“We Are Going to Rally an Army”: Christian Zionists and Far-Right Zealots Are Actually Trying to Take Over Colleges

Aidan Orly

Participants of the "United for Israel" march at the University of Southern California on May 08, 2024. Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

As the Gaza solidarity encampments disrupt business as usual at U.S. universities, Christian Zionists and many far-Right groups are trying to seize the moment for themselves — harassing and attacking the students participating in them with an eye toward actually, one day, taking the campuses over. 

From fraternity members invoking racist tropes to Proud Boys attempting to enter the encampments, these groups have been capitalizing on the moment to reassert a toxic stew of nationalism, hypermasculinity, racism, Islamophobia, and — though they deny it — clear and blatant antisemitism. 

But one other group is adding a distinct flavor of prejudice to the mix: Christian Nationalists.

But one other group is adding a distinct flavor of prejudice to the mix: Christian Nationalists.

It’s not entirely new for Right-wing Christian leaders to lead rallies against Palestine-solidarity demonstrators. Pastor Russell Johnson, leader of the Pursuit Church in the Pacific Northwest who has has compared Palestine solidarity demonstrators to Nazis, and preaches End Times theology, marched with StandWithUs — which equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism — at the Univ. of Washington in November in a counter protest to students who were demanding a cease-fire.

But as Israeli forces descend on Rafah, where more than 1 million Gazans have taken refuge since October 7, Right-wing Christian leaders appear to be getting bolder. Flying across the country to confront students, calling on supporters to rally an army for Israel, claiming Columbia, USC and other university campuses for God,” and scaling the fences surrounding university students while members of the crowd yell Go to Gaza” appears to be an unprecedented phenomena for these Blue-state campuses

At the "United for Israel" march near the University of Southern California in Los Angeles on May 8, 2024 Photo by ETIENNE LAURENT/AFP

Sean Feucht, a leading Christian Nationalist leader who has said he wants God to be in control of everything” and “[Christian] believers to be writing the laws,” led hundreds in the United March for Israel on Wednesday at the University of Southern California (USC) where police dressed in riot gear had dismantled an encampment four-days earlier. 

Describing the march as a stand against antisemitism, Feucht platformed fellow Christian Nationalist leaders Che Ahn, Lou Engle, Johnson and others. Ahn, who religious studies scholar Matthew D. Taylor calls a Christian supremacist and one of the most important religious leaders in California, insinuated his desire for the eventual conversion of Muslims and Jews to Christianity.

Sign up for our weekend newsletter
A weekly digest of our best coverage

Ahn and Engle are both leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a decentralized movement at the cutting edge of the Christian Right largely connected to Dominionism” — the idea that Christians should take over government, businesses, media and educational institutions — all areas of society. The NAR also comprises a significant portion of tens of millions of Christian Zionists across the globe who’s interpretation of the Bible instructs them to stand unequivocally with Israel and its far-Right government, though NAR leaders often target Jews to convert to Christianity.

Ahn and Engle are both leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a decentralized movement at the cutting edge of the Christian Right largely connected to “Dominionism”—the idea that Christians should take over government, businesses, media and educational institutions—all areas of society.

In attendance at the USC march was NAR-affiliated group Latinos Exiting the Democratic Party (LEXIT) who have ties to the Proud Boys and Patriot Mobile, a Christian group intent on converting Jews that ironically has been flying a Jewish Lives Matter” banner over Columbia, USC and other campuses. An Appeal to Heaven” flag, associated with Christian Nationalists at the Capitol Insurrection and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson, appeared at both the USC march and another march of the same name at Columbia University on April 25, which was also led by Feucht along with Russell Johnson and Christian Nationalist radio host Eric Metaxas.

Infused into these marches are the entrenched anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim theologies that undergird much of Christian Zionist theology. Both the USC and Columbia marches began with Johnson reaffirming God’s unconditional promise” of the land of Canaan” to the Jewish people, exclusively, a common weaponization of the bible to deny Palestinians any claim to the land their ancestors have called home for centuries. Taylor argues that Christian Nationalists often use a narrative of solidarity with Israel as moral cover for their anti-Muslim agendas.

After Johnson, who also used the phrase terrorist occupation” to describe the Columbia camp, addressed the crowd at Columbia, Feucht reasserted his opposition to rising antisemitism” on college campuses. The irony is Feucht is an avid preacher of End Times theology—when Jews and anyone who does not accept Jesus as Messiah will be damned. But Feucht’s contradictory stance is common among Christian Zionists. He will in the same breath both condemn antisemitism and tell his social media audience of hundreds of thousands that growing anti-Jewish sentiment, and even Iran’s historic attack on Israel, are positive signs (notably of the coming End Times).

Feucht doubled down on his End Times hopes at Columbia. He began the march announcing that a bunch of faith-filled warriors” were going to march around Columbia’s campus to stand with Israel until the last day,” a clear reference to the End Times. At the end of the march, he reiterated that standing up for Jews is an End Times issue we gotta get right.”

These Christian Nationalists (or what some scholars would refer to as Christian Globalists” because of their intent for Christianity to rule on earth) in addition to J6er, Proud Boys and other far-Right marchers are in line with a powerful Right-wing coalition planning to take the reigns of government” and concentrate power in the executive branch should Trump or similar candidate win The White House in 2024

Sean Feucht leads the "United For Israel" march outside Columbia University on April 25, 2024. Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

This plan, described in detail in a 900-page manifesto called Project 2025, spells out how Christian Nationalists and their allies are more than just bigots.

They are using the premise of a spiritual war to pave the road for the United States to become the authoritarian country they so jubilantly pray for — and intimidating students protesting the violence in Gaza and trying to claim campuses for their own brand of Christianity is their latest battleground.

Help In These Times Celebrate & Have Your Gift Matched!

In These Times is proud to share that we were recently awarded the 16th Annual Izzy Award from the Park Center for Independent Media at Ithaca College. The Izzy Award goes to an independent outlet, journalist or producer for contributions to culture, politics or journalism created outside traditional corporate structures.

Fellow 2024 Izzy awardees include Trina Reynolds-Tyler and Sarah Conway for their joint investigative series “Missing In Chicago," and journalists Mohammed El-Kurd and Lynzy Billing. The Izzy judges also gave special recognition to Democracy Now! for coverage that documented the destruction wreaked in Gaza and raised Palestinian voices to public awareness.

In These Times is proud to stand alongside our fellow awardees in accepting the 2024 Izzy Award. To help us continue producing award-winning journalism a generous donor has pledged to match any donation, dollar-for-dollar, up to $20,000.

Will you help In These Times celebrate and have your gift matched today? Make a tax-deductible contribution to support independent media.

Aidan Orly (he/​they) is a writer and researcher working with Political Research Associates. Aidan regularly writes and speaks about the connections among Christian Zionism, Western imperialism and the Jewish Right. They are currently pursuing an advanced degree in Near Eastern Studies at New York University.

The War on Protest Cover
Get 10 issues for $19.95

Subscribe to the print magazine.