Why a $45.00 Prayer Coin is Actually a Bargain for Trump Followers

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Here is a taste of my piece today at Religion News Service:

For centuries, Catholics have used rosary beads to aid them in the practice of prayer.  Some American Protestants view their Bibles as a kind of talisman or amulet that transmits supernatural power.

And today some American charismatic Christians pray using a coin emblazoned with a picture of Donald Trump.

On Monday (May 13), a charismatic preacher named Lance Wallnau appeared on the program of disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker to hawk a Donald Trump/King Cyrus gold coin.

He claimed that the coin can be used as a “point of contact” between Christians and God as they pray for the re-election of Trump in 2020.

Bakker’s show, which is syndicated daily on his PTL (Praise the Lord) Television Network, is known for selling his viewers products to help them survive the coming apocalypse. With the click of a mouse, a Christian who wants to prepare for the end of the world can buy buckets of freeze-dried food (the “30 Day Fiesta” Bucket appears to be popular), duffel bags that can withstand electromagnetic pulse attacks, flashlights and generators.

Wallnau and Bakker are selling the Trump/Cyrus coin for $45, but charismatic Christian viewers — many of whom identify as evangelical — can also drop $450 on a “13 Trump Cyrus Bundle” that includes 13 sets of the coin, the booklet explaining the connection between Trump and the former Persian king and the DVD of Wallnau conducting a religious service.

Read the rest here.

Evangelical Trump Fans: Don’t Forget to Buy Your King Cyrus-Donald Trump Prayer Coin

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In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I wrote a several pages on the so-called INC (Independent Network Charismatics) prophets.  Lance Wallnau is one of these “prophets.”  Here is what I wrote about him:

Early in the 2016 campaign, Lance Wallnau received a similar word: “Donald Trump is a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness.”  When Wallnau’s prophecy caught the attention of Trump’s evangelical supporters, he was invited to attend a meeting with the candidate and other evangelical leaders in Trump Tower.  As Wallnau listened to Trump talk about his desire to give evangelicals a more prominent voice in government, he sensed that God was giving him an “assignment”–a “calling related to this guy.”  One day, while he was reading his Facebook page, Wallnau saw a meme predicting that Trump would be the “45 president of the United States.”  God told Wallnau to pick up his Bible and turn to Isaiah 45.  On reading the passage, Wallnau realized that, not only would Trump be a “wrecking ball” to political correctness, but he would be elected president of the United States in the spirit of the ancient Persian king Cyrus.  In the Old Testament, Cyrus  was the secular political leader whom God used to send the exiled kingdom of Judah back to the Promised Land so that they could rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its holy Temple.  Wallnau was shocked by this discovery.  “God was messing with my head,” he told Steven Strang, the editor of Charisma, a magazine that covers INC and other Pentecostal and charismatic movements….From this point forward, Wallnau would become an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump.

Recently Wallnau showed-up on the Jim Bakker television program to hawk his Cyrus-Trump prayer coins.  According to this piece at Esquire magazine, Wallnau said that the coin is the “point of contact” between God and people praying for Trump’s success.  And guess what? This coin can be yours for only $45.00.  Here is Jack Holmes at Esquire:

This truly is the Golden Age of Grifting, and the nation’s Evangelical leaders have not passed up the opportunity. The “White Evangelical Christian” designation has always been a proxy for traditionalists who believe America’s rightful social order is the racial and gender hierarchy of approximately 1956. Donald Trump has merely laid this bare by earning their support despite being the most comically heathen man to ever step foot in the White House. What principles of Jesus Christ does the president embody? The better question might be which of the Seven Deadly Sins—pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth—does he not  represent? It’s all part of the Great Unvarnishing, as the acidity of Trump’s public persona has worn on the top coat of paint many people have applied to themselves, gradually exposing what lies beneath. It’s not about Christian Values, it’s about money and power. Unless it’s about something else.

And for those Trump evangelical supporters with deeper pockets, you can get an entire “Cyrus Trump Bundle.”  It includes the Cyrus-Trump coin, a booklet by Wallnau describing his prophecy, and DVD of Wallnau conducting a religious service.  It’s yours for $450.

