Offer It Up: The Far Right on Christian Crowdfunders

GiveSendGo isn’t just another far right Kickstarter clone. It’s an expression of long-established Christian financial frameworks.

Without too much effort, you can learn a great deal about the 92,844 people who used the Christian crowdfunding website GiveSendGo to give $8.4 million to the “Freedom Convoy,” which for the last month upended daily life in the Canadian capital of Ottawa.

The notes appended to their donation receipts express  pablum about loving Jesus and freedom. Some feature more sinister invective about George Soros, and some are upset about Black Lives Matter. The donor information was stolen from GiveSendGo in two massive breaches: The biggest fundraiser—which raised $8.4 million—was exposed on February 13; two days later the site was breached again, exposing a second campaign, named “Adopt-a-Trucker.” Pundits and elected officials are now concerned about “doxxing” the donors.

But we don’t need the full names of the donors to see some conspicuous themes. According to DDoSecrets, who supplied information to Forever Wars, some non-identifiable names entered into GiveSendGo alongside cash donations include “Pastor Josh,” “Pastor Rob,” “Pastor Dan,” “Pastor Jack”—only a few names in a sea of other “pastors.” 

lot has been said about the commerce between the unique Canadian right-wing and the broader far-right movement, and there’s some excellent and responsible data journalism based on material from the breach. But there has been less emphasis on the way GiveSendGo, now a bastion of far-right finance, emerged from the old, analog mechanics of Christian international fundraising.

The convoy’s occupation has cost workers some $144.9 million in lost wages, according to a group of economists based in East Lansing. For weeks, convoy drivers rendered the entirety of downtown impassable by car or bus, blasting their horns in the middle of the city for 16 hours at a stretch. They made the protest an international incident by blockading the Ambassador Bridge for six days. More than a quarter of US-Canada trade passes over that span between Detroit and Windsor. Idling trucks ruined the air quality in the city. Before they would leave, leaders of the convoy said, the country must end vaccination mandates. Also Justin Trudeau must step down. Also…

Well, after that, the demands got a little fuzzy, because as many covering the protests have noted, it’s a tent big enough for a lot of the far right. Publicity blitz aside, most of the attendees were not long-haul truckers, though the supposed rationale for the convoy is the imposition of vaccine requirements for every trucker who crosses the border into Canada.

I’ve covered more than one protest that was eventually broken up by the police, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The occupation of Zuccotti Park in 2011 was certainly annoying to the people who worked nearby and the site of some horrible intra-protester crimes. But it only occasionally blocked traffic, certainly not across miles of New York City, because the point was to disrupt business on Wall Street, not life in Manhattan. It, too, was a big tent—it was the first place I ever saw an InfoWars logo—but it was an anticapitalist one, however inchoate, and accordingly it became the target of massive political and police suppression. At its sole bridge march, the NYPD arrested more than 700 people

When leftists counterprotest far-right rallies, organizers often exhibit a near-mania for rule-following. They keep to the sidewalk, usually avoid traffic, and expect the cops to pepper-spray and beat them up anyway. Even the CHAZ in Seattle comprised a meager six blocks; the occupation zone in Ottawa was well over one hundred.

By contrast, many members of the Canada convoy brought their children along for the fun, something that hampered the police response. Whenever they were asked what their endgame would be, the convoy attendees expressed simple faith that the government of Canada would accede to their demands, lift vaccine mandates, and unseat prime minister Justin Trudeau.

It’s easy to portray the militant far right as scheming fascists acting on evil master plans. What’s harder to understand, yet far more important, is how deep separatism and militarism run in many Christian traditions. Violent rhetoric can be easily subsumed into the language of “spiritual warfare” and we tend not to talk about that. And as un-Christian as political violence theoretically sounds to many Christians’ ears, Christian leaders rarely condemn and sometimes even condone it. When they take the wrong side, they quickly forget they’ve done so, and the stain remains—a dynamic well-documented by Kristin Kobes du Mez’s recent bookJesus and John Wayne. There’s been a lot of effort in the national media to sympathize with the truckers, but understanding them might require us to look critically at the Confederate flags and swastikas1 on display in their ranks. 

Churches often declare as a platitude that it’s their duty to accept everyone the way God does. But in doing so, we too rarely admit that we endanger some by accepting others. Conservative Christians love to claim Corrie Ten Boom, but too few know who András Kun was: One suffered for resisting the Holocaust and the other personally carried it out while wearing his priest’s robe. Both were Christians in good standing, so far as their churches were concerned.


When Christians Say “Meh” to the Far Right

GiveSendGo is odd. Pitched as “The #1 Free Christian Fundraising Site,” it’s a mistake to think of the operation as just another far-right crowdfunding organization, though it hosts fundraisers by members of far-right groups, including the Proud Boys. 

In 2017, the militant right began experiments with several of its own crowdfunding platforms, which were created expressly to host campaigns that Kickstarter, IndieGogo, and others had kicked out. These sites included Hatreon, WeSearchr, Counter.Fund, which have since been abandoned or shut down. But there is still a need for funding among the factions of the right that lack consistent access to megadonor largesse from capital—for example, militants trying to crowdfund court costs for Proud Boy leader Enrique Tarrio.

