By Annie Gowen
MANHEIM, Pa. — At the end, after former president Donald Trump called in to energize the troops, more than 100 people lined up to be baptized.
Some had driven hours for the two-day ReAwaken America Tour in the leafy Pennsylvania countryside. Some had paid up to $500 for VIP tickets. They were 5,000 strong, celebratory but angry about where the country is headed. They said they believed the 2020 election was stolen, that vaccines kill people and that America — both its moral and civic foundation — is headed for complete collapse.
Now they were waiting to be baptized in a black plastic animal trough, leaving the water soaked and shivering — newly cleansed soldiers in their war for America.
Since April of last year, the ReAwaken America Tour has brought hardline-election deniers, anti-vaccine doctors, self-proclaimed prophets and conspiracy theorists to enthusiastic crowds across the country. The central message is that America’s white, evangelical Christian way of life is under threat from the globalist cabal on the “woke” left.
The traveling carnival of misinformation merges entertainment, politics and theology and makes the existential argument to those attending: The debate is no longer about Republican vs. Democrat, they say, it’s about good vs. evil. And it’s time to pick a side.
Since its inception, the tour has been denounced by mainstream religious leaders because of its extremist views. Its organizers have been forced to move venues twice — in New York and Washington state — due to community concerns. The Anti-Defamation League has targeted it in a report.
This stop at a sports complex in Pennsylvania was the penultimate of the midterm season organizers hope will result in a “red wave” of victory for Republicans.
“We face a battle in our country,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser turned election denier, told the crowd. “I mean, Christianity is under attack. Honestly, it feels like everything is under attack.”
For Johanna Grassia, an artist from Philadelphia, her baptism Friday was the culmination of a two-year journey that began during the pandemic when she fell into a deep depression, began following the ReAwaken tour online and left both the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party. She became a Republican the day that Doug Mastriano — the conservative state senator who is Pennsylvania’s GOP nominee for governor — declared his candidacy in January.
“I feel more confident now,” Grassia said as she emerged dripping from the ice-cold water. “My eyes have been opened.”
Continue Reading at Washington Post
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