NOTE: This is the first of multiple on-the-ground reports from the ReAwaken America Tour in Branson, Missouri. If you are not already a paid subscriber to A Public Witness, upgrade today to make sure you get all the pieces.
Just as the first slate of speakers from the ReAwaken America Tour were wrapping up their morning speeches on Friday (Nov. 4) at the Mansion Theater in Branson, Missouri, a group of Christian clergy were gathering in nearby Stockstill Park to warn their communities and congregations of the dangers posed by Christian Nationalism.
Each faith leader took turns denouncing ReAwaken and its headliner, General Michael Flynn, in front of a mobile billboard that offered messages like “stop twisting our faith to attack democracy” and “beware of false prophets.” The ministers also called out other notable far-right speakers at the event, such as Mike Lindell, Clay Clark, and Eric Trump, for their COVID-19 conspiracy theories, inspiring the Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, and continued election denialism.
Mobilized by Word&Way and Faithful America, the four Missouri ministers included Brian Kaylor, president & editor-in-chief of Word&Way; Susan Schmalzbauer, a United Methodist pastor; Mark Dixon of Deliverance Temple in Springfield; and Phil Snider of Brentwood Christian Church in Springfield.
Scholars have come to understand Christian Nationalism as a cultural framework that promotes the fusion of Christianity with American civic life. Christian Nationalism fundamentally includes idealizing nativism, White supremacy, patriarchy, and heteronormativity, along with divinely-sanctioned authoritarian control.
Kaylor opened the event by making the case that Christian Nationalism represents a heresy committed in the name of Christianity, so Christians have a particular responsibility to speak out against it.
“The Christian Nationalism propagated from all of these speakers has nothing to do with Christianity and everything to do with gaining political power,” argued Kaylor, who also wrote a Missouri Independent column published Friday denouncing ReAwaken America.
Schmalzbauer added to this sentiment by arguing that Christian Nationalism is incompatible with the core Christian teachings to love your neighbor and to live nonviolently. Christian Nationalism, she warned, necessarily corrupts both the church and the state.
“The so-called ‘ReAwaken Tour’ has been traveling the country and today it is in my backyard. I am here to speak the truth to the lies of this democracy-denying tour,” she said.
Dixon began his remarks by saying that while his comments might sound a little dramatic, this is a risk he is willing to take because the matter at hand is just that serious. Jesus, he pointed out, seems to think and act very differently than these “reawakened Christians.”
“Unfortunately, I must submit to you today that those feigning this state of having been awakened are, in fact, actually just sleepwalking. Oh, they look like they’re awake. But in reality, they are only engaged in a deep trance, having fallen victim to the hypnotic effects of dangerously twisted and even perversely distorted religio-political rhetoric,” Dixon added. “They have believed the malignant lies of discord, hatred, and arrogance, and have become like the deluded folks God warned through the prophet Isaiah in Chapter 5:20-21.”
Snider, the final speaker, said that Christian Nationalism represents a “false gospel” that also harms the people who adhere to it.
“Like all false gospels, Christian Nationalism takes advantage of hurt people by making empty promises that only exacerbate the wounds and the fractures that people already feel,” he lamented. “In the process of proclaiming idolatrous policies that demean and dehumanize fellow citizens, it also demeans and dehumanizes the very people who are drawn to it.”
Faithful America has also recently called out the Christian Nationalism of U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri through its “False Prophets Don’t Speak for Me” initiative.