Inside the Christian Nationalist Church Where Proud Boys Go to be Baptized

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Pastor Hansel Orzame leads his “Praying Patriots” at a recent Sunday service at the Ekklesia: Unwoke Church” in Pomona, California (Screenshot from livestream of service)

On a recent Sunday, a man dressed in basketball shorts and a black and yellow T-shirt that read “FIGHT CLUB” was summoned to the front of a hired event space in Pomona, California, and invited to climb into an inflatable bathtub to be baptized. 

The baptism, which was streamed on Facebook, was led by Pastor Hansel Orzame, a 44-year-old southern Californian and a self-identified Christian Nationalist who leads “Ekklesia; The Unwoke Church.” 





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The service was held in the 800-square foot “Wonderwall Space,” which, with its exposed brick and Christmas lights, advertises itself as ideal for baby showers and engagement photo shoots. But twice a month, Orzame’s flock—who he calls “Praying Patriots”—assembles there to pray. 

The Praying Patriot who was baptized on this recent Sunday in February was named Andrew. Sitting in the bathtub in his clothes, he spoke into a microphone that Orzame held for him, his voice cracking with emotion. Andrew, who has Proud Boy insignia in his personal Telegram profile, explained that he’d recently found God and learned that “true masculinity is in Christ.” 

“Christ had the biggest cojones,” said Andrew. “Being men of Christ is being real men. So let’s be real men.” 

Another man being baptized that day was introduced by Orzame as “a warrior.” “As you know, political rallies can get a little physical, a little spicy,” Orzame said. “I’ve seen this guy do amazing things out there.” 

“Christ had the biggest cojones. Being men of Christ is being real men. So let’s be real men.”

Orzame’s church has harnessed a rising tide of Christian nationalism, which claims that America is a fundamentally Christian nation, and that “patriots” are in a “spiritual war” against nefarious, even Satanic, forces who want to subvert the country’s cultural and political institutions. 

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“Christian nationalists just want to go back to the way it was, Christian values and Christian ethics,” he told his followers in response to a newly-released trailer for the documentary “God and Country,” about the disturbing rise of Christian nationalism.

“We don’t want to jail Muslims, we don’t want to jail Atheists. But we want the Christian standard back. Secular government introduces paganism. It’s just a stopgap for paganism.” 

Praying Patriots gather for a Sunday service at Ekklesia: The Unwoke Church (screenshot from Facebook livestream)

Praying Patriots gather for a Sunday service at Ekklesia: The Unwoke Church (screenshot from Facebook livestream)

In the last four years, churches that fuse rabid nationalism with Christianity have sprung up nationwide, thumbing their noses at the tax breaks offered by 501c3 status, which has historically incentivized pastors to at least maintain the illusion of keeping politics out of the pulpit. There’s even a website, “MyChurchFinder” that ascribes a letter rating to churches based on their pastor’s level of Christian nationalist views. Orzame’s church received an A: “Biblically sound, Culturally Aware & Legislatively Active.” 

“We cannot beat these globalists, this globohomo machine alone,” Orzame appealed to God in a recent prayer broadcast on the streaming platform Rumble. “We need Your strength. We need Your guidance. We need strategies from heaven and God.” 

Orzame’s rising profile in southern California’s far-right scene, and his extensive links to the Proud Boys, is the latest indication that the gang and their allies are increasingly seeking religious justifications for their continued culture war activities, even as their uniformed public appearances have waned. The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, which tracks extremism and unrest worldwide, found that since the Jan. 6. Capitol riot, Proud Boys have been more likely to appear in public alongside Christian nationalist and conservative groups compared to years prior to 2021, when they often aligned themselves with militias. 

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A 40-person private Telegram channel, leaked to VICE News by local researchers, offers some insight into Orzame’s core Praying Patriots congregation. Among them is at least one known Proud Boy, Louie Flores, as well as far-right activist Bryce Henson, an active-duty Navy Seal who was recently investigated and exonerated for his ties to extremist groups. (He is, however, set to be disciplined for making threats towards local independent journalists and activists, according to KPBS). Some members of the channel have explicit neo-Nazi or white supremacist imagery in their profiles. 

Orzame uses the Telegram channel to broadcast his upcoming appearances; recently, he said he’d be at a school board meeting to protest LGBTQ-inclusive policies, an effort that has preoccupied southern California’s far-right for the last two years. These appearances often devolve into violent brawls. “THIS IS GROOMING BEHAVIOR,” Orzame wrote before a visit to Don Lugo High School in Chino, where school board members were set to approve a policy that requires administrators to notify a student’s family if the student identifies as transgender. “Please pray for me and the men that are to be my security.” 

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He also posts links to his sermons on Rumble and DLive; the latter platform allows him to collect donations in the form of tokens purchased, or bitcoin. Ahead of one sermon in December, he advised the other members of the chat to avoid using Proud Boy slogans such as “POYB” (Proud of Your Boy”) and “Uhuru” (a Swahili word meaning “Freedom” that Proud Boys have co-opted as their rallying cry). “We will fly under the radar,” wrote Orzame. 

Do you have information to share about Hansel Orzame’s church or about far-right organizing in California? Email tess.owen@vice.com to share tips.

A sermon in September featured John Kinsman, a Proud Boy who just completed a four-year prison sentence for his involvement in a violent street brawl with antifascists in Manhattan in 2018. Kinsman told Orzame that he, too, had recently found God. He described a dream he had in prison, in which he was sitting on the toilet smoking a cigarette and visited by a Christ-like figure who told him God had “big plans” for him. 

