For more than a year, Sean Feucht, a right-wing political evangelical Christian activist, a worship leader at Bethel Church, and a musician and songwriter for the Bethel Music label, has traveled across the United States. On his cross-county trek, he’s hosted outdoor concert revivals with a team of musicians and singers to protest government restrictions on religious gatherings due to COVID-19.
Feucht’s concert revivals, which at times have attracted thousands of attendees, as well as fines from city officials because of their status as super-spreader events, go under the name of “Let Us Worship.”
The first “Let Us Worship” concert took place in July of 2020 at the Sundial Bridge in Redding as COVID-19 infections skyrocketed in Shasta County. Over the next year, Feucht, whose net worth is reportedly $700,000, took his traveling show to more than 100 cities.
In 2019, Feucht and 50 other evangelicals visited President Trump at the White House amid Trump’s first impeachment.
“We just laid our hands on him and prayed for him,” Feucht said. “It was like a real intense, hardcore prayer … it was so wild … I could not believe he invited us.”
In 2020, Feucht made an unsuccessful run for Congress in California’s 3rd Congressional District, finding support from Doug LaMalfa, the U.S. Representative for California’s 1st District, and Kris Vallotton, the lead pastor at Bethel Church in Redding. Feucht has continued to dabble in politics, even though he repeatedly claims to have no interest in it.
LaMalfa’s support for Feucht is yet another example of the congressman’s far-right beliefs and interest in pandering to extremists. It is not a coincidence that both LaMalfa and Feucht have publicly expressed support for the far-right State of Jefferson secessionist movement, whose leadership has expressed racist, homophobic and anti-immigrant sentiments.
Feucht claimed that “Jesus told him to run” for Congress, and some people have speculated that Feucht did so to promote his music, and gather funds for his nonprofit organizations, both of which are clear violations of campaign finance laws. One of these organizations is Hold the Line, a political activist organization launched in the summer of 2020 whose goal is to “engage with the church and with millennials in a way that charges them to become more politically active.”
Feucht’s connection with Bethel Church has continued to run deep. While running for Congress in 2020, he referred to Bethel Church founders Bill and Beni Johnson as his “spiritual parents.” Beni Johnson was also among the thousands in attendance at a September 6, 2020 “Let Us Worship” concert held in front of the California State Capitol in Sacramento. She was photographed at the event wearing a Hold the Line T-shirt.
In a July 2021 Hold the Line podcast discussion with Eric Metaxas, a right-wing extremist author, speaker and radio show host, Feucht claimed that he ran for Congress because of all of the things he had been praying about since he was 16 years old, which included ending abortion rights and taking a standing for family and religious liberty.
In response to the anger Feucht expressed about the closing of churches due to COVID-19 mandates after his run for Congress, Metaxas explained that Christians have failed to realize that “now is the time to fight back.” Metaxas said that one of the problems is that “Christians have really sloppy theology,” and think that their job is to simply be nice and avoid politics.
“How did this idea creep into the Christian church in America, that we’re not supposed to get our hands dirty, unless it’s in some sort of woke cool thing like maybe sexual trafficking?” asked Metaxas, who repeatedly argued that what Christians in the United States need today is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer-type figure. Bonhoeffer was a German pastor and anti-Nazi dissenter executed in Nazi Germany in 1945.
Feucht agreed, and showed he was ready to turn over a new leaf of radical militant Christianity leading up to his “Let Us Worship” event in Portland.
Feucht Returns to Portland
Sunday, Feucht and his team of performers visited Portland to hold their second “Let Us Worship” event on the one-year anniversary of their first visit. As with the first time, it took place at Tom McCall Waterfront Park. Unlike the first, however, a paramilitary force provided security.
In the hours before the event kicked off, Feucht shared on social media that he and his fellow performers would be protected by a team of ex-military and ex-law enforcement “LOVERS OF JESUS and freedom.”
He posted on his Facebook page: “If you mess with them or our 1st amendment right to worship God, you’ll meet Jesus one way or another.”
Feucht’s Facebook statement, which expressed a clear and violent threat to the lives of any potential counter-protesters, included a picture of him kneeling with a guitar in front of the paramilitary force. Scores of individuals on social media expressed their shock at Feucht’s statement about the paramilitary security force. Jay Koopman, a Los Angeles-based preacher at the Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, joined Feucht and the security force in the photograph.
Chris Overstreet, a former Bethel Church evangelist and a graduate of the church’s Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry who now resides in Vancouver and works for an organization known as Compassion to Action, helped his friend Feucht organize the Portland event.
