“God give him strength! He’s doing a Jericho walk!”

Trump walk

Matthew Teague, a writer at The Guardian, digs deep into the white evangelical support for Trump’s visit to St. John’s Church on Monday.

Here is a taste of his piece “He wears the armor of God“:

Not every Christian answered the call. The Rev Gini Gerbasi, an Episcopal priest, said police used teargas to drive her and others from St John’s before Trump’s appearance. “They turned holy ground into a battleground,” she told Religion News Service.

But many of Trump’s evangelical supporters, far from Washingtons political stage, saw the move as a victory in a world rife with evil.

“My whole family was flabbergasted,” said Benjamin Horbowy, 37.

The Horbowys had gathered in Tallahassee, Florida, to watch live as Trump walked from the White House to St John’s. “My mother just shouted out, ‘God give him strength! He’s doing a Jericho walk!’”

A Jericho walk, in some evangelical circles, refers to the biblical book of Joshua, where God commanded the Israelites to walk seven times around the opposing city of Jericho, whose walls then came crashing down.

Horbowy already supported Trump politically – he heads the local chapter of a pro- Trump motorcycle club and is campaigning for a seat in Florida’s state senate – but when Trump lifted the Bible, Horbowy and his family felt overcome spiritually.

“My mother started crying. She comes from Pentecostal background, and she started speaking in tongues. I haven’t heard her speak in tongues in years,” he said. “I thought, look at my president! He’s establishing the Lord’s kingdom in the world.”

Did he feel that conflicted with the Gospel of John, where Jesus said “my kingdom is not of this world”?

“Well,” Horbowy said, “that’s a philosophical question.”

Read the entire piece here.

A “Jericho Walk” comes from chapter 6 of the Old Testament Book of Joshua. In this story, the walls of the Cannanite city of Jericho collapsed after Joshua led the people of Israel on seven marches, one per day, around the city. On the seventh day, the Israelites blew their trumpets and the walls crumbled.

Here is Elvis:

Pentecostal Christians do Jericho walks as part of their lively worship services.

But the idea of a “Jericho Walk” is not something unique to Pentecostal Christians. For example, “The Jericho Walk” is the name of a movement to support immigrants fleeing to sanctuary cities.

Evangelicals usually do Jericho walks, or prayer walks, to prepare for large revival meetings. Other evangelicals use them to pray for their schools or government institutions. Some perform these walks to dedicate churches.

I am not sure what the woman in Teague’s story meant when she said that Trump was doing a Jericho Walk, but it probably had something to do with Trump, as a divinely appointed figure, leading his followers on a march for the purpose of invoking God’s protection over Washington D.C. in the midst of the protests and demonstrations. In the eyes of this woman, Trump lifting the Bible only confirmed this interpretation.

Rodney Howard-Browne Arrested for Holding Services on Sunday

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I am glad they got this guy. You remember him:

Rodney Howard-Browne held services again on Sunday. Tampa Bay-area officials said enough:

Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne bonded out of jail Monday afternoon. He paid $500 bail and was released from the Hernando County jail, online records show.

An arrest warrant for Tampa Bay pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was issued Monday, and the pastor was taken into custody after the sheriff said the church violated a countywide “safer-at-home” order.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said the River at Tampa Bay Church violated the county’s order related to large gatherings and social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. A live stream from the church on Sunday showed the building packed with worshippers.

When Chronister saw images from a crowded Sunday service at the church posted online, he was furious.

“We received an anonymous tip that Dr. Rodney Howard-Browne refused a request to temporarily stop holding large gatherings at his church,” he said. “And instead, he was encouraging his large congregation to meet at his church.”

Hours later, the sheriff along with Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, filed a pair of charges against Howard-Browne, including unlawful assembly.

Chronister said it was a “reckless disregard for public safety.”

Chronister said Howard-Browne refused requests to stop gatherings at the church and even encouraged people to meet at the church. Chronister said the pastor “put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk,” and in turn thousands of Tampa Bay residents in danger.

Read the rest at CBS Tampa affiliate WTSP-TV.

Why is a Louisiana Pastor Still Holding Sunday Services?

