Overview:

The Ammon Bundy election committee reserved a tiny park under false pretenses and under a whole other name, hoping to skirt the rules and fees for the huge event they wanted to have. They got caught, the event got canceled, and Ammon Bundy is now crying persecution on social media and comparing himself to MLK.

Reading Time: 9 minutes

Ammon Bundy needs attention again, I suppose. After a frenetic summer of grandstanding outside of a hospital, he continues to campaign for public office in Idaho. To help him win the upcoming governor’s race, he planned a September 10th rally at a park in Boise. However, his election committee lied to the park’s governing board about the size and nature of the event. And now, he’s lying about exactly why the mayor canceled his event. Gosh, what a real-deal, shining example of Christianity he is! But in this way, he joins a great many other liars-for-Jesus. Lying about the consequences of their own lying is one of the best-beloved games in his end of Christianity.

Stuff Christians like: Feeling persecuted without actually being persecuted

Christians don’t like actually being persecuted, but a fair number of them like feeling persecuted. Over ten years ago, Arizona resident Michael Salman wanted to start a home church. But this wouldn’t be a normal home church, which is just a few folks meeting in a living room and hopefully growing enough in number to afford their own building. No, he needed to build a 4200-square-foot church building with all the frills. And he desperately needed to do this on his home property in a tightly-packed suburban neighborhood.

Alas, no way would the zoning board approve. So Salman simply lied to them about what he was building. He told them he was making a gaming shed. Naturally, he did not even try to observe any building codes for his project, nor ensure that his neighborhood could handle the increased traffic, security, and sanitation requirements that such a church would need.

When the city found out the truth, they put a stop to the whole mess. Of course, Salman claimed he was totally being PERSECUTED for jus’ bein’ KRISCHIN. Like, all he wanted to do was have a lil bitty BIBLE STUDY. He thought he lived in AMURKA! His lawyer even compared this totally real persecution to what was happening in Iran.

Salman sued the city, but it doesn’t seem like he was successful there. But don’t you worry none about him. He went on to a scam involving healthcare fraud before apparently relocating to Los Angeles.

Truly, there is nothing new under the sun. Fast forward a bit, move a few states up, and we find a markedly similar situation erupting in Idaho today.

Situation Report: What actually happened with the Ammon Bundy rally

Ammon Bundy wanted to have a political rally on September 10 in Cassia Park in Boise, Idaho. It was gonna be big. He titled it on his event calendar as the “keep Idaho IDAHO” event.

Source: The event calendar on the Ammon Bundy political campaign site.

It’s not hard to imagine what Ammon Bundy thinks that phrase means, either: making Idaho the kingdom of white Christian nationalists and hardline right-wing evangelicals like himself. (If you didn’t know, this public menace claims to be a devout Mormon.) I guarantee you he thinks that the Republic of Gilead didn’t go far enough in punishing and enslaving his enemies, while also being positive that his version of it would be just so Jesus-y that it wouldn’t ever allow the horrific abuses we saw in that series to happen.

(Evangelicals already complain that their theocratic authoritarian regimes would never.)

According to the ad his election committee posted on Facebook for the event, Ammon Bundy apparently had planned for his big political blowout to feature food trucks, live music, multiple speakers, henna/face painting, bouncy castles for the kids of attendees, “and more!”

And he wanted to hold it at Cassia Park for some bizarre reason.

Cassia Park, the location of this huge blowout

For the 99.99% of the world that is not familiar with Boise, Cassia Park is a little bitty community pocket park. It’s located in a cute neighborhood called the Boise Bench. That’s just south of Boise’s gorgeous city rose garden, zoo, and its biggest park. (Nearby, we also find the beautiful and animal-filled Albertson Park. If you ever find yourself in Boise, do check it out.) Cassia Park features playground equipment, pleasant walking paths, stuff for dogs and kids to do, a small shelter from the elements, a bathroom, and a bit of open field for activities like sports.

This park is so small that I can’t even remember seeing it, much less ever having visited it.

