Thomas Lecaque

That 'freedom convoy' in Ottawa? It's inspired by an Old Testament account of divine massacre

When a church announces what’s called a Jericho March (or a Jericho Walk), you might picture congregants praying, walking around a building, trumpets blasting and an odd gospel song here and there.

You might forget, however, what comes next.

From Joshua 6:20-21:

When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.

Jericho Marches are organized by a group by the same name. They were created by a coalition of Christian nationalists in the US. They are co-led by a Catholic think-tank writer (Arina Grossu of the Family Research Council) and an evangelical businessman (Rob Weaver).

The Jericho Marches rose to prominence recently. Supporters have been marching around the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa for around 20 days. They are, for Americans, a gothic reminder of what had been brewing in the lead up to the J6 sacking and looting of the US Capitol.

The same toxic brew
Jericho March, the group, is one of the religious groups, movements and ideologies that were at play in the insurrection. The Uncivil Religion project has uncovered a bevy of beliefs. The Jericho Marches, however, were the principal symbol of J6 and the Christian nationalism at its heart, not only in DC but at state capitols around the country.

Christian nationalism is a religious idea that transcends borders. It attracts a lot of support from like-minded insurrectionists abroad.

Last year, when journalist Emma Green wrote “A Christian Insurrection” for The Atlantic, it was subtitled it, “Many of those who mobbed the Capitol on Wednesday claimed to be enacting God’s will.”

The CBC Investigates piece on the Ottawa convoy this week is titled, “For many inside the Freedom Convoy, faith fuels the resistance.”

The links are very clear between groupings. And now, organizing in small groups and marching around Parliament, is a new Jericho March.

Spiritual warfare
Filmed versions of Jericho Marches reveal a large group in the snow, bearing primarily Canadian flags and singing hymns, reciting the Lord’s Prayer, and then blowing shofars before they began marching.

The hymns and prayers were occasionally punctuated by people yelling “Freedom!” and trucks honking. One woman spoke in tongues before engaging in rhetoric I’ve seen in spiritual warfare sermons.

They prayed for healing from vaccines and for summoning the “Lord of Heaven’s armies.” As the National Review reported, the Jericho March goes every day, once around Parliament, and seven full laps on Thursdays, carrying horns and trumpets. And they hope eventually more will show up, to the tune of thousands and thousands.

Benita Pedersen, an organizer from Alberta, was interviewed by a sympathetic Christian YouTube channel about what they are doing.

Pedersen said she felt a “call on her heart” to do this. She had been given a steer horn by a local farmer. She knew she had to bring it to Ottawa and to do a Jericho March. She’s using that as a shofar.

She said that the “freedom movement” was “100 percent hand in hand with Jesus.” They go together beautifully, she said, and nonbelieving supporters should think about Jesus and about how it goes together.

Divine massacre
But, of course, this isn’t her first time.

She led an anti-vaxx rally outside of the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Edmonton in September, received 10 Public Health Act tickets for organizing various anti-public health rallies in northern Alberta last year and revived her Twitter account, dormant since 2016, specifically in order to promote anti-public health events she organized and ran.

The story of Jericho is nothing to worry about.

It’s only about divine massacre.

Walls come crumbling down
They know what they are doing. One participant on TikTok recounted the biblical story before backpedaling that this was “not about crumbling walls or infrastructure,” but about softening hearts.

Previous Jericho Marches were not as benign. A year ago, in Edmonton, a Jericho March against pandemic restrictions was condemned by the conservative premier and questioned by anti-hate groups for their intention to march with tiki torches. It was joined by hate groups.

One of the organizers asked “what happened when they marched around seven times on the last day? The walls came crumbling down. Spiritually speaking, we need those corrupt walls that have been built up by the politicians to come smashing and crumbling down.”

“The Great Reset”
Back to Ottawa: Christian nationalist symbols are visible in the mob that has been marching and occupying space around Parliament for about 20 days, though in smaller numbers than in American rallies. It’s part of the broader effort to bring global attention to the “convoy.”

CBC has reported on the prayer circles and speeches and signs in the crowd. Christine Mitchell has written about the Christian nationalist imagery of 2 Chronicles in the crowd. More worrisome, though, is how much international presence, interference and support there is.

Fox News, Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino influence groups around the world that spread Facebook propaganda. All of these have directed attention to Canada and fundraised for the occupation of the city.

Franklin Graham, a J6 defender, posted a supporting Instagram video, tagged with “I’d like you to meet who Prime Minister @JustinPJTrudeau called the ‘fringe minority.’ Tell me what you think of this video.” It featured the Jericho March, among others, and it was set to “Amazing Grace,” which was sung loudly by the mob on January 6.

The Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, a noted QAnon-adjacent radical traditionalist Catholic, gave a talk that linked the convoy expressly to “a worldwide chorus that wants to oppose the establishment of the New World Order on the rubble of nation-states through the Great Reset desired by the World Economic Forum and by the United Nations under the name of ‘Agenda 2030.’” Viganò added:

"We know many heads of state have participated in Klaus Schwab's School for Young Leaders — the so-called Global Leaders for Tomorrow — beginning with Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron, Jacinta Ardern and Boris Johnson and, before that, Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy and Tony Blair.”

We should worry
“The Great Reset” is an explicitly anti-public health conspiracy theory. Viganò has promoted it relentlessly. It is also used by anti-vaxx, anti-mask and other anti-mandate groups as their way of drumming up support internationally and bringing in more conspiracy theorists.

Viganò’s message focused on Christian nationalism from a Catholic perspective. It was also permeated with QAnon tropes:

“But, even more, dear Canadian brothers, it is necessary to understand that this dystopia serves to establish the dictatorship of the New World Order and totally erase every trace of Our Lord Jesus Christ from society, from history and from the traditions of peoples.”

The elements of spiritual warfare – repeatedly deployed by Christian nationalist groups before in service of Trump and elsewhere – on the borderline of where it crosses over into physical violence, the Jericho Marchs, the violent commentary supporting it, the prayer, the shofars, the echoes of J6 expressed from abroad and divorced from the actual Canadian context – these are a symptom of a broader problem.

Illiberalism is growing. The variant around Trump – conspiracy-laden, seditionist, Christian nationalism – is getting strong by the minute.

Last year, it was in Washington.

This year, Ottawa.

Next year? We should worry.

A former Trump aide is trying to build a violent, ultranationalist, right-wing Christian takeover of the US

Michael Flynn is always in the news for the worst reasons.

Today, it’s because of the former Trump advisor’s feud with Lin Wood and the leaking of text messages and audio recording during which he calls QAnon “total nonsense” as well as a CIA psy-op. Last time, he was calling for a single religion in the United States. Time before that, QAnon members accused him of being a Satanist for a sermon at a church drawing from a former New Age apocalyptic leader.

Next time, it may be for something worse. In any case, everything Flynn has been doing suggests that QAnon or not, his audience, his rhetoric and his goals are far more concrete and far more sinister than the mocking media coverage suggests. Let’s start in September.

On September 17, Flynn was at the “Opening the Heavens” Conference at the Lord of Hosts Church in Omaha, Nebraska. That event claimed to be “an annual, multi-day event where the prophetic heart of God and the manifestation of His supernatural power are demonstrated to those in attendance and [those] viewing online around the world!”

READ: 'Intentional deception': Mark Meadows releases damning details about Trump ahead of hearing with Jan. 6 panel

Flynn spoke alongside a number of “prophetic” pastors, including Gene Bailey, executive director of Kenneth Copeland ministries, whose spiritual warfare preaching got the heavy-metal treatment last year.

Flynn’s speech made news due to QAnon’s reaction to it. It was said to be Satanic, ironic given QAnon’s resemblance to the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Flynn’s speech resembled a 1984 sermon by Elizabeth Clare Prophet, founder of the Church Universal and Triumphant, a New Age apocalyptic group best known for their move to bunkers in Montana to await a prophesied nuclear apocalypse in 1990. Not only was it a failed doomsday cult, but it was a theosophic movement, something associated with Lucifer by its 18th-century founder.

Flynn said he felt called to St. Michael, the archangel and his namesake. While the link between Prophet and Flynn is interesting, the text of Flynn’s “Archangel Prayer” is all by itself not so great:

We are your instrument
Of those sevenfold rays
And all your archangels, all of them
We will not retreat, we will not retreat
We will stand our ground
We will not fear to speak
We will be the instrument of your will
Whatever it is
In your name, and in the names of your legions
We are freeborn, and shall remain freeborn
And we shall not be enslaved by any foe
Within or without
So help me God.

READ: The Supreme Court shows off its contempt for women

“Seven rays” is a concept used in theosophy and in the Summit Lighthouse. Prophet’s prayer to Archangel Michael, which people have compared Flynn’s sermon, is not only part of the theosophic movement, but an aggressively anti-Communist talk, ending:

Archangel Michael, Stand with me!
Save my child!
Save my household!
Save my nation and bind those Communist hordes!