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Some of you have now heard about Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge.  Despite Louisiana governor John Bel Edwards’s order to limit the size of meetings, Spell has continued to hold Sunday services. It is unclear whether Spell will defy Edwards’s recent stay-at-home order.

Over at The Washington Post, four scholars of American religion–Andrea Johnson, Lloyd Barba, Daniel Ramirez, and Roy Fisher– explain the theology behind Spell’s decision to stay open.

Here is a taste:

Spell’s stance reflects elements of a longer history of the Oneness Pentecostal tradition within which his church fits. This faith tradition champions the beliefs and practices of the early church. Along with this commitment to “restorationism,” their method of scriptural interpretation enables some Oneness Pentecostals to stitch together disparate scriptures into post-facto justifications for conclusions based as much on their understanding of politics as their reading of scripture. In this case, Spell’s position reflects a longer history of sectarian groups guarding the church and the restored faith against intrusion by either government or more mainstream forms of Protestantism.

And this:

Nonetheless, Oneness groups are not, and have never been, monolithic in how they have engaged politics, and we’re seeing that again in how they respond to the coronavirus epidemic. Official directives from the flagship Oneness Pentecostal denominations, including the United Pentecostal Church International, the Apostolic Assembly of the Faith in Christ Jesus (largely Latino) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (largely African American), have explicitly cited scripture in counseling their diverse constituencies to remain calm and adhere to government directives, including the call not to hold public services. They would rather follow the prophet Jeremiah’s charge to exiles to always seek the well-being (“peace”) of the city in which they reside, for in its well-being they will find their own well-being.

Read the entire piece here.

David Bratt Remembers Edith Blumhofer

BlumhoferDavid Bratt was the late Edith Blumhofer‘s editor. Over at the blog of Eerdmans Publishing, Bratt remembers the Wheaton College religious historian.

Here is a taste:

I like to tell people that Edith Blumhofer is just your basic, average, Harvard-educated German Pentecostal Wheaton College professor from Queens. It’s a fun way of saying that I’ve never met anyone quite like her. But it’s a lot less fun now, because I have to use the past tense. At age 69, far too soon, Edith Blumhofer has lost her battle with cancer.

Edith was well known for her work in running the Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals, which she directed for fifteen years until its closing in 2014. She was good at being in charge of things; in addition to her work with the ISAE, she also served as president of the Society for Pentecostal Studies (the first woman to do so) and served as administrative director for Martin Marty’s public religion project at the University of Chicago. More recently she stepped in to lead the board of the Overseas Ministries Study Center through a time of acute financial challenges.

But she did more than enable others’ scholarship. Edith’s achievements are obvious to anyone who can search the websites of Amazon and the Library of Congress. She was the author of five books—including two with Eerdmans—and the co-author, editor, or co-editor of several more. Her two books for Eerdmans were biographies of important but sometimes overlooked women in American religious history: Aimee Semple McPherson and Fanny Crosby. Her work helped make it seem natural to pay attention to women in American religion—something that wasn’t natural enough in the field for far too long. And she had a gift for biography: she could tell a subject’s story in a way that appealed to lay readers as well as people with advanced degrees, to insiders who love her subjects as well as to scholars who study them.

Read the rest here.

Can a Bible Ooze 400 Gallons of Oil?

Dalton

It apparently did in Dalton, Georgia.  Here is a taste of Ruth Graham’s incredible piece at Slate:

In the summer of 2016, God gave Johnny Taylor a prophecy. It wasn’t a specific vision, but something more like a promise. After the presidential election that fall, so the prophecy went, God would begin to “position” Johnny and his group of friends to do great things. Months later, when Donald Trump won—no surprise to Johnny—God provided another message: After the inauguration, he said, “I’ll show you what I’m doing.”

Trump was inaugurated on Friday, Jan. 20, 2017. On Monday night, as they did most evenings, Johnny and a small, informal prayer group met to pray in the backroom of a small Christian gift shop called Grace 251. Johnny’s girlfriend, Leslie, was there, along with her father, John Barker, and their friend Jerry Pearce and his wife, Joyce. They usually broke up by 8:30, but on this night they kept praying until after midnight. At one point, Jerry fell down on the floor for 45 minutes in a kind of catatonic state that he describes as being “out in the Spirit.” Within a few days, he told me, he opened his Bible to Psalm 39—an uneasy poem of both praise and gloom that includes the words “every man at his best state is but vapor”—and noticed a small spot of oil. Joyce assured him the grandkids hadn’t been near the book. It could only have come from God.