The idea of someone holding a huge blowout white-Christian-nationalist political rally there, much less one featuring live music and food trucks, is absolutely WTAF. The park is simply not big enough. And it’s completely surrounded by homes. I’m sure those families don’t want the Bundy Circus showing up on their doorsteps on September 10.

Even ignoring that Ammon Bundy and his Republic of Gilead politics are a bit out of place in the liberal-leaning city itself, this decision makes no sense whatsoever. One wonders why he even wanted to hold it there, rather than at the really big Julia Davis Park just a couple blocks northeast. Cassia Park doesn’t even have the necessary bathroom facilities for an event like he described in his advertisement.

Money is more important to Ammon Bundy than honesty; I wonder if his supporters know this

Oh. This is likely why:

It’s way, way less expensive to rent the small shelter at Cassia Park for a fairly private gathering than to rent the far more appropriate space at, say, Julia Davis for what the city calls a “special event.” The “Keep Idaho IDAHO” rally definitely qualifies as a special event. There’s also a separate fee of $212 for special events, as page 5 of the city’s handbook tells us, along with a host of requirements.

For that matter, I guarantee you that nobody on the Ammon Bundy election committee considered a single item on the health and safety checklist provided on page 6, nor the overview on page 11, nor the security and medical checklist on page 13.

Cassia Park can be rented for larger events. The person reserving it just didn’t tell them it was in fact a larger event, much less a special event. And then, for good measure, that person rented the park’s small space under a completely different name. Either Ammon Bundy told them to do it, or he allowed it.

I’ve been writing about evangelical dishonesty, greed, and hypocrisy for almost ten years now, and the sheer dishonesty, greed, and hypocrisy that is constantly displayed by Ammon Bundy still blows my mind. I guess it’s true that the hypocritical apples rarely fall far from their mindblowingly-hypocritical tree.

I wonder if Ammon Bundy seriously thought nobody would notice if he rolled up on Cassia Park with his carnival of right-wing white Christian nationalism on September 10. It’s more likely that he loved the idea of doing exactly that. He’s deliberately antagonized authority figures in Boise for a while now.

Canceled!

Alas for him, Boise’s mayor, Lauren McLean, simply cancelled the event. Afterward, she issued a statement on Twitter regarding the cancellation:

You may hear the city cancelled a reservation made for, but not by, Ammon Bundy for a campaign rally at Cassia Park on September 10th. Upon discovering this park reservation was made under a different name, and for a different purpose, the city canceled the reservation.

I believe Mr. Bundy intentionally misrepresented the event on the reservation to skirt the special events process and requirements we have in place.

Bundy and his associates have made a habit of harassing city employees, personally targeting doctors, and threatening judges and so many others in our community and consistently disregard established ways of ensuring public safety.

The people of Boise have had enough of his threats and intimidation, and do not wish to welcome someone with Mr. Bundy’s track record into the heart of our community.

His followers promptly exploded into accusations of MUH FREEZE PEACH, but the statement leaves no room for ambiguity. The guy lied to the city. The city found out and canceled his event. If he wants to hold an event, he must do so according to the rules. And of course, if the city thinks he’s a present or potential danger to others, they have every right to refuse him on that basis alone.

Hey, I hear that the He Gets Us ad campaign talks about how Jesus was totes canceled too. Maybe Ammon Bundy can become a partner of theirs.

Compounding the lie: Ammon Bundy on why he got his event canceled

Immediately, Ammon Bundy sprang into action to refuse even a little accountability. Nobody should be surprised; evangelical leaders tend to be allergic to the A-word.

What’s absolutely amazing to me is exactly how he tried to skirt accountability.

The guy compared himself to, I kid you not, Martin Luther King, Jr., and his belligerent band of rabble-rousers to, I also kid you not, the civil rights movement that Dr. King led at the time. Then he claimed that Mayor McLean was forcing some kind of, I again assure you is not a joke, Jim Crow stuff on him. And finally, he wondered aloud if Mayor McLean would have revoked his rally if he’d been “a gay Democrat.”

