Participants of Take Our Border Back Convoy listen to worship service

Attendees listen to a worship service at the "Take Our Border Back Convoy" rally on February 3, 2024 in Quemado, Texas.

(Photo by Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images)

Let Us Pray: God's Gullible, Ugly Army Limps to the Border

As GOP House leaders trash as "a stinking pile of crap" a border deal that (unconscionably) gives them most of what they've demanded to "solve" a crisis they in fact have no interest in solving, several dozen witless MAGA nativists—a tad shy of their avowed 700,000—joined a bedraggled "Take Our Border Back" convoy to the southern border to wave flags, preach hate, hawk merch, get baptized, hear Sarah Palin babble, and decry a migrant "invasion" that, once there, failed to materialize. SAD!

Loopily dubbed "God's Army," the parade of fervid, aggrieved patriots is the latest grim evidence of a rising tide of Christo-fascists who can't seem to abide anyone not like them—gay, trans, poor, Muslim, brown, black especially after one of them got to be president. More recent proof of our ungodly lurch to the right: Last week's National Prayer Breakfast, begun by a theocratic "Fellowship" representing "the most pernicious example of fake Christianity the world has ever seen" and now run by a foundation likely just as hateful, was for the first time held in the Capitol's Statuary Hall, "the heart of our democracy"—a move deemed "very disturbing," and one instigated by creepy Christian Nationalist Mike Johnson, who also just invited televangelist hate pastor Jack Hibbs, a raging, racist bigot who calls trans people "Satanic," to deliver the House opening prayer. In it, he beseeched God to bring "holy fear" to lawmakers for a "coming day of judgment (when) all who have been and are now in authority will answer to God." In brief, heathens, beware.

Meanwhile, the folks who love to selectively quote from a holy text commanding we love our neighbors are now wildly denouncing a border bill pending in the Senate because it doesn't go far enough—maybe machine-gun turrets on the Rio Grande?—to repel an "invasion" of poor brown people fleeing for their lives because, with the economy robust, if they agree to it what can they whine, lie, grandstand and fearmonger about for the election? Their call to #KilltheBill—ie blatant refusal to govern—comes in the face of a bill blasted by rights groups for Stephen-Miller-tinged "poison pill provisions" that would "eviscerate" asylum protections, expel people without due process, throw Dreamers under the bus, grant unbridled executive power to close the border and give them everything they want but a pony. One Dem:"They literally demanded specific policy, got it, and then killed it." With the bill linked to Ukraine aid, another said of their "breathtaking" cynicism, "People will die, today." Still, say a cabal of opportunistic pinheads, the bill is "DEAD on arrival," "an unmitigated disaster," "betrayal," "INSANE."

Speaking of. The much-ballyhooed God's Army was initially heralded as a 700,000-strong "mighty force" of crusaders forging their unholy way from Virginia to three border states to halt a pernicious invasion of "millions and millions" of brown-skinned hordes across Sleepy Joe's invitingly, entirely open border in order to steal their jobs, sell their fentanyl, rape their neighbors, and otherwise wreak havoc on our pristine white shores. Its leaders were right-wing crackpots and "patriot-world influencers"—conservative radio hosts, homophobic white-nationalist "Mike America" and his "Exiled Patriots," a Mike Flynn ally who promoted it on Alex Jones' show and Tucker Carlson—and its rhetoric was apocalyptic. "God’s army is rising up," said one organizer on a planning call. "We all have been chosen for this time." The event was billed as "a biblical, monumental moment (put) together by God" because "we are besieged on all sides by dark forces of evil." "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God," she said per the Book of Revelation. "It is time for the remnant to rise."

According to chats on the right-wing Telegram channel, many peacemakers also felt it was time to start "exterminating” migrants, or at least tracking them down, bounty-hunter style. While organizers insisted the protest would be peaceful, its website called on "all active & retired law enforcement and military," also veterans, along with "mama bears," ranchers, truckers, bikers etc; its ranks included many militia members—they were told their "side arms" were welcome but long guns were not—and rallies would all be held on private property to ensure they could police things as they saw fit. Still, a sense of paranoia ran deep: Many worried the convoy was a federal government "setup" to "entrap" patriots, a “psyop” stacked with trolls and feds and infiltrators, just like Jan. 6, but they assured communicants that instigators would face “the wrath of the Navy SEALs and the Green Berets on the ground." Above all, "People need to pray for discernment about this"—a big ask of a ragtag assemblage of fervid conspiracy theorists, bellicose xenophobes, and pig-ignorant MAGA flunkies, but God knows they tried.

The timing of the convoy was inadvertently auspicious: Before they set out, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, ever intent on keeping out the brown horde, had illegally erected razor wire around the vital Eagle Pass crossing, thus blocking federal Border Patrol access to it. When a migrant woman and two children drowned in the river—reportedly because feds couldn't get to her—and SCOTUS ruled the wire had to go, Texas embarked on a "hold-the-line" battle with the federal government quickly joined by over a dozen rabid, pro-razor-wire GOP governors who started comparing the fascist Abbott to feckin' Gideon's Army. It was all enticing fodder for a self-declared God's Army—aka "the world’s most gullible imbeciles," a MAGA "joke without a punchline," a "comically disorganized and useless parade of con artists and the conned drifting from one apocalyptic grievance to the next"—firing up to sweep in many thousands of trucks to a border where "our language and culture are being destroyed." One starry-eyed woman: "I would love to see a million Americans show up (and) link arms."