As I argued in Believe Me, the Independent Network Charismatics are a very large, growing, and largely overlooked segment of American evangelicalism.  Wallnau is one of their leaders.

In 1989, a Future Court Evangelical Tried to Convince Another Future Court Evangelical that “Jesus Was Not Poor”

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In 2005, Time named Stephen Strang one of the “25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.”  He is the founding editor of Charisma Magazinea Christian magazine that represents Pentecostals and charismatics in the United States.  Strang is also one of Donald Trump’s leading court evangelicals.  He is the author of God and Donald Trump, a 2017 pro-Trump book that gives credence to the idea that several Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders prophesied Trump’s election.

Here is some of what I wrote about Strang in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Strang’s book on the 2016 campaign, God and Donald Trump, provides the best introduction to this wing of court evangelicalism and its apostles who prophesied Trump’s election.  The book is endorsed by evangelicals on the Christian Right inside and outside the Independent Network Charismatic (INC) movement, including Michelle Bachman, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Jeffress, and Mike Huckabee.  In telling the story of the campaign from the INC perspective, Strang claims Trump is a Christian because he opposes abortion, reads the Bible and prays every day, stands up to liberals, defends religious freedom, and believe in the “American Dream.”  Strang seems to relish the anger displayed by anti-Trumpers in the wake of the election, and his book reads like a Trump victory lap.  He accepts Trump’s claims of election fraud, attacks Trump’s critics for their “divisiveness,” labels Trump’s opponents “demonic,” defends Fox News, and proclaims Trump a “spiritual remedy for America.”

Jay Sekulow is another court evangelical.  He is a Messianic Jew and a lawyer who has become famous in evangelical circles for representing pro-life and conservative clients in religious liberty cases.  He has made a lot of money defending the religious freedom of ordinary evangelicals and he is not afraid to flaunt it.  He is currently a member of Trump’s legal team.

In 1989, Steven Strang was editing Charisma.  Jay Sekulow was a thirty-two-year old lawyer coming out of bankruptcy.  Somewhere around May 1, Strang gave Sekulow a copy of Oral Roberts’s latest book, How I Learned Jesus Was Not Poor.  Roberts, of course, was the controversial Pentecostal televangelist and president of Oral Roberts University.  Here is a taste of the dustjacket of How I Learned Jesus Was Not Poor:

Christians today commonly believe that Jesus was poor.  And they believe that God wants them to be poor, too. Oral Roberts says nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus was not poor, and He wants Christians to prosper in every way, including financially.

Strang wrote a short message to Sekulow on the first blank page of Roberts’s book.  It read:

May 1, 1989

To: Jay Sekulow

This book is a little different in its approach.  But after you read it, I’m sure you’ll agree he has some unique insights into what the Bible says about this important subject.

Steve Strang

As I argued in Believe Me, many prosperity gospel preachers and proponents support Donald Trump because they believe his wealth is a sign of God’s blessing.  It should not surprise us that both Strang (Charisma is a voice for the prosperity gospel movement) and Sekulow (a graduate of Pat Robertson’s Regent University) found their way to Trump.  It appears they have been part of the same network for a long time.  I don’t know if Sekulow agreed with Strang’s thoughts about the book, but the inscription is definitely interesting.

By this point in the post you may be wondering how I know about these connections between Strang and Sekulow.  Last week while speaking about Believe Me in Northwest Arkansas, a married couple who are longtime readers of this blog (he is a former history professor and she is a prolific reader of American religious history) drove three hours from Edmond, Oklahoma to attend the event.  They bought a used copy of Roberts’s book online as part of their research into the prosperity gospel and shared with me what they found:

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Thirty years later both Strang and Sekulow are two of President Donald Trump’s most ardent supporters and defenders.  I wonder if they knew this would be the case in 1989? 🙂

Court Evangelical Stephen Strang’s New Book

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Steven Strang

Some of you are familiar with Steven Strang’s book God and Donald Trump. (See this Religion News Service piece).  Strang is editor of Charisma, a magazine that covers the Independent Network Charismatic movement (INC) and other Pentecostal and Charismatic movements (and claims a circulation of 275,000).

