BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — By the time the red, white and blue-colored microphone had been switched off, the crowd of 3,000 had listened to hours of invective and grievance.
“We’re under warfare,” one speaker told them. Another said she would “take a bullet for my nation,” while a third insisted, “They hate you because they hate Jesus.” Attendees were told now is the time to “put on the whole armor of God.” Then retired three-star Army general Michael Flynn, the tour’s biggest draw, invited people to be baptized.
Scores of people walked out of the speakers’ tent to three large metal tubs filled with water. While praise music played in the background, one conference-goer after another stepped in. Pastors then lowered them under the surface, welcoming them into their movement in the name of Jesus Christ. One woman wore a T-shirt that read “Army of God.”
Flynn warned the crowd that they were in the midst of a “spiritual war” and a “political war” and urged people to get involved.
ReAwaken America was launched by Flynn, a former White House national security adviser, and Oklahoma entrepreneur Clay Clark a few months after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol failed to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. Attendees and speakers still insist — against all evidence and dozens of court rulings — that Donald Trump rightfully won.
Since early last year, the ReAwaken America Tour has carried its message of a country under siege to tens of thousands of people in 15 cities and towns. The tour serves as a traveling roadshow and recruiting tool for an ascendant Christian nationalist movement that’s wrapped itself in God, patriotism and politics and has grown in power and influence inside the Republican Party.
In the version of America laid out at the ReAwaken tour, Christianity should be at the center of American life and institutions. Instead, it’s under attack, and attendees need to fight to restore the nation’s Christian roots. It’s a message repeated over and over at ReAwaken — one that upends the constitutional ideal of a pluralist democracy. But it’s a message that is taking hold.
A poll by the University of Maryland conducted in May found that 61% of Republicans support declaring the U.S. to be a Christian nation.
“Christian nationalism, really undermines and attacks foundational values in American democracy. And that is a promise of religious freedoms for all,” said Amanda Tyler, executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, which advocates for religious freedom.
She said the ReAwaken cause is “a partisan political cause, and the cause here is to spread misinformation, to perpetuate the big lie and to have a different result next time in the next election.”
This story is part of an ongoing investigation from The Associated Press and the PBS series “Frontline” that includes the upcoming documentary “Michael Flynn’s Holy War,” premiering Oct. 18 on PBS and online.