From then on, more oil appeared almost every time Jerry picked up the Bible, a leather-bound copy of the New King James translation. The oil moved to the back of the book, saturated the endpapers—a heart-shaped splotch appeared over a map of Israel—and then started at the beginning, in Genesis 1. Eventually Jerry had to put the book in a Ziploc bag, and then in a large plastic bin he bought at Tractor Supply.

News of the oil began to spread. The weekly prayer group started meeting in a larger room at the gift shop, then moved to a small performance space, and finally landed at a renovated movie theater downtown. Within three years, hundreds of people were gathering each week in the small town of Dalton, Georgia, to pray, socialize, and be healed. Believers say the translucent oil has cured skin conditions and cancer. They say it has generated crystals, changed color, and increased in volume—inching upward in the Tupperware container over the course of a few hours. They say small vials of oil refilled themselves overnight. “A Bible flowing with oil—something many are calling a modern miracle—continues to gather huge crowds,” the Chattanooga Times Free Press reported this past November. Some believers moved to Dalton to be closer to the revival; others drove hours every week to see the oil. Leslie’s father and his girlfriend got married in the prayer room. Meanwhile, the book kept oozing. By January 2020, Johnny and Jerry estimated that the Bible had produced more than 400 gallons of oil.

Read the rest here.  This sounds like a case for historian Darren Dochuk.

*Mother Jones* Profiles Court Evangelical Paula White

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Here is a taste of Stephanie Mencimer’s piece “How Do You Get from the Trailer Park to a White House Job?”:

At the Supernatural Ministry School, White deftly offered the audience the secret of her success. “How did I get to the White House from the trailer?” she asked. The answer, of course, was by giving money to God by way of the church—and she’s not talking about tossing the weekly pin money in the offering plate. Securing Paula White, White House-caliber blessings would require students of the supernatural to give a “First Fruits” offering, one that is significant—the first week’s pay, say, or even the first month’s pay—to signify putting God first in everything. White claimed during the sermon that God once told her that in 2009, a particularly bad year, she needed to give her entire annual salary to God—$8 million.

She broke it all down for her congregants, making it simple: If they prioritize their paychecks for more earthly needs, like keeping the lights on, they were treating Florida Power and Light (FPL) like God himself. “Instead of writing [that check] to the house of God as I’m instructed to, then what I’m saying spiritually is, ‘FPL, I have now established a spiritual law that put you first. So, FPL, save my family, FPL, deliver my drug addicted son. FPL, kill this cancer that doctors say is in my body.’”

Over the next half hour, White built to a crescendo, shed many tears, spoke in tongues, and implored people to give. Hundreds of people streamed down the aisles to throw envelopes of money at her feet. “The First Fruits sets the pattern and establishes the destiny for what is left,” she cried. “Many of you need to bring a First Fruit offering right now!” Mostly Latino apostles and prophets from the church brought baskets to the front to collect the offerings. No one from King Jesus responded to questions from Mother Jones about where the donations went.

Read the entire piece here.

Court Evangelical Steven Strang Takes a Shot at Romney and Says Impeachment Was From the “Pit of Hell.”

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Most Americans have never heard of Steven Strang.  I’ve written about him here and in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.  Strang is the editor of Charisma Magazinea magazine and website that represents Pentecostal and charismatic Christians in the United States.  Many of the court evangelical “prophets” who think Trump is the new King Cyrus are regularly featured in Charisma.  In 2005, Time named Strang one of the 25 Most Influential Evangelicals in America.”  According to WikipediaCharisma had a circulation of 250,000 in 1997.  I don’t know if the circulation has grown or declined since then.