Artur Pawlowski’s “Courageous Truth”
Artur Pawlowski is a Polish-Canadian traveling preacher known for his homophobic, anti-women’s rights, and anti-COVID-mandates activism. The day before the “Let Us Worship” event, he stopped off to give a talk for his “Courageous Truth” tour at Tom McCall Waterfront Park, the same place where Feucht’s event was set to take place. Supporters of the Proud Boys and ANTIFA exchanged paintball fire during Pawlowski’s event. At one point, a group dressed in black clothing and riot gear lobbed flash bombs into the small crowd, shot attendees with bear spray and reportedly destroyed and threw sound equipment into the Willamette River.
Media outlets claimed the attack was led by ANTIFA. Overstreet agreed, citing that ANTIFA was “trying to put fear into the heart of the church.” While the group that responded to Pawlowski’s event certainly stepped beyond the bounds of their right to free speech, it is important to understand that they were responding to the intensely violent rhetoric of a white Christian supremacist.
Joey Gibson, the founder of Patriot Prayer, a Vancouver-based far-right organization that has organized several dozen events in cities throughout the Pacific Northwest and Northern California attended by white nationalists and Proud Boys, and his girlfriend who goes by Lindsey Nichole on Facebook, were among those targeted by the counter-protesters at the “Courageous Truth” event.
Nichole claimed in one video that went viral on social media due to the attention it received from conservative journalists and activists such as Andy Ngo, that attendees “were about to have a worship event and ANTIFA just rolled in like an angry mob.”
The event was inaccurately described by individuals like Ngo as a “family Christian prayer event” to make it sound more innocent than it was. Gibson and Nichol returned the next day for Feucht’s “Let Us Worship” event.
Feucht Has Been Looking for a Fight
One thing is for certain, Feucht has long been looking for a fight. The premise behind his national “Let Us Worship” tour is ostensibly based on the notion that Christians who wish to exercise their freedom to practice their faith were oppressed by COVID-19 mandates and bans against in-person church attendance. Feucht has consistently not encouraged masks or social distancing at his events, even when they have taken place in cities where COVID-19 infection rates were skyrocketing. Feucht has also openly expressed the belief that COVID-19 and the vaccine are both hoaxes.
In addition, Feucht has purposely scheduled “Let Us Worship” events in cities witnessing protests in response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in 2020, including Minneapolis itself, perhaps in hope of stirring up conflict between Feucht followers and non-followers. It appears as if he finally struck gold in Portland.
Andrey Ivanov: The Leader of Sean Feucht’s Private Security Team
One of the individuals in charge of organizing and leading Feucht’s paramilitary security force was Vancouver resident Andrey Invanov. Ivanov is a veteran of the Navy Reserve, a licensed real estate agent, and founder of Flash Love, an organization that reportedly mentors young men and helps them, “place God at the center of their lives.”
Flash Love is a militaristic youth organization and its promise to create “Godly men” is rooted in extreme notions of masculinity, religion and society.
The day before the Portland “Let Us Pray” event, Ivanov attended a larger rally against the COVID-19 vaccine mandates in Vancouver near PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. The event was led by local healthcare workers who refused to receive the vaccine at the risk of losing their jobs, as well as other anti-vaxxers and COVID-19-deniers in the community calling for “medical freedom.”
A similar event, known as the “Stop the Mandates Rally,” was held Monday in front of Mercy Medical in Redding, not long after a COVID-related nurse shortage temporarily shut down the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Ivanov’s right-wing Christian extremist rants on social media about “Godly men and women” needing to take a stand, and his stance that COVID-19 is a hoax, is coupled with political commentary that compares what is happening in the United States to Nazi Germany. Ivanov has lambasted the so-called “socialist indoctrination in our schools,” among other things.
Ivanov’s extreme political and social viewpoints, combined with his efforts to train young men in a militaristic fashion that emphasizes right-wing perspectives of so-called Godliness and masculinity are alarming. His perspectives resemble the commentary, minus the religious rhetoric, expressed in the north state by popular right-wing extremists like Carlos Zapata.
On Aug. 7, Ivanov put out a call on Facebook to help him provide security for Feucht’s Aug. 8 concert the following day:
“I NEED BOLD MEN TO HELP ME DEFEND SEAN FEUGHT’S LET US WORSHIP EVENT IN PORTLAND TOMORROW,” wrote Ivanov, followed by, “PLEASE DM ME IF YOU’RE NOT AFRAID.”
