Christian worship leader brings controversial prayer rallies to cities roiled by protests

“We are believing in this place of devastation, God is releasing a sound of hope and healing and peace and unity,” Feucht said in the video. “And that’s what we’re coming to bring today.”

The concerts have drawn criticism for bringing together hundreds or thousands of people, most without masks, during the coronavirus pandemic. Some fellow Christians have also expressed frustration at what they see as Feucht trying to overshadow people protesting systemic racism and the use of force by police.

Feucht began hosting open-air concerts after government leaders implemented restrictions on religious gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, he told Religion News Service. The concerts started as a way of pushing back on those guidelines, Feucht said, but expanded to focus on cities experiencing protests and riots in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“We just feel this call to really target cities that are under extreme turmoil and despair and brokenness,” Feucht said this month on a podcast with health-supplement entrepreneur David James Harris Jr. “That’s why we’ve gone into places like Portland, downtown Portland a block from the riots; we’ve gone into Seattle, into the former CHOP zone. … God’s really writing a different story there.”

Feucht, who ran for Congress this year as a Republican but lost in a California primary, once prayed with President Trump at the White House. While his church is nondenominational, it began as a part of the Pentecostal denomination Assemblies of God, whose members believe the Holy Spirit is active in the modern world and can perform miracles.

Earlier this summer, Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., where Feucht is a volunteer worship leader, issued a statement after one of his events, expressing concerns about the “potential negative impact that such an event could have on the recovery and reopening of Shasta County as we navigate COVID-19.”

In an email to The Washington Post, a spokesman for Bethel wrote a statement of support on behalf of Feucht, who is not financially supported by the church.

“Sean Feucht’s mission is to ‘bring worship, prayer, healing, and unity into a landscape of division, violence, and unrest through the power and presence of Jesus,’ ” the statement said. “We love this vision, and celebrate him for leading from his convictions.”

A spokeswoman for Feucht did not immediately respond to questions from The Post.

D.L. Mayfield, a self-described progressive Christian writer, said she and her husband protested Feucht’s concert in Portland last month because she viewed it as an attempt to delegitimize protesters’ demands for policing overhauls. She said she was bothered by Feucht’s apparent lack of relationships with the cities he’s visiting, his fundraising on the tour and his songs’ focus on God’s triumph, rather than on praying for justice.

“We just wanted to remind them that the very space they were singing on was a space where people had been crying out for justice and for Black lives to actually matter in our country,” Mayfield said. “And we didn’t think just singing a bunch of praise songs was an appropriate response.”

Mayfield carried a sign that quoted a Bible verse about dismissing “noisy hymns of praise” in favor of seeing “a flood of justice, an endless river of righteous living.”

“I view going to protests as basically a prayer walk with a lot of people,” she said. “I very prayerfully attend protests. And, for me, that is much more in line with the historic Christian tradition.”

When Feucht lost his congressional race, he put his energies into the outdoor gatherings, according to Religion News Service.

“When covid shut everything down, he turned to this crusade,” Stephens said. “Maybe it’s helped him make sense of that defeat. There’s something powerful about feeling like you’re part of a movement and among like-minded people.”

Larry Eskridge, a historian who has studied the evangelical Jesus People movement, which became popular in the 1960s and 1970s, said he sees some similarities between it and what Feucht is trying to do. That charismatic movement helped create subgenres of Christian music and encouraged individuals to reject a lifestyle of drugs, sex and rock-and-roll and to seek God instead.

Feucht is tapping into a larger desire for a revival, of getting outside and being with other people, Eskridge said. He said these kinds of conservative Christians believe God will protect them, even in a pandemic.

“The regulations on meeting together are seen as a violation and insult to God,” Eskridge said. “Interfering with revival is interfering with God’s work.”

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