As the Supreme Court was handing down its decision to end a constitutional right to abortion, the worship leader Sean Feucht was on Twitter exalting his twin heroes: “VICTORY IN JESUS!!!!” he declared, soon adding: “THANK YOU PRESIDENT TRUMP!!!!!”
But even in this moment of conservative triumph, the 38-year-old praise singer flashed menace, torching, as satanists, the Amercans who would soon be protesting Roe’s reversal: “When the devil’s sacrifice is no longer protected by our Supreme Court, watch how his people rage.” By the following morning, Feucht appeared to advocate vengeance against Roe’s backers as well: “Goliath is dead!!!” he tweeted. “Time to chase down the Philistines!!!”
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With a flowing mane of golden curls and an American-flag guitar signed by the 45th president, John Christopher “Sean” Feucht stands at the intersection of far-right Christanity and the MAGA movement. On stage, Feucht is a holy roller, leading rapt crowds in worship music. His services feature weeping penintents, minor “miracles,” and new followers of Jesus plunging into baptismal tubs. Online, Feucht is a holy troller, flaming his foes and bashing “woke” culture to delight his followers.
Feucht (pronounced Foyt) rocketed to prominence in MAGAworld with a combustible mix of godliness and grievance. Railing against pandemic restrictions on in-person religious services in 2020, Feucht mounted a national tour of “protest” revivals — drawing fervent crowds of worshipers and scathing rebukes from public health officials. As covid restrictions eased, Feucht pivoted seamlessly to raging against the alleged “groomers” at Disneyland.
Feucht’s fusion of own-the-libs rhetoric and Christian zealotry is resonating. Newly released IRS records reveal that the once-humble praise singer is not only raising his national profile, he’s raking in enormous amounts of cash. Capitalizing on the notoriety of his 2020 covid-lockdown protests, Sean Feucht Ministry Inc. ballooned in revenue from $280,000 in 2019 to more than $5.3 million in 2020, ending the year $4 million richer than it started. (The accounting for this surge is curious: The ministry claims to have received $0 in contributions, despite Feucht avidly soliciting such gifts.)
Feucht — who, according to tax filings, is the sole employee of the ministry — also appears to have experienced a surge in personal wealth, raising eyebrows from ministry watchdogs. The preacher recently bought a pair of extravagant homes, one in a glitzy gated community in Southern California and another on five acres in Montana, valued together at well over $2 million, according to property records reviewed by Rolling Stone.
Warren Cole Smith, president of Ministry Watch, which vets religious organizations on behalf of donors, says that leveraging a ministry to live the high life, if that’s what Feucht is doing, is not just unseemly, it’s potentially illegal. “I’m not saying that Sean is guilty of private inurement,” Smith insists. “But if a guy that makes less than $200,000 a year is buying multiple, million-dollar properties, at a minimum that warrants additional questions.”
Calls to the ministry and its board members asking to speak about these financials were not returned. An email to Feucht with detailed questions was not returned.
With his newfound wealth and prominence, Feucht is making direct inroads in Washington, D.C. When the Dobbs draft decision leaked this spring, Feucht raced to the steps of the Supreme Court, joined by Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boehbert in public worship meant to steel the court’s reactionary majority against advocates of reproductive rights.
Evangelicals have long hitched their fortunes to GOP political movements, most recently the Trump Train. But Feucht is bald in his declaration that Christians, themselves, should seize the throttle of the nation’s politics. “People complain that Biblical truth should not spill over into political matters. I disagree,” he wrote in a recent open letter to church leaders, insisting it’s time for believers to “start dictating the terms of the fight!”
Feucht seeks to tear down the wall between church and state, says Shawn Schwaller, a history professor in California who studies right-wing extremism, including Feucht’s. “He wants to push a far-right Christian nationalist agenda,” he says. “Whether it’s anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-vaccine, anti-Black Lives Matter, he’s aligning himself with the biggest voices pushing that agenda in Washington.”
