A Capitalizing Kingdom - Word&Way

A Capitalizing Kingdom

“We’re about to turn this Capitol into an altar.”

Musician Sean Feucht made this declaration on Palm Sunday (April 2) as he stood on the steps of the Missouri Capitol. On the sixth stop of his “Kingdom to the Capitol” tour across the country this year and next, Feucht christened the place an altar as his team passed out communion packages with bread and grape juice. In a rally full of political references — and even remarks by Republican politicians — the musical Forrest Gump of Christian Nationalism sought to claim the state seat of power for the movement.

“Together as the church of Jesus Christ of Missouri, we’re going to take communion right here,” he explained. “You’re going to win this war in communion because the blood of Jesus is our greatest weapon. So I’m being obedient to the Lord and I’m taking communion to all 50 U.S. Capitols.”

As his team continued distributing the elements to the crowd, he talked about his efforts to challenge COVID public health measures in 2020. He complained that “power-drunk” government officials had said churches couldn’t meet and they couldn’t sing.

“I was just sitting there going, ‘Are you kidding me?’ The foundation of this democracy is built upon the word of God!” Feucht claimed as he sported a “Jesus Loves America” sweatshirt featuring a U.S. flag. “We can’t just sit at home in a room with three masks on watching a livestream. This right here is the church. We’re having church today.”

The MAGA musician, whose wealth skyrocketed as he performed his worship protests against COVID public health measures, took it upon himself to lead the communion service as he attempted to transubstantiate the Capitol grounds. He knelt on the steps and read from 1 Corinthians 11 (or is it “One Corinthians”?) as he offered instructions about taking the elements. At one point, he stood up and urged everyone to hold up their cup.

“Let’s hold up the blood. And I just declare this over the state of Missouri: The blood of Jesus is strong enough over every issue in this state, over every problem that plagues the people in this state,” he said.

Left: Sean Feucht holds up his communion bread during “Kingdom to the Capitol” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023. Right: People hold up their cups of grape juice during the rally. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

The climax of the rally, the communion time also highlighted the rhetoric throughout the event and his tour cosponsored by Turning Point USA (the group led by Charlie Kirk that played a key role in Donald Trump’s Jan. 6, 2021, rally). They’re heading to Capitols to claim the territory for God. And this Christian Nationalistic tour, which will continue during this presidential campaign season, utilizes sacred Christian elements in a quest for political power. In addition to communion, the rally included worship moments like prayer, praise songs, an altar call, and even an offering time to, as Feucht put it, give people “an opportunity to sow into this event, into this tour.”

But as a worship service, the event’s message sounded off-tune in light of both Feucht and Turning Point spending the last two years continuing to spread false claims about the 2020 election and campaigning for candidates who similarly espouse Christian Nationalism and refused to accept that Trump lost — like Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania and Kari Lake in Arizona.

The juxtaposition of that theology of conquest with the biblical story of Palm Sunday created a particularly ironic experience during the most recent stop of Feucht’s tour — though it seemed lost on the cheering crowd. And this disconnect helps highlight how Christian Nationalism undermines democratic values and the teachings of Jesus. So this issue of A Public Witness takes you to the latest Feucht Capitol event before offering a hymn of reflection about the message of Holy Week.

Sean Feucht sings during “Kingdom to the Capitol” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

Raising a Banner

Sean Feucht showing up on the grounds of the state Capitol for his worship concert isn’t a coincidence. The songs might sound religious, but the aim of the event is also political. As he generally does, Feucht combines the two realms as one. Voting for election-denying candidates like Kari Lake and Doug Mastriano is reframed as a spiritual act. Remembering the anniversary of 9/11 became a time of praying for Donald Trump. Singing on the steps of the Capitol is about impacting what happens inside the building.

“Lord, we pray today just as legislation is released from here and bills are released from here and laws are released from here, today let the Holy Spirit be released from this place to go across the state to change hearts, to change minds, to bring freedom, to bring deliverance,” Feucht prayed. “Go with us, God, as we go to the next state Capitol and the next state Capitol. And over the next two years, God, follow us with a cloud of glory. We thank you, Jesus, that we get to be alive for such a time as this.”

To further signal the political frame for the gathering, Feucht welcomed two Republican state lawmakers to speak and pray at the start of the event. Sen. Jill Carter, who ran on an anti-vax platform and is the author of multiple bills targeting transgender persons, invoked political issues in her prayer, including anti-abortion legislation and support of Israel. Rep. Justin Sparks, a member of a St. Louis church that’s endorsed political candidates and welcomed Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA to speak, referred to a recent rally at the Capitol steps by the LGBTQ community and allies.

“Wednesday of last week, this lawn was full of lost souls. There was a trans rally here,” he said before kneeling on the Capitol steps to pray. “Today, we replace it with the Holy Spirit. … These are the steps of our Capitol, but today they are an altar.”

Left: State Sen. Jill Carter Speaks during “Kingdom to the Capitol” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023. Right: State Rep. Justin Sparks prays over the crowd. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

Feucht also referred to the earlier rally, saying that while “some kind of crazy thing” had occurred on the Capitol lawn, “today, this is holy ground.” He also prayed over both Carter and Sparks, and put his hand on their heads as he urged God to make them “a prophetic picture of a whole generation that you’re raising up to bring worship into that building.”

Feucht also gave multiple shout-outs to Sen. Josh Hawley, a Republican from Missouri who infamously gave a fist-pump to the pro-Trump mob at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 — before later running away during the violence. Hawley, who has pushed Christian Nationalistic ideas, previously spoke at a Feucht event in Washington, D.C.

