in Batavia, NY supports her description of the event:

ReAwaken rallies, which have been happening across the country since last year, have combined anti-vaccine messages, political action and religious services in order to reach their faithful. The Aug. 12 rally in Batavia, New York, featured Eric Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Held in a tent on the grounds of Cornerstone Church, the rally included signs for Republican candidate Mario Fratto. A considerable amount of attention was given to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who had expressed concern to the tour’s organizers that the rally could lead to racial violence. At the rally, one of Trump’s former pastors on the stump, Mark Burns, prayed of James, “If she does not repent and turn back to you, show the world what happens to those that come against your servants.”

Mark Burns at Batavia

A “values voters” movement has now become a Christian Nationalist movement, intent not on getting conservative Christians to the polls to vote for Republican candidates, but that now seems determined to undermine trust in our elections, to demonize all who disagree with them, and to make the polls a battleground – in Steve Bannon’s words, a “knife fight.” I grieve for what has happened among Christians and in our nation, and I am determined to do what I can to change it.

Toward Authoritarian Rule

The movement toward authoritarian governance in our country, based on a narrative of America as a Christian and conservative nation, goes far beyond the Reawaken America Tour. Today’s post is about CNN and the dismissal of Brian Stelter, who I was only vaguely familiar with until now. His statement in his closing segment has been widely reported: “It’s not partisan to stand up for decency and democracy and dialogue. It’s not partisan to stand up to demagogues. It’s required. It’s patriotic. We must make sure we don’t give platforms to those who are lying to our faces.”

Robert Reich, who I do follow (but whose name you may not know), had a column yesterday about this ( Reich is Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton Administration. He is a prolific writer, author of 17 books, founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, and has created several documentaries. He knows what he’s talking about. (You can see his website at

Robert Reich

He writes: “For several years, Brian Stelter’s Sunday CNN show, ‘Reliable Sources,’ has been a reliable source of intelligent criticism of Fox News, rightwing media in general, Trumpism, and the increasingly authoritarian lurch of the Republican Party. [Not all Republicans support today’s leaders of the GOP who are meant in this post.]  Last week, CNN abruptly canceled the show and effectively fired Stelter and his staff. Why?”

One of his common sayings is “follow the money.” CCN’s new chairman and CEO says he wants less criticism of political conservatives and more “straight news reporting” so that CNN can be “for everybody.” The new owner of CNN is Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc., and David Zaslav is the CEO. … If you’re thinking you never heard of these people, neither have I, but we need to know who they are.

Robert Reich poses these questions: “How is it possible to report on Trump or Rudy Giuliani or any number of today’s Republican leaders and not speak of the Big Lie, or say they’ve broken norms if not laws? The anti-democracy movement in America (as elsewhere) is among the biggest issues confronting us today. Is reporting on it considered “straight news” or “opinion?” Wouldn’t failing to report on it in a way that sounded alarms be a gross dereliction of duty?”

What we learn from Reich is that “the leading shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery is John Malone, a multi-billionaire cable magnate…. [who] describes himself as a ‘libertarian’ although he travels in rightwing Republican circles. In 2005, he held 32 percent of the shares of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. He is on the board of directors of the Cato Institute. In 2017, he donated $250,000 to Trump’s inauguration. Malone has said he wants CNN to be more like Fox News because, in his view, Fox News has ‘actual journalism.’”

Reich concludes with challenging words for us all: “When you follow the money behind deeply irresponsible decisions at the power centers of America today, the road often leads to rightwing billionaires. Sadly, there are still many in America — and not just billionaires like Malone — who believe that holding Trump accountable for what he has done (and continues to do) to this country is a form of partisanship, and that such partisanship has no place in so-called ‘balanced journalism.’ This view is itself dangerous.”

The Reawaken America Tour, even the larger movement of Christian Nationalism, is but one part of a much larger authoritarian movement, funded by billionaires and spanning the globe. That in itself may sound like a conspiracy theory, but it is not. Search names like Paul Weyrich and Richard Viguerie – key organizers of the movement in the U.S. in the 1970s and ‘80s – and do a quick read of the international movement at Paul Weyrich was one among many who have opposed the Separation of Church and State and organized Christian conservatives (Catholic and Protestant) for what is now called Christian Nationalism. How do we stop this movement? It won’t be easy, but it is essential.