Why top Trump allies like Roger Stone are using apocalyptic religious rhetoric
“My sense is [Stone] has recognized how important this sector of Christianity is for the ongoing radicalized Trump base,” says Christian scholar.
Roger Stone has been in and out of Donald Trump’s orbit for more than four decades. But since Trump commuted his three-year prison sentence for lying to federal investigators, the self-proclaimed specialist in political “dirty tricks” had been preaching the gospel of Trumpism to the former president’s most fervent religious supporters.
“I am a soldier in the army of the Lord,” Stone, who has said he converted to Christianity shortly after his 2019 conviction, announced last Friday at a meeting of Pastors for Trump at the former president’s Doral resort in Miami.
The meeting was organized by a failed U.S. Senate candidate from Oklahoma and a Missouri couple named David and Stacy Whited, who have a background in multi-level marketing and host a podcast called Flyover Conservatives.
The 2024 election, Stone said, will be “a fight between light and dark…a struggle between good and evil…an epic fight between the godly and the godless.”
Stone spoke alongside Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, as well as Stacy Whited, who promised the crowd that Trump will be elected president again in 2024.
Stone and Flynn are using more religious and apocalyptic rhetoric
Like Flynn, Stone has been using more explicitly religious language over the past few years, especially when attending the Reawaken America tour events that mix evangelical church services with speeches promoting Qanon conspiracy theories and Trumpism.
The events combine a devotion to Trump with an apocalyptic religious view of politics. Flynn and Stone, over the past two years, have joined pastors and podcasters from a particular stream of American evangelicalism in calling their political opponents evil and even demonic.
“This is a war that we’re in, this is a big spiritual war,” Flynn said last year, with Stone standing behind him. “I mean people like Nancy Pelosi, she’s a demon.”
Stone too has added a religious component to the type of anti-establishment political rhetoric he’s used for years. “The two parties are dominated by neocons, by globalists, by those who have turned from the Lord,” he said last year.
Stone has become a regular guest on an internet show called Elijah Streams, which caters to those who believe in modern-day prophets and seers. Last year Stone told the host of the show that a “Satanic portal” was physically “right above the White House” — a claim he has reiterated in appearances with other right-wing Christians.
What is Stone up to?
Matthew D. Taylor has studied the world of “independent charismatic” evangelicals, the specific stream of Christianity that Stone and Flynn are catering to with their political and religious rhetoric. Taylor is the Protestant scholar at the Institute for Islamic, Christian, and Jewish Studies in Baltimore, and is publishing a book on these believers and their ties to the Jan. 6, 2021 assault on the U.S. Capitol.
Taylor believes that Stone and Flynn are “looking to have much more direct influence in that world, not mediated by pastors and prophets and rabbis but by their own speaking of charismatic language.”
“My sense is [Stone] has recognized how important this sector of Christianity is for the ongoing radicalized Trump base,” Taylor told Yahoo News. “I think he's been cultivating his own ability to speak to that world and his own credibility in it, in hopes of him having some sway with it.”
Stone has long been interested in bypassing traditional media to reach people directly. Taylor’s theory is that he is trying to go around established authorities inside the Charismatic evangelical world as well to gain more influence. Stone did not respond to a request for comment.
The danger of dehumanizing rhetoric
Trump’s hold on evangelicals has shown some signs of slipping. Numerous leaders have so far declined to support him.
So these efforts by Stone and Flynn to keep the most hardcore base of Christian Trumpists engaged make political sense. But the rhetoric of violent spiritual warfare that permeates this world has already played a role in sparking real world political violence once on Jan. 6, Taylor argued in his “Charismatic Revival Fury” podcast series.
And the violent rhetoric has not abated. Stone often appears on the Elijah Streams show alongside a man named Robin D. Bullock, a full-length leather-jacket wearing Alabama religious leader who claims he’s “been to heaven…a few times” and “watched God create the world one time.”
Bullock may be controversial among other Charismatic evangelicals, but his YouTube channel has 201,000 subscribers. Stone called Bullock a “good friend” this week. And in comments last year to the Whiteds, Bullock said that the FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-A-Lago compound had “triggered the day of vengeance” described in the biblical Book of Isaiah.
“I will tread them in mine anger and trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled on my garments,” Bullock said, reading the passage. “Yes!” exclaimed a smiling Stacy Whited.
Taylor is concerned that this ongoing dehumanization of opponents by comparing them to demons, and violent spiritual rhetoric that sometimes spills into hints of actual physical violence or predictions of “sudden deaths” among Trump opponents, is creating an “early-on, groundswell rationalization for the next Jan. 6th.”