When Religious Freedom Means Freedom for Religious Violence

Religious freedom has long been a rallying cry of the religious and political right. In recent years, it’s been used to provide a rationale for exemptions from a variety of civil right laws. 

But at least since January 6th, some MAGA sectors have been dropping much of the pretense of religious freedom, while they appear to openly prepare their audiences for vigilante violence and religious war. The messages aren’t always consistent, but they are fairly consistently violent.

This has been on vivid display on the ReAwaken America Tour, which has been kind of a rolling campaign for revolt since the failed coup. Led by former Trump national security advisor Michael Flynn, the 15 rallies held since April 2021 have each drawn thousands of attendees. Like “Stop the Steal” events, they tend to be foggy, distortion-infused affairs, full of dire warnings of hidden evil and worse to come. There are at least three more planned this year: one for Southern Virginia, one for Western New York, and another for the Idaho panhandle—border regions intended to draw the maximum number of attendees.

Election, medical, and vaccine conspiracists, along with insurrection veterans like Flynn, Eric Trump, Sidney Powell, Mike Lindell, and Roger Stone grab most of the media attention. But a disturbing religious dimension has received far less attention; that is, until November, when Flynn blurted out their broad intention at a San Antonio rally, “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” 

But there’s so much more.

The ReAwaken events are a revision and rebranding of “Health and Freedom” conferences which in the Spring of 2021, rallied opposition to Covid prevention measures such as masking, vaccinations and closure of public spaces. By the Summer, it had become the ReAwaken America Tour, with the sponsorship of the Charisma magazine publishing empire headed by Steven Strang

Words of the Prophet Walnau

Impresario and tour director Clay Clark introduced Lance Walnau as a prophet when he spoke at the event in Phoenix, Arizona in January 2022. Walnau is an important figure in the neo-Charismatic New Apostolic Reformation, best known for his advocacy of the idea of Seven Mountains Dominionism, which is a vision of Christians gaining control over the main sectors of societal influencenamely, religion, government, family, arts & entertainment, business, media, and education. Church offices in this movement are termed the “five-fold ministry” of apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, and evangelist.

Prophet Walnau asked for a show of hands of how many had been to ReAwakening events before. The camera doesn’t show the crowd, but apparently many had, because he compared them to “Deadheads.”

Walnau says this movement is “going to pick every deception Satan is working on in the United States, a movement that is going to hammer like David on the head of Goliath until the giant comes down.”

Having just compared them to Deadheads, he advises, 

“You’re not part of something that’s just a strange, eccentric gathering of conspiracy theorists; you are actually a prophetic community. And a populist movement is going to be raised up in the United States that is going to become the Great Awakening.” 

“It’s the spirit of God that has been on you your whole life,” he declares, “preparing you for this moment in history.”

Walnau is just one of many who foresee violence. Last year, Prophet Amanda Grace, for example, blew a shofar to open a ReAwaken event, explaining, 

“When the shofar was blown, the walls of Jericho fell. When the shofar was blown, Gideon and an army of 300 men defeated over 147,000 Midianities. It’s an announcement to the enemy that his stronghold is about to fall. Demons tremble at the sound of the shofar.”

She said the shofar is “a weapon of our warfare. And when we blow it, the power of God comes full force into that situation.” 

Flynn said the tour is about “saving our country from tyranny, dictatorship and communism.” To do this, he identified the tour’s three themes: “Election integrity,” “this Covid craziness (that we’re having shoved down our throats),” and “religious freedom.” In an interview with Apostle Steven Strang, Flynn named three ministers who would speak to religious freedom. So I clicked on the sample video for each on the tour web site to see what they said.

Apostle Leon Benjamin of Richmond, Virginia said nothing about religious freedom. Pastor Jackson Lahmeyer of Tulsa, Oklahoma also said nothing about religious freedom, except to claim, “the first amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees me and my church the right to gather together in person, virus or no virus.” Maybe. Maybe not. But religious freedom is about a lot more than temporary closings during a pandemic. 

The third, Bill Cook of Haymarket, Virginia however, seems to favor the elimination of religious freedom. He is the founder of the Black Robe Regiment, named after what the British army called certain clergy during the American revolution. “I could go on with stories,” he says regarding the role of the clergy, “But they were not preaching separation of church and state, I can tell you that!” 

He blames separation of church and state “for the mess we are in.” He apparently either doesn’t know or doesn’t care that church state separation was how the Framers of the Constitution sought to protect religious freedom from the undue influence of the government and powerful religious institutions. 

“Our enemies,” he also claims, without naming them, “have the intention of slaying everyone who believes in Christ. They are planning genocide. And that’s what we are seeing in Covid-19. So we have to fight.” 

“[And] some of us,” he says, “are going to have to give our lives.”

Jezebel churches

Some spoke of violence that was arguably even worse. 

Pastor Greg Locke, a militant tent revivalist from Tennessee, spoke in September 2021 in Colorado Springs. He didn’t discuss religious freedom, but he denounced governmental tyranny and declared war in response to public policies that required churches to close along with other public spaces at the height of the pandemic.

“I said they’ll be serving Frosties in the Lake of Fire before pastor Greg Locke ever shuts down his local New Testament church because a demon-possessed buckwild tyrannical government told him to!” 

“Yes! Blow them shofars! This means war! This is our battle cry!

 Church! Stop being asleep!”

He denounced as “Jezebel churches” those that had closed to the public because of Covid. He’s referring to the biblical figure of Jezebel, a Queen of ancient Israel whose story does not end well. She lures the Jews away from their God and over to the Baal cult before she’s deposed by a military leader, Jehu, who has her thrown out a palace window to the streets, where wild dogs eat her body.

Down with the Washington Monument!

Prophet Julie Green, who campaigns with Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano, is also a frequent guest on the broadcast of tour regular Pastor Dave Scarlett. She says God has given her word of something dire. In a show broadcast from the Salem, Oregon ReAwaking event in April, she told Scarlett and fellow Prophet Amanda Grace that the nation’s capital is not what God wanted, and that he intends to “destroy Washington, DC.” She says that God is moving the capital to either Pennsylvania or Florida. This comes amidst some kind of sweeping away of existing institutions, out of which “America will be reborn.” 

The panel also discussed the need to remove monuments that are “not of God.” Amanda Grace says the Statue of Liberty needs to come down because it’s tied to a false god and is “part of the Old Order.” (Scarlett thinks it’s tied to Islam.) Green says, “any monument that was erected by them that he didn’t want, will be torn down.” Incidentally, according to Green, God also “mentioned the Washington monument, and then all the arches of Baal.” 

Noting that the Washington monument is modeled on ancient Egyptian obelisks, Green adds, “It’s not like they make anything new, they just take it from something before.” That’s why God said, “these are like the Pharaohs of old, it’s the same demonic thing that’s behind the leaders now as they were back there with Pharaohs.”

“Any monuments that are really of God, can stay,” she says. The ones that are not of God “will be destroyed, and nothing can stop that.” 

They don’t mention whether these things will be acts of God alone or in consort with his people. But they seem certain it will happen in the coming months.