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Steve Bannon wants to summon an army of Christian nationalists

Evangelical churches and large religio-political rallies are hoping to stir up election fervor among conservative Christians.
Photo illustration: Steve Bannon next to a hand holding a sticker that reads,\"I Voted Today\" as a chain with cross hangs through the fingers.
In an Aug. 10 appearance on a World Prayer Network prayer call, Steve Bannon, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump, recruited like-minded poll workers to work the midterm elections.Anjali Nair / MSNBC; Getty Images

In an Aug. 10 appearance on a World Prayer Network prayer call, Steve Bannon, a former adviser to former President Donald Trump who helped lead Trump’s plan to steal the 2020 election, proclaimed that “what we need is poll workers. … If we want to win, your congregations have to be in the counting rooms and prepared to have those knife fights.”

Summoning Christian Republicans to work the polls is part of a broader strategy to make November’s midterm elections as chaotic as the 2020 election.

Bannon summoning Christian Republicans to work the polls is part of a broader strategy to make November’s midterm elections as chaotic as the 2020 election. Evangelical churches and large religio-political rallies have served as ground zero for organizing designed to encourage political contributions and election fervor among conservative Christians. The rallying call is the big lie that not only claims that Trump won in 2020, but that every election is compromised.

With Bannon openly recruiting poll workers, Turning Point USA Faith and the ReAwaken America Tour firing up their faithful and, as Turning Point USA Faith says on its website, "registering voters, and educating the Christian community on the connection between Faith and freedom," there's a comprehensive effort to mobilize conservative Christians this fall.

What Turning Point USA Faith and the ReAwaken America Tour are doing is not new. Christian Coalition, started by Pat Robertson in 1987, was designed to help to identify anti-abortion voters, but under the leadership of Ralph Reed in the 1990s, it became known as a powerhouse that succeeded in sending evangelical voters to the polls with its voting guides. Since that time, all sorts of meetings have arisen during election years to bring out the faithful to vote. The recent spate of these — starting with The Response, a daylong prayer rally held in Houston by then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry — is in the tradition of the Christian Coalition.

No longer is it enough to just get voters out to the polls or to pray. These organizations are designed to steer voters to their specific candidates, encourage them to work the polls and watch out for bogus voting. Republican candidates for office are even showing up at these large events.

Turning Point Action events are being investigated by the Arizona secretary of state over allegations of possible election law violations, The Arizona Republic reported. The allegations include the tax-exempt organization illegally promoting specific Republican candidates at its events, according to the Republic. The head of the Arizona Republican Party, Kelli Ward, showed up at a July rally to tell attendees to vote for David Farnsworth, who was running for a state Senate seat against Rusty Bowers, the so-called RINO (Republican in name only) speaker of the Arizona House, the Republic reported.

The Republic reported that Farnsworth said he didn't help plan the rally and that other candidates who were promoted on campaign materials didn't respond. A Turning Point Action official told the newspaper that recent rallies were educational community events.

ReAwaken rallies, which have been happening across the country since last year, have combined anti-vaccine messages, political action and religious services in order to reach their faithful. The Aug. 12 rally in Batavia, New York, featured Eric Trump and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. Held in a tent on the grounds of Cornerstone Church, the rally included signs for Republican candidate Mario Fratto. A considerable amount of attention was given to New York Attorney General Letitia James, who had expressed concern to the tour’s organizers that the rally could lead to racial violence. At the rally, one of Trump’s former pastors on the stump, Mark Burns, prayed of James, “If she does not repent and turn back to you, show the world what happens to those that come against your servants.”

That did not sound too friendly.

Such religious events are being held in addition to regular candidates’ political rallies. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently teamed up with Turning Point Action to travel across the country to promote Republican candidates. Appearing in Pittsburgh, he spoke in support of Pennsylvania's Republican gubernatorial candidate, Doug Mastriano, with a refrain blasting “wokeness” designed to energize the crowd. Mastriano’s campaign has also been turning away legacy media outlets seeking to cover his rallies, adding to the authoritarian nature of these Republican campaigns.

In this new environment of Christian nationalism, where organizers of political rallies and churches are banding together, how many poll workers, door knockers and others heeding Bannon’s call will be mobilized? We’ll know in November. But we already know that the links between the Republican Party and right-wing religion are iron-clad.