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Jurgen Matthesius introduces Charlie Kirk as an “amazing man of god” and a “daddy.” The room erupts in applause.
The date is March 29th, 2023. It’s a full house at Awaken’s San Marcos campus—a mix of Awaken’s parishioners and Kirk fans from across the region. The large screens behind them advertise the many, many ways guests and parishioners can tithe to Awaken, the megachurch chain Matthesius founded.
Kirk, the head of Turning Point USA, recently became a father. Matthesius asks how it’s impacted him.
“If you thought i was radical before, nothing radicalizes you more than fatherhood I tell you what,” Kirk responds.
Again, the crowd cheers.
Charlie Kirk founded Turning Point USA (TPUSA) at age 18. The group sets up chapters at colleges and high schools to recruit students into conservative activism—which these days means campaigning against “culture war” issues like teaching about racism in public schools and letting trans people lead decent lives. Over a decade after its founding, TPUSA has grown. In 2020, Kirk launched TPUSA Faith.The sub-franchise focuses on pushing Kirk’s “culture war” version of Christianity on evangelical churches, activating them as a political base.
“In the culture fight we are in, so much of it involves children. There’s a reason for that, it’s all throughout the scriptures—evil tyrants filled with dark spirits going after the first born, going after children,” Kirk continues.
“When you have a child of your own it motivates you to wanna win and crush these evil people more so than ever before.”
Matthesius stares affectionately at Kirk as Kirk praises him.
“You are being led very well here, boldly, courageously and biblically,” Kirk tells Matthesius’s congregation.
The crowd gives a standing ovation.
The Awaken franchise, formally C3 San Diego, has 6 locations—5 In San Diego County: Balboa, Bressi Ranch, El Cajon, Eastlake, San Marcos and one in Salt Lake City in Utah. Led by Jurgen Matthesuis, they plan to open 3 more locations in the next six months: Bay Ho and Coronado in Southern California and Boise, Idaho which launched this past weekend on Easter sunday.
Kirk also spoke at the Awaken Conference on July 22 last year. Awaken Church usually hosts yearly conferences that are men-only (Emerge) and for women (Cherish.) Kirk spoke at the co-ed conference as part of a weekend of programming and speakers that reinforce patriarchal family values and theology. Kirk also spoke at the Awaken Youth Conference in July last year.
The first “Annual TPUSA Faith Pastors Summit” was held August of 22 in San Diego at Lowes Coronado Bay Resort, where Kirk along with TPUSA Faith co-founder Rob Mccoy of Godspeak Calvary Chapel in Ventura County, “super-spreader” Christian musician Sean Feucht and Awaken founder and leader Jurgen Matthesuis joined 35 guest speakers over the weekend.
Awaken launched a collaboration with TPUSA Faith officially last October with a newly created Instagram account. TPUSA ambassador and Awaken Church prayer leader Louis Uridel leads the effort. Uridel, who has a Three Percenter tattoo, was the guest speaker for the launch event. He posted a one-minute reel afterwards.
“learn how you can make a difference in OUR COUNTRY and help infuse community and political activism with faith. It’s time for christians to rise up! We need to fight for the moral integrity of our country and it starts here,” Uridel’s post read.
Kirk’s speech at Awaken’s San Marcos campus was his first visit since the collaboration launched. It was also the week of a deadly school shooting in Tennessee that claimed three childrens’ and three adults’ lives. Two days before his speech, Kirk capitalized on the shooter being identified as trans in order to further his usual demonization of trans people, claiming there is a “trans vengeance movement” and tweeting “instead of banning “assault rifles” we should ban gender affirming care.”
The Nashville incident was the 130th mass shooting in the United States in 2023. According to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) there were 2,697 total mass shootings between 2018 and so far in 2023. The GVA defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter. There have been so few shootings by trans people—four known in the last five years—that it’s hard to have any meaningful quantitative data about it. Statistically, over 99% of mass shooters are cisgendered and almost all of them are men.
Anti-trans rhetoric was on Kirk’s mind when he took questions days later on April 5th at Awaken’s Salt Lake City campus. When asked about the Second Amendment by an audience member at the Salt Lake City event Kirk stated “It’s worth to have a cost of, unfortunately, some gun deaths every single year so that we can have the Second
“Having an armed citizenry comes with a price, and that is part of liberty,” he continued, saying mass shootings have to be solved by having more armed people to defend from them everywhere.
Kirk has been developing a strange new talking point for his recent tour of churches and college campuses. His idea is that there is only one true religion—his brand of evangelical Christianity—and that there are “5 fake religions”. Among these so-called fake religions are “Earth Worshipers,” “Power,” “Scientism,” “Tolerance.” But Kirk says the “biggest and immediate threat to the American republic” is “Anti-racism and the cult of DEI.” “DEI” means Diversity, equity, and inclusion—an organizational framework companies and other institutions adopt to mitigate discrimination.
“We are such a decent and not racist country their incentive is to fake your own hate crime,” Kirk said during his San Marcos talk.
“I’m lovin’ this, its like bible college 101,” Matthesius replied.
To Kirk, “the religion of Earth worshipers” are “otherwise known as environmentalists, Greta Thunberg types.” Kirk describes “the religion of power” as people like former COVID czar Anthony Fauci. Kirk describes these people as a political elite who have made it their life purpose to “dominate others.” He goes on to describe “micro tyrants” such as Starbucks baristas who would ask you to wear a mask during the pandemic. Kirk says “the religion of Scientism,” which of course also involves Fauci, is about scientists and experts pretending to know more than you do about your own body to gain power over you and your body under the guise of public health.
“The religion of tolerance–there is a difference of being tolerant and compassionate, we as Christians are not told to be tolerant of evil, we should not be tolerant of evil, ever,” Kirk says. Kirk describes being tolerant of trans and other queer people as giving into “mental delusions.”
Kirk’s points on his so-called “religion of anti-racism” are perhaps the most bizarre.
“The religion of Anti-racism and the cult of diversity,” Kirk says, is the “biggest threat to the American republic.” He goes on to complain about “Black only graduations.” The ceremonies like ‘Black Graduation’ Kirk is referring to are typically special events for students of color held by alumni associations or other groups and happen separately from the official graduation. But Kirk paints them in a different light.
“No whites are allowed, Jurgen!” Kirk says to Matthesius.
Kirk then bizarrely suggests events like Black or Hispanic Graduation weren’t by and for people in those groups. Instead, he says they were thought up by “white liberal suburban wine moms” who feel empty inside because they’ve rejected Christianity and use “the religion of anti-racism and DEI” as a substitute. These white women, Kirk says, hate themselves and think they have to atone for being white by ”donating to BLM” and “apologizing for how they look”.
The messaging was clear: if you’re actively working against racism, if you’re accepting of trans and queer people, if you’re following COVID safety measures, or if you’re concerned about the current environmental crisis, you’re an apostate. And people like Kirk are waging war against apostates.
Kirk’s final words of the San Marcos event, indeed, were about war.
“Guess what? As Christians we are not allowed to be nihilistic. We are not allowed to be cynical. The battle is already won, so it’s time for us to get in the arena and fight.”