Feucht has also opened a beachhead for spiritual battle in the nation’s capital. In yet another eye-popping real estate translation, his ministry purchased brick row house on Capitol Hill in May for nearly $1 million, that Feucht is calling Camp Elah — named for the valley where “David met Goliath and was unafraid.” Feucht insists Camp Elah will be a hive of 24-hour prayer, mobilization, and ministry with legislators, to “prophesy God’s destiny and purpose on their life.”
A man carries a large wooden cross during a concert by evangelical musician Sean Feucht on the National Mall on October 25, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Samuel Corum/Getty Images
But as Feucht seeks to transform the MAGA movement in Jesus’ name, he is also being transformed — in Trump’s. Fuecht’s own purpose these days seems to increasingly resemble the former president’s, involving a whirlwind of campaign-style events, relentless fundraising and unabashed luxury.
Feucht is using Camp Elah, in turn, to raise more money. Its website looks less like the homepage for a house of worship than the donation page for a political candidate — with click-to-give buttons at amounts up to $2,000 and a togglebox to “make this a monthly recurring donation.” On Facebook, Feucht recently implored his nearly half-million followers to make gifts to meet, “Our big May 31 FUNDRAISING DEADLINE!!”
Co-religionists don’t doubt Feucht’s faith, but are troubled by his path. “The more famous, and rich, he gets, the more he’s able to influence the political realm,” says Adam Perez, a postdoc at the Duke School of Divinity, who has studied Feucht’s influence. But many Christians, he adds, view the pursuit of the Holy Spirit and the Mighty Dollar as “entirely contradictory.”
“Is this God’s work?” Perez asks of Feucht’s ascendance. “Or is this the power of money — you know, the love of which is the root of all evil?”
Feucht is a relative newcomer on the national scene, and it’s possible these past few months will be his zenith. But if he finds staying power, he represents the potential next phase of MAGA evolution: one that combines Trump’s combative authoritarianism with Mike Pence’s hankering for theocracy — and a zealotry that could keep the movement going long after Trump is gone.
Feucht’s own religious awakening occurred deep in the Amazon. In his 2020 memoir, Brazen, Feucht writes of accompanying his dad, as a 12-year-old, on a river-boat medical mission to remote river villages in Brazil. In addition to medical supplies, the missionaries offered faith healing to relieve those in “demonic torment.”
As they traveled upriver, Feucht was initiated into the charismatic Christian tradition, which embraces the religion’s supernatural dimensions and seeks direct encounters of the Holy Spirit. Feucht writes of witnessing “the wildest miracles of my entire life!” on that trip, including the healing of a blind woman. “The moment we started praying, I saw the cataracts fall off her eyes like scales,” he writes. “It was unbelievable!”
If Feucht has misgivings about missionary work’s uncomfortable connections to colonialism and imperialism, he doesn’t mention them in this recollection of this adventure, which he recalls as rapturous. “The healed, saved, and joyful tribes lined the banks of the river each night,” he writes, “offering gifts to show their love and appreciation for our team.”
Feucht chose then to be baptized in the waters of the river by his father, surrounded by what he describes as “an entire unreached tribe of people that had just given their lives to Jesus.” The indigenous people dressed in white robes, Feucht recalls. “When I surfaced… the tribe was singing, fish were swimming around my feet, and the Presence of God fell heavily upon me.”
Born in Montana in 1983, the son of a dermatologist, Feucht lived in Missoula until he was 10, when his dad — “bitten by the bug” of missionary work — took a job with Operation Blessing, a charity founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. When he wasn’t accompanying his father abroad, Feucht spent his adolescence in suburban Virginia, where he starred on the football team and met the high school sweetheart he’d eventually marry.
After graduation, Feucht felt called to war-torn Afghanistan in the wake of 9/11 — as a soldier for Christ. Traveling with fellow missionaries and lacking a reliable translator, Feucht took his guitar to remote mountain villages. “The power of music was bringing us together,” he writes, “and God’s presence showed up every single time.”