Here is a post we published in January 2018:

I have read Strang’s God and Donald Trump.  I think it provides the best (primary source) introduction to the Independent Network Charismatic (INC) wing of the court evangelical coalition.  Strang and many of the folks who read Charisma believe that God anointed Trump for such a time as this.  These spiritual leaders claim that God spoke to them and told them that Trump is a new King Cyrus, an unbelieving pagan monarch chosen by God to lead His people out of bondage and into the new promised land of a Christian nation.  When Christians get control of the culture, Jesus will return.

God and Donald Trump is endorsed by court evangelicals within and without 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, reads the Bible, prays every day, stands up to liberals, defends religious freedom, and believes in the “American Dream.”  Strang relishes in the anger displayed by anti-Trumpers in the wake of the election.  His book reads like a Trump victory lap.  Strang 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.”

Strang recently weighed-in on the Trump impeachment trial:

Here are his thoughts on Mitt Romney:

The only surprise and huge disappointment to me was Mitt Romney, who rejected what all of his Republican counterparts thought was right and sided with the Democrats. I regret that I ever endorsed him for president in 2012. We knew then he was not a strong leader and that he had flip-flopped his entire political career, and he has done it again. He will live to regret his decision.

And here is Strang on Trump’s opponents and the supports of impeachment and removal:

In my book, I wrote that dishonesty on the other side was one reason why he actually might win. Let me reemphasize what I’ve said in the past. The impeachment was not about what Donald Trump may have said in a phone call with the Ukrainian president in July. It’s about the fact that this president has been standing for religious liberty and righteousness. He has stood with Israel. He is strong. He can’t be intimidated. The attacks were, in my opinion, from the pit of hell. As a Christian, I believe Satan is behind this. He is trying to steal, kill and destroy. I believe Donald Trump has been raised up by God to stop our nation’s headlong plunge into total depravity. Trump’s presidency has been God’s mercy on America, since we deserve judgment.

I’m amazed at how many sincere Christian friends have been surprised by all these demonic attacks against the president. Why should they be surprised? Satan hates it when America stands with Israel. He hates it when righteousness and religious freedom are championed. No wonder he and his minions have focused their hatred toward Donald Trump.

Read Strang’s entire piece here.  Strang now joins Robert Jeffress as court evangelicals who believe that Satan is behind the impeachment of Donald Trump.

Undocumented Immigrants are Worried About Attending the “Evangelicals for Trump” Event on January 3, 2020

Guilermo

Guillermo Maldonado, pastor of King Jesus International Ministry

Donald Trump has chosen to host his “Evangelicals for Trump” rally at King Jesus International Ministry, a megachurch in Miami.  Yesterday, during Sunday services as the church, pastor Guillermo Maldonado had to calm the fears of his undocumented parishioners.  Many of them apparently felt that there was a chance Trump would try to deport them.

Here is a taste of a piece at the Miami Herald:

The Miami pastor whose megachurch is hosting President Donald Trump this week told undocumented parishioners at a Sunday service that he guaranteed they would not risk deportation if they decided to attend the president’s event on Friday.

“You don’t have to be a citizen. And I will give you an affirmation as your spiritual father and your pastor. First, someone said, ‘But how can you bring Trump to church if there’s people who don’t have papers?’ ” Pastor Guillermo Maldonado told his audience of hundreds, referencing Trump’s hard-line anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies.

“I ask you: Do you think I would do something where I would endanger my people? I’m not that dumb.”

Maldonado, a Honduran evangelical pastor who goes by the term of “apostle,” said the King Jesus International Ministry church had been chosen by the president to host about 70 Christian pastors to “talk” and “influence” the president, during a first-ever Evangelicals for Trump rally.

Read the rest here.

This is a fascinating development.  Trump’s choice to have his “Evangelicals for Trump” rally at this church may force him to reconcile his commitment to evangelicals with his crackdown on undocumented immigrants.  I hope a journalists asks Trump about this.  I am interested in his response.

At this point, I have not seen anything about the speaker line-up at the event.

Beware of Adam Schiff’s Eyes. They are the Eyes of the Devil!

