North Carolina’s lieutenant governor faces criticism for comments he made about American culture during a speech at a church in Salisbury.
Lt. Gov. Dan Forest faced pushback on social media Friday after liberal news outlet Think Progress posted a story about him warning Cornerstone Church in Salisbury that “diversity and multiculturalism” could be harmful to America. The church posted a video of the June 23 service on its Facebook page.
Forest, a Republican, is expected to challenge Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper in 2020.
“God doesn’t want us to divide our state,” Forest said. “He doesn’t want us to divide our nation. He wants us to bring people together and live in the world like the Acts 2 church did. And yet no other nation, my friends, has ever survived the diversity and multiculturalism that America faces today, because of a lack of assimilation, because of this division, and because of this identity politics.”
“No other nation has ever survived this. But no other nation has ever been founded on the principles of Jesus Christ, that begin the redemption and reconciliation through the atoning blood of our savior,” he continued.
Those comments came during a speech that otherwise focused on the need for unity and “healing.”
Think Progress noted that disparaging comments about “multiculturalism” are sometimes used by white nationalists, citing the Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit that tracks hate groups.
The Twitter account @RedTRaccoon, which has 180,000 followers, posted an excerpt of the Forest video.
“When you hear someone talk negatively about multiculturalism it should raise major red flags,” the account said. By 5 p.m. Friday, the post was retweeted more than 300 times.
Liz Doherty, a spokeswoman for the North Carolina Democratic Party, said Forest’s comments on diversity and multiculturalism are “deeply troubling.”
“They suggest that diversity is somehow harmful to our state and nation when the truth is: diversity should be celebrated — not regarded as a point of weakness,” Doherty said.
Late Friday afternoon, Forest campaign spokesman Hal Weatherman suggested the criticisms were off-base.
“Dan’s speech was one of unity not division, presented to a diverse audience, and was met with universal applause. We will not comment on race baiting political ads,” Weatherman said in an email to the News & Observer.
A ‘multicultural’ church
Cornerstone Church, for its part, celebrates “multicultural diversity” in its mission statement. And, prior to speeches by Forest and other political officials, pastor Bill Godair said he recognized that the American flag makes some of his members uncomfortable. The church has members of 35 nationalities, Godair said.
“Some of them don’t feel the same way I do about the flag. Or they’ve been hurt. And I understand,” Godair said. “Our forefathers were slave owners. That’s just the facts.”
But hate is too much of a burden to carry, Godair said, so he encouraged members to forgive.
As Godair spoke on the church’s live stream, its Facebook account posted: “We are a non-denominational church of diversity. We do not represent a specific ethnic community. We bring together individuals of every culture, color, gender, age and expect a mighty move of God every time we gather together in His name.”
In his speech, Forest encouraged the congregation to get involved in politics. He suggested that the Bible predicted the current political polarization and that God would “heal” the country if Christians prayed for forgiveness.
He compared current culture to 2 Timothy Chapter 3 of the Bible which, in the New International Version translation, says “There will be terrible times in the last days.”
“That’s where we find ourselves in America today,” Forest said.
He said God spiritually engineered the creation of the United States but that Satan is working to divide Americans.
“Sometimes, in today’s age, we call that identity politics,” Forest said. “Dividing and conquering. Black versus white. Rich versus poor, Republican versus Democrat, nation versus nation, and that’s how it goes today. That’s Satan’s plan, that’s his economy,” Forest said.
He offered his assessment of multiculturalism shortly after mentioning Satan’s intentions to divide the country. And then he outlined his hope for the nation.
If “Christians will humble ourselves and turn from our wicked ways and get on our knees and ask a loving and forgiving God to forgive us, he promises to heal our land. And he promises that he’ll give us a better land,” Forest said.
Forest’s speech at Cornerstone Church isn’t the first time he has pushed for a revival of the Christian faith in America.
During a speech at a conservative think tank’s conference last year, Forest said small-government conservatives are in a dangerous place in history because “the left” marches and lobbies for bigger government with “religious fervor.”
“You see it on issues like climate change or the Me Too movement or Black Lives Matter or gun control,” Forest said at the time. “Name the issue today, the fervor has reached a religious pitch in America. Why? Because it really is the religion of the left.”
And the left, he said, “they don’t have a hope in God ... They are hopeless. They truly do believe that, but for the government, but for the work they do, there’s no hope for America. So, it’s a dangerous place to be.”
At Cornerstone Church, Forest took a softer tone toward his political opponents. Prior to his “multiculturalism” comment, Forest told the church to remember that “our political opponents are not our enemies. Those who think different than us are not our enemies. Those who look different than us are not our enemies,” he said.
“When we’re out fighting those battles and you’re thinking ‘Man, I don’t like that person’s political stance’ or ‘I don’t like what they think or ‘I don’t like what they say’ — remember we’re not fighting them,” Forest said, repeating the line. “We’re not fighting them. We are fighting evil forces, and remember as well that we get our power from the armor of God.”