Feucht soon enrolled at Oral Roberts University — the Tulsa, Oklahoma, school that has produced a rich line of mega preachers including Kenneth Copeland and Joel Osteen. Anxious to stand out at a university brimming with young men of God, Feucht began hosting all-night prayer revivals in his dorm room — offering a “fresh baptism by fire.” These meetings soon morphed into marathon, 24-hour off-campus praise sessions that Feucht and his followers called The Burn. “We knew it would probably get misinterpreted, that it may sound cultish,” he writes, “but we really didn’t care.”
As a young adult, Feucht took the Burn on the road, living out of a 1998 Camry, seeking to ignite prayer “furnaces” across cities and towns from Oklahoma to Louisiana. Living hand to mouth, Feucht’s faith was tested; but he describes being visited in a Texas church. “I saw the eyes of the Lord burning with an intense and jealous devotion,” he writes. The encounter “reoriented my theology,” Feucht writes, and convinced him he was on a mission from God.
Praise Up; Blessings Down
Tall, with ruddy cheeks, wide-set blue eyes, and his trademark swoop of golden locks, Feucht projects a groovy California aesthetic.
“He’s totally tapping into Christian music history — the Jesus hippies of the 60s and 70s,” says D.L. Mayfield, a religion writer who also grew up in the charismatic church. But Feucht’s soft appearance masks his hardline theology and politics. “The only thing he has in common with that Jesus movement,” Mayfield says, “is the hair.”
Feucht doesn’t run a church, per se. And it may be tempting to dismiss him as just a praise musician. But in charismatic religious practice, says Perez, the Duke divinity scholar, music isn’t an add-on; it’s the main event. It’s by singing praise to God that the Holy Spirit is activated. “Your praise goes up and then God’s blessings come down,” Perez describes. “You’re unleashing God’s power. You’re operationalizing prayer.”
In 2016, after churning through communities in Tulsa, Dallas and central Pennsylvania, Feucht signed a music deal with Bethel Music, the label of a charismatic megachurch in Redding, far-northern California. That assembly made headlines in 2019 for an extreme attempt to operationalize prayer, seeking to literally resurrect a two-year-old child.
The belief in the power to harness God’s might is both seductive and pernicious, argues Mayfield. “The problem at the heart of charismatic Christianity, is that it’s obsessed with power,” she says. “They really spiritualize it — how to harness God’s power to make your life better. But then that obviously bleeds out into the political.”
These communities share the belief, Perez adds, that “God has the power to do spiritual work — or even warfare.” In this worldview, legislative battles are understood as contests between spirits. “If [pro]abortion legislation were passed, that would be a sign that demons are at work in the in Congress,” Perez says. The faithful see themselves, he adds, as using their “Christian weapon against the powers of darkness.”
From the Pulpit to Politics
Feucht’s electric entrance onto the national stage is a near-perfect encapsulation of modern Republican politics: He ran a campaign that flamed out with the people — but caught the attention of the one person who matters most: Donald Trump.
In 2019, Feucht decided to launch a longshot bid for Congress after a chance encounter with a manager of Pat Robertson’s 1988 White House bid, who’d told him: “We need a long-haired, Jesus-loving worship leader in there.” Interpreting this bit of ego stroking as “prophesy,” Feucht rebooted his life and ran for office. Redding’s House seat was already in GOP hands, so Feucht waged a carpetbagger campaign for California’s 3rd district, far to the south, in the Bay Area and Sacramento exurbs.
Campaigning against low morals, high taxes, and the “sacrifice” of the unborn, Feucht also played to racist anger over immigration. One ad highlighted a young blond white woman, wrapped in an American flag, asking: “If we lose our identity, how will others learn from our greatness?” Feucht was convinced he could ride a wave of church-goers and millennials into office. But his Super Tuesday primary was a wipeout. Feucht was crushed: “Is this the reward,” he wrote, “for laying everything on the line to follow what we thought was the voice of God?”
In retrospect, it’s clear that Feucht’s reward for running had already come — just not from God. His run attracted the attention of someone in Washington, and in December 2019, Feucht and other faith leaders were ushered into the Oval Office, to minister to a president in crisis. Donald Trump was in the midst of his first impeachment, over withholding aid to Ukraine while seeking dirt on Joe Biden. “We just laid our hands on him,” Feucht recalled to Fox News. “It was like a real intense, hardcore prayer. It was so wild!”
