Editor’s note: This week, NPR stations across the country are asking the same two questions: “What does it mean to be an American?” and “What can the next president do to further that vision?” as part of a series called “A Nation Engaged.”
If you’ve heard of Greg Locke, it’s probably because of
Facebook videos like this one or the slurs he’s been called by his online detractors.
“You know, the liberals have come up with a very effective tactic to back us into what I call the ‘corner of silence.’ It’s called ‘name shaming,'” he says.
The video is not slick — shot on a cell phone. But it’s gathered more than a million views and generated thousands of comments, from supporters as well as haters.
“You can threaten to continually bomb our church, kill me, do horrible things to my kids, say all of these vicious, vile, vitriolic things online — most of which I’m never going see, or look at, or respond to — but your names will not stop me,” he says.
It’s far from being the most-watched video the 40-year-old preacher from Mt. Juliet has produced.
Locke knows he comes across as a rabble-rouser, though he says it’s not how he sees himself.
“I’m speaking to the itch of society. And that’s why people are clicking on these videos,” Locke says in an interview with WPLN. “Because they want to hear somebody that is bold, but they want to hear somebody that has some common sense.”
Locke is the founding pastor of Global Vision Bible Church. The not quite 10-year-old congregation meets in a humble building between Old Hickory and downtown Mt. Juliet.
The videos are part ministry and part marketing. Locke estimates that about 550 people attend Global Vision each weekend. The church holds three services to accommodate them all, with plans to expand the building and add a few hundred seats.
Asking Americans To Come Back To God
Locke believes his videos — both the ones on Facebook and the sermons Global Vision livestreams each Sunday — succeed because they’re straightforward appeals for Americans to come back to God.
He says the nation was built on Judeo-Christian principles, though he acknowledges the Founding Fathers differed over exactly what those were.
“I realize some of them were deists and this, that and the other, but you really dig back the history, and there were some major pulpiteers, some major preachers that had a lot of the founding framework of our nation,” he says. “So, yeah, I do believe we were built on Christian principles. But we have certainly strayed from them.”
Locke is referring to the cultural changes that have taken place in America over the past half century.
He says more acceptance of non-Christians and gay, lesbian and transgender people has meant less acceptance of evangelicals like himself.
“We can’t really speak up about a lot of things that we were able to speak up about in the past because we’re considered racists, bigots, Islamophobic, homophobic, whatever,” Locke says.
His views have gone from being the social norm to being what the social norm condemns, he says. And Locke worries that eventually the trend will lead to speech codes that could be used to punish evangelicals.
Locke says that’s why he’s supporting Donald Trump, though even he has doubts the Republican nominee is sincere when he promises to appoint conservative justices and to stand up for Christian values.
“At this point, all I can do is just — I can just trust what the man says, and I can also trust what she says.”
“She” is Hillary Clinton, of course. Locke believes a victory by the Democrat will hasten the nation along the road he condemns. Trump, he thinks, might at least stop the trend in its tracks.
But he’s not confident either candidate will reverse the nation’s course. Recently, Locke has been preaching on the Book of Revelation and its vision of the end times.
“Really, the Bible has very little if anything to ever say about America, at all. It’s just not there. It’s not mentioned. It’s not allegorized. It’s not typified,” he says. “And, maybe, just maybe, one of those reasons is that when it all comes boiling down, we may not be a superpower at all.”
Neither candidate, Locke says, can restore America to the greatness he believes it once possessed. That’s a job only God can do.