In his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday morning, Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk declared enthusiastically, “Finally we have a president that understands the seven mountains of cultural influence.” Many CPAC attendees and online viewers may have missed the quick reference to seven mountains dominionism—sometimes called the seven mountains mandate—whose proponents argue that God wants a certain kind of Christian to be in charge of all the “mountains” or spheres of cultural influence: government, media, education, business, arts and entertainment, church and family.
Seven mountains dominionism is associated with the New Apostolic Reformation, a network of Pentecostal and charismatic leaders who believe God has given modern-day apostles and prophets the power to work miracles, transform the church and whole nations, establish God’s kingdom on earth, and speed the return of Jesus Christ. The rhetoric of the seven mountains has been adopted across the religious right even by leaders who may not share NAR’s theology, but find the concept a convenient lingua franca for encouraging conservative evangelicals to get more involved in politics.
Right Wing Watch reported last week that Kirk had endorsed California congressional candidate Sean Feucht, a worship leader at Bethel megachurch and a favorite of dominionist “apostles” and “prophets.” It turns out that endorsement was the tip of the iceberg of Kirk’s partnership with a group of California-based pastors connected to Christian nationalist political operative David Lane.
Kirk was listed as a speaker at Rediscovering God in America, a Pastors and Pews event in January organized by Lane’s California Renewal Project; Lane’s events are designed to get pastors more actively engaged in turning their congregants into conservative voters. Among the other speakers were California pastors Jack Hibbs, Rob McCoy, and Ché Ahn. Hibbs leads Calvary Chapel Chino Hills Church, a southern California megachurch, and he is helping lead a long-term push to mobilize conservative evangelical churchgoers to topple Democratic political dominance in the Golden State.
In December and again last week, Kirk appeared on stage at Hibbs’s church. Hibbs is proudly defiant of restrictions on electoral politicking by churches and other nonprofits; he endorses candidates from the pulpit and unabashedly tells congregants that the church will instruct them how to vote.
On the morning of Kirk’s appearance last Wednesday, Hibbs promoted the evening event via Facebook video as an “unscheduled interruption by the Lord” that would not only include Kirk but also congressional and judicial candidates. And before the Wednesday evening event, Kirk recorded a segment for Hibbs’s “Real Life Talk” podcast, which was essentially a condensed version of the longer evening session.
On Wednesday night at Hibbs’s church, Kirk was in conversation with another leader in the Calvary Chapel network, pastor-politician Rob McCoy, who Lane describes as the inspiration for his effort to recruit 1,000 evangelical pastors to run for political office. Hibbs warned potential hecklers that it was a federal offense to disrupt a religious gathering, adding that there were local and federal officers in attendance.
In his conversations with Hibbs and McCoy, Kirk sounded less like the leader of a secular political organization and more like Lane himself or one of the dominionists he works with. Kirk described a “spiritual war” taking place in the U.S. between light and darkness. Claiming that American Christianity is in “crisis,” he decried pastors who aren’t willing to be as aggressively involved in politics as Hibbs and McCoy.
In December, Hibbs gushed over Kirk, calling him a “national treasure” whose knowledge is “a gift given to you by God.” Kirk returned the favor, saying the U.S. needed 1,000 pastors like Hibbs. Kirk portrayed President Donald Trump’s election as the result of divine intervention, saying, “it seems as if God came down and intervened at that moment.”
In his conversations with Hibbs and McCoy, Kirk compared Trump to the biblical character Samson, who led an immoral life but was used by God to destroy his enemies. “Samson was willing to do what God’s people weren’t—confront the evil in their culture,” McCoy said. (Samson is among many biblical characters to which Trump has been compared by his religious-right supporters.)
Kirk called for the Bible to be taught in public schools, one of Lane’s primary goals.
We stopped teaching the Bible in our schools, and we got prayer out of our schools. I’m waiting for revival to happen politically to point spiritually, and we should be unapologetic in talking about this. And even some Republican Christians disagree with me on this, because they point to a false talking point where I say that we should pass federal legislation that if you receive any money from the federal government, you should teach the Bible in public schools. And now people say, “Charlie, what about separation of church and state?” And I say, “Now, wait a second.”
Kirk complained that some Republican Christians “don’t want to fight this battle” because they interpret separation of church and state incorrectly:
They also don’t understand that right now we have religion in our schools. It’s called leftism. That is a religion. It’s a core of beliefs, it’s values. So the absence of the Bible, not teaching the Bible at all, even as a historical document, you don’t need to necessarily teach it as the word of God, people will naturally come to that conclusion by being exposed to the Bible, and they will understand the stories and the history and the wisdom within the text. However, we’ve removed it strategically from the public schools—by the way, public schools are still teaching the Quran, and they’re teaching leftist ideologies at alarming rates. The single book that has an answer to all of our problems, 5,000 years of history, 66 books, 35 authors, that’s the book we decide not to teach our youth?
You look at the 1960s and 70s. After the greatest generation, you had the sexual revolution, you had the attack on Christianity, you had the wrong ruling of Roe vs. Wade, which has been a 50-year crusade on the destruction of the American culture. And it has to be the church that will rise up in revival against it.
Kirk also claimed that it is the job of individuals and churches, not governments, to clothe the poor and look after the vulnerable, echoing the rhetoric of David Barton and other religious-right leaders influenced by Christian Reconstructionism, which calls for the imposition of biblical law and argues that God has granted authority over varying aspects of life to the government, church, and family. Kirk said that Jesus called for people to be generous individually, but “he never, not once, made the argument for a coercive, collectivized government to do that for you.”