A million. 700,000. Reality bites. In truth, the "biblical, monumental moment" got off to a decidedly underwhelming start, with photos showing about 20 forlorn vehicles turning up at Virginia Beach to do God's will and "Take Our Border Back" from the hungry and desperate. Anarchy Princess: "Guys, this is the fucking convoy. 19 vehicles." (Or 699,981 fewer than 700,000.) From the start, mayhem and ineptitude reigned in what promptly became a "slow-rolling PR nightmare," with believers mostly "battling each other, paranoia and their GPS system." The first day, some patriots woke to find their tires slashed; after a motel parking lot prayer from a wingnut pastor with Church Militant, the convoy pulled out an hour late led by a MAGA-bedecked bus trailing flags and signs: "Join the God Fight, Trump Won, He Will Be Back, Fuck Biden," a razor-wire-wrapped Jesus hugging a flag. They lost a car, lost each other at a Buc-ee’s, bickered about where to spend the night, scrubbed and moved meetings, and at one point pulled over to abruptly eject a rider, reportedly a Jan. 6 devotee, without his wallet.

Despite raising about $157,000 from "private donors"—no word on where it went—there were glitches and letdowns. Someone sent an urgent plea for online reinforcements: "We need keyboard warriors. If you’re sittin’ at home, you’re on your phone, we want you to be warriorin’ fer us." Someone got scammed and charged the convoy was made up of "grifting, motherfucking live-streamers." Most dishearteningly—much like the truckers who thumped into DC to protest already-lifted COVID restrictions only to get stuck in Beltway traffic and cussed out by commuters—nobody could agree on just why they were there. They were "a show of force," "a gathering of patriots just here to have a good time," "protecting each other," "listening to God," "there'll be prayers and stuff," "the mission here is the border," "we're all going to the border." Except, umm, not. En route, organizers tweaked their plan to terrorize migrants at the border—bummer—and declared their final stop was a children’s ranch in Quemado, Texas (pop.162) where they would "have prayer" and "a redress of grievances against an out-of-control federal government."

First, though, they held a rally at a whiskey distillery in Dripping Springs, Texas, where about 27 people got a mug of free beer, browsed the booths of hucksters—Grifting the Easily Grifted!—selling Trump flags, hats, t-shirts, posters, and eventually settled in folded chairs to feebly cheer on the speakers on a stage proclaiming the convoy's arrival on "February 3th." Cue a dolled-up, very squawky, utterly incoherent Sarah Palin (!!) screeching about "a foreign invasion of our country" and "God-given rights" and "every violation of our charters of liberty that is goin' on right now like Article 1, umm, Article 4 and different clauses" and "if that's not treason I dunno what treason is!" and "we have to stand tall!" Then she introduced "ridiculously patriotic,” also eloquent, Ted Nugent, who played one shrill note on his guitar, bemoaned “compromise bullshit" that let “the snakes take over our country," apologized "to we the people for allowing this piece of shit to get into the White House," and callied President Biden a “devil scum snake.” As always, he seems nice.

On Sunday, the ungodly pilgrims finally arrived, not at the devoutly-to-be-wished border, but the small, ministerial Cornerstone Children's Ranch in Quemado, about 20 miles from the Eagle Pass border crossing; a guy on horseback waving a Christian flag led a small crowd akin to "a county fair on a slow day." There were confounding signs—"Collecting Democrat (sic) Votes One Dead Stiff At A Time" and "Heaven Has Walls, Hell Has Open Borders"—group prayers, more swag, loud bad music, many tearful baptisms evidently aimed at stopping the barbarians: "You can't make this shit up." Some of what Jeff Tiedrich eloquently terms the "dipshit vigilantes" offered incisive analysis to explain their pointless presence. "We love legal immigrants, but these illegals are keeping us from having jobs," said one, dutifully echoing every "yammering blowhard" on Fox News. Another called Mexicans "wonderful beautiful people" before she added, "But it seems like, once they come here...they become militants. You know, they become angry. They do robbery, burglaries and stuff."

Some members of the convoy, curious or defiant, went on to Eagle Pass, where Abbott and other GOP governors had gathered to holler about their racist rights. In an interview, Misty Gregory said actually seeing the border—with no hordes in sight but a few small, brown, crying children, clutching water bottles, being loaded on buses—was "eye-opening." How so, asked the reporter. Said a confused Misty, "Well, it wasn't as bad as I expected." No shit, Sherlock. Meanwhile, residents of Eagle Pass—a largely Latino community where folks from Piedras Negras across the river daily come to work, shop, see friends—berated "dangerous, violent groups" coming there "to preach hate." "This is not who we are," said Jessie Fuentes. "We are constantly being told we’re being invaded, and that never felt true until today when the convoy came to town. This is political theater by outsiders." As Dr. Phil's helicopter hovers above, Marco Castillo bitterly echoes him. "What is all of this for? Show," he says, and blames Abbott's malevolent, gratuitous, razor-wire avengers. "Look what they brought."

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