Others can analyze the I AM movement and its issues, but the use of militant religious language and the comparison to an aggressively apocalyptic, anti-Communist doomsday cult is bad enough.

Then in early November, Flynn and Wood had a series of exchanges -- people have focused on the audio recording of Flynn calling QAnon a CIA disinfo operation — but more worrying was the fact that he told Wood, on November 3, to read an article proving QAnon is a fraud.

READ: Democrats will have a 'boatload of material' to use against 'unhinged, out-of-step' Republicans in 2022: conservative

Why more worrying? Because it was written by Hal Turner, a neo-Nazi radio host who’s promoted various QAnon conspiracies and served time for threatening elected officials -- he advocated murder repeatedly. The article is incredibly scary. It included this passage:

The Trump Anon believers want SOMEBODY ELSE to do it for them. Well, I’ve said this before and I will say it again now: Nobody is coming to save them/us. Nobody is coming to save the country. If you want something done, you gotta do it yourself. And until someone (but not me) decides that it is finally time to throw away all the comforts of this life, and brutally slaughter the people who are doing all these things, (and by “slaughter” I mean exactly that) then all these things will continue, unabated, to the destruction of our country and our oh-so-comfy lives.

This is standard Turner fare -- to preserve white nationalist power, people have to murder others, including elected officials -- but to have someone with Flynn’s background and his elite status within QAnon conspiracy and other movements promoting it is infinitely more terrifying than the entertainment value of seeing him bashing QAnon.

A week later Flynn and Wood were in Springfield, Missouri, at a “Preserving America” event billed as “Come and listen to America’s tier-1 patriot speakers and learn about preserving America under the Constitution.” Outside of the Springfield News-Leader, it garnered little press -- but one local sheriff attending claimed he had, “A great conversation with General Flynn. He wanted me to know the American Sheriff is the last line of defense for our freedom. I agree!”

READ: The real history of US anti-abortion politics began in 1662 — and is bound to the legacy of slavery

Flynn has spoken with Richard Mack for the “Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association” podcast, an anti-government extremist group that works to recruit sheriffs into the “patriot” militia movement. The comment should be taken in that light.

Then there is Flynn’s ongoing “Reawaken America” tour, the most recent news items before the Wood blowup. On November 13, the tour was at the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, John Hagee’s church.

Hagee is an apocalypse minded Christian Zionist and his son and executive pastor of the church, Matt, was on stage for the event. The “Reawaken America Tour,” a QAnon speaking tour, has numerous pastors presenting -– Dave Scarlett, Mark Burns, Phil Hotsenpiller, Leon Benjamin, Greg Locke, Jackson Lahmeyer, Brian Gibson among them. All have pushed the Big Lie and Christian Nationalism.

On stage, Flynn said, “if we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God, and one religion under God.” The clip got widespread media play, but it is much more important in that broader context. “Reawaken America” has events in Dallas in December at Elevate Life Church in Frisco, where Pastor Keith Craft runs men-only “Warrior Nights,” dresses in militant garb, and mocks mask-wearing and the government.

READ: MSNBC host details 'weird baroque tradition' that allowed Trump-picked justices to lie 'under oath' on womens’ rights

In January, they’ll be at Dream City Church in Phoenix, which had hosted a Trump rally in 2020 and had been sent a cease-and-desist about promoting a fraudulent air filter system that June.

In February, they’ll be at Trinity Gospel Temple in Canton, Ohio, where Pastor Dave Lombardi tweeted out on November 3: “‘King Cyrus’ will prevail! Christian principles will prevail!,” and “the ‘Walls of Jericho’ will fall tonight! The Gospel message will prevail! The March continues!”

Both ideas have violent overtones — the fall of the walls of Jericho is followed by the massacre of all inhabitants. “King Cyrus,” a reference here to Donald Trump, destroyed the empire of the Babylonians.

These events are linking congregations nationwide in a specific project -- to build an ultranationalist Christian right to control of America.

READ: The meaning of white supremacy since the rise of Donald Trump

Flynn’s fall events show it is not as simple as whether or not he’s a grifter who pretends to believe in QAnon. He is. He’s a fraud. He’s corrupt. And we already knew this. But he’s also a corrupt fanatic, who believes in overthrowing the government and imposing a theocracy. He certainly seems comfortable reading and promoting neo-Nazi articles advocating the literal slaughter of enemies while doing so.

Stop laughing at Michael Flynn.

He’s dangerous.

Driving him out of QAnon is great, but the other groups he’s engaged with, the other ideologies he’s a part of, are no laughing matter.