by Aaron Warner
Driving up I-89 from Hartford, Vermont toward Burlington the natural beauty of the Green Mountain state is unique, as are the amount of Subaru’s, Prius and all manner of ecologically friendly hybrid vehicles. The closer one gets to Burlington the greater the co-efficient of Bernie bumper stickers.
We’re on our way to see Charlie Kirk speak at Ignite Church in Williston. In this day of political enemies it’s unclear who poses the greater threat to the other – the tree hugging, Green New Deal, rainbow flag waving socialists or the God-fearing, church attending, American flag waving conservatives. Given their equally non-threatening accoutrement I was curious what to expect from the Turning Point USA crowd.
The streets of Williston felt strangely quiet for being the busiest we’d seen all day. It seemed the citizens were unaware of the den of lambs conspiring to spread freedom as they drove about in the ninety-plus degree heat. We arrived at the church parking lot to find it practically full, with parking attendants and security guiding people to their destination. The security reminded me Charlie Kirk has received death threats on more than one occasion. Having familiarized myself with Charlie it seems those opposed to him are threatened by his message more than the man himself.
After joining in to sing with the most lively and jubilant church band accompanied by a full choir where songs of freedom, faith and thankfulness to the amazing grace of the God they worship were sung, Charlie and his coterie of fellow smiley, clean-cut twenty-somethings entered the packed room to join in the worship from the front row.
As I studied the attendees and Mr. Kirk I noticed what seemed to be the liberal-left’s stated ideal for our world – a room as physically diverse as I have found in Vermont. More importantly, they all seemed to be getting along swimmingly, with no signs of oppression as far as I could tell. Just down from Charlie stood a thickly bespectacled black man who seemed to have some sort of disability, yet it, nor that vast number of white people present, didn’t prevent him from standing, taking pictures, singing and otherwise freely worshiping God. Several black ladies also sang and smiled widely as members of the choir, swaying to and fro with their mostly white church family.
Thinking back to the gas station where we had stopped to use the bathroom on the way, I recalled a poster for a music and art festival, no doubt similar in feel to what was happening at Ignite Church, only held out-doors and with an emphasis on nature, music and art, with the explicit worship of God not a priority or attraction. Despite the obvious commonalities, the groups couldn’t seem farther apart to the onlooker. It seems God is the dividing line.
God has a variety of servants as well as enemies. Charlie Kirk is a declared servant and his attempt to fly to Vermont for this event, he told the crowd, was nearly thwarted by a last-minute cancellation of his United Airlines flight. Luckily the good people at American Airlines were able to accommodate him and his crew, though it meant Charlie was operating on a poor night’s sleep having arrived at 2am in the morning. You would not have known it listening to the young man talk.
Representing his nine year-old organization Turning Point USA, where he speaks at high school and college campuses around the United States over three hundred times a year, he launched into explaining the difference between making disciples of Christ as opposed to converts to religious Christianity. The former more about character and societal impact for good with the latter tending to be more insular and less generous toward one’s neighbor.
Evangelical Christianity has two views on involvement in politics. The first is to stay out of them completely. The second, held by Charlie and his group, is to make it a significant part of one’s service to Christ. He explains this by elucidating the meaning of the word ecclesia (eck-luh-see-uh). Ecclesia is the word used by Jesus when He said “upon this rock I will build my church” (i.e. ecclesia). Charlie explains the traditional meaning of ecclesia is not like the churches we have today, or Jesus would have said synagogue or temple. No, in fact the ecclesia resembles something very common to Vermont – the town meeting. Here is where Jesus wanted His disciples to influence their neighbors with His teachings, and not for the purpose of making converts, but to re-make broken people and broken cultures alive and vibrant. Which is why He states in the gospel of John “I have come that they may have life and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Likewise Charlie seems genuinely concerned that America’s distress in moving away from the teachings of Jesus and the Bible are seen in the growing amount of societal discontent, insecurity, and division as Marxist teachings like Critical Race Theory and socialism urge the destruction of America’s Christian heritage for the promise of a communist utopia yet to be realized. In fact, if we just look at the fruit of Marx’s socialist-communist teachings it seems they have the destruction part of it down pat, with the utopic outcome nowhere to be found. It’s as if the promise is false and designed to prey on hope of a better future it can’t possibly deliver. Vermont seems to bet caught in the middle of this ideological tug-of-war.
To his Christian brothers and sisters, black, white and other, Charlie has come to encourage and remind them of their God-given blessings, powers and responsibilities as American citizens. He inspires as he educates them on articles of history and facts about the founders and Constitution either forgotten or ignored by both public education and mainstream media. One would think even the ardent lefty would be impressed by both Charlie and his presentation, reminding them of their innate call to a higher purpose in a country designed for the freedom of its people. The only threat I could detect from Charlie is a challenge to look outside of oneself for meaning and a dare to catch fire for the light that first shown in our great country.
Charlie’s main focus of his speech was to remind the faithful of five things to keep in mind as they walk among their secular neighbors, who out number them roughly ten to one here in Vermont. They are:
- The Bible is real, timeless and the most important book in all of history. He supported this with facts, such as the Bible having a thousand times more historical textual support than all other books of antiquity.
- God and Jesus are real. The evidence of God is the incredible design and laws found in nature that require an intelligent mind to explain them as opposed to mere chance. Jesus, he explained, is written about by contemporary historians like Josephus, who wrote not as disciples of Christ but opponents.
- The church and church attendance are, despite what your government tells you, essential. He lauded the Ignite Church staff and pastor for standing up to Vermont officials during the COVID lockdowns.
- Government involvement in the public square is essential.
- In all things the truth matters.
As he brought his speech to a close he noted the thing most needed and most absent in our culture is courage. Which he described as will to do what’s right despite the outcome. He associated this with the willingness to lose things we hold dear in order to take that stance.
One thing that is obviously held dear by all in the room that none want to lose is both their country and the freedoms it provides.
As we look to this Independence Day and celebrate the greatest, most generous and most revered country in the history of the world, Charlie’s message is one that even his enemies on the left should appreciate. One that doesn’t look at people based on race, circumstances or education, but rather their equal footing and rights as Americans.
Aaron Warner is a Hartford, Vermont resident. He has written for Vermont Daily about homelessness, comparisons with Vermont and his hometown of Portland, Oregon, and Vermont’s Covid-19 masking policy.
Categories: Society & Culture