Did Pence Credit Christian Nationalist Group with Trump’s 2016 Victory?

Rob McCoy is Pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel and Mayor of Thousand Oaks, California (Image from Engage California event, November 3, 2018)

Pastor-politician Rob McCoy appeared on the Truth and Liberty livestream with pastor Andrew Wommack last Monday for a nearly hour-long conversation about the need for pastors to lead Christians into greater political involvement. (Earlier this year Wommack declared that opposition to President Trump is “demonic” and a sign of the End Times; during the interview he said the difference between conservatism and liberalism is morality versus immorality.)

McCoy is pastor of Godspeak Calvary Chapel church, mayor of Thousand Oaks, California, and inspiration to Christian nationalist political operative David Lane. Through Lane’s American Renewal Project, he and McCoy worked hard to mobilize evangelical voters in California for this year’s elections, holding events “up and down the state,” including two pastors’ gatherings in southern California in September.

McCoy said there are 15 million evangelical Christians in California, but only about half of them are registered to vote—and only half of those vote in a presidential election year, with a mere one quarter voting in a non-presidential year. At the “Engage California” conference the Saturday before the election, McCoy said that if Christians would only turn out, “we would dominate every election up and down the state.” After this year’s election did not turn out well for Republicans in California, Lane complained that Democratic Governor-elect Gavin Newsom was elected “by California evangelicals who stayed home on Election Day.”

In the Wommack interview, McCoy said that every king needs a counselor; in America, the people are king, and its pastors must be its counselors:

“Our founders knew that the pulpits had to be that instrument for moral knowledge in a culture. And if the press is bought and the pulpits are silent, a constitutional republic will fade away and power will concentrate. … And if we’re not doing our job to educate our congregants on how to maintain this God-given, wonderful representative form of government, through the Noahic covenant, we are doing a disservice to the nation. And yes, with all my heart, I believe that we need to be involved in the public square. And I entered into politics wanting to lead by example. I couldn’t take people where I wasn’t willing to go myself.”

McCoy said he’s traveled the country with the American Renewal Project and has spoken to more than 15,000 pastors. He said he understands that some pastors don’t initially understand their political responsibility, because “just like me they were inculcated and trained to believe that there was a separation of church and state, which does not exist.”

McCoy described what he called two contrasting ideologies: a secular progressive ideology grounded in the belief that man is innately good and promotes things like open borders and one world government; and a Christian ideology grounded in the belief that man has a sinful nature and is accountable to God. He said that the secular progressive ideology has flourished because Christians have not been sufficiently engaged in education to hold the “moral ground.”

As he did at a pre-election rally in November, McCoy acknowledged that the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, Chuck Smith, believed in teaching the Bible and staying out of politics. That may have been understandable in 1968, McCoy says, but not today. It’s the lack of evangelical political participation, he says, that has led to “awful things” like no-fault divorce, transgender “bathroom bills,” and abortion. McCoy urged listeners to encourage their pastors to get more involved in politics; if the church they attend is politically apathetic and abdicates its political responsibilities, he said, “find another church.”

Wommack mentioned that McCoy had told him before the broadcast that Vice President Mike Pence had credited the American Renewal Project with helping to win the 2016 election. McCoy described a bit more about how the group works:

“We go into key battleground states and we invite pastors and their wives and put them up in a hotel, we bring in folks like Bill Federer, Bob McEwen, Governor Huckabee. We have Newt Gingrich and a number of other speakers, and we educate the pastors on their responsibility in a constitutional republic to educate their constituents to participate, because if you’re not participating, you’re not represented. And to abdicate our responsibility is to give up these freedoms, these choices that we have. And to hold people accountable. Because good government only happens with good people.

“So when we move these pastors to understand their responsibility, they get it and they take that responsibility. …

McCoy also talked about his own decision to run for office, saying he was encouraged to run for the California state assembly in 2014 by another assembly member he spoke with on a trip to Israel. In spite of not knowing what he was doing, he said, he jumped into the race, built a campaign of 650 volunteers, overcame $1 million in Republican spending against him in the primary, and lost the general election by just 4,000 votes, winning the gratitude of the state’s GOP by forcing Democrats to spend more than $6 million against him. (McCoy is inspiration for Lane’s efforts to get a thousand conservative pastors to run for office, calculating that their hundreds of thousands of volunteers would influence races up and down the ticket.)

After his failed bid for state assembly, McCoy decided to run for the Thousand Oaks city council seat once held by his assembly opponent. He was elected to the council in 2015 and became mayor late last year. (In Thousand Oaks’ Council/Manager form of government, the mayor is selected by council members to serve as presiding officer for a year.)

But even running a losing race can generate political impact, he said.  He has developed a friendly relationship with the person who defeated him for the assembly race, he said, and through her he was able to invite openly gay California legislator Evan Low, the author of a bill that would treat “conversion therapy” as fraudulent, to hear from a group of pastors about why they believed the bill was an infringement on religious freedom. Even though the bill passed both houses of the legislature, Low decided after those conversations not to send the bill to the governor for his signature, saying that creating the strongest legislation possible would require more time for “an inclusive process.”

As we reported in December, McCoy’s congregation recently moved into a new building it is leasing from Texas fracking billionaire Dan Wilks’ Heavenly Father’s Foundation, which bought and renovated the former YMCA for McCoy’s church. Wilks and his brother are major contributors to the American Renewal Project.