Right-wing activist Charlie Kirk endorsed California congressional candidate Sean Feucht Wednesday, giving a potentially significant visibility boost to a candidate whose previous endorsements have come largely from Christian nationalists, dominionist apostles and prophets, and associates of Bethel, the controversial megachurch where Feucht serves as a musician and worship leader. Feucht is running to become the Republican candidate in California’s 3rd Congressional District; the primary election will be held on March 3.
The Kirk endorsement, like Feucht’s recent visit to the White House, reflects the ongoing merger of the overlapping corporate-right and religious-right networks. It’s also indicative of the expanding political influence of religious leaders and activists associated with or sharing the goals of the New Apostolic Reformation—a network of conservative charismatic Christians seeking to bring transformation and reformation to church and state by placing what they see as the right kind of Christians in charge of the government and other societal institutions—during the Trump administration. Earlier this month, the far-right One American News Network also promoted Feucht via a softball interview.
Kirk founded and runs Turning Point USA, which trains and mobilizes young right-wing activists and promotes a brand of snarky in-your-face activism to counter what it portrays as leftist tyranny on college campuses. Kirk is visibly aligned with the Trump administration, even traveling with Donald Trump Jr. to promote the presidential son’s book, “Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.” Feucht also founded a youth-focused nonprofit called Burn 24/7 and has been a vocal champion of President Donald Trump. In December, he posted a campaign video denouncing the impeachment of Trump, calling it a “shameful political charade” and urging Congress to “stop harassing the president.”
Kirk and TPUSA have not generally been branded as part of the religious right—a favored slogan is “Big Government Sucks.” But in November, Kirk joined Liberty University president and Trump cheerleader Jerry Falwell Jr. in creating the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty, a think tank whose stated mission is to “equip courageous champions to proclaim the Truth of Jesus Christ, to advance His Kingdom, and renew American ideals.” Kirk has said it will fight the Left’s effort to “convert young Christians into socialism.”
Kirk promoted the 36-year-old Feucht in a tweet, stating, “Sean is a great guy, strong on the border, super pro life, loves Trump, and America – check him out! Time for a new generation of leaders.”
Feucht, a missionary as well as musician, says he has been called by God to run for Congress to bring revival and reformation to California. At the multiday Movement 2020 gathering that began on New Year’s Eve, Feucht talked about being part of The Call, dominionist Lou Engle’s prayer rally on the National Mall in 2000, when he was a teenager, praying that God would “would raise up deliverers that would fight for the unborn, that would fight for family values, that would fight for freedom in our nation.” Feucht said that 20 years later, he has become “a fulfillment” of that prayer.
While party officials in Sacramento, Lake, and Solano counties have endorsed Feucht competitor Tamika Hamilton, Feucht has benefited from the Trump administration’s tight embrace with evangelical and charismatic Christians. In December, Feucht and other colleagues from Bethel were part of a group of evangelical pastors and worship leaders brought to the White House by presidential adviser and prosperity-gospel preacher Paula White to pray with and for Trump.
In early February, Feucht was back in Washington, D.C. for the National Prayer Breakfast, and while he was in town, he was featured at a Rally for America at David’s Tent, an evangelizing project that has been permitted to set up shop 24-7 on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. At that event, he appeared alongside Bethel’s Kris Vallotton, who preached in December that God will give Trump a second term because “the Lord wants it” and warned of potentially fatal consequences for people who resist God’s plans for Trump because we live in a time when God takes things out of human hands and asserts his sovereignty. In such days, Vallotton preached, “your job is to follow.”
Some graphics promoting the David’s Tent appearance included the Twitter handle of Feucht’s congressional campaign. David’s Tent’s social media claimed that the event was not about promoting Feucht’s candidacy, but Feucht and his supporters have used the Rally for America branding to promote his campaign. At Movement 2020, Feucht said worshipping is “my whole campaign strategy.” He explained, “We’re going to go all across District 3 in California, we’re just going to worship. And we’re going to unify the church, and we’re going to breathe hope into the lives, hope into the bones of people in California to rise up.”
Feucht has a lot of complaints about the government of California, which he would have no real role in influencing as a member of Congress. And he has a few oft-repeated slogans, such as “The people who got us into this mess can’t get us out,” and “morals are low and taxes are high.” A campaign video asks, “If we lose our identity, how will the world learn from our greatness?” But, as journalist Annelise Pierce has pointed out, “Sean offers no solutions for how he thinks he’ll get us out of the mess he says we’re in.” Pierce continued:
Not on his campaign site, not on his social media pages, and not in response to repeated requests from individuals responding to his posts online.
Instead, his campaign seems focused on what some have referred to as “virtue signaling”, opinionated commentary about his support for Trump, the dangerous sex education our children are being exposed to in California’s public schools, abortion, and the “unbelievably corrupt” political system in California. In the five months I’ve been following him on social media (with notifications turned on) I have not yet seen Sean offer a strategy or policy approach to these problems.
Instead he has offered opinions, which he refers to repeatedly as “common sense”, a euphemism he appears to use for “governing according to what I see as God’s way.”
Pierce also reported that Feucht’s campaign has more donors from Oklahoma and Texas than it does from California.
TPUSA has drawn critical public scrutiny of its political activities and what the Southern Poverty Law Center calls its “McCarthy-ist” watchlist of liberal professors. In addition to an exercise in empire-building, Kirk’s more visible embrace of the religious right and his coalition with Falwell may be, in part, a way to draw attention away from TPUSA’s ongoing efforts to deal with its embarrassing appeal to people who spout racist and white nationalist views.
As Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt has reported, “TPUSA has been forced to weed out racists from its ranks over the years. Staffers have been fired for racist text messages, and multiple young activists have been cut off from the organization for racist behavior. Meanwhile, white nationalist groups like Identity Evropa have spoken about targeting the organization as a recruiting ground.”