The group Faithful America held a press call on Thursday that served as a platform for Christian leaders to speak out against the ongoing ReAwaken America megachurch tour. The tour, hosted by Clay Clark, General Michael Flynn, Eric Trump, and other notable far-right figures was denounced as an attempt to spread Christian Nationalism through conspiracy theories about the January 6, 2021, insurrection.
The group of faith leaders was moderated by Rev. Nathan Empsall of Faithful America and included Amanda Tyler from the Baptist Joint Committee, Rev. Adam Russell Taylor from Sojourners, and Pastor Doug Pagitt from Vote Common Good.
Faithful America describes itself as the largest online community of grassroots Christians that represents every major denomination in the United States. Their broad mission is to challenge White supremacy and Christian Nationalism, reclaim Christianity from the religious right, and renew the church’s prophetic role in building a more just society.
They have found a specific target in the ReAwaken America tour, which is currently approaching its one-year mark. This tour includes stops hosted by churches in more than ten cities across the country and has promoted numerous right-wing talking points ranging from the false claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, COVID-19 vaccine misinformation, and QAnon conspiracy theories. Faithful America has mobilized local leaders at multiple stops in recent months, including in Canton, Ohio, and San Diego County, California.
“We reject General Flynn’s hijacking of the gospel for political purposes. This tour is a dangerous and immoral political event in Jesus’ name that promotes misinformation, lies, and even outright violence, and has no place in the church of God,” said Empsall.
More than 13,000 people have signed Faithful America’s petition calling on houses of worship nationally not to host the event. Additionally, more than 20,000 people – including the presiding bishops of the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – also signed a prior statement from BJC’s Christians Against Christian Nationalism initiative, which denounces the underlying ideology of the tour.
BJC has also compiled a full report on the role of Christian Nationalism in the January 6 insurrection. Tyler, the executive director of BJC, defined Christian Nationalism as “a political ideology and cultural framework that seeks to merge American and Christian identities.” She pointed out that the markers of this ideology tend to be mythologizing America as a “Christian nation,” exaggerating American exceptionalism, and emphasizing God’s providential hand in American history and present politics. According to Tyler, Christian Nationalism “often overlaps with and provides cover for white supremacy,” which fundamentally poses challenges to pluralistic democracy and religious freedom.
Taylor described the ReAwaken tour as “a dangerous form of political malpractice and of theological heresy.” He pointed out that the tour has helped fuel the more than 440 bills enacted or proposed in 49 state legislatures that attempt to enact barriers for average citizens to vote based on the Big Lie, the verifiably false notion that Trump won the 2020 election. Taylor concluded that since the majority of white evangelicals believe in the Big Lie, “the Church, in particular, has the responsibility and the power to help to resist it and overcome it.”
Pagitt pointed out that it is important to not only focus on the outrageous forms of Christian Nationalism but also on the more mundane versions. This has led these Christian leaders to design two curriculums meant for church discussion groups. The first curriculum from Sojourners is meant to specifically address politically divided congregations, while the second curriculum from Christians Against Christian Nationalism is meant to facilitate broader discussions about how to identify Christian Nationalism and respond to threats to democracy at the community level.
Faithful America is also in the midst of publicly asking Roku and Paramount (the owner of Pluto TV) to remove the far-right One America News channel from their platforms due to its spreading of dangerous misinformation. It was announced earlier this week that DirecTV, one of OAN’s largest sources of revenue, would no longer be hosting the channel on its services. This campaign has drawn the ire of some Christian right leaders, such as Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council.
Empsall distilled many of the issues discussed throughout this call by asking a striking question: “When history looks back on the American Church today, do we want to be remembered the way that Deutsche Christen is remembered or the way the current Russian Orthodox Archbishop will be remembered – standing next to authoritarianism – or do we want to follow in our brother Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s footsteps?”