BATAVIA, N.Y. — By the point the purple, white and blue-colored microphone had been switched off, the group of three,000 had listened to hours of invective and grievance.
“We’re beneath warfare,” one speaker instructed them. One other stated she would “take a bullet for my nation,” whereas a 3rd insisted, “They hate you as a result of they hate Jesus.” Attendees had been instructed now could be the time to “placed on the entire armor of God.” Then retired three-star Military common Michael Flynn, the tour’s greatest draw, invited folks to be baptized.
Scores of individuals walked out of the audio system’ tent to 3 giant metallic tubs stuffed with water. Whereas reward music performed within the background, one conference-goer after one other stepped in. Pastors then lowered them beneath the floor, welcoming them into their motion within the identify of Jesus Christ. One girl wore a T-shirt that learn “Military of God.”
Flynn warned the group that they had been within the midst of a “non secular battle” and a “political battle” and urged folks to become involved.
ReAwaken America was launched by Flynn, a former White Home nationwide safety adviser, and Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark a number of months after the Jan. 6 revolt on the U.S. Capitol did not overturn the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election. Attendees and audio system nonetheless insist – in opposition to all proof and dozens of court docket rulings – that Donald Trump rightfully received.
Since early final 12 months, the ReAwaken America Tour has carried its message of a rustic beneath siege to tens of hundreds of individuals in 15 cities and cities. The tour serves as a touring roadshow and recruiting software for an ascendant Christian nationalist motion that’s wrapped itself in God, patriotism and politics and has grown in energy and affect contained in the Republican Occasion.
Within the model of America laid out on the ReAwaken tour, Christianity must be on the middle of American life and establishments. As a substitute, it’s beneath assault, and attendees must battle to revive the nation’s Christian roots. It’s a message repeated time and again at ReAwaken – one which upends the constitutional supreme of a pluralist democracy. However it’s a message that’s taking maintain.
A ballot by the College of Maryland performed in Might discovered that 61% of Republicans assist declaring the U.S. to be a Christian nation.
“Christian nationalism, actually undermines and assaults foundational values in American democracy. And that could be a promise of non secular freedoms for all,” stated Amanda Tyler, govt director of the Baptist Joint Committee, which advocates for non secular freedom.
She stated the ReAwaken trigger is “a partisan political trigger, and the trigger right here is to unfold misinformation, to perpetuate the large lie and to have a special end result subsequent time within the subsequent election.”
ReAwaken acts as a petri dish for Christian nationalism and pushes the concept there’s a battle underway between good and evil forces. Those that are thought of evil embody authorities officers and Democrats.
It’s “a pep rally on non secular steroids” stated Kristin Kobes Du Mez, a historical past professor at Calvin College in Michigan, who research evangelicalism.
ReAwaken typically seems in church buildings with audio system addressing attendees from the pulpit. The Batavia present was staged on the grounds of a church, after religion and neighborhood leaders in close by Rochester instructed organizers they weren’t welcome.
Inside a revival tent arrange exterior, folks sat in white folding chairs packed so tightly the rows between had been practically impassable. From the stage, audio system stirred up worry and hatred. Immigrants are dashing over the border “to take your home,” one stated. Homosexuals and pedophiles are categorized in the identical class: sinful individuals who don’t honor God. Life-saving vaccines are creating “a rattling genocide.” “The enemy needs to muzzle you,” one other speaker warned. “He needs to close your mouth.”
Clark, the Tour’s principal organizer and emcee, opened the Batavia present bellowing: “Good morning, New York! And good morning, New York Lawyer Common Letitia James!” The greeting was a reference to a letter James’ despatched to Flynn and Clark warning them in opposition to violent or illegal conduct.
“I would like you to go searching and also you’ll see a gaggle of people who love this nation dearly,” he stated. “At this Reawaken America Tour, Jesus is King (and) President Donald J. Trump is our president.”