You might remember Perry Stone as the preacher who checks his smart phone while speaking in tongues.  In the video below, he reminds us again that the debate over the impeachment of Donald Trump, at least according to his most ardent evangelical supporters, is a spiritual battle.  More mainstream conservative evangelical Trump supporters like Robert Jeffress or Franklin Graham do not talk with the charismatic fervor of a Perry Stone or Paula White, but they believe the same thing about impeachment.

‘Satan Hates This Man’: Perry Stone Says Trump’s Critics ‘Have Demons in Them’ from Right Wing Watch on Vimeo.

Pentecostal Preacher Checks His Phone While Speaking in Tongues

We all have to tell our kids (and ourselves!) to put the phone down and concentrate on what they/we are doing. But perhaps we have been wrong about such exhortations. Perhaps God speaks directly to us through our smart phones! Here is Pentecostal preacher Perry Stone checking his phone as he speaks in tongues.

Stone’s ministry is located in Cleveland, Tennessee, the home of the Pentecostal Church of God (Cleveland) denomination.  Perhaps I will see him at the Lee University Symposium on Faith and Politics in Cleveland this weekend.  If he does, I would love to talk to him and find out what is going on in this video.  (I am also curious about the guy with the tattoo who comes in to wipe the table).  Stay tuned!

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? 🙂

The Author’s Corner with Arlene Sanchez-Walsh

WalshArlene M Sanchez-Walsh is Professor of Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University.  This interview is based on her recent book Pentecostals in America (Columbia University Press, 2018).

JF: What led you to write the book

ASW: I wrote the book in order to break the historiographical logjam that afflicts writing about Pentecostalism in America. Most works are either focused on place:  where did Pentecostalism start? That question animates Pentecostal historians and budding graduate students way too much in my opinion. The question for me was, who cares whether it started at Azusa Street or Chicago?  I also wrote the book because the other logjam was the overemphasis on the “great men and women of history” motif, where the godly ministers received all the attention and all historians did was follow their pastoral appointments from pulpit to pulpit.  Again, who cares? I wrote this book because Pentecostals tell great stories and those stories are what animate the movement. Historians should move beyond spiritual genealogy, and I think this book does that.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of the book?

ASWPentecostals tell great stories, those stories are bewildering, fascinating, unbelievable, shocking, and life-affirming, often all at the same time–historians ought to focus on that aspect of the movement–the power of narratives to shape the historical flow.

Pentecostalism has been viewed as a self-exculpatory triumph of what God is doing in the world or a distasteful backwater frenzy fit only for those willing to delude themselves; it is neither of those things, but it is a vibrant faith with great historical tensions among genders, races, and classes–that all deserves examination.

JF: Why do you need to read Pentecostals in America?

ASWYou need to read it because it’s the first book that looks thematically at the history of the movement, not through timelines, but through people–some lesser known than others. There is the well-known story of Sister Aimee McPherson and the lesser known story of Florence Crawford. There are events that are covered here that have not been covered elsewhere like A.A Allen’s Miracle Valley, Arizona compound that was the site of an outbreak of religious violence in the early 1980s that virtually no one knows about. Finally, if I might, I think readers will come away from this book as if they just read a page-turning novel…the stories are that good!

JF: When and why did I decide to become an American historian?

ASWI decided while on my 3rd major in college (I floated in and out of a lot of majors).  I was usually very good at the subject, and I loved my history classes. I took as many as I could with as many professors as I could. I knew that I could combine my love of U.S. history and religion when I took an undergrad class on slavery.

I decided to study U.S. history, specifically Latino/a history, because that is a history that is still on the periphery of U.S. history. I wanted in some way to contribute to compiling the stories of the religious lives of Latinos/as in the U.S. because so very few people were doing that when I started in 2000.

JF: What is your next project?

ASWWell I actually have 2 projects. I need to step away from Pentecostalism for a bit, just because this book has taken 10 years of my life. So I hope to write a religious biography of Fr. Daniel Berrigan.  After that, I’ll step back into my ethnographic fieldwork and complete a project on Latinos/as and the Prosperity Gospel.

JF: Thanks Arlene!

