A Mission to Save the Cross at New Hope Christian College

Earlier last week, a fake flyer began circulating around Twitter, warning that, on the evening of Friday, July 31, 2020, an “antifa/Anarchist group” was planning to bring down a cross located on the property of New Hope Christian College in Eugene, OR. It is suspected that the flyer was created by a local right-wing white supremacist group in order to incite fear in the community and skew opinions against the current protesting for Black Lives Matter taking place in the area, and across the country. This is a common strategy, and seems a logical theory, as there has been much discord in that area the past week. Local police have been allowing white supremacist group members to assist them in violently dispersing protests. One woman in neighboring Springfield, OR went live on Facebook as she chased down protesters, while formulating plans with members of the local police. There is also footage of a violent interaction between a group of protesters and police. Police battled a huge crowd, beating on people, in order to drag out a Black man who is the leader of a group called Black Unity. In the video, an officer can be seen punching him in the head as he was on the ground being arrested.

The cross in question has a long history. In the 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan were often burning crosses on Skinner Butte, a prominent hill on the north edge of downtown Eugene. The cross now at New Hope was erected on the butte in 1964. Later, in 1970, Eugene residents voted to have it designated as a war memorial. The cross was then removed from Skinner Butte in 1997, and relocated to the New Hope campus (then Eugene Bible College) after a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals stated that the cross was a religious symbol and was in violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. It has also been named a memorial to a former student of the college, Blake Augusta Schaufler, who was tragically murdered on January 15, 2020, as he was shot attempting to defuse a domestic violence situation.

As word of this fictitious plan of an attack began to spread in the community, many became alarmed, including Pastors Dan and Deanna Trujillo of City of Destiny Church in Springfield, who began to implore their followers to join in on protecting the New Hope cross from destruction. City of Destiny is an Assemblies of God, Full Gospel Christian Church. Salvation, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, Divine Healing, and the Second Coming of Christ are the ‘Four Core Beliefs’ of the Assemblies of God. Pastors Dan and Deanna Trujillo seem highly involved in public revival-type worship involving baptisms and faith healing, often leading worship at the Springfield City fountain near the City Hall.

The Pastors Trujillo are also fans and proponents of the Saturate movement, founded by Parker and Jessi Green. Saturate is an idea that Jessi Green says came to her in prayer, when she “saw a picture of thousands of people being baptized along Huntington Beach Pier.” She went on to say that, in her vision, “the harvest was so massive, people were quickly turning around to baptize the person behind them.” The Greens, who refer to themselves as “those Jesus people”, then, in the height of the covid-19 pandemic, held what they called a “50,000-person Harvest” in Huntington Beach in July, 2020 — with no efforts to create social distancing and no one wearing masks. I can’t determine how many actually attended the “Harvest”, but the group is large, and parts of the disturbing event can be viewed on YouTube.

It should be no surprise then that many who run in the same circles as the Trujillos there in the Springfield/Eugene area also shun the idea of masks. Some seem to wear them reluctantly, and others vehemently disapprove of them, while there are many also who see them as a connection to deep and twisted conspiracy theories involving forced vaccinations and microchipping.

In the days preceding the fabricated attack, both Dan and Deanna Trujillo posted on Facebook about the cross being compromised and the gathering that was planned at the college to protect and pray over it. They posted about it again on Friday, the evening of the gathering, both going live on Facebook as the event at New Hope was getting started. Both of their videos have now been deleted, however I have Dan Trujillo’s recorded, as well as some comments that I was able to screen grab before Deanna Trujillo deleted hers. Other event-goers have posted some photos and commentary on Facebook as well.

In Dan Trujillo’s now deleted Friday evening live Facebook post at the gathering to protect and pray over the cross at New Hope, he was frantic. He stated that as he was coming up onto the property he spotted two “antifa members” in trees, commenting that he had not seen them at first because of “the way they were dressed, of course,” and that they must have arrived there “in unmarked cars.” He went on to say that, as he passed by them, he shouted to the “antifa members” that Jesus loves them, and then proceeded to go on a several minutes-long tirade explaining that, although it might not seem so, they do not idolize the cross, but rather Jesus who died on it. He seemed to want to make that very clear.

Deanna Trujillo’s now deleted Facebook post, as well as posts and comments made by others at the event, went into more detail about who had gathered there. From what I’ve seen in multiple photographs, I would estimate the crowd at approximately 100. However, attendees, including Pastor Deanna Trujillo, have reported a gathering of “close to 900+ people from all walks of life”, including “Christians, Catholics, Patriots, Freedom Fighters, and Proud Boys, all AMERICANS who love JESUS,” many of which arrived carrying a variety of live weapons.

In photographs I’ve seen, there were also QAnon members present, indicated by the logo on their clothing. QAnon is a far-right group that believes in conspiracy theory detailing a supposed secret plot by an alleged “deep state” against U.S. President Trump and his supporters. Among other things, QAnon believe that a list of liberal Hollywood actors, Democratic politicians, and high-ranking officials are involved in an international sex trafficking ring, and that Trump feigned collusion with the Russians to enlist Robert Mueller in joining him in exposing the ring, and preventing a coup d’état by Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros. Twitter has removed thousands of accounts linked to QAnon, which has become notorious for spreading conspiracy theories and disinformation online, including false information in reference to Bill Gates’ involvement in the covid-19 virus. Many comments on event-goers’ photographs posted on Facebook praised seeing no one at the New Hope gathering wearing masks.

It was reported that the road leading up to the campus was blocked that evening, and that several men, some with weapons, stood guard at the entrance. Armed men were also stationed on a rooftop, according to a comment made by Deanna Trujillo, in which she referred to them as “military”. Earlier in the day, college president Wayne Cordeiro put out a statement saying that he wanted there to be no confusion regarding the history of the cross, and that it does not represent any kind of racism. He went on to say that legally, the cross sits on private property and nobody is allowed on campus right now unless they check-in at the gate and are given permission to come in. He also noted that to destroy the cross would be considered a hate crime under Oregon law. Eugene Police were made aware of the situation and the school’s plan, who responded that they too had a plan in place in case things got out of hand. However, despite some who’d gathered staying on guard at the cross well past dark, there was no attack on the cross, and in fact, not a single protester showed up.

I’m unsure if this situation is still developing — whether City of Destiny Church leaders and members, those from the college, and the members of the surrounding community still feel that the cross is under threat, or whether their fears, at least for now, have been calmed. I do know, however, that there are ongoing protests there for Black Lives Matter, and that the community at large doesn’t seem in support of them. Because of that alone, I anticipate more reports of incidences in the Springfield/Eugene area as we move forward in the days and weeks to come. These groups are dangerous, and even more so when they team up. It is important for all of us to be aware of groups that are actively perpetuating conspiracy theories and spreading misinformation, as well as white supremacist groups who see themselves as patriotic vigilantes, and most especially when they have the apparent support of the local church community and law enforcement. As is evidenced historically, and in this and many other situations currently happening across the country, reality as we know it is optional to them, and they are willing to put their lives, as well as yours and mine, on the line to support their ideology.

art historian. writer.

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