The AP and Frontline purchased tickets for the Batavia occasion after Clark invited “Frontline” to attend one of many tour’s reveals. Reporters spent two days listening to audio system and observing the occasions from inside. On the second day, safety escorted a “Frontline” reporter from the grounds as a result of, he was instructed, Flynn believed he supposed to cowl the occasion unfavorably. When an AP reporter started interviewing folks attending the occasion on the finish of the second day, she was additionally reported to safety.
Whereas smaller in scale, the ReAwaken reveals are comparable in tone to the rallies Trump holds. Grievance and contempt for presidency establishments are common themes. ReAwaken audio system have included Trump’s sons, Eric and Don Jr., Trump confidant Roger Stone, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., who has unfold anti-vaccine misinformation.
For a tour cease scheduled later this month in Pennsylvania, Republican gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano is listed as a speaker.
In Batavia, Greg Locke, a Tennessee pastor, and Eric Trump declared in back-to-back remarks that the FBI’s court-authorized search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida for categorized information confirmed how the U.S. authorities has been weaponized in opposition to its residents.
“Third world Gestapo stuff,” stated Eric Trump. After he completed talking, a gaggle gathered to hope over him.
Different audio system promoted weird theories. One claimed President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 as a result of he threatened to show a plot to enslave each man, girl and youngster within the U.S. One other stated a Hebrew prophet foretold 2,500 years in the past the precise date the U.S. Supreme Court docket would overturn Roe v. Wade, taking away the constitutional proper to abortion.
There have been frequent private assaults on Democrats, with no comment apparently off limits. Clark questioned the gender of former first girl Michelle Obama. Locke known as Democrats “baby-butchering mongrels.”
The unstable mixture of politics, Christianity and conspiracy concept pushed on the ReAwaken tour might ultimately tip into political violence, a number of political and non secular students instructed AP.
Samuel Perry, a sociologist on the College of Oklahoma, has completed quite a few surveys measuring Christian nationalist ideology. In an August 2021 survey, about half of white Individuals who most strongly recognized with Christian nationalism stated they consider issues are getting so unhealthy that “actual patriots” could should resort to violence.
“I feel all of us consider that America is on the verge of ending,” Clark instructed AP.
Flynn is a continuing presence at ReAwaken America occasions. He’s painted as a martyr on the far proper __ the retired common who paid a worth for working for Trump. That standing has made him the Tour’s star attraction. Offstage, folks flock to Flynn to take pictures, commerce trinkets or inform him how a lot it means to them that he’s there. He hops onstage incessantly to talk and even bang a gong to welcome Eric Trump.
An AP/Frontline investigation printed final month reported that Flynn has used public appearances to energise voters, political endorsements to construct alliances, and a community of nonprofit teams – one in all which has projected spending $50 million – to advance his motion.
The irony of Flynn’s aura as a populist warrior is evident. He was the final word Washington insider earlier than being fired by Trump in February 2017 for mendacity about contacts he had with Russians. Now, Flynn leads a campaign in opposition to the identical authorities institution that employed him for years and which gave him entry to a lot of its deepest secrets and techniques.
“So now, he’s a non secular common,” stated Anthea Butler, a scholar of American faith and politics on the College of Pennsylvania.
Butler stated that the way in which Flynn and ReAwaken be part of Christian nationalism to the concept of non secular warfare is harmful as a result of it suggests there are “demonic” folks in authorities, and Christians must act to avoid wasting the nation. “If individuals are speaking about non secular warfare and are speaking about taking over arms and stuff, then I feel you need to be very frightened,” she stated. Flynn’s battlefield expertise, she added, enhances his credibility.
Who precisely the USA must be saved from is displayed on an enormous monitor on the ReAwaken America stage. The present’s villains embody former President Barack Obama and Microsoft co-founder Invoice Gates, however the principal foe on the middle of the monitor is much less acquainted. He’s an 84-year-old German economist and engineer named Klaus Schwab, who heads the World Financial Discussion board, a worldwide suppose tank in Switzerland, that holds an annual gathering of the world’s enterprise and political elites in Davos, Switzerland, to debate methods of constructing a greater future.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Schwab unveiled an initiative known as The Nice Reset that envisioned sweeping adjustments to how societies and economies work. Regardless that Schwab and The World Financial Discussion board haven’t any policymaking energy, ReAwaken America contributors see his plan, which spoke of “larger authorities interference” and a “inexperienced economic system,” as an assault on America’s foundations.
