Greg Locke likes to politicize the pulpit.
This month’s issue of Church & State contains a story about Greg Locke, a Tennessee pastor and Christian nationalist whose extremism is attracting national attention.
Americans United asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate Locke’s church after he gave a sermon earlier this year at his Global Vision Bible Church instructing his congregation not to vote for Democrats – a clear violation of federal law.
“If you vote Democrat, I don’t even want you around this church,” Locke said. “You can get out. You can get out, you demon. You cannot be a Christian and vote Democrat in this nation,” he said. “I don’t care how mad that makes you. You can get as pissed off as you want to. You cannot be a Christian and vote Democrat in this nation. … You cannot. Somebody say, ‘Amen.’ The rest of you get out. Get out! Get out in the name of Jesus!”
Thumbing your nose at federal law may seem a tough act to follow, but Locke is determined to try. As blogger Hemant Mehta reported yesterday, Locke is planning an old-fashioned book burning for Halloween night.
Book burnings, music, even rosary beads.
Actually, it won’t just be books that are burned. Sure, Locke is imploring his supporters to bring books, but they can also toss DVDs, CDs, board games, rosary beads, “Yoga related nonsense” and other items into the fire.
Curiously, Locke has a weird fixation on Masonic items and has asked people to bring Masonic Bibles (which he says are “filled with witchcraft symbolism and false doctrine”), rings, aprons, hats and other Masonic paraphernalia. All will be burned.
“Clean out those DVD cabinets and burn all those horror and murderous movies,” Locke wrote on Facebook. “Rid yourself of ungodly and devilish music. Clear out satanic symbols, board games, Catholic statues, rosary beads, tarot cards and demonic games like Dungeons and Dragons and Pokémon.”
Locke has burned books before and noted that the last time he did it, critics compared him to Adolf Hitler. Locke also insists he has the right to create massive bonfires on his church property, although this is debatable. Fire departments often have an interest in events like this, lest the blaze gets out of control.
One thing is already out of control: Locke’s extremism. His wing of Christian nationalism is so far out on the fringe it threatens to fall off. But there’s an echo of his views every time a school board bans books with LGBTQ themes or groups like the misnamed Moms for Liberty assails a public library because some of the books therein don’t align with their faith.
Locke fears knowledge. Locke fears critical thinking. Locke fears tolerance. Locke fears decency. His burning of books is a supreme manifestation of the ignorance he champions, and it is bound to fail, because while you can burn a physical book, it’s much harder to kill the ideas within it.
Locke’s stunt is appalling. It should be roundly condemned. But let’s not stop there. The next step is to work to extinguish the hate and intolerance that propels Locke and his followers.
P.S. Coincidentally, Locke’s latest book-burning demonstration comes just a few weeks after my colleague, Andrew L. Seidel, AU’s, vice president of strategic communications, published a new book. Locke made news in 2019 by burning a signed copy of Seidel’s previous book on Christian nationalism. It’s probably too much to hope that Locke will actually read, rather than burn, Seidel’s latest book, “American Crusade: How the Supreme Court Is Weaponizing Religious Freedom.” I wish Locke would, though. He might learn something!