RNS) — Brother Shane Vaughn, a “small-town Mississippi preacher” turned viral video star, believes President Donald Trump will serve a second term as president, starting in January.
It just might take a little time.
“I truly believe in the bottom of my heart that Donald Trump will be our next president,” said Vaughn, co-founder of First Harvest Ministries in Waveland, Mississippi.
A few days after the election, Vaughn, a self-described constitutionalist and history buff, posted a short video on Facebook, outlining what could happen if President Trump continues to dispute the election.
In the seven-minute video, recorded on Vaughn’s cellphone from a rented Jeep in a Cincinnati, Ohio, parking lot, the pastor claims that if the election results are not certified by states, then the fate of the election falls into the hands of the House of Representatives, a process found in the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.
“This has happened twice in history,” Vaughn said in the video. “I got a feeling it’s fixing to happen again.”
Vaughn told Religion News Service in a phone interview that he posted the video to provide hope to supporters of his ministry, which he said reaches a few thousand people every week online.
“I just made that video with absolutely no intention of anybody seeing it to be honest with you except our little circle,” said Vaughn.
So far the video has been viewed more than 1 million times on YouTube, Facebook and other social media. Vaughn said that its views top 10 million.
The video earned a fact check from USA TODAY, which rated the video as “missing context.”
“While all presidential elections have the potential to be decided in the House of Representatives under the Constitution, Vaughn’s video fails to mention key steps needed in order for the election to go to the House,” wrote Abby Patkin, a multimedia journalist for USA TODAY. “Even if the election results were contested and Trump doesn’t concede, experts have agreed that it is unlikely for Trump to win the election this way.”
The fact check prompted Vaughn to later post a longer video with more context.
He has also posted follow-up videos, including one that compared the speaker of the House to the Wicked Witch of the West from “The Wizard of Oz.” Vaughn refers to himself as “Professor Toto,” claiming he is pulling back the curtain to reveal that the narrative about Joe Biden being president is wrong.
Vaughn also has posted videos of him and his wife singing; about his wife’s recovery from a near-fatal accidental overdose of pain medication, which she refers to as a miracle; and a video of a baptism gone wrong, where a woman being baptized loses her wig.
The success of the Trump video did cause some stress for Vaughn, who said that he has tried to stay out of the spotlight in recent years, focusing primarily on the small congregation of 30 people that he and his wife lead and on sharing his views of Scripture online.
He worried that the viral video would bring up some unpleasant parts of his past.
In 2009, Vaughn was arrested in Louisiana and charged with insurance and bank fraud. He told RNS that he served three years in prison for financial crimes and since then has tried to rebuild his life.
But it’s hard to escape his past, which he said, “haunts me like a black dog.”
“When I saw that video going viral, my heart sank,” he said, knowing that Google and other search engines would make it easy for people to learn about his past.
His other regret: “If I was planning on going viral, I would have gotten a nicer setup and fixed my hair.”
Vaughn believes God has used Trump despite his failings, comparing him to King David, whose personal failings did not disqualify him for leadership.
Vaughn said that people at his church and those who follow him online know that he once served time in jail. And they have seen him change and outlive his past.
“Our people know me and love me,” he said.
During his three years in prison, Vaughn had a spiritual revival. He had grown up in the Oneness Pentecostal tradition but had fallen away from that faith during the dark period of his life.
While in prison, Vaughn said he studied the Bible around the clock. That study led him to believe that Christians should keep many of the commandments, such as dietary laws, found in the Hebrew Bible. He also no longer embraces Oneness Pentecostal teaching about the nature of God.
Today, he describes his congregation as a spirit-filled, commandment-following, Bible-believing Pentecostal Unitarian church. They hold Sabbath services on Friday nights, avoid “unclean foods” and believe we are living in the last days. They also reject the idea of eternal torment in hell.
Those teachings have put him at odds with the mainstream, Vaughn admitted.
“We have some very unorthodox beliefs,” he said.
He started posting videos online to spread his teaching, mostly to what he calls “serious-minded Scripture students,” and said he has attracted a small but devoted following online. Most videos attract a few thousand views at most.
He hopes that those who view the video will be encouraged that God is in charge, no matter how the election turns out.
Vaughn made it clear he’s not a fan of the man himself. He said that “the word of God abhors” Trump’s character, his controversial business dealings and his personal life.
“I am not trumpeting Donald Trump,” he said.
Instead, Vaughn said he supports Trump’s policies and, more importantly, the Constitution. He added that, had former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton decided to contest the 2016 election, he would have supported her right to do so.
If the courts decide to allow the election results to go forward, and the Electoral College awards Joe Biden the presidency, Vaughn said he’d be disappointed. But he will support and pray for Biden.
“Joe Biden will be my president,” he said.