One of the features of the rise of the Christian Right has been the development of institutional infrastructure. From the rise of televangelism and conservative think tanks in the 1970s and 80s, to the creation of national political organizations beginning in the 1980s and 90s, to a large array of alternative educational institutions from elementary schools to law schools, there are reasons why the Christian Right has become a formidable cultural and political force.
Far from being deflated by the defeat of Donald Trump in 2020, the Christian Right is seeking to ignite a grassroots political revolution beginning with local offices. It’s been widely reported that the massive apparatus of the Christian Right is targeting school boards and other local races in 2021.
This trend is epitomized by the emergence of the Dominionist empire of the Woodland Park, Colorado-based Andrew Wommack, who has moved beyond his eponymous Andrew Wommack Ministries and built the unaccredited Charis Bible College along with his own political and broadcast operation, the Truth and Liberty Coalition, which he founded in 2017. This year the Coalition has held a series of conferences or “academies” at the College to encourage, recruit and train candidates seeking local office.
The Wommack empire is one piece of a new wave of Christian Right institutions backed by movement leaders. The Coalition’s founders and board, in addition to Wommack, include 7 Mountains Mandate theorist Lance Walnau, along with Dominionists (and Christian historical revisionists) David Barton and William Federer. Illustrative of the nature of the Charis Bible College program in “Practical Government” (originally the David Barton School of Government), the website’s Admissions page proudly declares that:
“The school utilizes materials prepared by preeminent historian David Barton and other highly esteemed authors.”
The Coalition’s weekly broadcast, which is available on a number of cable channels, is almost always deeply political, and has featured such guests as the aforementioned Lance Walnau; Tony Perkins and Jerry Boykin, president and executive vice president respectively of the Family Research Council; Bob McEwen, executive director of Council for National Policy (a secretive conservative leadership group); and of course David Barton, his son Tim, and Federer.
Take your mountain
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Womack’s empire openly promotes the Dominionist notion of the Seven Mountain Mandate, defined by Charis’s website as “a powerful, transformative campaign intended to bring about social transformation.” The website states, furthermore, that the goal is,
“To deliver the truth of God’s Kingdom and unite the Body of Christ with the world at large, [because] we believe we have a mandate to bring Godly change to our world, through the seven spheres of societal influence.”
As noted above, to accomplish this, the Truth and Liberty Coalition has held several political training events this year at the small Charis Bible College (which urges students to “take your mountain.”
The Pike’s Peak Courier reported that Wommack told attendees, during a “Citizen’s Academy” in April,
“Man, as many people as we have in this school here [Charis Bible College] we ought to take over Woodland Park.”
Sunday before Tuesday
As per the Christian Right modus operandi, political resources promoted by the Coalition include voter tools and voter guides for targeted school boards in 17 Colorado communities. One of these, for their home town of Woodland Park (near Colorado Springs) includes a slate of four conservative candidates in a field of nine, all vying for four open seats on a five-member board. If three of them win, they would gain control of the board. The voter guides are available in both English and Spanish.
The voter guide features just five issues: “Critical Race Theory,” “Parental Rights,” “Boys Playing Girl’s Sports,” “Sex Education,” and “Gender Identity Pronouns.” The guide, like those pioneered by Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition in the 1990s, are intended for distribution in churches on the Sunday before the Tuesday election.
Charis held another academy in May to prepare Christians to run for office, particularly school board races, and perhaps to participate in the National Association of Christian Lawmakers, a new national Christian Right bill mill and legislative network that Wommack helped to found, which was designed to “bring lawmakers together in support of clear biblical principles.”
The Coalition held a large two-day conference in September which sought to “empower citizens” to change the country with biblical values and “to educate, unify and mobilize Christians to stand for biblical truth in the public square.”
This event featured Wommack, Republican U.S. Reps. Doug Lamborn and Lauren Boebert (who has, just this week, been identified as a liaison with the organizers of the January 6 assault on the US Capitol); evangelist Mario Murillo, Pastor Duane Sheriff, Christian Right activist Bishop E.W. Jackson and Coalition executive director, Richard Harris. (Videos of their presentations are available here.)
About a thousand attendees, including many students, participated in training workshops on such Christian Right priorities as “reaching ethnic communities” (which has been a key part of the strategy of the Christian Right and the GOP for more than a decade, including in 2020); how to start a Culture Impact Team (church-based political committees of the Family Research Council and its state affiliates); and “election integrity,” based on the conspiracist notion that there’s widespread election fraud. (For those more professionally inclined, they recommend an online course produced by former Rep. Bill Redmond (R-NM), a former top official of Citizen Link, now called the Family Policy Alliance).
One session featured Jeff Johnston, a culture and policy analyst at the Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, whose presentation was titled, “LGBT Agenda in the Public Schools, and What We Can Do About It.”
Other featured speakers included Debbie Chaves, the executive director of Colorado Family Action (the state affiliate of the Family Policy Alliance), and Zooming in from Texas, were David and Tim Barton of Wallbuilders. Richard Harris explained that what they’re doing at the Truth and Liberty Coalition is developing “a farm team, if you will. It begins at the local level with city involvement, with school board involvement, maybe county involvement and then the state legislature from there.”
Wommack sees it as part of a Third Great Awakening that’s already underway. But it will be a battle.
“What we see happening in our schools today is no accident,” Harris declared. “This is a result of, literally, over a hundred years of planning, and activism and organization by ungodly people. And if I could just be frank, it’s by atheists, and communists, and secular humanists. OK? I’m just going to call a spade a spade here.”
Tim Barton emphasized that, as important as national politics is,
“There’s churches in every community. If every church said, ‘we will take over our community,’ all of a sudden, every community is taken care of. And all of a sudden what was a national issue has just been solved, because we solved it locally.”
Of course, the school board elections of 2021 are just the beginning. At least, that’s the plan.