Here’s another thing they should be rebuked over. Their slavery to calling on a vengeful God to seek retribution for their politics and beliefs instead of a peaceful Jesus.
Mainstream Christian leaders criticize Pastors for Trump for distorting religious teachings and endangering democracy
A far-right religious group with ties to Donald Trump loyalists Roger Stone and retired Army Lt Gen Michael Flynn, is planning events with pastors in swing-state churches in Arizona, Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere to spur more evangelical backing for the former US president’s 2024 campaign.
But the group, Pastors for Trump, is drawing sharp rebukes from mainstream Christian leaders for being extremist, distorting Christian teachings and endangering American democracy by fueling the spread of Christian nationalism.
The Oklahoma-based evangelical pastor and businessman Jackson Lahmeyer leads the fledgling Pastors for Trump organization. Lahmeyer told the Guardian it boasts over 7,000 pastors as members and that he will unveil details about its plans on 11 May at the Trump National Doral in Miami, an event Trump will be invited to attend.
Stone, a sel- styled “dirty trickster” who Trump pardoned after he was convicted of lying to Congress, is slated to join Lahmeyer in speaking on 11 May, according to the pastor. Lahmeyer added he will talk more about his pro Trump group at a ReAwaken America evangelical gathering on 12 and 13 May at the Doral.
Lahmeyer said the pastors group intends to sponsor a “freedom tour” with evening church meetings in key swing states this summer, an effort that could help Trump win more backing from this key Republican voting bloc, which could prove crucial to his winning the GOP nomination again.
Lahmeyer described the genesis of Pastors for Trump in dark and apocalyptic rhetoric that has echoes of Trump’s own bombast.
“We’re going down a very evil path in this country,” he said. “Our economy is being destroyed. It’s China, the deep state and globalists.
“China interfered in our 2020 elections,” he added. “This is biblical, what’s happening. This is a spiritual battle.’
But those ominous beliefs have drawn sharp criticism.
“This kind of overt embrace of white Christian nationalism continues to pose a growing threat to the witness of the church and the health of our democracy,” said Adam Russell Taylor, the president of the Christian social justice group Sojourners.
“This pastor and this effort are trying to impose a Christian theocracy. It’s imperative that Christian leaders of all backgrounds, including conservative ones, speak out about this effort as a threat to our democracy and to the church.”
Other religious leaders warn of the dangers that Pastors for Trump poses by marrying Christian nationalism with political vitriol and election lies.
“For years, Trump has tried to co-opt religious leaders to serve his campaign, even attempting to change long-standing tax law to allow dark money to flow through houses of worship,” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty.
“Tragically, far too many pastors have confused political power with religious authority, and have thrown their lot in with Trump, no matter the cost to their ministry. Pastors for Trump is the next step in this unholy alliance, mixing Christian nationalism, election lies and vitriolic language in a gross distortion of Christianity.”
There is ample evidence Lahmeyer has embraced religious and political views replete with extremist positions.
Lahmeyer has previously attacked former House speaker Nancy Pelosi as a “demon”, and former Covid adviser Anthony Fauci “a mass-murdering Luciferian”. To Lahmeyer, the attack on the Capitol on January 6 by a mob of pro-Trump supporters was an “FBI inside job”.
Besides his apocalyptic rhetoric, Lahmeyer’s effort has echoes of the two-year-old ReAwaken America tour, which has combined election denialism with Christian nationalism and regularly featured Flynn at its two-day revival-style meetings.
In 2021, Flynn provided strong and early backing for Lahmeyer in an abortive primary campaign by the pastor to gain the Republican nomination for a Senate seat from Oklahoma.
Flynn, who worked to overturn Trump’s loss to Joe Biden by pushing bogus claims of election fraud, and who Trump pardoned after he pleaded guilty twice to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with Russians before briefly serving as Trump’s national security adviser, is a real hero in Lahmeyer’s eyes.
“Flynn is a leader and general,” Lahmeyer told the Guardian. “I trust him, and I have come to love him. He’s been like a father to me.”
Those bonds were reinforced in early 2021 when Lahmeyer introduced Flynn to Clay Clark, an Oklahoma entrepreneur and a member of his church, who teamed up with Flynn to host20 ReAwaken revival-like gatherings over the last two years nationwide, all of which Lahmeyer said he’s attended.
Late last year, Lahmeyer unveiled Pastors for Trump on Stone’s eponymous Stone Zone podcast, a relationship that was forged in 2021 when Stone served as a key paid consultant to Lahmeyer’s primary campaign.
Pastors for Trump is “interwoven” with the Trump campaign, “but we’re a separate grassroots group”, Lahmeyer said, indicating it is a 501(c)(4) non-profit social welfare, which is awaiting IRS tax status approval.
To date, the pastors group has created a two person board that includes South Carolina pastor Mark Burns, a key Trump campaign religious adviser who backed Trump’s 2016 run and who told the Guardian he is a “spiritual adviser” to Trump.
Lahmeyer said his group hopes to arrange an event in Las Vegas in August to coincide with a ReAwaken America gathering that is scheduled there, and that he expects to start fundraising to increase his group’s membership and activism.
Asked if Stone and Flynn may participate in the various swing state church gatherings, Lahmeyer said: “I’d be dumb not to ask them. Stone and General Flynn are huge supporters.”
To push the group’s pro-Trump messages, Lahmeyer has arranged prayer calls in recent months that have included Stone, Flynn and ex-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, all of whom promoted bogus claims of election fraud in 2020 and tried to help Trump overturn his loss to Joe Biden.
One call that included a segment with Trump in late March, which Lahmeyer hosted and that Stone and Flynn participated in, went badly awry when the sound quality was interrupted for several minutes with Trump on the line.
Lahmeyer told the Stone Zone the next day that trolls had infiltrated the “back stage” of the platform they were using, while Trump fingered the “radical left” for hacking his phone when he tried to join the call.
The launch of Pastors for Trump came not long after a rise in public criticism of Trump from some evangelical leaders that suggested waning support among evangelicals.
Dr Everett Piper, the ex-president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, a Christian university, in November wrote an op-ed entitled “It’s time for the GOP to say it: Donald Trump is hurting us, not helping us.” Piper wrote that in the 2022 midterms Trump “hindered rather than helped the much-anticipated ‘red wave’”.
Likewise, Bob Vander Plaats, the Iowa-based president and chief executive of the Family Leader, a conservative social group, has tweeted about Trump: “It’s time to turn the page. America must move on. Walk off the stage with class.”
Little wonder that in January Trump condemned evangelical leaders who publicly criticized his new campaign for their “disloyalty”.
Some scholars and recent polls, however, suggest Trump still has significant support in the evangelical circles, and that he should garner hefty support again from evangelical voters in the primaries if he is to be the nominee.
“Trump’s enduring appeal to evangelicals is the greatest single triumph of identity politics in modern American history,” David Hollinger, an emeritus history professor at Berkeley and the author of Christianity’s American Fate, told the Guardian.
“The evangelicals who flocked to Trump have good reason to stay with him.”
Still, Tyler of the Baptist Joint Committee is alarmed at the Pastors for Trump campaign.
“Most clergy avoid endorsing political candidates, even in their personal capacity, because they know the polarizing impact it would have on their congregations and the distractions it would cause from their calling and the mission of the church.”
Similarly, Taylor of Sojourners says Pastors for Trump is particularly worrisome. “This is further evidence that the threat of muscular white Christian nationalism is real and needs to be counteracted.”