The evening begins with a prayer supposed to protect, with the help of a “circle of thorns and fire”, everyone in that dimly lit parking lot in Phoenix.
Next is the call for testimonials. A microphone passes from hand to hand to address “comforting words to our political prisoners of January 6”, that is, to those arrested in the storming of the Capitol, which they commemorate a year later.
Then, a lighted candle in their hands, the few dozen people gathered together sing, a cappella, WayMakera song that millions of believers know by heart and sing on Sundays:
Creator God, miracle worker, faithful to your promises
Light in the darkness, my God
It is not, however, a mass. It is the cult of a new kind of congregation: a right-wing political movement fueled by divine inspiration, and whose members find their spiritual nourishment in political action.
A religious cult
For decades, the Christian right has been intimately linked to American conservatism – this rapprochement has reached its climax with Trump. Elements of Christian culture have long been present in political rallies. But religious worship, that sacred expression of faith in God through gestures, songs or prayer, was mainly reserved for places of worship. From now on, believers import their faith, with all its intensity, its emotion and its missionary zeal, into their political commitment.
At many political events taking place throughout the country, it is not uncommon for participants to say that they have met God and feel invested with a mission: to establish the kingdom of God on earth. For them, political activism is sacred.
These Christians join secular conservatives in a coalition bringing together a wide range of malcontents: from antivax to conspiracy theorists who do not believe in Trump’s defeat. The measures taken during the pandemic, which led to the temporary closure of places of worship, deepened their distrust of the government and turned church attendance into a political act.
“In the name of Jesus”
At a Trump rally in Michigan in late April, a local evangelical offered the following prayer: “Our Father who art in heaven, we firmly believe that Donald Trump is the only and true President of the United States.” He prayed to Jesus that delegates from the riding of the future Republican convention in Michigan would support Trump’s nominees, whose slate he presented to the crowd. The latter echoed: “In the name of Jesus !”
This eruption of loudly expressed religious fervor – which owes much to charismatic movements that place special emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit – within right-wing movements is changing the mood.