Protesting Lockdowns to “Groomers”
Equally wild was the turnaround that followed Feucht’s electoral flameout. His loss coincided with the full-force blow of the Covid pandemic. Far from being done with politics, he soon spun up a new “movement” called Hold the Line, seeking to “provoke believers across the nation to take a stand” for conservative religious political values against “cancel culture” and what he called the “dumpster fire of hate, division, and ‘wokeness.”
Feucht chafed at pandemic restrictions that had limited worship services — and in particular singing in church. Flouting public health officials, Feucht launched a series of prayer sessions, which he fashioned as “protests,” against government tyranny. Sparking controversy — and media coverage — Feucht trollishly targeted sites like the George Floyd memorial in Minneapolis, CHOP in Seattle, and downtown Portland, where Black Lives Matter protesters were still demonstrating for an end to police violence. He promised to transform these sites from “riots to revivals.”
In Oregon, Feucht invited right-wing Christians to provide security as he purported to cast out demons from downtown Portland. He sent a dark message to potential counterprosters telling them to prepare to meet Jesus “one way or another.”
Those who volunteered for his security team included at least one charged Jan. 6 defendant, and notorious Proud Boys brawler Tiny Toese. “We say ‘Satan you get zero real estate!’” Feucht preached. “You don’t get downtown Portland! You don’t get a single block of this city. This city is… the…. Lord’s!”
Feucht soon branded his tour “Let Us Worship” and took it national. Feucht did not agree to be interviewed for this piece but in a brief interaction on Twitter he taunted Rolling Stone over a previous story on his pandemic concerts: “In your rag said, “The real miracle, however, will be if no one catches the coronavirus.” Of course nobody caught it. Do y’all believe in miracles now?” Feucht didn’t offer evidence for his coronavirus claims.
The “Let Us Worship” tour culminated in a September 2021 appearance on the Mall in Washington, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of 9/11, for which Trump himself filmed an opening video, praising Feucht for “strengthening our entire nation.”
As anger about Covid restrictions began to abate, Feucht seized on a new opportunity to return to the protest lines when Disney denounced Florida’s discriminatory “Don’t Say Gay” law — designed to create an effective blackout of gay life in public schools. Feucht protested at the gates of Disney World as though they were the gates of hell. “We cannot allow our children to be sexualized,” Feucht insisted in an interview with the Christian Post, “and we cannot allow perverts to indoctrinate them… with transgenderism.”
Feucht sees LGBTQ individuals as sick, and touts his revivals as providing divine conversion therapy. “We’re one of the only ministries I know,” he recently told an interviewer, “where every altar call we say, ‘Hey if you’re battling with same sex attraction, if you’re in the middle of transition therapy, God wants to heal you.’”
To harness the passion stirred by his protests, Feucht called on his followers to sign a “petition” at ParentsFightBack.com, and claims that tens of thousands have. But that link doesn’t offer any petition text. Instead, it’s a portal to give your name, email, and mobile number to Feucht. A thank you page prompts you to make a large donation. Move your cursor away and a popup window exhorts: “WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO… We can’t win this fight without you, we need your immediate support!”
Do such Trumpian cash-grab tactics reveal Feucht’s true character? “He’s just such an outright grifter,” arguess Mayfield. “Seems like some people will catch on.”
“He’s a Moneymaker”
Raising cash has become increasingly central to Feucht’s ostensibly godly pursuits — and by appearances he’s gifted at it. “He’s always selling something or looking for donations,” says Schwaller, the extremism scholar, who teaches at Chico State. “He’s a moneymaker.”
(After speaking with Rolling Stone, Schwaller published his own examination of Feucht’s finances for a small North California news website; he independently reported on Feucht’s recent home-buying spree and soaring ministry revenues.)