The day after the Portland event Ivanov shared his perspectives on Facebook, where he wrote a variety of messages:
“They divide us, but we unite.”
“They spread fear and lies about us, but we stand and declare God’s truth.”
“This wasn’t just a gathering, it was a rallying cry and all out [sic] war against evil!”
“Thugs will not rule our cities and the church is finally growing a backbone!!!”
In addition to Ivanov’s Facebook comments, he included a photograph of event attendees. He appeared in the photograph Feucht took with the private paramilitary force, and in several of the amateur videos and photographs of the event that are currently circulating on social media.
Responses to Ivanov’s Call for “Bold Men to Help”
The paramilitary force organized by Ivanov included about 40 men. One of these individuals was Aleksey Puzhlyakov. He worked as a mechanical engineer while serving for the U.S. Navy from 2011 until 2015. He’s been employed as a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve in Vancouver since being discharged and is either a first- or second-generation Russian American.
Another individual who responded to Ivanov’s call for help was Ivan Didyk, a Ukrainian-born resident of Vancouver who works as a critical care nurse at the PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Didyk shared a photograph of himself shaking hands with Feucht while dressed in a bulletproof vest and appearing to be armed.
“The Father’s Love was so strong that I feel I will never be able to love the same,” Didyk wrote.
A significant portion of Feucht’s paramilitary security team and their social network helpers were of Russian and Ukrainian descent. In his July 2021 “Hold the Line” discussion with Metaxas, Feucht cited that when he visited Portland in July of 2020 to host his first “Let Us Worship” event in the city, local residents of Russian descent were some of the only people he could get to agree to work for him because of the social unrest in the city.
“The only people that I could find to go with me were Russians,” Feucht said.
“I asked the Russians, ‘Why do you want to go?” stated Feucht, who shared their reply: “We refuse to let this place become like the place we fled.”
The absence of reality in the kind of thinking expressed by the Russian Americans who worked for Feucht highlights the presence of a historically bankrupt and exaggerated sense of patriotic American nationalism. Similar hyper-nationalistic sentiments have been expressed by Carlos Zapata, a second-generation citizen of Peruvian descent, and leader of the Red, White and Blueprint project that’s documenting an attempt to recall three Shasta County Supervisors.
Metaxas responded to Feucht’s claimed about people of Russian descent by stating that men in the United States have lost the sense of manliness that was present in 1941, when scores of young men enlisted in the military to fight the Nazis and fascism in Europe. Metaxas claimed that “biblical manhood” was the answer. Minus the religious rhetoric, Metaxas’s criticism of masculinity in the contemporary U.S. mirrors that of Zapata and many of his north state right-wing extremist cohorts.
Casey Fox, a greater Vancouver resident, also joined Ivanov and the other men who attended the “Let Us Worship” event to provide security. Fox served in the United States Air Force as a Security Forces officer from 1995 until 2006. He worked in a variety of positions after his military service, including a stint as an armed security guard for Inter-Con Security Systems, Inc., a multinational private security company operating in North and South America, Africa and Europe, between 2018 and 2019.
Micah Baker, a graduate of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, also helped provide security for the event, further illustrating the strong tie Feucht continues to have with Bethel Church. Baker also has connections with Chris Overstreet and Compassion to Action.
‘Let Us Worship’ in Portland Part Two:
The “Let Us Worship” event in Portland lasted for more than two-and-a-half hours. It consisted mostly of music, but also included preaching by Feucht, Overstreet, Jay Koopman, and local Christians. Feucht opened the first half of the musical portion of the show with his song, “Let Everything,” and from the very beginning he and the other performers were surrounded by members of the paramilitary security force, some of whom appeared to be armed.
Feucht and his band played music for the next hour until he took a break to speak with the audience. Despite the fact that there were no incidents of violence within the crowd, he stated that those who were not showing that they knew the songs — presumably by singing and dancing along — were the ones who intended to cause problems.
“If you don’t know the song, you’re not a believer, so I found you!” exclaimed Feucht.
Feucht went on to claim that when his traveling “Let Us Worship” show stopped off in Portland in 2020, people were burning Bibles and protesting in the streets until the he helped the church show up. He then claimed that he wanted to cry because of the inspiration the good people of Portland have provided for the world.
“In a scared world, we need a fearless church,” exclaimed Feucht, who also said that there was no real estate for Satan in Portland.
Midway through the event, Feucht stopped again to declared that Jesus was the only thing that could bring people hope, even beyond politics, despite his very recent run for Congress and his frequent political rhetoric. He also boasted that the “Let Us Worship” show had been taken “into places that nobody else wanted to go,” meaning urban centers across the U.S.