I. Just. CAN’T.

My sides. My sides are in ORBIT. Look! They have left! They are gone, up into the sky and out of view! Maybe they’ll return later tomorrow, or maybe I’ll just never see them again. It’ll be tough to explain my lack of a ribcage to my doctor, but only lay thine eyes upon my sides’ fields, and thou shalt see that they are barren.

Ammon Bundy’s followers lapped up his rhetoric, of course. You can see some of them repeating his talking points in the Twitter thread the mayor wrote, and I’ve seen them talking similarly across social media. That’s all normal. We saw the exact same mentality on display when Southern Baptist extremists tried to force Ed Litton to quit the presidency of their denomination.

Just the sheer lack of introspection and the sheer egotism and entitlement required to make those comparisons took my breath away. Ammon Bundy suffers from weapons-grade narcissistic grandiosity.

But he’s just what his followers want and need right now, so they don’t care.

I mean, it’s not exactly what Jesus told them to do, now is it..?

Ammon Bundy and his antics show that the Christian Right is getting more desperate by the day to regain their onetime dominance. To get back that dominance, they are willing to ignore every single thing that Jesus and the Bible have ever told them to do. Something way more important than pleasing Jesus and going to Heaven is at stake here, after all, and it’s something real: power in the real world.

Of course, the Bible has a lot to say about lying. (So do Mormons’ holy books.) Even Jesus himself supposedly said something about it:

16“Do you still not understand?” Jesus asked. 17“Do you not yet realize that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then is eliminated? 18But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these things defile a man. 19For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. 20These are what defile a man, but eating with unwashed hands does not defile him.”

Matthew 15:18-20

Sure, that was right before the part where Jesus acts like a weird racist. It still counts.

Christians like Ammon Bundy love to pretend they love Jesus and obey the Bible as the ultimate authority in their lives. They love to act like Jesus himself dictates their political opinions. But their behavior demonstrates the opposite.

And weirdly, Jesus doesn’t ever seem to care that these followers of his are giving his religion an even worse credibility problem than it already has.

Why evangelicals never seem upset when their leaders lie

Authoritarians love top-level leaders who act like Jesus. It means they can functionally ignore everything that leader tells them to do, while still paying lip service to obeying.

That’s why the followers of Ammon Bundy only enable his dishonesty. They don’t mind that he lies constantly to everyone. In evangelical culture, his constant flouting of the tribe’s official rules makes him a folk hero to evangelicals, not someone to reject and denounce.

If they hitch their wagons to Ammon Bundy’s star, then they, too, might get the opportunity to flout their tribe’s rules like he does. Maybe he’ll notice their fervor and devout obedience. Once he does, maybe he’ll elevate them in his organization. He’ll give them more responsibility and power.

And then, they’ll be able to command people in his name.

Even if they never achieve that kind of power, at least they’ll be part of a big mob of people who feel entitled to use intimidation and lies to get their way.

If it weren’t Ammon Bundy at the helm, they’d find someone else who gives them what they want.

Don’t expect Ammon Bundy to stop these stunts any time soon

Just as Christians build themselves a version of Jesus and Yahweh that fit who they are and what they want to do in Christianity, they follow leaders they think will get them the results they desire from affiliation.

Since Ammon Bundy himself clearly has no problem with lying, nor with disobeying direct orders from Jesus, Mormon holy books, and the Bible, then he likely won’t have any problem with his sub-leaders doing the same things he does. The higher up someone gets in his organization, the more they’ll be able to emulate his behavior.

It’s like how Fox News talking heads try to present tax breaks for the wealthy as a great thing by pretending that their viewers are all one lottery win away from needing those breaks themselves. They implicitly tell viewers, Support this cause, and one day maybe you’ll be the one reaping the same rewards as these rich and powerful people.

In similar ways, when the leaders of authoritarian evangelical groups act out like Ammon Bundy does, followers who want to enjoy the same benefits flock to their banner. Those followers will enable whatever nonsensical crusade their leaders desire, all so they can one day be leaders themselves and be enabled to the hilt by their own followers in turn.

It’s like a twisted barbed-wire version of the circle of life.

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...