I wrote about Strang and his book in my own Trump book, Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Here is part of what I wrote:

Strang’s book on the 2016 campaign, God and Donald Trump, provides the best introduction to this wing of court evangelicalism and its apostles who prophesied Trump’s election.  The book is endorsed by evangelicals on the Christian Right inside and outside the INC movement, including Michelle Bachman, Kenneth Copeland, Robert Jeffress, and Mike Huckabee.  In telling the story of the campaign from the INC perspective, Strang claims Trump is a Christian because he opposes abortion, defends religious freedom, and believes in the “American Dream.”  Strang seems to relish the anger displayed by anti-Trumpers in the wake of the election, and his book reads like a Trump victory lap.  He accepts Trump’s claims of election fraud, attacks Trump’s critics for their “divisiveness,” labels Trump’s opponents “demonic,” defends Fox News, and proclaims Trump a “spiritual remedy for America.”

Over at Right Wing Watch, Peter Montgomery calls our attention to Strang’s new and forthcoming book, Trump Aftershock: The President’s Seismic Impact on Faith and Culture in America.  Here is a taste of his piece:

“Trump Aftershock” will be out on Election Day, November 6, but the promotional campaign for the book is well underway. Strang’s public relations firm says the book “will uncover the unreported facts while objectively helping readers understand what the nation’s most unlikely and unconventional president has accomplished, including 500 accomplishments in the first 500 days of the Trump presidency.”

Strang is also using his section of Charisma’s website to promote the book. In an August 23 post, he tells readers that the book “is no puff piece.” But if the introduction and first three chapters are any indication—they’re available now to readers who pre-order the book—the tome goes well beyond puffery in its portrayal of Trump as God’s instrument, doing battle against the evil forces of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and George Soros—as well as “fake news” from the secular media, swamp-dwellers, and deep state.

Indeed, the available sections suggest that the book will be an unabashed love letter to Trump. “I believe Donald Trump was raised up by God at this pivotal time in our history,” Strang writes. “There were political expressions of the changing mood of the country. But I believe spiritually something was happening. Christians were praying for things to change, and the New York real estate tycoon was actually an answer to prayer.”

In a second post from Montgomery, we learn that Trump Aftershock is endorsed by Robert Jeffress, Mike Huckabee, and Alveda King.

Here is part of Jefffress’s endorsement:

We need more voices like Stephen’s who are unafraid to speak the truth. Don’t believe the lies of the mainstream media. Get the facts from trusted Christian sources like Stephen Strang, Charisma News and books like this. Our president is shaking things up. He needs our support. It’s time for all of us to become informed, stand united, and call for an end to the witch-hunt investigations, fake news and hateful rhetoric of those whose agenda is to bring an end to this president and turn our great nation away from God.

Click here to learn about another evangelical view of Trump.

I wonder what theologian Roger Olson thinks about this?

Court Prophet: Jim Acosta of CNN is a “Demon”

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I write a bit about Lance Wallnau in my forthcoming book Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  He is the guy who said God told him that Donald Trump is a new King Cyrus.  He represents the INC wing of the court evangelicals.

In this video, Wallnau says that Trump is not afraid of “demonic” journalists like Jim Acosta of CNN because the POTUS has a special anointing to resist the devil and his minions.

Want to learn more about the connection between these “prophets” and the Trump White House?  Pre-order a copy of Believe Me.

Here is a description of the book:

A historian’s acute take on current American politics 

“Believe me” may be the most commonly used phrase in Donald Trump’s lexicon. Whether about building a wall or protecting the Christian heritage, the refrain is constant. And to the surprise of many, about eighty percent of white evangelicals have believed Trump—at least enough to help propel him into the White House.

Historian John Fea is not surprised—and in Believe Me he explains how we have arrived at this unprecedented moment in American politics. An evangelical Christian himself, Fea argues that the embrace of Donald Trump is the logical outcome of a long-standing evangelical approach to public life defined by the politics of fear, the pursuit of worldly power, and a nostalgic longing for an American past. In the process, Fea challenges his fellow believers to replace fear with hope, the pursuit of power with humility, and nostalgia with history.

