Even by the standards of the MAGA fever-swamps, pastor Jackson Lahmeyer’s social media posts are extreme. A sampling of his outré takes:
“Alex Jones did nothing wrong”
“Fauci is a mass-murdering Luciferian”
“Speaker Pelosi is a DEMON!”
“Jan 6 = FBI Inside Job”
“Bring out the tanks. Immigration Moratorium”
Yet far from making him politically radioactive, the Oklahoma church leader’s trollier-than-thou persona helps explain his rapid ascent in the orbit of Donald Trump.
Lahmeyer leads the newly created Pastors For Trump, a 50-state organization that aims to revive evangelical support for the disgraced, insurrectionist former president as Trump makes his bid for the 2024 GOP nomination.
Lahmeyer announced the formation of Pastors for Trump on “The Stone Zone” podcast in early December. The group is ostensibly independent of the presidential campaign, but Trump blessed Pastors for Trump — sending Lahmeyer a “THANK YOU!” note in black Sharpie, and promoting the group on Truth Social. “Our registration numbers just spiked,” Lahmeyer tells Rolling Stone, “the moment he Truthed it out.”
Pastors for Trump is the brainchild of an extremist in both religion and politics — and a man who celebrates the union of the two realms: “I will embrace Christian Nationalism,” Lahmeyer declared this fall on a stop of the ReAwaken America tour, “because… we are at war in this country; it is a spiritual war between good and evil.”
The emergence of a figure like Lahmeyer at the very beginning of the 2024 election cycle underscores two key trends. First: Overt Christian Nationalism — the ideology that America was founded on, and should be governed to enforce, conservative Christian morality — is becoming central to the GOP nominating process. And second: Trump, and his brain trust, are moving to lock in evangelical voters as a tier-one priority, before they’re tempted to decamp for candidates with more authentic spiritual convictions, like former Vice President Mike Pence, or Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
For some men, politics and proselytizing are two sides of the same coin. Lahmeyer (pronounced Law-meyer) is 31; he sports close-cropped brown hair, and speaks in a staccato honed over years in the pulpit. He has been living a mix of religion and politics since the 2020 election. A hardcore election denier who also encouraged defiance of Covid health mandates, Lahmeyer leveraged both issues to challenge Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford in the 2022 Republican primary — a far-right campaign guided by Trump-pardoned felons Gen. Michael Flynn and Roger Stone.
That bid launched Lahmeyer as a rising star in MAGAworld, a status he’s seeking to burnish with his backing of Trump 2024. Lahmeyer tells Rolling Stone he launched the new organization hoping to fill a vacuum of evangelical support for the former president. “The Washington Post wrote a story about the silence of evangelical leaders that were previously very strong supporters of President Trump,” he says. “That prompted Pastors for Trump; I began laying the infrastructure, behind the scenes, getting pastors in all 50 states.”
Organized as a 501(c)(4) — a “dark money” nonprofit — Pastors For Trump allows a high level of secrecy from donors and participants alike. Lahmeyer says the Trump-backing pastors will only be made public at their discretion, though the group’s state and regional directors will soon be named.
By law, churches risk their nonprofit status by engaging directly in politics. But Lahmeyer insists that Pastors for Trump is a licit forum for religious leaders — as individuals — to exercise their political rights, apart from their churches. Yet when asked if the aim is to get MAGA-minded preachers to lead their flocks to back Trump, Lahmeayer is not coy. He replies: “Absolutely.”
Many evangelicals Christians see Trump as a politician who served his purpose: God had a plan for the sinner in the White House — but Trump’s moment has passed. By contrast, Lahmeyer sees Trump as a kindred spirit, with more to deliver, regardless of the former president’s personal shortcomings.
“Here’s what I know: President Trump’s actions bear the fruit,” Lahmeyer says. “He’s been the best pro-Christian president we’ve had in my lifetime.” The pastor ticks off, among the 45th president’s hits, the relocation of the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, the Abraham Accords, and the Supreme Court justices who abolished Roe. “In Oklahoma, we are now an abortion-free state — and that is thanks to President Donald Trump.”
Laymeyer and Trump share a conspiratorial worldview — on issues from election fraud to quack Covid treatments to lies about the 44th president. (“Barack Hussein Obama is a Muslim,” Lahmeyer has tweeted.) But the pastor also relates to Trump’s failings. As a high schooler, Lahmeyer fathered a child, and married the mother, in a teen union that didn’t last. He argues that a person’s history shouldn’t “determine their present and their future,” adding: “I had a tremendous past in high school. If we were gonna base it upon that, I wouldn’t be qualified to be a pastor.”