Even before he capitalized on his Covid lockdown protest, Feucht was making six-figures. Feucht runs a trio of nonprofits, chief among them Sean Feucht Ministries Inc. He also directs Burn 24-7, his project for spreading his spirit furnaces, and Light a Candle, dedicated to foreign missionary work and international aid.
Across these three groups, Feucht earned salaries totalling nearly $180,000 in 2020. In a change from 2019, Sean Feucht Ministries Inc. also awarded Sean Feucht a “housing allowance” of $48,0000. Public records also reveal that, despite leading a nationwide protest movement against covid lockdowns, Feucht benefited from lockdown bailouts — securing a Covid-era business loan that was forgiven at a value of more than $21,000.
Sean Feucht Ministries’ latest financial disclosures raise the eyebrows of experts. The vast majority of the money taken in by Sean Feucht Ministries, Inc., $5.3 million, is listed as “Honorariums and Speaking.” It wouldn’t be unusual for a religious figure of Feucht’s prominence to score guest invites to appear at megachurches across the country, for as much as $100,000 a pop, says Smith, the Ministry Watch president. “Like a traveling rock star, he’s getting appearance fees, I’m sure.”
What’s more curious is that Fuecht, who slaps DONATE buttons on all of his web sites, told the IRS he received $0 in contributions in 2020. Yet a review of public Venmo transactions reveals that Fuecht’s ministry received at least 250 donations during a one-week stretch in July 2020. “It seems a little fishy,” says Sarah Webber, an accounting professor at the University of Dayton who is an expert in nonprofit financial disclosures. “How could you have a website set up for taking in individual donations, but not [report] any contributions?”
These days, Feucht leans into any scintilla of controversy as a chance to raise more cash. When Rolling Stone asked Feucht for an interview and later paid a visit to Camp Elah — which he’s advertised as an open house — Feucht sent out an email to his donor list warning about “another ‘expose’ or ‘hit piece’” and appealed for donations to “help us weather these impending attacks.”
“Sean has figured out how to monetize the evangelical industrial complex,” Smith says, describing a “perverse relationship between prosperity-gospel Christian ministries, political activism and Christian nationalism.” He adds: “If you can draw crowds, you can make money.”
As his ministry has raked in millions, Feucht too is living through a period of unexplained abundance. In February 2021, he bought a four bedroom log cabin style vacation home near Flathead Lake in Montana that listed for $745,000. Earlier this year, he bought a $1.6 million home in Coto de Caza, a gated enclave made famous as the original site for The Real Housewives of Orange County.
Feucht’s jet setting lifestyle has become a point of contention — even among some of his supporters. After he posted a video on Instagram surprising his family of five with news of a vacation to Maui, Feucht clapped back at critics: “Lol. Some people are funny and need to chill. I’m not using your donations to go to Hawaii 😅😂. I’m burning my airline miles for flights and hotels. My fam deserves it 😘”
But Feucht has also recently posted videos from the balcony of an oceanfront hotel room at the exclusive, Hotel del Coronado near San Diego. And in May, he scored a black-tie invite to see the “boss man” at Mar-a-Lago.
Such contradictions of wealth and power don’t appear to trouble Feucht. Despite his avowed abhorrence of “groomers” who sexualize children, Feucht has no harsh words for Trump — who infamously hosted a teen beauty pageant, palled around with child sex traffickers Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell, and motorboated Rudy Giuliani in a sketch in which hizzoner dressed in drag.
For Feucht, as for many devout right-wingers, Trump’s personal sinfulness is papered over by his transformation of the high court that has now ended Roe. “What if Evangelical Christians didn’t get duped by Trump? What if they got exactly what they wanted and had prayed for,” Feucht tweeted after the abortion ruling. “Proof is in the pudding now.”
State Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, a Republican candidate for Governor of Pennsylvania, stands on stage with Sean Feucht, left, his wife Rebbeca and Jenna Ellis, right, take part in a primary night election gathering in Chambersburg, Pa., Tuesday, May 17, 2022.