Last May, Orzame’s guest was Tony Moon, who goes by “Rooftop Korean” and has been a mainstay of violent far-right demonstrations around Los Angeles in the last few years. Moon was filmed at a 2021 protest swinging a titanium water bottle at a journalist’s head. He has also appeared for in-person services at the Ekklesia Church. 

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Orzame was born in Manila and moved with his parents to southern California when he was a child. His father, who he describes as “based,” works as a dentist, and owns a $1.4 million home in Covina; Orzame has held baptisms in his dad’s swimming pool. 

Orzame has claimed he previously worked as a producer in the adult film industry, and even appeared briefly as a talking head in a documentary about the dangers of porn that was bankrolled by a fundamentalist Christian organization. VICE was unable to independently verify his stint in the adult film industry. 

As Orzame tells it, his first stint as a religious leader was as a youth pastor at Gospel Life Community in Walnut, in Los Angeles County, just 8 miles from Pomona. He got his formal training at the Potter’s House of Ministry, an international pentecostal religious organization that’s faced multiple accusations of being a cult.

Orzame did not respond to VICE News’ request for comment, but claims on the Ekklesia website that while serving as pastor for a Christian club at a grad school, he encountered “satanic imagery” scrawled on whiteboards and was ultimately “kicked off of campus for proselytizing.” 

His ties to the far right date back to at least 2017; that year he was present when far-right groups including Patriot Prayer—a Christian nationalist group known for allying with Proud Boys—assembled for “Free Speech Week” at UC Berkeley and ended up scrapping with leftist protesters.

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In February 2018, Orzame traveled to San Diego for a so-called “Patriot Picnic,” part of a series of protests against murals in a local park celebrating Mexican-American and Aztec culture. Orzame was photographed wearing a tactical vest with the word “pastor” emblazoned on his chest and was later arrested for urinating on a mural. Local antifascists obtained leaked planning chats that showed protesters discussing the guns they were bringing to the protest, with Orzame responding approvingly. In 2019, along with his wife, he founded Ekklesia.

Though he denies being a Proud Boy himself, Orzame makes no secret of his fondness for the gang. He routinely promotes Proud Boy content on his social media pages, including videos by Proud Boy founder Gavin McInnes and fundraisers to help Proud Boys facing charges related to the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. 

Orzame’s insistence that he’s not actually a Proud Boy, as well as the fact that he generally keeps his hands clean by not getting directly involved in violent melees at protests, means he doesn’t have the same baggage as some of his friends in his group chat. As a result, he’s been able to build inroads into more “mainstream”—relatively speaking—political circles in southern California. 

For example, he describes Siaka Massaquoi, an actor and the vice chair of the Los Angeles County GOP committee, “a close friend.” Massaquoi, who was arrested at Hollywood’s Burbank airport in December on charges linked to the Jan. 6 riot, has appeared on Orzame’s broadcast twice in the last six months. 

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In that livestream, Massaquoi and Orzame reflected on a rally hosted by “Leave Our Kids Alone,” a coalition of far-right activists, which resulted in brawls with pro-LGBTQ counter-protesters outside Los Angeles Unified School District’s headquarters. 

Massaquoi suggested that it might be poor optics for the anti-grooming contingent to keep getting into scrapes with counter-protesters at these sorts of events. “We have to be strategic,” he said. 

“I think we should treat this as a military operation,” Orzame said. “I’m not calling for violence, okay? I’m just saying this is spiritual warfare.” 

“It’s a battle for everything,” said Massaquoi.  “Some people are going to be involved in physical altercations, and there’s some people who are going to die.” 

“I think we should treat this as a military operation. I’m not calling for violence, okay? I’m just saying this is spiritual warfare.”

Orzame is also the “chaplain” for a new organization called G3 (God, Guns, and Government). G3 is run by Netty Chow, who became a local celebrity in Orange County in 2020 when she coordinated “prayer walks” in defiance of COVID-19 lockdowns. Also leading G3 is Jon Matthews, a long-time conservative activist with deep ties to the Eagle Forum, which was formed in 1972 as a retrogressive counterweight to the women’s liberation movement. 

Last July, G3 hosted an “Election Reform Summit” that drew an array of right-wing influencers, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, the man who ran the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Toni Shuppe, a QAnon adjacent election denier and key ally of Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 2022. 

The following month G3 paid for Ormaze to travel to Missouri for a conference on election fraud hosted by Lindell. There, Orzame said he met with Gen. Mike Flynn, who allegedly told him he was a “big fan” of the Ekklesia Unwoke Church. “He says ‘good job guys hang in there,’” Orzame wrote in the Telegram channel. 

And most recently, Orzame attended an in-person conference in Orange County hosted by the California chapter of the Election Integrity Project, a group dedicated to sniffing out voter fraud claims that is now holding meetings across the state to recruit “citizen observers” who can “observe and document” the upcoming primary election. 

Orzame might have built a local reputation on providing spiritual meaning to the lives of southern California’s bruisers—to local left-wing activists, he’s known as “The Proud Boys Pastor.” But if his recent activities are anything to go by, he’s now looking to capitalize off some of his new relationships from the culture war scene and expand his reach, beyond the fringes, and into MAGA-world. 

Disclosure: Gavin McInnes, who founded the Proud Boys in 2016, was a co-founder of VICE in 1994. He left the company in 2008 and has had no involvement since then.

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/3akex5/hansel-orzame-proud-boys-church-christian-nationalism,

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