The Shock Troops of the Next Big LieRoundup
tags: Republican Party, far right, David Barton, religious right, Christian Nationalism
Katherine Stewart is the author of The Power Worshippers: Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.
On a stretch of verdant land just north of Sycamore Canyon Road in Montecito, California, the homes of the merely rich give way to the homes of the truly rich. There, within shouting distance of the 18,000-square-foot home that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle purchased from a villainous Russian oligarch, you will find the residence of Joan Lindsey and her husband, James B. Lindsey, an heir to a Pepsi fortune. “It’s part private park, part sanctuary,” a write-up in Forbes pants. “Altogether, it’s a compound for the ages.” Mira Vista—an estate of this caliber naturally has a name—was recently listed for sale at $72.5 million.
But Mira Vista is something more than a home. It was also listed as the address of the James and Joan Lindsey Family Foundation. A search of the foundation’s public reports appears to turn up, proportionally speaking, little of the kind of community-centered philanthropy characteristic of other wealthy locals. Instead, the records show a vast and steady flow of contributions to leading organizations in America’s Christian nationalist movement. Every year over the past decade, the Lindsey Foundation has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations such as the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, WallBuilders, and a faith-based media company called Mastermedia International, and lesser amounts to other groups like the Council for National Policy, a networking group for movement leadership.
“We are a Christian country. And the Founders were—definitely—and our founding documents were written under prayer each day of the writing,” Joan Lindsey has said. On the eve of the 2020 election, she announced that “this election will either preserve faith’s sacred place in our country or destroy it.”
From 2019 to 2020, the Lindsey Foundation funneled at least $500,000 to a new organization, Faith Wins, intended to mobilize pastors at conservative churches to bring out the pro-Trump Republican vote. Faith Wins is part of a Lindsey-backed coalition called The Church Finds Its Voice. In many respects, the Lindseys’ investment in Faith Wins and The Church Finds Its Voice follows a long-standing pattern in the Christian nationalist movement of backing projects to turn America’s network of tens of thousands of conservative churches into a powerful partisan political machine.
But there is also something novel in the Faith Wins project, and it sheds much light on the direction of the movement in the aftermath of the Trump presidency. Unlike pre-Trump get-out-the-pastors projects, Faith Wins has made concerns about “elections integrity” a central part of the message for its target audience. The pretense is that this is intended to shore up public confidence in elections. The reality is that the group is consciously helping to lay the foundations for the next iteration of the Big Lie. If Trump runs again, and if the Big Lie works next time around in securing him the presidency, Faith Wins and its collaborators will have played a critical role in making it happen.