Are Latino Court Evangelicals Doing Enough for Immigrants?

immigrants

Over at Religion & Politics, Arlene Sanchez Walsh and Lloyd Barba call Latino evangelical and Pentecostal churches to do more for immigrants “living under the regime of daily ICE raids.”  Here is a taste:

Evangelicals and Pentecostals, by and large, have been unmoored from any deep theological tradition of social teaching regarding immigration, never having developed a systematic response to state injustices. When set in the balance against the weighty record of Catholic and mainline Protestant public social and civil advocacy, indeed the writing on the wall spells out that evangelicals and Pentecostals are found wanting. This absence of advocacy has thus far not been ameliorated by para-church organizations, such as the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, whose leader Samuel Rodriguez has been self-appointed to advocate on behalf of Latino evangelicals. In fact, Latino evangelical leaders in high places of political power—such as the once-rising State Senator Steve Montenegro, a champion of Arizona’s SB 1070, (whose bid for 8th congressional district was supported by the state’s convicted and now presidentially pardoned former sheriff, Joe Arpaio)—show that Latino evangelical politicians can, do, and will vote against the basic-human interests of those sitting in their very pews.

But perhaps, in some cases, our decoding of that writing is misguided by our interpretive code of what responses ought to look like. That Latino Pentecostal and evangelical churches have long been home to a large number of undocumented immigrants is no secret. Could an intimate setting of worship and social bonding be bereft of any political engagement?

Read the entire piece here.

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

Acosta

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.

Believe Me JPEG

 

 

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.”

Author’s Corner with John Wigger

9780199379712John Wigger is a Professor of History at the University of Missouri. This interview is based on his new book, PTL: The Rise and Fall of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s Evangelical Empire (Oxford University Press, 2017).

JF: What led you to write PTL?

JW: I was fascinated by how fast PTL grew and how quickly it fell apart. What I really wanted to know was how PTL’s rise and fall were connected. How does deep religious devotion become so entwined with money, sex, and celebrity on a Hollywood scale? A short synopsis might help:

Jim and Tammy started the PTL network with half a dozen employees in a former furniture store in 1974. By 1986 PTL had annual revenues of $129 million, 2500 employees, a 2300-acre theme park, Heritage USA, and a private satellite network that reached into fourteen million homes in the US. That year, six million people visited Heritage USA. Jim and Tammy lived in luxury, buying vacation homes, expensive cars covered with One Sure Insurance and clothes, and traveling first class with an entourage. Then it all came crashing down. In March 1987 Bakker resigned in disgrace after his 1980 sexual encounter with Jessica Hahn in a Florida hotel room became public. Stories emerged about gay relationships and visits to prostitutes. By the end of the year, PTL was in bankruptcy, headed for liquidation. In 1989 Bakker was convicted of wire and mail fraud and sentenced to 45 years in prison.

JF: In 2 sentences, what is the argument of PTL?

JW: PTL helps to explain the persistent connections between religion and popular culture in American life, a connection that runs much deeper than politics alone. PTL grew so quickly because of its embrace of consumer and celebrity culture, much of it through the prosperity gospel, but along the way the money and fame undermined the religious convictions of those at the top.

JF: Why do we need to read PTL?

JW: It’s a story full of human drama, sincere faith, innovations both cultural and technical, financial fraud, secret affairs, and the allure of television cameras. But it also says a lot about why faith continues to be vibrant part of American life. Many of the central characters in the story—Jim and Tammy Bakker, Richard Dortch, David Taggart, John Wesley Fletcher, and of course Jessica Hahn—seem almost too improbable for a novel. But together they helped first to build one of the largest ministries in recent American history and then to bring it down.

JF: When and why did you decide to become an American historian?

JW: History and academia are a second career for me. My undergraduate degree is in Petroleum Engineering. After college I drilled oil and gas wells in California for about six years. Part of that time I lived a few blocks from the beach. One day I woke up and thought, I’m having too much fun and making too much money, what should I do? Grad school seemed the obvious answer. Okay, more seriously, I’ve always been interested in the connections between religion and culture in American life and how those connections have persisted and shifted over time. That’s what led me to switch careers and what this book is about.

JF: What is your next project?

JW: I’m not exactly sure. Hopefully something surprising that will make a good read.

JF: Thanks, John!