Lahmeyer grew up in Oklahoma, and attended Oral Roberts University where he received both a BA and a masters. He began his career as “crusade director” for Christ For All Nations, and then served as state coordinator for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Lahmeyer says his job, in essence, was to pack arenas for Pentecostal pastor Reinhard Bonnke and Franklin Graham, respectively. “Mobilization is my background,” he says.
Lahmeyer is now lead pastor at Sheridan Church in Tulsa, a “nondenominational charismatic church” with a history of giving rise to mega-pastors: “Kenneth Copeland began his ministry at Sheridan,” Lahmeyer says.
The belief system promoted at Lahmeyer’s church is both fundamentalist (“the Bible is the inspired, infallible, incorruptible and authoritative Word of God”) and End-Times (“We believe in the imminent and personal return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”)
Charismatic Christians like Lahmemer also hold that the realm of angels and demons is literal and — as the pastor puts it — “overlaps with our modern political world.” In Lahmeyer’s depiction, “The spiritual realm is just as real as the physical realm that we see and feel and touch and hear.” Lahmeyer insists that when “Lucifer was cast out of heaven, he took a third of the angels with him” and that they’re “still here today.”
The pastor and his co-religionists believe that demons and angels remain locked in “spiritual warfare” — and that the outcomes of that holy conflict make themselves manifest in U.S. politics. “This is a battle between good and evil, and we have to engage in that fight,” Lahmeyer insists.
In the pastor’s with-us-or-against-us worldview the political left is infested with “Luciferians.” As evidence, Lahmeyer points to Democratic support of abortion (which he calls “murdering babies inside their mother’s womb”); same-sex marriage; and the mainstream acceptance of trans identity. “The gender confusion that they’re pumping upon children,” Lahmeyer claims, “that is Luciferian.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Lahmeyer hastens to clarify, that he is “not advocating for physical violence” and that, “When I say ‘war’ and ‘fight,’ our weapons are spiritual.” As recently as August, however, he suggested that a spiritual battle with the left could escalate into an “actual Civil War.”
Through his fundamentalist lens, Lahmeyer sees top Democrats as in league with the Devil, including the outgoing Speaker of the House, an observant Catholic. “You’re either a friend of God or an enemy of God,” Lahmeyer says of Nancy Pelosi. “If she feared God, there is no way she would push things that are so anti-God.”
Christian nationalism — which he’s contrasted with the “godless globalism” of the left — is increasingly central to Lahmeyer’s identity. Lahmeyer has declared that, “The purpose of America was to form a Christian nation.” And, on election day this November, he implored those heading to the polls to “Vote for Christian Nationalism today.”
Speaking to Rolling Stone, Lahmeyer softens this view, a bit. “I’m going to push for Christian leaders, because we do need Christian leaders in the realm,” he says. “But to say that every position would be occupied by a Christian? That’s impossible; this is a representative Republic.”
Such deference for the outcomes of democracy and fair elections, however, does not comport with Lahmeyer’s fanatical embrace of the Big Lie that election fraud denied Donald Trump re-election in 2020. Lahmeyer refuses to recognize that Joe Biden is the rightful occupant of the White House, and insists on calling him the “former vice president of the United States.”
The Big Lie was the driving force behind Lahmeyer’s 2022 primary challenge of Sen. Lankford. That contest, Lahmeyer says, arose from his his disgust for the senator’s about-face on Jan. 6. Before the insurrection, Lankford had promoted baseless allegations of fraud. Indeed, Lankford was on the Senate floor, objecting to the counting of Electoral College votes, when the Capitol was overrun.
But when the Senate reconvened in the aftermath of the violence, Lankford appeared chastened. He dropped his election objections and voted to certify Biden’s victory. Later — in his role as a member of the commission marking the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa race riot — Lankford apologized to Black Oklahomans for “casting doubt on the validity of votes coming out of predominantly Black communities like Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Detroit.”
Lahmeyer came to see Lankford as a “absolute coward,” a “traitor” and a “RINO of the highest order” who, he argued, “stabbed our president… right in the chest.” As a candidate, he promised that upon his arrival in Washington, D.C.: “Jackson Lahmeyer will shout it: the 2020 election was a solen election!”
Lahmeyer portrayed the incumbent as weak and overly-solicitous to the state’s Black voters. “Unlike James Lankford” Layhmeyer posted on Facebook, “I do not suffer from ‘White Guilt’.” For proof of his own backbone, he pointed to his church’s defiance of Covid health restrictions: “We never enforced the masks, we never enforced social distancing, we never shut down.” He even launched a petition against vaccine mandates and offered to sign religious vaccine exemption forms — in exchange for donation to his ministry.
