“Let’s go give the devil a black eye.” That’s how Pastor Greg Locke, the head of the Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee, roused his congregation on Wednesday night. Then, he led them to a bonfire blazing outside where he proceeded to burn books like Harry Potter and Twilight.
Locke had been promoting the book burning event all week on his hugely-popular Facebook page, where he encouraged followers to “bring all your Harry Potter stuff,” as well as “all your Twilight books and movies. That mess is full of spells, demonism, shape-shifting, and occultism. Bring tarot cards, Ouija boards, healing crystals, idol statues, spell books, and everything else tied to the occult. It's got to go,” Locke said in a Facebook video.
In response to critics, he said, “Laugh all you will, haters. I don't care. It's witchcraft 100%.”
While the pictures of the burning are shocking, the stunt should come as no surprise to anyone who’s spent any time tracking Locke in recent years.
Locke, a pro-Trump pastor, praised the Proud Boys during a rally in Washington on Jan. 5th, 2021. He is a member of the Christian nationalist Black Robe Regiment, a group of pastors who are ready to go to war to put Christianity back at the heart of American life. He has espoused QAnon-linked conspiracy theories about child sex trafficking tunnels under the White House from his pulpit.
He’s also an anti-vaxxer and COVID denier: Locke has defied lockdown restrictions, dismissed COVID-19 as a “fake pandemic”, urged his congregation not to get vaccinated, and called Tennessee Governor Bill Lee a “coward” for allowing the National Guard to assist hospitals struggling to cope during the height of the pandemic.
On Wednesday night, Locke delighted in the criticism he received after he posted his book-burning promotional Facebook videos. He told his congregants that those that slammed him, including fellow pastors, were just showing their support for the devil.
“I ain't messing with witches no more, I ain't messing with witchcraft, I ain't messing with demons, I call all of them out, in the name of Jesus Christ,” Locke roared from the pulpit.
Before the bonfire was lit, Locke also preached to the hundreds of people who turned up—without any evidence— that employees of the Department of Homeland Security were in attendance.
“Homeland security showing up to a church cause we're gonna have a burning,” Locke told the crowd. “This country's lost its mind. I have no idea why they have decided to participate in our service tonight.”
This prompted one worshiper in the crowd to shout out: “They need salvation.”
Locke streamed the entire event live on his Facebook page, which has 2.3 million followers. In the video, the pastor can be seen taking bundles of books and tossing them on the fire. Other attendees also appeared to throw books on the fire along with other items including clothing.
“We have a Constitutional right and a Biblical right to do what we're going to do tonight,” Locke claimed. “We have a burn permit, but even without one a church has a religious right to burn occultic materials that they deem are a threat to their religious rights and freedoms and belief system.”
Almost immediately, as video of the event circulated online, social media users compared Locke’s event to the Nazi book burning of the 1930s.
Others flagged that Locke’s stunt was likely a reaction to the wave of books being banned by schools and libraries across America in recent months. In Locke’s home state of Tennessee, a school board last month banned Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning graphic novel Maus about the Holocaust, citing concerns about swear words and nudity. (To be certain, the nudity in question refers to nude cartoon mice.)
Since the Harry Potter series was published, the books have been accused of promoting witchcraft and the occult. A few years ago, priests in Poland burned Harry Potter books, as well as volumes from the Twilight series, because they claimed the books went against the word of God.
Locke claimed that a number of preachers in Mt. Juliet had criticized his book burning event, but said that people from those churches and much further afield had sent in items to be thrown on the fire.
“We’ve had stuff mailed in from all over America,” Locke told the congregation. “And you see they are not mad because we are burning, they are just mad at what we are burning.”