The opposite aspect of the large monitor has pictures of ReAwaken heroes: regulars together with Flynn, Locke, MyPillow CEO and 2020 election denier Mike Lindell, and three medical doctors who turned well-known for his or her anti-vaccine views.
Katherine Stewart, creator of “The Energy Worshippers: Contained in the Harmful Rise of Non secular Nationalism,” attended a March 2022 ReAwaken America present at a church in San Marcos, California. She stated it was like coming into a “parallel messaging universe.”
“The leaders of the ReAwaken America tour are actually driving folks right into a fact-free echo chamber,” Stewart stated. “They’ve been persuaded and manipulated into believing they’re doing what’s proper for his or her nation. However all of their good intentions are being harnessed in service of an agenda that’s dividing our nation as by no means earlier than and, frankly, resulting in the potential destruction of our democracy. “
The politics, anger and prayer had been interspersed with a superb dose of commerce and fundraising.
Ticket costs ran as excessive as $500 for VIP seating or $250 for common admission, although tickets had been solely offered by cellphone and gross sales brokers had been desirous to discount. An AP reporter purchased two tickets to the Batavia present for lower than $100. A retiree stated he paid greater than $700 on admission for 2 – one VIP ticket for himself plus a donation of $250 for a common admission ticket for somebody who couldn’t afford it.
Trump ally Roger Stone requested for donations to his authorized protection fund. A naturopath promoted her natural well being and wonder line. The stage backdrop even carried advertisements for an organization that buys and sells gold and silver and payments itself as “Common Flynn’s Gold Purchaser of Selection.”
In cubicles inside and outdoors the church, consumers might decide up a $3,300 vibrating platform that would purportedly ease again ache and enhance sexual perform, a $259 blanket offered to defend the consumer from 5G, and a “energy pendant” that supposedly helps folks take in “the pure dwelling frequencies to empower your physique, thoughts and spirit.”
Flynn’s son, Michael Flynn, Jr., manned his father’s merchandise sales space, the place autographed copies of Flynn’s 2017 guide, “The Area of Struggle,” offered for $60.
Du Mez, who’s writing a guide on the overlap of consumerism and Christian id, stated such occasions are orchestrated to extract cash from contributors. They’re invited to take part within the motion by pulling out their bank cards.
“The skeptical take is it is a rip-off. That’s not the way it feels to the people who find themselves giving their cash,” she stated. “Folks give it fortunately.”
Such occasions, she stated, are “id constructing and sustaining,” giving folks a way of belonging.
Audio system affirmed the message that contained in the tent, they’re all a part of a neighborhood. One instructed attendees that they need to “go forward and take the hit” if they’ve to separate with their family members over their views. On the ReAwaken tour, they had been repeatedly assured, they’re welcome and their beliefs shall be validated.
Amanda Grace, a self-described prophetic minister, instructed the group that a lot of their family members “are nonetheless beneath the management of the rulers of the darkness of this world.”
“That is battle, and it’s a must to have a special mindset for that,” Grace stated. “You pray for your loved ones, you pray on your associates, you like them. However it’s a must to perceive that these rulers are after you. They’re out to destroy you and your line, and every thing you’re going to start forth by your line for the Kingdom of God.”
So when Flynn and others invited the group to be baptized on the finish of the day, scores joined in to hope and take part.
A girl sporting a T-shirt that learn “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president” stated she was being baptized for a 3rd time as a result of she wished to talk in tongues, a present that had simply been described by a ReAwaken speaker as “the artillery bomb of the enemy.”
Previous the baptismal troughs, folks had been invited to a circle for prayers. Pastors laid fingers on them and forged demons out, whereas folks sporting American flag shirts and QAnon hats, crowded round.
“You might be free!” one pastor declared. “You might be free! You might be free!”
In the meantime, Michael Flynn, accompanied by non-public safety guards, acquired into his SUV and drove away.
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