After he spoke for a few minutes, Feucht and the band returned to perform again. After a few songs, Koopman took the stage and encouraged the crowd to kneel and find Jesus, while displaying his unimpressive ability to speak in tongues. As the crowd kneeled and prayed, Feucht’s photography team scampered around snapping photos and recording videos as they had the entire show.
“Chicagoooobonabonatee obrenabosataa Jeeeesus Jeeeesus!” shouted Koopman as Feucht quietly tuned his acoustic guitar for another song.
Before Feucht and the band resumed playing music, Koopman, while continuing to shout “Jesus!” encouraged people to throw a variety of products onto the stage; everything from cigarettes and lighters to syringes. The moment seemed staged, as the items thrown on stage by attendees resembled the same items collected at previous shows.
Koopman then ran to the side of the stage to save a supposedly troubled man. As this occurred, the band played background music and the photographers captured it all as one jokingly claimed that they “needed better angles” to showcase the young man supposedly being saved.
“Seetadaboodasatatteeeteee!” shouted Koopman as a larger number of people kneeled and placed their hands on the man.
After speaking for a little longer, Koopman sent ushers through the crowd to collect donations and encouraged attendees to purchase “Let Us Worship” merchandise, among other things. Following this, Feucht and the band performed one more song and Overstreet closed out the show.
Counter-protesters, a group whose number was incredibly small, faced the constant threat of violence throughout the event. In one instance, a Black Lives Matters flag was ripped away from a man who was also pushed backward by another baton-welding man.
‘Let Us Worship’ Violent Right-Wing Extremism
Feucht’s paramilitary security force highlights the threatening presence of a Christian supremacist and far-right extremist Russian and Ukrainian American population in the Portland-Vancouver area. Along with white men, and a few men of color, a significant portion of the force was composed of individuals from these communities.
The individuals who appeared in the photograph with Feucht acted as his formal paramilitary security, but there was a more dangerous and violent element that showed up to provide additional assistance. Due to their connections and the way they worked together before and after the event, it is reasonable to surmise that Ivanov and the others who appeared in the photograph with Feucht invited the more dangerous “security” element. It seemed apparent that the former was certainly not bothered by the presence of the latter.
Local members of the Proud Boys, the most visible and vocal being Tusitala “Tiny” Toese, was in attendance. Toese, who is also affiliated Joey Gibson’s Patriot Prayer group, as well as the Oath Keepers, has a violent past and has been known to specifically visit the city to attack people during protest events.
Toese was recorded on video at the “Let Us Worship” event aggressively trying to intimidate members of ANTIFA and other counter-protesters on several occasions. He also appeared in a highly edited video of the “Let Us Worship” event shared by Feucht on his Facebook page. Feucht’s video depicted Toese in a positive light, even though he circled the event acting in a highly aggressive manner.
In one video shared on Twitter, Toese is seen directing Ivanov and others who provided security for Feucht in their fight against counter-protesters in downtown Portland after the “Let Us Worship” event.
Igor Ponomarev is (long-sleeved white shirt) is seen running down the street with a bat before Tusitala “Tiny Toese proceeds to direct the row of men who served as Feucht’s paramilitary force at the “Let Us Worship” event. Andrey Ivanov is seen in the middle of the row wearing a light brown bullet-proof vest.
Toese was joined by a group of men affiliated with far-right groups who, like him, have caused bloodshed on the streets of Portland in recent months and who have extensive criminal histories. This includes Vitaliy Ponomarev and Igor Ponomarev, Russian American brothers from the Vancouver-Portland area.
After the “Let Us Worship” event ended, Vitaliy dangerously drove his truck through protesters in downtown Portland as Igor sprayed bear repellent out the window. Igor also assaulted an individual with a bat earlier that evening. In 2010, Vitaliy was convicted of a felony for a high-profile burglary he committed to support his heroin habit.
Jeff Grace, a resident of Battle Ground arrested for entering the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection on January 6, was also among the men in the group which included Toese. On Tuesday, federal prosecutors filed a new court document in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C. due to Grace’s role in the violence which took place in Portland on Saturday and Sunday. Grace was seen carrying a firearm and other weapons, and assaulting another man. The new court documents argue that Grace should be prohibited from possessing any firearms, weapons or destructive devices while awaiting trial for the actions he committed during the insurrection in Washington D.C. He is currently only banned from possessing illegal firearms.
