This is the arena-rock wannabe stage presentation of the Ignite Church, the conservative Evangelical church in Williston that’s a key player in efforts to build a right-wing Christian movement in Vermont. No crosses, no evidence of religion at all, just a big attention-grabbing display with slick lighting, a band, and a dudebro minister preaching the Word.
Ignite is the hub of conservative Evangelicalism in Chittenden County. It hosted far-right poster boy Charlie Kirk’s 2021 appearance in Burlington. It sponsored a talk by Eric Metaxas, a prominent Evangelical who believes the 2020 election was stolen and getting the Covid-19 vaccine is a bad idea. Last January, Ignite hosted an event called “Faith, Hope, Health COVID Summit,” which featured a number of Covid denialists. This coming Sunday, they’ll welcome Christian “influencer” Lily Kate, an associate of Kirk’s in his Turning Point USA organization. She’ll be talking about “reclaiming Biblical masculinity and femininity.” In a brief video promo on the big screen, she talked of how “Christian circles have been bought out by radical feminism.”
Now, I have no idea who Lily Kate is, but she’s a celebrity in the shadow world of Evangelical culture. I say “shadow world” because it’s pretty much invisible outside the conservative Christian orbit.
But we need to be aware of this world because it wields a tremendous amount of weight in conservative circles. And it’s not content with saving souls — tit wants to remake America in its image.
Not all Evangelicals are in this camp. There are many thoughtful Evangelicals who think the Christian flirtation with fringe politics is not just a bad idea, it’s actively counter to the essence of the faith. But the fringies have the numbers and they’re causing the trouble.
To get an idea of what Ignite is peddling, I watched its almost two-hour service from Sunday, November 13, archived on YouTube. What I saw was an attempt to bring all the bells and whistles of the 21st Century megachurch movement to the Burlington suburbs. The service consisted almost entirely of contemporary, middle-of-the-road worship music and the constant presence of senior pastor Todd Callahan. The cameras never showed more than a sliver of the seating area, so it was hard to gauge how big the room is and how many people were in attendance.
November 13, you may remember, was the first Sunday after Election Day, which was a huge disappointment for the Christian right generally and in Vermont especially. They did, after all, get mollywhopped on the reproductive rights amendment, and most of their candidates were losers. (Ignite staffer Rohan St. Marthe finished in last place in his bid for state Senate.)Continue reading