Missouri leaders should condemn this weekend’s Christian nationalist rally in Branson
We can’t let this new carnival of extremism opening in Branson define our state or our nation
As the Jan. 6 insurrection showed, our democracy is under attack. And Christian nationalism, which seeks to privilege one faith tradition over others, has fueled the anti-democratic efforts (Getty images).
A traveling variety show of Christian Nationalism, anti-vaccine rhetoric and election conspiracies will make its final stop before the midterm elections this weekend in Branson.
Headlined by Michael Flynn, Roger Stone and Eric Trump, the ReAwaken America Tour co-opts Christian language and worship to push profane politics designed to undermine our democracy. As a Baptist minister who previously ministered in Branson, I cannot sit quietly by as they peddle their false gospel.
I’ve watched online during previous iterations of the ReAwaken Tour. The speakers push a toxic mix of conspiratorial politics dressed in religious garb. This weekend in Branson will be no different. They will argue the COVID pandemic was a fraud by some shadowy new world order. They will put our communities at danger by spreading disinformation about vaccines. They will rant about the supposed threat of 5G technology.
They will also falsely claim Donald Trump won the 2020 election and predict he’ll be back in office before the 2024 election (though they don’t explain how other than to say God will do it). They will poison our political discourse by attacking those they disagree with as demonic and satanic. They will applaud as people offer “prophecies” about politicians who will supposedly be killed soon for opposing Trump and the MAGA movement. And they will cheer for individuals who participated in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol.
As the Jan. 6 insurrection showed, our democracy is under attack. And Christian nationalism, which seeks to privilege one faith tradition over others, has fueled the anti-democratic efforts.
This dangerous rhetoric undermines basic democratic principles as speakers sow distrust in elections, spread false claims about their opponents and even suggest a need for violence to stop the alleged threats. We can be disappointed with election results without making false claims of theft. We can disagree on political issues without demonizing the other side or praying for their deaths. In fact, for our society to hold together, we must take those simple steps toward truthfulness and civility.
Sadly, the ReAwaken speakers will offer their messages while singing worship songs borrowed from church, framing the midterm elections as spiritual warfare and proudly declaring themselves to be “Christian nationalists.” They will even baptize people into the movement as they call for the nation to be united under one religion.
Despite their claims, this event isn’t Christian. It looks nothing like what Jesus taught. It is not good news for least of these nor does it encourage the love of neighbors. That’s why local Christian ministers and national faith leaders have routinely denounced the ReAwaken events as they roll into town after town. This weekend will be no different.
I’ll join pastors from the region to offer an alternative witness in Branson. We will add our voices to the more than 30,000 Christians across the country that have joined a Faithful America effort to speak out against ReAwaken America. We will be there to not only speak in defense of Christianity but also of democracy.
As the Jan. 6 insurrection showed, our democracy is under attack. And Christian nationalism, which seeks to privilege one faith tradition over others, has fueled the anti-democratic efforts. Rather than serving as a balm for our fractured nation, religion is being used to further divide us. The event in Branson will continue to pollute our already unhealthy political environment. And to do it in a place known for wholesome, family-friendly entertainment makes this weekend’s stop all the more unfortunate.
That’s why I hope political leaders representing Missouri and the Branson region will speak out to condemn the hatred, bigotry and fear-mongering of the ReAwaken speakers.
I hope Gov. Mike Parson, Attorney General Eric Schmitt and local officials will show me and other Missourians that they will not silently allow our state to be a superspreader of anti-democratic conspiracies. We must not let this new carnival of extremism opening in Branson define our state or our nation. We need a healthier vision for engaging in politics today. Our democracy depends on it.
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