GiveSendGo is different. Evangelical Christians rely on funding networks of laypeople for a wide variety of community projects, from soup kitchens to missionary trips to funerals. Some of that money can come from the weekly collection plate, but some are more formal and direct, with Christians pledging to help friends to the tune of $20 or $15 or $100 a month when they go off to do God’s work—sometimes directly for churches or denominations, but sometimes for “parachurch” organizations like InterVarsity or Youth With a Mission. GiveSendGo is a crowdfunding platform, but it mimics the American church’s own analog networks, not GoFundMe. 

The typical GiveSendGo campaign doesn’t benefit a grubby little fascist who has made himself unemployable by tweeting slurs. Many are simply for medical bills for sick children or memorial funds for widows, widowers, and parents who have lost children. Others are stranger—providing an interesting record of the Christian financial world. 

Take the Let Them Live Action Corporation, an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy” center with several full-time staff, which solicits cash for pregnant people to keep them from having abortions. Or consider another campaign that solicits donations to Summit Ministries, a Colorado-based youth outreach program that publishes its own homeschool curricula and holds seminars. In language modeled on sponsor-a-starving-child direct-response ads, exhorts generous coreligionists to “Help us save a Gen Z student from falling prey to the lies of leftist Marxists.” Summit’s president, Jeff Myers, made $268,000 in 2020, according to its last 990 filing. Then there’s Gateway Pundit author Jim Hoft—author of an influential blog once hosted by right-wing Catholic journal First Things—who raised more than $100,000 for the Jan. 6 insurrectionists. Yet another crowdfunder runs a Christian halfway house called Broken to Blessed Rehab, where he seeks to convert homeless men in Israel to Christianity. 

The campaigns are represented on a map of the world by little tongues of flame—the traditional symbol of the spirit of God as it descended on the apostles in the New Testament book of Acts. Here, the map seems to say, are all the places where the Holy Spirit is at work. Alarmingly, they’re often also places where the far right is growing its power. 

Talia Lavin’s fascinating profile of Heather Wilson and Jacob Wells, the sibling co-founders of GiveSendGo, captures their nonchalance about supporting the militant right:

When asked about the consistent pattern of hate group members fundraising on the site, Wells expressed doubt that the Proud Boys really were a hate group, explaining that he had visited their website and found it lacking in statements explicitly embracing discrimination. Unfortunately, the media does have an agenda with the things they portray, whether it’s social media or other forms of media,” Wells said. “What are their core beliefs? Is it misconstrued by the media?” When I pointed out that the Canadian government had recently designated the Proud Boys as a terrorist group, Wells answered that this should be just one factor to consider. “We are learning just like everyone else,” he added.

This is not an uncommon attitude in churches and Christian businesses: If you seek out association with a Christian group, especially if you happen to share the same enemies, you are quickly endeared to them. The details can be sorted out later.

GiveSendGo’s approach to operational security also appears to be faith-based. The group kept its users’ sensitive documents in a misconfigured cloud storage “bucket;” anyone with an internet connection and a little savvy could find them. Thus, GiveSendGo was breached repeatedly—despite being warned about the possibility by reporter Mikael Thalen—and the resulting data has put its uglier side on display. One breach revealed the donors to fundraisers for Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who murdered George Floyd, as well as teenage vigilante Kyle Rittenhouse (“God bless. Thank you for your courage. Keep your head up. You’ve done nothing wrong.” wrote one police sergeant). A second exposed scans of government IDs like passports and driver’s licenses. A third breach exposed personally-identifying information of all the donors to the platform’s biggest “Freedom Convoy” fundraiser (there’s more than one). Finally, another breach appears to have disclosed historical data about the site’s user base—information about even more of its campaigns, some from years ago.

Many far-right organizations claim, often and loudly, to be acting on their Christian faith. The shift of the dregs of the far right over to an explicitly Christian organization ought to worry Christians who disagree with their interpretation of Jesus’ teachings. But it doesn’t appear to be meeting much resistance. As these breaches and leaks continue, there will be more scrutiny on the extent of the overlap in funding between the kind of fascist street violence that endangered Ottawans and the para-church organizations that claim to help the underprivileged. 

The rise of funding platforms like GiveSendGo makes it clear that the Christian church in the United States has a very serious problem with the far right, who can find among Christians the sort of safe haven that should be offered to the alien, the fatherless, the widow, and the prisoner. If we ignore or downplay coreligionists who want to ostracize—even exterminate—the people Jesus told us to protect, it doesn’t much matter whether or not we consider ourselves to be on their side. They are on our side, and Jesus is somewhere else.


This article was adapted from Forever Wars, where it was originally published on February 18.


Sam Thielman is a writer and editor based in New York. He is the editor of Forever Wars and the creator, with Alissa Wilkinson, of the podcast Young Adult Movie Ministry. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.



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