Growing up in Texas, the chorus to one of my favorite childhood hymns – inspired by the Gospel according to John – declared, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love.” If you haven’t heard the hymn in church, perhaps you’ve heard the Jars of Clay cover.
By this Biblical standard, there is absolutely nothing loving, just, or Christian about the white nationalist content distributed by GiveSendGo, the country’s so-called “#1 free Christian crowdfunding site.”
GiveSendGo, hosted on the Amazon Web Service servers, might have once been considered a spiritual powerhouse. Founded in 2015 as “a place to fund hope,” the site helped Christians pay for mission trips, churches, nonprofits, and medical expenses.
But since then, the fruits of GiveSendGo’s spirit have gone sour. Its founders now allow their platform to be used in support of hateful lies, white nationalism, and even terrorism, including the attack on the U.S. Capitol. None of this is biblical, or comes even remotely close to God’s dream for the world.
The website has received particular notoriety in recent weeks for helping both Henry “Enrique” Tarrio, chairman of the Proud Boys, and Ali Alexander, organizer of the “Stop the Steal” rallies and the failed coup. The site also raised more than $500,000 last year for Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenaged vigilante who murdered two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, WI.
GiveSendGo is certainly not the only Christian outlet to have helped incite the violent failed coup. Evangelist Franklin Graham worked hard to spread Trump’s election lies. Author Eric Metaxas emceed a “Stop the Steal” Jericho March in D.C., attended by Catholic bishops Joseph Strickland and Carlo Maria Viganò. The list goes on.
The results were evident during the infamous march and subsequent terrorism. There were signs that proclaimed, “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president,” crosses held high, and even a prayer giving thanks for the attack offered from the Senate floor.
As Christians, we have a great deal to atone for – especially white progressives like me. Unless the church in America is to be consigned to the ash heap of social history, we must identify actions that are hateful and unchristian, cast them out, and redouble our work for justice and repair.
Seeking accountability for GiveSendGo by calling on Amazon to drop the site from its cloud servers is a good place to start. While the Tarrio and Rittenhouse have received the most attention, the problems run much deeper. First Faithful America (the organization I direct) and then the Washington Post identified dozens more GiveSendGo fundraising campaigns with white nationalist ties. There are fundraisers to spread election conspiracy theories, campaigns to purchase armor and travel for far-right rallies, and pages aiding at least four members of the Proud Boys who were arrested storming the Capitol.
There are even fundraisers to amplify the messages of Melissa Carone, Rudy Giuliani’s “star” witness in the failed effort to overturn Michigan’s election results, and Sidney Powell, one of the attorneys for Trump’s 62 frivolous election lawsuits.
By undermining trust in the most secure election in American history, Powell and Carone not only spread countless lies but also helped prime the Capitol riot. In aiding their cause, GiveSendGo is bearing false witness – and not speaking truth in love.
Asked to defend these violent and misleading campaigns by the Washington Post, GiveSendGo co-founder Jacob Wells did not turn to Scripture. Instead, he offered a legalistic explanation, arguing, “If the law dictates that we can’t have things [on the website], we adhere to the law.”
It’s one thing to follow secular law, but as a Christian website, shouldn’t GiveSendGo also follow God’s law?
In August, facing criticism for hosting the Rittenhouse fundraiser, Wells told Religion News Service, “As a platform, everything we do and what our platform delivers is Christ-centered.” The astonishing claim that delivering white Christian nationalism, terrorism, and deadly election conspiracy theories is “Christ-centered” isn’t just racist and dishonest; it’s blasphemous.
Fed up with this harmful hijacking of the Gospel, more than 17,000 Faithful America members have called on Amazon to stop hosting GiveSendGo. Seven hundred of those petition signers also filed abuse reports directly with AWS by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
So far, Amazon has tried to pass the buck. Our members have received a canned reply that pretends all responsibility lies with GiveSendGo: “While the reported content is hosted on AWS’s infrastructure, it is our customer who controls the content.”
That cowardly response is reminiscent of Pontius Pilate, symbolically washing his hands to absolve himself of complicity in Christ’s death.
Amazon executives’ refusal to take responsibility for what they host is a question of “won’t,” not “can’t.” They have already proven their ability to act by removing the seditionist social-media site Parler from AWS and QAnon products from Amazon itself.
Those were important steps, but if it they were the only steps Amazon plans to take, they were nothing more than corporate whitewashing. Now that AWS CEO Andy Jassy is being promoted to run all of Amazon, it is even more important that we press him to take action.
We are left with two questions: Does Jassy want to prevent Amazon’s name from permanent association with white nationalism? And will white Christians do our part to prevent such injustice from being perpetuated in the name of our faith?
If the answer to the second question is yes, we can begin by increasing pressure on Amazon to remove GiveSendGo from its servers. If the answer to the first question is also yes, then that campaign will see fruits almost immediately.