The race for office was a bust. Lahmeyer earned barely a quarter of the primary vote against the man he decried as “Oklahoma’s Mitt Romney” and alleged lacked the “testicular fortitude” to debate him.
But the Lahmeyer campaign proved remarkable for another reason — it helped spark the Re-Awaken America Tour, the right-wing, conspiratorial roadshow often compared to a MAGA circus.
Before he’d committed to a run for Senate, Lahmeyer’s ranting about election fraud on a podcast caught the attention of a fellow conspiracy theorist, Gen. Michael Flynn, who tracked down Lahmeyer’s phone number and called him. “We have like a two hour conversation. And he says, ‘You’re going to run against James Lankford.’ I had not made up my mind,” Lahmeyer recalls. “But a good general gives an order, and I said, ‘Yes, sir.’”
Flynn even traveled to Tulsa to join Lahmeyer when he announced his run. The pastor held his press conference at the offices of a member of his church — Tulsa entrepreneur Clay Clark. That was the first time Flynn and Clark had met. “And it was through that connection, obviously, the ReAwaken America Tour was birthed,” Lahmeyer says.
During his senatorial bid, Lahmeyer forged a near-family relationship with Gen. Flynn. “He’s become a lot like a dad,” he says. Lahmeyer also got hooked up with infamous Trump bagman Roger Stone, who advised the closing weeks of the campaign. “We didn’t pull off a victory, obviously. But Roger, and I became very close.”
No surprise, Lahmeyer also became a fixture on Clark’s traveling Re-Awaken tour. He sought the company and support of infamous right-wing political figures — including Wendy Rogers, the Oath Keeper Arizona state senator, and Rudy Giuliani — while becoming chummy with Trump sons, Eric and Don Jr., even snapping pics with the dear Dear Leader himself.
In short, Lahmeyer has been immersed in an insular, far-right vortex — where clout is gained by espousing ever more extreme and conspiratorial beliefs, most of which have little to do with Jesus.
Lahmeyer has claimed, for example, that Black Lives Matter is a “domestic terrorist organization” that was “founded by witchcraft-practicing lesbians.” He’s insisted that the Jan. 6 defendants are “political prisoners” and the true act of violence against U.S. democracy occurred on Election Day 2020: “The ‘Insurrection’ did not take place on Jan 6 but actually took place on Nov 3.” Ranting against the supposed abuses of Big Tech and Big Pharma, he’s alleged that “YouTube is ran by Communists that hate life saving treatments like IVERMECTIN, BUDESONIDE & HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE.”
More consistent with his far-right religious beliefs, the pastor has reserved special spite for queer Americans. “There is no such thing as a ‘trans kid,’” he’s tweeted. “There are only adults who have abused and brainwashed their children.” Lahmeyer baselessly alleges that what he mocks as the “LGBTQxyz” movement aspires to add pedophilia and bestiality under the rainbow flag. ”These people are sick and are not going to stop until they are stopped!”
In his campaign, Lahmeyer attempted to pander to the QAnon set, posting that the “real pandemic in our world today is pedophilia and child traffickers.” But he soon got a taste of his own conspiratorial medicine when QAnons turned on him and baselessly accused him of being trafficker because of an innocent photo he posted of one of his kids wearing red shoes — which the Anons mistook for satanic symbolism. (Lahmeyer today tells Rolling Stone that QAnon is “total B.S.”)
What do Lahmeyer’s trollish online ways have to do with promoting God? “To proclaim the gospel, people are going to be offended,” he insists. “Their feelings are going to be hurt. And we’re so afraid of making sure everybody feels comfortable, making sure everybody likes us, that we have watered down the truth.” He insisted that his atomic takes are him, “just proclaiming the truth.”
I press Lahmeyer on perhaps his most radioactive declaration, that “Alex Jones did nothing wrong.” Isn’t profiting by tormenting the parents of children of slain in massacre wrong? Laymeyer snaps back: “He did not massacre those children. That [he] should be fined the size of a country’s annual GDP for freedom of speech? Freedom of speech gives you the right to be wrong.”
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In a normal political environment, an extremist like Jackson Lahmeyer wouldn’t be welcome anywhere near a presidential political campaign, much less be trusted as a conduit to the broader faith community. But these are far from normal times. In a moment where Nazi stans like Ye and Nick Fuentes are yanking the Overton Window wildly to the right, Laymeyer and his newfound proximity to power have gone all but unnoticed.
For his part, Lahmeyer insists Pastors for Trump is here for the long haul — and all-in for the former president. The group has scheduled monthly prayer calls starting in January, and projected through November, 2024 — the month of the general election. “We have a common goal, and that is to save America,” he says. “And we believe one of the ways that happens is by getting Donald Trump back in the White House.”