“How many of you all would love to see godly, Holy Ghost-Spirit political leaders in this state?” Feucht asked Sunday to applause and cheers. “God is using Missouri — I want to prophesize, and I don’t do this in every state. There is a leadership anointing on this state. And I’ve sat there with my friend, Sen. Josh Hawley, I’ve sat in his office with my guitar.”

That idea of taking his guitar somewhere is important. It’s how he marks territory for God.

Sean Feucht leads worship at “Kingdom to the Capitol” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023, while a man in the crowd blows a shofar. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

Musical Spiritual Warfare

Before showing up on the Capitol steps Sunday, Feucht first went inside the Capitol. But he didn’t go in for just a tourist visit. And he received access to part of the building that suggests a lawmaker got him there. He later told the crowd about it.

“I went to the very top of the Capitol rotunda. I snuck my guitar up 285 steps,” he said. “I got up on the top of that rotunda and I declared, ‘The kingdom of God is coming to the state of Missouri.’ From this governmental principality, we say, ‘The government is on your shoulders!’”

As he often does, Feucht also posted a video of him up there singing, almost as if he’s a musical Moses figure looking down over the land for the people to seize. Singing up on the rotunda and then on the steps was part of Feucht’s goal of creating a “prophetic” moment. If this is a spiritual war, then one must show up at the place where the battle occurs. That means the seats of government power.

Left: Sean Feucht speaks to “Kingdom to the Capitol” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023. Right: Some of the campaign-style buttons being given away at the rally by Turning Point USA. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

For Matthew Taylor, a scholar with the Institute for Islamic-Christian-Jewish Studies, this kind of rhetoric is quite familiar. He was the writer of Charismatic Revival Fury, an audio-documentary series published by the podcast Straight White American Jesus to explore how leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation helped fuel the Jan. 6 insurrection. Although Taylor doesn’t include Feucht as part of the core NAR movement, the musician does show up in the series as part of the cast of charismatic characters pushing key concepts of the apostolic and prophetic movement.

“Sean Feucht is very steeped in a theology and a Christian worldview that is dedicated to power and dedicated to Christians taking over what they call spiritual territory but that maps on to actual physical territory,” Taylor told me. “The state Capitols are to them prime strategic targets for lobbying, for networking with state lawmakers, but also for advancing their vision of spiritual warfare-driven Christian Nationalism.”

As Taylor noted in the podcast episode focused on Feucht, the musician has talked about the idea of fighting spiritual warfare through music and showing up in places to claim the territory. So Feucht is going to the grounds of state Capitols to prophesize, to speak into existence what he believed to be God’s will.

“I just want to speak something into the atmosphere over this state and over America,” Feucht said before singing “Never Gonna Stop.”

He then urged people to give out a loud shout as “a prophetic sound” so that “every anti-Christ legislation would come down in Jesus’s name.” And so the people shouted.

The crowd at “Kingdom to the Capitol” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

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Missing the Point

When I trekked over to the Capitol for Feucht’s rally on Sunday, it was actually the second time I went there that day. On Sunday morning, I joined some other parents and Sunday School teachers as children from two downtown churches celebrated Palm Sunday by following a donkey down the street while waving palm branches and singing songs.

I love going with my son on the “donkey parade.” It’s a vivid way of helping the kids remember the biblical story that kicks off Holy Week. And since we live in a state capital, it also subtly reminds people of the political implications of that day. We march past the Governor’s Mansion, but the kids keep waving and singing no matter what Gov. Pilate might think. And we march to the Capitol, not to claim it but to pass by before returning to church because we realize salvation isn’t found in that temple of government.

But there’s also something deeply symbolic in the location of our donkey parade. The original Palm Sunday crowd was not there merely for spiritual salvation. They had political hopes. They wanted a conquering messiah to deliver them from the oppression of the Roman government. That’s why the week of Passover — a holiday that commemorated God delivering the people from the Egyptian empire — at times in the years before Jesus’s entry had inspired attempted violent uprisings.

“The week often incited all-out insurrection,” Jason Porterfield, author of Fight Like Jesus, said on a recent episode of Dangerous Dogma as he explained that Pilate and Jesus marched in from opposite sides of the city, one with soldiers and the other on a lowly donkey.

“The week was really being set up to be a clash of two competing approaches to peacemaking,” he added. “And the irony is the crowds thought Jesus was coming to bring peace using the same methods as Pilate, they just hoped he was stronger.”

Many today also hope for a political strongman. But that’s not the moral of Palm Sunday or the rest of Holy Week. It’s not about seizing power. It’s not about taking over government.

The “donkey parade” in Jefferson City, Missouri, on April 2, 2023. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

As the kids followed the donkey near the Capitol on Sunday, I noticed a crew was preparing the grounds for Feucht’s rally. The stage was literally being set.

A few hours later, people who supported a violent insurrection on the U.S. Capitol would sing and wave their flags on Palm Sunday (including flags common in the Jan. 6 crowd, like the one with a pine tree that says “An Appeal to Heaven”). Not only did Turning Point USA help with Trump’s rally that fateful day, but the group and Feucht have continued to defend Trump and those who participated in the insurrection. And Feucht on Sunday multiple times praised the U.S. senator who most supported the effort to overturn the 2020 election.

This was a crowd that wanted (and often still wants) an insurrection to remove the governmental leaders they don’t like. Much like that crowd 2,000 years ago. They initially sang for Jesus, but before the week ended the people instead shouted for Barabbas the insurrectionist and proudly proclaimed, “We have no king but Caesar!” They didn’t understand Jesus or the kingdom he brought to the capital. The wisdom of the crowds today often isn’t much better.

As a public witness,

Brian Kaylor

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