Trump Vows to Empower Political Pastors on Christian Nationalist Broadcast
In an interview on a Christian nationalist broadcast, Donald Trump vowed to empower religious leaders politically, by permanently ending restrictions against churches that weigh in on elections. “They’ve silenced you,” said Trump. “Christianity, I believe is being hit much harder than any other religion is.”
In his comments, aired Tuesday night, Trump blasted the so-called Johnson amendment, which dictates that nonprofits, including churches, lose their tax-free status if they weigh in directly on politics. “We never enforced it. We essentially ended it,” Trump bragged of his time in the White House, adding with regret, “I wasn’t able to finish it. But I’ll finish it this time.”
Just as notable as the former president’s comments was the venue. Trump’s interview aired on Flashpoint, a rising media platform for Christian nationalists. A twice-weekly news show — Flashpoint mimics the production values of a Newsmax, One America News, of other Fox News wannabes. But Flashpoint touts that its programming brings “a prophetic perspective” to the news.
The outreach to Flashpoint marks the latest example of Trump embracing the ascendant Christian nationalist movement as he seeks a return to the White House. This End Times movement seeks to impose a fundamentalist, “biblical” order in the United States. Adherents want to align government and popular culture with scripture — “on Earth as it is in Heaven” — convinced that doing so will hasten the Second Coming of Jesus. Trump has previously called into the Flashpoint program, but this marks the first time the former president has appeared on-camera, blessing the show with his audience.
The 45th president has also turned Pastors for Trump into the evangelical adjunct of his campaign to become the 47th. That group is led by Christian nationalist Tulsa pastor (and former GOP senate candidate) Jackson Lahmeyer. The thrice-divorced Trump — now facing criminal charges related to his payoff of a porn star — may seem an unlikely frontman for those seeking to merge church and state. But these evangelicals view Trump as a favored heathen, a fallible human actor through which God is working His will, in a spiritual war between righteous right-wing believers and demonic Democrats and RINOS.
Flashpoint is a project of Kenneth Copeland ministries. Copeland, for the uninitiated, is a mega-preacher who learned his craft from Oral Roberts, a Charismatic Christian preacher and the OG televangelist. Based in Texas, Copeland is controversial and flaunts his wealth. He has justified his travel in a private jet because commercial flights would leave him locked in “a tube with a bunch of demons.” (Copeland is also popularly known for a May 2020 sermon purporting to “cast judgment” on Covid-19; it proved more effective in launching viral videos than curbing the spread of the virus.)
The host, who traveled to Mar-a-Lago to interview Trump, is the sunny, well coiffed Gene Bailey. Bailey is Senior Executive Pastor at Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church, outside Fort Worth. Many consider him the heir-apparent to the empire of the 86-year-old Copeland. He is himself an unabashed Christian nationalist, saying in past broadcasts that he wants to see Christians “take over the world.”
Flashpoint first aired late 2020, in the heat of the post-election period, and popularized false prophetic visions that God would return Trump to the White House. As a news program, Flashpoint calibrates its coverage to offer viewers “encouraging evidence that God is indeed working to bring about His plans and purposes during these turbulent times.” But the program’s bread-and-butter is a panel discussion, often stocked with leading Christian nationalist prophets and “apostles,” including Lance Wallnau (he of the Seven Mountains Mandate — a blueprint for Christians to take over the country) and Dutch Sheets, who similarly preaches a divine mandate for America.
Under the same Flashpoint branding, Bailey has also ginned up a traveling road show — seemingly inspired by the success of the ReAwaken America Tour. Flashpoint’s “Truth and Freedom Tour” features many of its TV panelists. An upcoming Nashville spot also features MyPillow frontman Mike Lindell. Past live events have also featured big-name politicians. At an arena event in Georgia last summer, Bailey, Wallnau, and Sheets prayed over avowed Christian nationalist Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, whom Sheets insisted was “covered in the blood of Jesus.”
In its rise to prominence, Flashpoint has largely operated in an insular religious bubble, preaching to the choir. But in recent weeks, the programming has been crossing over in the mainstream of the American right — including by interviewing Chaya Raichik of Libs of TikTok and Dog the Bounty Hunter.
Ironically, this ascendant media property was among the first to break the news of the former president’s reaction to the decline at a mainstream competitor. Flashpoint broke off a piece of its interview early to air Trump’s “very sad” thoughts on the departure of Tucker Carlson from Fox News: “Certainly,” Trump said, “it’s not a good thing for Fox.”
In the end, Fox’s loss may equal Flashpoint’s gain.
The program closed Tuesday night with a fervent prayer for “President Donald J. Trump” from panelist Mark Burns, a conservative pastor from South Carolina. He called on God to deliver a nation of “religious liberty without the tyranny of a government destroying our voice.”
“This is a Jesus nation. This is a Christian nation,” Burns insisted. “And we give it back to You.”
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