In a recent Washington Post piece, I connected the court evangelicals to the rise of the Christian Right in the 1980s. But there is another faction among the evangelical leaders who frequent the White House regularly. Some of the other faith leaders who make up the court evangelicals are part of a largely understudied wing of American evangelicalism. In this piece at Christianity Today, Robert Smietana calls our attention to the “network Christianity” associated with the “Independent Network Charismatic” (INC) movement.
Here is a taste of his interview with Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, authors of The Rise of Network Christianity: How Independent Leaders Are Changing the Religious Landscape:
Let’s talk about the “7 mountains” theology, which is popular in these circles. On some levels, it sounds like theocracy. Christians are in charge of every part of life: the “mountains” of business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family, and religion. On the other hand, it sounds like there’s no actual plan—aside from putting these Christians in charge. So what’s going on?
Christerson: They really believe that God is behind it all, that he is appointing people into these high positions, and that they will know what to do when they get there. They will be listening to God, and he will use them to supernaturally make America or the world into the kingdom of God. Some of the people that they claim are in these high position—like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry—are part of the Trump administration. But they are not Pentecostals, and they have nothing to do with these groups. The movement just latches on to them and claims God is using Trump to bring in the kingdom.
Some INC people describe Trump as a King Cyrus figure—he’s not one of us, but God is using him to defeat our enemies and restore our nation. If Trump collapses or gets impeached, they will not look very good. Some of them have staked their reputation on Trump’s performance, but not all of them.
They don’t have policy goals, other than anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage sentiments. They don’t have an idea of what it takes to reduce poverty or curb international conflict. None of that is even on their radar.
It’s a very different approach than other religious groups take. If it’s the Catholic Church, the religious right, or the religious left, they actually have a strategy. They have think-tanks and organizations, and they’re involved at different levels with political parties. This is nothing like that.
Flory: In some ways, it’s a really romantic vision. For most of the 20th century, most Pentecostals and evangelicals were pre-millennial—they imagined that God’s reign would appear in full only after the second coming of Christ. But the INC movement is explicitly post-millennial. In their minds, God’s kingdom can come to earth before Christ returns—and, by the way, it will be in America. There is this interesting combination of America first, Americans as God’s chosen people, and a romantic vision of God working it out through the people he chooses.
Do INC leaders engage in any self-reflection about the dangers of holding major power without oversight?
Christerson: I haven’t seen a lot of self-awareness on their part. They think they are an instrument of God—and that’s all they need. There’s a suspicion of any kind of accountability structures, because these limit the power of God working through individuals. When you have a church board and an elder board that hires a pastor, then that pastor can’t do the things that God is telling him to do—because he has to go to the board to get everything approved. The real danger, they would say, is when institutions become more powerful than the individuals that God calls.
Most of the INC leaders easily fall under the court evangelical umbrella, although I am not sure how many of them have “unprecedented access” to Trump.
Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California and the founder of the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, supports Trump. In an article in which he explains why he voted for the President, Johnson concludes by saying “And finally I pray that each of us would have a life of realizing the fulfillment of dreams, with great health and blessing in every area of life.” Johnson’s weekly service is viewed by 30,000 people.
Cindy Jacobs, Mike Bickle, Chuck Pierce, and Che Ahn are also part of this movement. Just Google their names and “Donald Trump” and see what you find.
I am also learning about a whole host of prophecies concerning the rise of Trump.
I know that there are many of you out there who read this blog and know the INC world a lot better than I do. How many INC ministers have been to the White House to see Trump or spent time with him during the campaign? Is Paula White part of the INC movement?