Several local Christian and nonprofit leaders heard the news loud and clear Thursday that the ReAwaken America Tour has booked a gig here in Batavia. Their response has been swift and direct: not in our back yard.
Those leaders met Thursday evening with a goal to stop the event from happening at Cornerstone Church in August.
“We do not deny their right to free speech. We just don’t want their kind of speech here,” the group said collectively via the Rev. Roula Alkhouri. “Their organizers and speakers use deceit, lies, and fear to divide, and we don’t want that for our community. They use hate-filled language for people who represent the diversity of our nation and use ‘enemy’ for people with different political and social views.”
Pastor Paul Doyle confirmed with The Batavian Thursday that he agreed to host the tour at his Bank Street Road church in mid-August. The meeting of local leaders, who are speaking only for themselves and not on behalf of their organizations, Alkhouri said, immediately became concerned about the “fear- and hate-based ideology” that these events have been spreading around the country.
Such ideology has also served as the basis for much violence, including the mass shooting at Tops in Buffalo, Alkhouri said.
“Our goal is to raise the awareness of the people of the church at Cornerstone that this event can be a dangerous breeding ground for fear, hate, and violence,” she said. “We also want to alert the community and tell the ReAwaken America Tour that their message of hate and fear is not welcome here.”
They have planned to protest the ReAwaken America tour at 9:30 a.m. Sunday outside of Cornerstone Church, 8020 Bank Street Road, Batavia. Everyone is welcome to join the effort and encouraged to bring signs of thoughtful protest.
“Please bring signs and messages of nonviolent love, compassion, inclusion, and care,” Alkhouri said. “Please, no name-calling or demonizing messages. We want to respond with care and nonviolence. We want to build community instead of spreading fear.”
ReAwaken America is promoted as a “faith, family and freedom” initiative. The tour has made at least a dozen visits nationwide, with a booked calendar throughout this year for more. Speakers have included:
- Michael Flynn, a retired Army lieutenant general who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with the Russian ambassador and encouraged President Donald Trump to declare martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
- Roger Stone, found guilty of obstructing a congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
- My Pillow founder and on-air salesman Mike Lindell, who has made unsubstantiated claims about political conspiracy theories.
The tour, many believe, also draws white supremacists and others with intent to inflame the talk with bigotry, racism and false claims about political matters, COVID, and the vaccine.
Doyle told The Batavian that white supremacists or anyone prone to violence and mismanaged anger aren’t welcome to attend, however, the tour carries a track record, Alkhouri said, and the other leaders agreed.
“The tour shows us that it has promoted white supremacy ideas. Christian leaders around the country have denounced this tour as hate-filled and a toxic event,” Alkhouri said, pointing to a link for a national petition. “We believe that as Western New Yorkers, we need to bring people together and to stop the madness of division and hate in our country. Unfortunately, white supremacists have found a home in many Christian churches, and they have exploited people's faith to promote their agenda.”
The group also found it interesting, she said, that the date for the Batavia event is the same as when the destructive and deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va. happened. That tragic event on Aug. 12 ended up with a 32-year-old woman being killed when a car rammed into a group of anti-white supremacist protesters.
These local leaders are concerned that, just as that rally was allegedly to be peaceful and escalated into a dangerous situation, the upcoming tour could have a similar effect. The materials and speeches from prior tours are all on record, Alkhouri said, and “there is no speculation.” Doyle had told The Batavian that he believed any worries are just that: speculation, along with assumptions and “fear of a narrative.”
Alkhouri and the others hope to communicate directly with Doyle at some point.
“We would love to have open and caring conversations with Pastor Doyle,” she said. ‘We reached out to him and hope that we can build some bridges of cooperation and connection.
“Our group includes people with diverse political, spiritual, and social views, but we are united in our deep concern for the future of our democracy. Event organizers publicly call for America to be their version of a Christian nation,” she said.
Rev. Dr. Shiela McCullough, one of the Christian leaders opposing the Batavia event, sat down to collect her thoughts about the tour and its meaning. She wrote the following:
As I continue to process the slaughter of ten innocent African American lives that occurred in Buffalo, New York. I find myself wrestling with a certain theory of suspicion and realize that its very thought causes me to tremble. I am certain that I am experiencing a type of fear that must be explored because I am afraid.
I am afraid the organizers of The Great Awakening vs The Greatest Reset Tour have been bamboozled, hoodwinked, and duped by Russian propaganda. I am afraid the tour is a strategic ploy on the part of Russia to erase America's potential to be the greatest example of the "Kingdom of God," the paragon of justice, mercy, and compassion for all of humanity.
I am afraid the Russian political philosopher, analyst, and strategist Alexander Dugin, who authored the book titled The Great Awakening vs The Great Reset, published for the first time in 2021, is the legitimate leader of this anti-America tour.
Dugin is maligning America's growing pains as its wounds lay raw and bleeding for the world to behold. America is in the process of expanding its horizons. It is stumbling and reaching toward the stairway that leads to a higher moral ground: equality for all.
I am afraid that America's role and enduring aspiration to be the world leader in justice, mercy and love may be too intimidating for those who serve the demagogue of selfishness, greed, and self-centeredness. I am afraid that if my theory of suspicion proves grounded in truth, Dugin is weaponizing this anti-America tour as the delivery system for the notoriously efficient method of defeat: divide and conquer.
Dugin has cleverly chosen this moment in America's evolution to attack its freedom fabric by couching his war strategy within the language of religious rhetoric, fervor, and evangelism — using them to form a trojan horse. I am afraid that this tour may be at the vanguard of the intended onslaught: that is, it is the first salvo in a long-range assault that resolves in Russian occupation and colonization of our nation. This would certainly be a "Great Reset," a rude "awakening" we will all regret.
Some people online have wondered aloud about the financing of the tour. Doyle said that the church is not charging anything, including rent to the ReAwaken organizers. Admission fees are paid directly to the organizers of the event on a "pay what you can" scale, with VIP seating from $250 to $500, Doyle said.
The national petition mentioned above has been created by Faithful America. According to the organization’s website, “each ReAwaken America event is a toxic, two-day parade of right-wing preachers, MAGA celebrities and QAnon conspiracy theorists spreading Donald Trump’s Big Lie and COVID-19 misinformation to thousands in Jesus’ name.”
To view and/or sign the petition, go to Faithful America.
2022 File Photo of the Rev. Roula Alkhouri during an Easter blessing for first responders at City Hall. Alkhouri, an active church leader for peace, love, and equal justice for all, says that she is speaking out as a Christian and concerned community member. Photo by Howard Owens.