Carolyn Kaster/AP Images
Washington Hype House
Deepening his connection with leaders on the right, Feucht launched a biweekly Hold the Line podcast, on which he’s hosted MAGA congress members like Lauren Boebert, senators including Missouri’s Josh Hawley, Oath Keeper rocker Ted Nugent, and young reactionary Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA. He’s also appeared on stage with Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida and recently sang at a celebration for far-right Pennsylvania gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano.
Feucht has become especially tight with his frequent Instagram companion Boebert, who shares his vision for a religious takeover in Washington. On the Sunday after Roe’s reversal, Boebert told a worship service in Colorado: “I’m tired of this separation of church and state junk,” she declared. “The church is supposed to direct the government.” When Boebert won the GOP primary for her district the following Tuesday, Feucht was there too, standing in as the congresswoman’s house band at her praise-filled victory party, where Trump called in to offer personal congratulations.
But, at least for the moment, Feucht’s Washington outpost, Camp Elah isn’t living up to its hype. Feucht launched the house to great fanfare in May. But rather than serving as a 24-hour hive of religious fervor on Capitol Hill, it has often stood empty, even as Feucht leverages it as a fundraising vehicle.
Feucht first announced Camp Elah at a rally outside the Supreme Court on May 17, two weeks after the publication of the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion reversing Roe. “I feel like we’re taking back territory,” Feucht said of his D.C. outpost. “This is the season where we take back what the enemy has stolen.”
Sean Feucht Ministries bought the rowhouse that day from the chief of staff to a Republican congressman. A contemporaneous YouTube video shows roughly two dozen people gathered in Camp Elah’s living room singing the hymn “I Exalt Thee,” with Feucht leading on an acoustic guitar, wearing a red “Reverse the Curse” of Roe shirt, Nike high-tops, and jeans.
During the launch, Feucht touted a month of prayer walks from his new worship house to the Supreme Court — “a smooth stone’s throw away” — in advance of Roe’s reversal. “It’s going to happen from this house,” Feucht announced. “We’re gonna send out intercessors and we are gonna pray around this building until that official decree comes down.”
But pilgrimages from Camp Elah happened only sporadically, according to local observers. On several days no one showed up at the designated noon meeting time. Other days, a handful of people would knock on the door to no answer, then turn around to leave. Rolling Stone showed up at noon on a day in late May and the house was empty.
But when Rolling Stone returned to camp Elah the following month, it encountered a lonely trio of worshippers. On a faux oriental rug in an otherwise empty living room, two men and a woman stood in a circle and bowed their heads. The woman read from Exodus — inspired, she said, by the need to remind herself that God, not humans, controls outcomes. In the few minutes she prayed aloud, she never uttered the word “abortion” or “Roe,” but she pointedly directed her prayers to the “justices.” After a few moments of contemplation, the trio began a two-block walk to the steps of the high court.
These prayerful efforts were hyped to culminate in a celebration at the high court on June 27, which Feucht touted for weeks on his Instagram account. But when the time arrived, on a gray and muggy Monday, only a couple dozen worshippers gathered to sway with Feucht and his band. But this humdrum reality seemed to matter less than the visuals Fuecht could produce for his hundreds of thousands of social media followers. “We just finished an hour and a half of crazy, ecstatic thanksgiving here on the steps of the Supreme Court,” he said in an Instagram video, exhorting his followers to abandon political correctness and “celebrate the victory of what God has done.”
But something else happened that morning that demonstrated the influence that can be built and wielded from a D.C. rowhouse — and the corrosion that be wrought on the wall between church and state as a result. A local ally of Feucht’s, Peggy Nienaber of the ministry Faith & Liberty, helped him organize the courthouse concert. After the music stopped, Nienaber was caught on tape bragging about how her group — which has for decades worked out of a row house behind the Supreme Court — prays with sitting justices, confiding, “We’re the only people who do that.”
The mixing of religion and politics in D.C. has long been pursued in hushed tones and private conversations. Feucht seeks to cross those streams in the full light of day, and then crow about it on social media. If Feucht has his way, and Camp Elah realizes its potential for spiritual warfare, Nienaber & Co. may soon have guitar-strumming competition.
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