Is there a difference between an evangelical worship and a right-wing political rally?

Cult leader Sean Feucht prays for Josh Hawley at the Washington Mall

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell.

Meet Elisabeth Dias and Ruth Graham at The New York Times:

They began with an invocation, summoning God’s “hedge of thorns and fire” to protect everyone in Phoenix’s dark parking lot.

They called for testimonials, passing the mic to anyone with “inspirational words they would like to say on behalf of our J-6 political prisoners”, referring to those arrested in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. , which they honored a year later.

They began with an invocation, summoning God’s “hedge of thorns and fire” to protect everyone in Phoenix’s dark parking lot.

They called for testimonials, passing the mic to anyone with “inspirational words they would like to say on behalf of our J-6 political prisoners”, referring to those arrested in connection with the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol. , which they honored a year later.

At events across the United States, it is not uncommon for attendees to describe their encounter with the divine and feel they are doing their part to bring God’s kingdom to earth. For them, right-wing political activity itself becomes a sacred act.

These Christians join secular right-wingers, including media-savvy opportunists and those who tout disinformation. They represent a wide range of discontent, from opposing vaccination mandates to promoting election conspiracy theories. For many, the pandemic restrictions that have temporarily closed places of worship have accelerated their distrust of government and made church practice political.

At a Trump rally in Michigan last weekend, a local evangelist delivered a prayer that read, “Heavenly Father, we firmly believe that Donald Trump is the current and true President of the United States.” He prayed “in the name of Jesus” that delegates from the constituency to Michigan’s upcoming Republican Party convention would support the Trump-endorsed candidates, whose names he listed to the crowd. “In the name of Jesus,” cheered the crowd.

The infusion of an explicitly religious fervor – much of it rooted in charismatic tradition, which emphasizes the power of the Holy Spirit – into the right-wing movement is changing the atmosphere of events and gatherings, many of which feature Christian symbols and rituals, especially praise music.

With a spiritual mission guiding political ideals, the stakes in any conflict, whether over masks or school curricula, can seem much higher, and compromise can be even harder to achieve. Political ambitions come to defend God, emphasizing the desire to build a nation that actively promotes a particular set of Christian beliefs.

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Barry F. Howard