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Former Editor of *Charisma* Magazine Speaks Out Against Trump’s Immigration Policies

APTOPIX IMMIGRATION PROTESTSAs part of my research for Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald TrumpI read a lot about the so-called Independent Network Charismatic (INC) movement.  I have written about it here and here and here.  Many of the so-called INC “prophets” and “disciples” prophesied that Donald Trump would be POTUS.  According to sociologists Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, INC is the fastest-growing segment of Christianity in the world.  Charisma magazine, with its hundreds of thousands of subscribers, is the primary voice of the movement.

I am still learning about this wing of evangelical Christianity, but it was interesting to see that Lee Grady, the former editor of Charisma, has published a piece at the magazine critical of Trump’s “s—hole” comments.

Here is a taste:

Should the United States close our doors to certain countries just because they are poor, or because they have social or economic problems?

Many leaders in today’s conservative political movement say yes. They believe we would spare the United States a lot of grief if we allowed more immigrants from, say, Norway (Trump suggested this in the DACA meeting)—since Norwegians supposedly wouldn’t bring any problems with them.

But that position in itself is selfish, cold-hearted and racist, whether any racist slurs or vulgar terms are attached. And it is 100 percent opposite to the values of Christianity—which calls us to love foreigners and to show compassion to the poor.

Many Christians say they support President Trump not because he always exhibits Christian character (he is certainly not a pastor) or because his speech is G-rated (we have examples to prove it isn’t) but because he stands for biblical policies. But in this case, I can’t be a faithful prophetic voice for God if I don’t wave a red flag and question President Trump’s ideals.

Having a closed-door policy toward poor foreigners is blatantly anti-Christian. So is showing favoritism toward the privileged. Let’s remember the principle of compassion that is so clearly outlined in Scripture:

Deuteronomy 10:19 says: “Therefore, love the foreigner, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.” We should love others less fortunate than us because we were once in their shoes. Americans, of all people, should understand this—because we are a nation of immigrants. It was only a few generations ago when immigrants from Italy, Ireland and Poland were treated shamefully in this country. Today, the suspicion is aimed at those with darker skin or Muslim backgrounds. We should love them regardless.

Leviticus 19:34a says: “The foreigner who dwells with you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.” Notice, God did not provide a list of “approved” nations that should be protected by Israel. He simply said “the stranger.” God does not make a differentiation between “good nations” and “[expletive] countries.” He tells us to love them all.

Jesus Himself said in Matthew 25:35: “For I was hungry, and you gave Me food, I was thirsty and you gave Me drink, I was a stranger and you took Me in.” We can defend our protectionist immigration policies in the name of “security,” but Jesus will have the last word when He asks us what we did with the people He wanted to send to us to protect. On the day of Christ’s return, we will not be allowed to make lame excuses, such as, “But Lord, those people are filthy, and we didn’t want them to drag down the economy.”

Our compassionate immigration policy is the reason the United States is a blessed nation. We have been a welcoming people. Our own Statue of Liberty is a sign to the world that we have, at least in the past, invited strangers to find freedom and opportunity within our borders—whether they were fleeing war, disasters, religious repression, violence or hunger.

How dare we tell Jesus that we don’t want “those people” to become our neighbors. This whole world was a filthy, forsaken place when Jesus left heaven to come here and save us. Compassion for the poor is at the heart of the gospel. Please don’t let your politics turn your heart cold.

Read the entire piece here.  Grady connects a generous immigration policy to the idea that America is a “blessed nation.”

And don’t forget to pre-order Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  The good folks at Eerdmans Publishing tell me that pre-orders are essential to get the message of the book out there.  I cover INC Christianity in chapter 4: “The Court Evangelicals.”

The Other Wing of the Court Evangelical Coalition

Republican Presidential Candidates Speak At Values Voter Summit

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.

This interview helped me connect the court evangelicals to what I wrote last year about Ted Cruz and David Barton, particularly as it relates to their belief in Seven Mountain Dominionism.