Joey Gibson and the individual who goes by Lindsey Nichole on Facebook, dressed in black, covered their faces, and infiltrated the group of counter-protesters at the “Let Us Worship” event until their identity was discovered. The latter shared a photograph of the two on Facebook and boasted about how they supposedly infiltrated ANTIFA. She flashed the III%er “white power” hand gesture in the photograph.
Feucht is Partially to Blame for the Violence in Portland
It is a fact that Sean Feucht and his formal security force attracted far-right-minded and violent individuals to the Portland “Let Us Worship” event. Violence of any kind is not acceptable, but it is essential to realize the fact that counter-protesters attended the event because of the presence of individuals with far-right affiliations and histories of violence.
Feucht is partially to blame for the violence that took place during and after his “Let Us Worship” event. After word spread about the violence, as well as the far-right nature of the paramilitary security force at the event, and the fact that members of the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer were in attendance, Chris Overstreet took to Facebook to post a live video on Monday in defense of his friend Feucht.
In his live video, Overstreet claimed that he had taken it upon himself to organize a security team comprised of people connected to local churches “that loved the lord with all their heart.”
Overstreet denied the rumors that he or Feucht invited the Proud Boys or members of other far-right organizations to the concert. He also stated that Ivanov did an “absolutely phenomenal” job in leading the security team.
Despite this, on Wednesday, Ivanov scrubbed his Facebook page and deleted or made private all content dealing with the “Let Us Worship” event and his Flash Love organization. Ivanov likely wiped his Facebook page clean because of the heat he had taken for his involvement in the event and its aftermath of social media.
Regardless of whether or not Feucht or Overstreet invited the Proud Boys and other far-right individuals, the latter’s obvious attempt to do damage control for the event and its aftermath shows that he knew there was a problem.
Intersectional Far-Right Identities
Even though Overstreet did not admit this in his live video, the real problem is the intersectionality between the worlds of radical right-wing Christianity, domestic terrorist organization like the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer, white nationalism, homophobia, anti-immigrant nativism, anti-urban sentiments, and right-wing politics in general.
Is it any wonder that a member of the Proud Boys would want to show up to a Sean Feucht-led event?
Likewise, is it any wonder that Feucht proudly wears a State of Jefferson shirt, or that he shares his ties to Bethel Church with Jeremy Edwardson, one of the owners of the Red, White and Blueprint media company? Finally, is it any wonder that the Proud Boys and the State of Jefferson movement can show up on the same flags, clothing and stickers? Is it any wonder that members of the Proud Boys, from near and far, showed up in Redding to support Carlos Zapata after his hearing at the courthouse?
Feucht Doubles Down, Says It’s Time for ‘Woke Passive Christians’ to Fight Back
Like Overstreet, Feucht also went live on Facebook to an audience of more than 3,500 viewers on Tuesday. He claimed that he was “super over these woke passive Christians” who refuse to fight back, and that he had “no problem with having security at the event,” because people needed to be protected.
Feucht claimed that counter-protesters waited to attack attendees until after the event, but there is little evidence to prove attendees to the “Let Us Worship” event were directly targeted and attacked.
In the Facebook Live video, Feucht repeatedly emphasized the belief that it is time for Christians to rise up and fight back.
“In an era of cancel culture, we don’t cancel our events,” claimed Feucht. He ended his live video by asking viewers to donate money to him, to keep an eye out for his forthcoming album, and to attend his next “Let Us Worship” event in Washington D.C. on September 11 and 12. Just like the Red, White and Blueprint and State of Jefferson hucksters, Feucht is always ready to take donations and sell merchandise.
Like the Red, White, and Blueprint media company, as well as the Recall Shasta organization and the State of Jefferson movement, Feucht’s best-selling product is fear, and a false sense of victimhood. Importantly, his calls for a less passive form of religiosity echoes that of Metaxas, Ivanov and scores of other radical right-wing religious figures in the U.S. and abroad.
The path upon which Sean Feucht embarked last summer has changed. Before our very eyes we’ve watched him transform from a COVID-denying outdoor Christian musician and evangelist that carted along an ever-evolving cast of performers, to to a right-wing evangelist calling for violence.
Feucht’s continued claims to be disinterested in politics, and only interested in God, appear disingenuous. In fact, his politics have only gotten more extreme since his “Let Us Worship” tour began in Redding. Feucht has taken Bethel Church’s philosophy of direct healing, and public signs, wonders and miracles to a militant, violent, fascist and white nationalistic far-right population who is buying what he is selling.