Spokane is a breeder and exporter of conspiracy theorists and Christian nationalists.
Pastor Ken Peters recently migrated from his Covenant Church on Princeton Ave on Spokane’s near north side to become pastor and chief conspiracy theorist in Knoxville, Tennessee. Shawn Vestal covered Pastor Peters’ enthusiastic involvement in the events of January 6th at the U.S. Capitol in a Spokesman article January 13th. (See Spokane’s White Supremacists for additional context.) Mr. Vestal’s writes of Peters’ successor as Pastor at Spokane Covenant in another article on February 5th, entitled “Matt Shea, the Redoubt rock star, keeps riling up his followers for ‘total war’“:
“Shea [until January 2021 the Republican State Representative from LD4, Spokane Valley north to Mt. Spokane], who chose not to run for re-election after an investigator concluded he had engaged in “domestic terrorism” by assisting the Malheur occupation in Oregon, has stepped into Peters’ former spot at the head of Spokane’s Covenant Church and continued his role as the rock star of the American Redoubt, serving up big, steaming bowls of alternative-universe gruel.“
Alex Jones style whacko conspiracy theory runs deep in Pastors Peters and and Shea. Matt Shea featured prominently in the “Freedom Force Red Pill Expo Conference”, held in Spokane at the Convention Center, June 17-26, 2018. (The Red Pill Expo will be held this year in Rapid City, South Dakota. Check out their website for some flavor.)
Evangelical (Fundamentalist) Christians seem especially susceptible to conspiracy theories at which most of us would shake our heads in dismay. Perhaps subscription to a belief system that pins one’s understanding of the future on cryptic writing dating from the Roman Empire (the last book of the Bible, Book of Revelation) primes one to delight in interpreting Q’s bizarre posts.
Evangelical Christianity is no monolith, however. John Fea, a published and respected author [check out Amazon for confirmation], is a professor of history at Messiah University in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvannia, thirty miles north of Gettysburg. (Like all such Evangelical educational institutions, you will find no mention of a course in geology or anything touching on evolution among the academic offerings, proof of the University’s Fundamentalist bona fides.) Professor Fea writes a prolific blog, The Way of Improvement Leads Home. Professor Fea’s February 19th blog post, Patriot Churches, copied below, helps bring us up to date with the activities of Spokane’s export, Pastor Peters:
This extended NPR piece does a nice job of covering the divisions in the evangelical community right now. The GOP is not the only group that is divided in the wake of the Trump era.
Listen [well worth 11 minutes of your time]
The pastor of the Knoxville Patriot Church, Ken Peters, introduces the service wearing a “Rigged 2020” T-Shirt. He tells his congregation that Antifa stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2020 and describes Mike Pence as “evil.”
The main speaker, Sharam Hadian, a former Muslim and pro-Trumper, tells the audience that “this is the time to run toward the battle.” He says anyone who walked away from the U.S Capitol during the insurrection is not a “good Christian soldier.” He adds, “there comes a time to overturn the tables of the temple” and “put the fear of God” in those trying to stage a coup on the government of the United States. The senators in the Capitol on January 6, Hadian preaches, have betrayed America. He refers to Mike Pence as “Pontius Pence” and claims that the former vice-president has “betrayed his anointing.”
Hadian tries to separate the true Trump followers in Washington D.C. from the insurrectionists, but I am not sure that many of the Christian nationalists who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 really understand this difference, especially when they are constantly fed this militant language.
This entire service is a conspiracy theory baptized with Christian praise music, Bible quotations, and prayer.
On January 13, 2021, Peters holds a “men’s discipleship” meeting at the Patriot Church. They are discussing David Gibbs‘s, One Nation Under God: Ten Things Every Christian Should Know About the Founding of America. Gibbs They are also reading David Barton’s (Wallbuilders) Christian nationalist book The American Story.
Peters starts with a lesson on the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact. He has a “Rigged 2020” baseball cap on as he teaches. He talks about how “God cleared out the Indians with plagues” in order to allow the Pilgrims to claim the land and build America. Notice how this Christian revisionism is shaping the day-to-day life of evangelical churches. “When you discover that America was founded on Christian principles, by Christian men…it makes you want to fight for it, Peters says. He adds: “if America was a totally pagan country I wouldn’t have the love for it that I do.”
This is classic Christian nationalism. But what if this history is wrong, or at the very least more complex? The entire Christian nationalist movement is built on a distorted view of American history. It rests on the work of pseudo-historian David Barton and this Wallbuilders organization.
Peters then moves into providential history and Christian Zionism. “I believe that America was a move of God for the sake of Israel, protecting Israel, helping Israel get established.” At this point, Peters references an interview he did with CBS News. I am familiar with this interview because CBS also interviewed me for this story–a forthcoming video piece on Christian nationalism. I am told it will be out soon.
Peters’s “men’s discipleship class” then moves into a discussion of Trump’s second impeachment: “It reminds me of what the world did to Jesus.” There is definitely “discipleship” going on here, but I am not sure if it is Christian discipleship.
On January 14, 2021 Peters wrote on the Patriot Church-Knoxville Facebook page: “The left is going to use the Capitol incident to try and destroy me and others who have taken a stand. They will spin and deceive. They are absolutely evil and bent on our demise. Don’t fall for. It. Satan is a liar.”
On Sunday morning, January 17, 2021, Shahram Hadian was back to finish his sermon from the week before. He warns the congregation not to believe the “lie” that the Left wants “unity” or “peace” when they really “want to destroy us.” The Church, he adds, cannot “sit at the table with demons.”
In this speech, preached on the evening of January 17, 2021, Hadian tells the congregation that the 2020 presidential election was a “deep state coup” orchestrated by Satan. Now that Trump is out of office, Hadian says, we can expect “the rise of Islam, globalism and ecumenicalism converging to a one world government, one world religion and the coming of Anti-Christ system!” The coming of this new world order is directly connected to digital chips in the COVID-19 vaccine and “digital passports.” In other words, the pandemic is “paving the way for the mark of the beast.” And that is just the beginning.
I’ll keep my eye on this Patriot Church movement.We in Spokane, as exporters of the like of Ken Peters, would do well to keep the same watch. This is the sort of conspiracy theory rot within American Evangelicalism that led to the January 6th insurrection. It needs to be spotlighted and called out for what it is.
Keep to the high ground,
P.S. If the Patriot Church movement looks inconsequential to you, consider that the 1996 bombing and bank robberies in Spokane Valley were inspired by the distorted theological writing of one twisted “Christian” author, Richard Kelly Hoskins. (See Phineas Priesthood Parallels.)