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.

For example:

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?

“Court Evangelicals” and Daniel, Joseph, and Cyrus

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Cyrus, King of Persia

As I posted earlier today, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council criticized my recent Washington Post piece.  In the course of the critique, he made his own biblical argument against my “court evangelical” idea.

Perkins wrote:

John Fea, a professor at Messiah College, took aim at the president in a Washington Post column earlier this week called “Trump Threatens to Change the Course of American Christianity.” He starts by labeling the White House’s religious base as “court evangelicals,” his term for “a Christian who, like the attendants and advisers who frequented the courts of monarchs, seeks influence through regular visits to the White House.” When I hear the phrase “court evangelicals,” I think of Scripture’s Daniel, Joseph, and others who brought their faith into the presence of the king — people who God strategically placed to influence leaders for the benefit of an entire nation. But Fea doesn’t mean it as a compliment. 

I am getting some nice feedback on Perkins’s use of these Bible characters.

Here is one comment I received:

I find it fascinating that Perkins references Daniel, a captive in a hostile government’s court and Joseph who was sold into slavery by his brothers as forerunners to today’s evangelical sycophants. Neither chose to live in the court of the king but rather had the experience thrust on them. Daniel didn’t kowtow to the norms of the kingdom but rather and put his life on the line for what he believed was right before his God. Daniel spoke truth to power with words and actions.

Here is another:

…Daniel and Joseph didn’t set out to gain power or turn the government to make Egypt/Persia worship Jehovah. And neither Daniel nor Joseph (or Moses, Nehemiah, etc.) gave their bosses the impression that they were blessed. No sycophantic praises sung in those courts.

And another:

Daniel also offers the single most important prayer of repentance found in Exilic literature, then counseled non-resistance to imperial violence; bizarre, though I guess it fits for their Babylonian sensibilities which led many of these CE’s to describe DT as Cyrus

The Cyrus comparison is interesting.  Richard Mouw referenced it in his recent post at Religion News Service titled “Comparing Trump to two biblical kings.”

And even if we discount Trump’s professions of religious faith,  we still have the Cyrus example to consider. The Persian ruler was one of the few pagan rulers in the Bible to get high praise. The Bible even refers to him as God’s “anointed” servant….

And what we know about King Cyrus is that he purposely undid the brutal policies that his predecessor, Nebuchadnezzar, instituted against the captive Jewish people, a minority group in his kingdom. The prophet Daniel had given clear instructions to Nebuchadnezzar about what God required of a pagan ruler: “Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you. Break away from your sins by doing what is right, and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor. Perhaps your prosperity will be prolonged” (Daniel 4: 27).

But Nebuchadnezzar refused to listen, and instead he engaged in some self-aggrandizing boasting: “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?” (Daniel 4: 30).  So, as the biblical story goes, God punished Nebuchadnezzar and later raised up Cyrus. And Cyrus got it right.

Mouw also writes: “… is [Trump] living up to the standards set by the pagan King Cyrus?… The time is ripe now for evangelicals to conduct a job performance review in this regard. I have my Bible handy whenever Mr. Trump’s evangelical supporters are ready to get started!”

The Cyrus example was also brought to my attention recently by a pastor of a church affiliated with the Charismatic Movement.  Apparently the prophecies of a man named Kim Clement (he died on November 23, 2016) is getting a lot of traction among charismatics and, according to this pastor, may be behind some of Trump’s support in this community.  As the story goes, Clement predicted a Trump presidency in 2007. Read all about it here.  (Bill Gates is also part of Clement’s prophetic message).

Another charismatic leader, Lance Wallnau, has made direct references to Trump as Cyrus.  Glenn Beck’s new website The Blaze covered Wallnau’s views here.  Wallnau posted this video to his Facebook page in October 2015.  Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network also covered Wallnau.

Many of these charismatic court evangelicals follow a Facebook page called “The Elijah List.”

We need to do more work here, but I wonder how much these prophecies have influenced some of the Court Evangelicals.  I am sure there are scholars out there who are working on this community.  I would love to hear from them.