Kirk made similar comments in his conversation with Hibbs in December, saying that the church would do a better job caring for poor people if safety net programs were abolished. “If every single government program was abolished, the church would step up and make sure that every single person in this country was taken care of,” said Kirk, as if churches had somehow prevented people from living and dying in poverty before New Deal or Great Society programs.
Hibbs agreed, saying that while he doesn’t mind paying taxes when flushing the toilet or when the street lights come on, “it’s a pathetic day when the United States government has a welfare system, with all the Bible teaching in America. There should be no welfare system. The church should be the engine that takes care of those within its borders.” Kirk interjected, “That’s exactly right.”
In his conversation with Kirk, McCoy used seven mountains language, saying that God had raised up Trump, a man who had “currency” in the “mountains” of cultural influence—entertainment, media, politics, and business. “If you don’t like him, fine,” McCoy said. “But you know why God picked him? Because there were no Christians available.” There were other Christian candidates, of course, but none were “equipped” like Trump.
In a segment that would likely be jarring to many Christians who revere the King James translation of the Bible, McCoy cited the scriptural conversation between Jesus and his disciple Peter. “Upon this rock I shall build my—,” McCoy said, allowing the congregation to fill in the final word, “church.” To which McCoy said, “No. No, no, no.” McCoy told congregants that King James wrongly translated the term ekklesia as church, when some earlier translators chose the word “assembly.” Dominionists who believe conservative Christians should be running things on earth frequently use the word ekklesia to refer to the church acting with governmental authority, as God’s legislative body bringing kingdom rule to the earth.
Turning Point USA portrays itself as a champion for conservative college and high school students confronting leftist tyranny on their campuses. In his conversation with McCoy last week, Kirk’s utter contempt for academia—especially elite institutions—was front and center.
“If you want your child to hate America, send them to Brown University, that’s all I have to say,” Kirk said. “If you want to turn them into an anti-American, godless, atheist, unhappy radical, send them to Brown University.”
We have “way too many people going to college in America,” Kirk said. “If your child sat down and watched every Prager U video, they would be infinitely more wise than the professors that would be teaching them at the universities,” Kirk told parents. He urged parents to stop pushing their kids to attend expensive colleges as a status symbol, and to encourage their kids to take a gap year after high school and seek an apprenticeship instead. (When Kirk didn’t get into West Point, he decided to take a gap year, began his activism, and never went to college.)
Kirk said that leftist college professors teach young people to be bitter and angry rather than thankful. And he said trying to find fulfillment in a secular world creates “miserable people” and a “chaotic culture.” Chaos is the “goal of the modern left,” Kirk told McCoy. “There is one side that wants to create chaos and one side that wants to bring order from the chaos. Everything the left does seeks to create more chaos.” Stoking racial tension and gender confusion are examples of creating chaos, Kirk said. He expressed contempt for “transgender nonsense,” saying, “There are only two genders—scientifically, biologically, realistically, spiritually and theologically.”
In response to a question about Turning Point USA having gay members and staff, Kirk said that he is clear that he supports “biblical marriage” but believes the conservative political movement should be about addition and multiplication, not subtraction. Hibbs said that Kirk can run TPUSA as a secular organization with Judeo-Christian values, the way the Founding Fathers relied on Judeo-Christian values but created a secular nation in which atheists have freedom to be atheists.
TPUSA is a secular organization, Kirk told Hibbs in December. But, he said, “It’s amazing how many people that come through our ranks and communicate with what we’re doing end up finding Christ when they actually find people that will stand for truth, and truth that is originally rooted in the Bible—truth of hard work, dignity, freedom, liberty, separation of powers, things that quite honestly our founders were inspired by the Judeo-Christian construct in the Bible, the word of God, and they created the greatest framework of the greatest country ever to exist in the history of the world.”
In November, Kirk teamed up with Liberty University’s Jerry Falwell, Jr. to create the Falkirk Center, whose stated mission is to “equip courageous champions to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ, to advance His Kingdom, and renew American ideals.” Kirk has said it will fight the Left’s effort to “convert young Christians into socialism.”
While plugging the Falkirk Center in his December conversation with Hibbs, Kirk said that Turning Point USA is his passion and he’s “never” going to stop that secular work. But, he said, “I realized there is also a very important culture war happening about the inseparable intersection of American constitutional liberty and first freedoms and natural rights, and the gospel of Jesus Christ. And who’s fighting for that? And the answer is not enough people.”
Lane’s Christian nationalist organizing—which picks up hotel and meal costs for pastors and spouses who travel to his American Renewal Project events—has been financed in part by the billionaire fracking brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who also fund Prager U. A few years ago, Dan Wilks bought and renovated a YMCA building for McCoy’s church, and the Wilks family gave thousands to McCoy’s failed run for the state legislature in 2014.
In the sit-down interview Hibbs did with Kirk before last week’s public event, Kirk portrayed the 2020 election as a “cataclysmic collision” between worldviews and warned that if the “Christian worldview” loses, the consequence will be activist judges, more public funding for abortion, and open borders without a Second Amendment right to protect oneself. The church, Kirk said, is the “sleeping giant” that must be awakened. But he said the church has gone wrong, “especially with the young Christian Marxists,” by equating love with “unlimited tolerance for sin.”
In his conversations with Hibbs and McCoy, Kirk described California as the “test case” for what happens when leftism becomes a religion. In their December meeting, Hibbs complained that California hasn’t had its 2016—Democratic candidates won across the state in 2016 and 2018, despite the efforts of Lane, Hibbs, McCoy and their allies. But Hibbs said during his “Real Life Talk” interview with Kirk that if “good people” would get out and vote—and vote correctly as the church would help them do, “California could change in one night if enough people did the right thing.”