While hundreds of clergy members prepared to march in Washington, D.C., on Monday as a moral rebuke to the Trump administration on racial justice issues, a group of Trump-supporting religious leaders held a press conference to wrap themselves in Martin Luther King’s mantle and to say it is the church’s job to challenge what they called the sin of racism. Monday was the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.
The National Press Club event was organized by anti-gay activist Harry Jackson’s Reconciled Church project, and the list of speakers was heavy with leaders of POTUS Shield, the apostolic network that declared Trump anointed by God and is now working to help Trump bring about the kingdom of God in America. Jackson is a member of the POTUS Shield Council; also speaking at the press conference were founder and chair Frank Amedia and council members Mark Gonzales, Herman Martir, and MLK’s niece, anti-abortion activist Alveda King. Anti-gay activist Jim Garlow was another panelist; he, like several other speakers, is a member of Trump’s Faith Advisory Board.
The animating force behind POTUS Shield is the belief that God supernaturally intervened in the 2016 election to put his anointed, Donald Trump, into the White House. So, not surprisingly, speakers at the press conference did not call out Trump for his response to white supremacist violence in Charlottesville or for the policies of the Jeff Sessions Department of Justice, much less for the way Trump’s campaign inflamed racial resentment and energized white nationalists. The person who introduced the speakers noted that the other march was targeting the Trump administration but declared that the press event was not to “shift blame” or “point fingers” but to repent as the church.
During the press conference, Amedia declared his support for Trump, adding that he is not looking to Trump to solve the crisis of racism. When a reporter asked specifically about Trump’s response to the recent white supremacist violence in Charlottesville, anti-abortion activist Day Gardner, who was part of the Trump campaign’s “national diversity coalition,” said that Trump “loves all people” and that “there is an entity working outside to demolish everything he’s trying to do.”
Jackson’s remarks largely echoed ones he made two weeks ago at the latest POTUS Shield gathering, which was hosted by Rick Joyner near Charlotte, North Carolina. Amedia, Gonzales and Martir also spoke at that gathering, where they declared that Trump’s enemies were God’s enemies.
When Jackson appeared on CNN recently and Anderson Cooper asked him if Trump’s comments about “good people” among the white nationalists in Charlottesville or his comments telling police to rough up criminal suspects gave Jackson any pause about Trump, Jackson said, “not really.” Jackson said he believes the Trump administration is “open to working through” some systemic problems like mass incarceration. Cooper challenged him, given Sessions’ own actions to the contrary, and Jackson said he’s been part of private conversations but could not yet talk about them publicly.
At that POTUS Shield gathering earlier this month, Gonzales said God would use the violence in Charlottesville to bring healing to America, and he prayed that the witches’ incantations and curses being thrown at Trump would “boomerang” back to hell:
You’re not coming against a president! You’re not coming against an administration! You’re coming against the hand of Almighty God, and we’re declaring it shall not work. It is broken, those chains are broken and breakthrough is coming to this nation. And breakthrough is coming to this president. And breakthrough is coming to this Senate, and this Congress, in the name of Jesus.
At that same gathering, Martir said that God had told him to pray to save the soul of then-President Barack Obama, but said people should pray double for Trump because “he is being raised as a Cyrus.” Martir prayed for God to “silence the mouth” of Trump’s opponents:
President Trump is the president of the United States of America! He is our president and you have chosen him to be the president of this nation in this day, in this hour! … Remove very plan of the enemy! We break every plan of the enemy against our president! And we say to the media, God put President Trump in authority and you cannot remove a man that God has appointed in this day and this hour.
At Monday’s press conference, Jackson declared that societal transformation can only be led by the church, saying that there’s “fake unity” outside of Jesus Christ but a “real capacity for unified change” that comes through Him. The idea that unity in America can only come through the church is also reflected in the Christian nationalist rhetoric of POTUS Shield. At the opening of its event outside Charlotte, Amedia said, “We’re not buying into that myth that says we must separate our country and our church, we must separate our politics from our faith.”
Jackson also used the press conference to call on Christians to join in a 40-day fast, starting today and ending October 7, praying for a cessation of violence and for jobs for people who need them. Not coincidentally, October 7 will mark the first full day of a multi-day religious gathering in Washington, D.C., whose organizers include dominionist Lou Engle, described on POTUS Shield’s website as “a highly esteemed member of the POTUS Shield Council.”
POTUS Shield is organizing its own event at Jackson’s church outside Washington on October 4, and is encouraging people to plan to stay in D.C. for the “Awaken the Dawn” evangelical “tent meeting” on the National Mall on October 7-9 and the “Rise Up” Women’s March on October 9 being organized by Engle’s “The Call.”
Jackson’s Reconciled Church project is also promoting Prison Fellowship’s “Justice Declaration,” which, among other things, calls for alternatives to mass incarceration and investment in programs to help people return to society after they are freed from prison. Jackson said that his church didn’t have the budget to pay for this effort, which encouraged Garlow—whose church is also funding Michele Bachmann to be a new “pastor” to the United Nations—to say he and other ministries would help Jackson find the money.