Submitted by Brad Willis
Imagine someone who thinks those he dislikes should be tortured, hanged or publicly executed. Who regularly denounces people who disagree with him as liars, idiots, demonic, vile and satanic. Who calls for his followers to disrupt school board meetings by standing before the cameras screaming “child groomer” and “pedophile!” Whose organization insists that it’s a sacred duty to rise up against the government and impose what it claims is the will of God on the public. Someone who, ironically, calls himself a preacher dedicated to “faith, hope and love.” This is Jurgen Matthesius, founder of Awaken Church of San Diego.
Video promotions for annual Awaken camps show images of men running through the night firing assault weapons as the music track chats, “It’s Wartime…” Awaken’s political wing traffics in disinformation, conspiracy theories, hate speech and intolerance while democracy is denounced in favor of revolution and theocracy. Theocracy, a system where religious zealots rule in the name of their god, is what is practiced by ISIS in the Middle East and the Taliban of Afghanistan. But we are a Democratic Republic, with separation of church and state built into our founding principles, our Constitution and our Bill of Rights. Theocracy is completely out of step with American values and begs the question, “Whose interpretation of religion gets to prevail anyway?”
Several Awaken gatherings are currently being held at private homes in our community on a weekly basis. Its devotees are actively searching for a permanent location in Coronado as part of Awaken’s commitment to, in its own words, “taking territory.” If they succeed, our community faces an organization committed to actively recruiting former and active members of our military into its paramilitary style camps, indoctrinating our youth, disrupting public schools, dehumanizing those they dislike, and advocating an end to democracy.
This is all cause enough for alarm, but there’s more. The Australian megachurches that formed the beginnings of Awaken are mired in sex and money scandals. Pastor Jurgen promises his congregations that if they give ten percent of their wealth to God (which really means giving it to Awaken) that curses will be lifted and manna will rain down from heaven. He claims that by speaking in tongues he miraculously healed the advanced cancer of a child overnight, and that through babbling nonsense in a mock-Asian accent, he stopped tanks from rolling over protesters in the 1989 Tiananmen Square demonstrations in Beijing.
Awaken shows two very different faces to the public. It’s website promotes it as a family church dedicated to hope and love. Its social media, especially in the darker corners of the internet, reveals a cultish political agenda awash in vitriol, disinformation and hate. This is not what Coronado needs. I invite you to explore my five-part series, “A Cult in Coronado?” to learn more, and to consider adding your voice to the “No Cult in Coronado!” petition, which has already been signed by many expressing their opposition to Awaken.