Charismatic prophets at war

In Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump, I wrote extensively about the so-called Independent Network Charismatics (INC). According to scholars Brad Christerson and Richard Flory, INC is the fastest-growing Christian movement in both the Western world and global south. INC Christians are outside the network of traditional Pentecostals. Unlike the Assemblies of God, Church of God (Cleveland), International Pentecostal Holiness Church, International Pentecostal Church of Christ, Foursquare Church, and the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church, INC Christianity is not a denomination. Nor are its networks affiliated in any way with the National Association of Evangelicals.

INC Christianity is a network of authoritative spiritual leaders with very large followings. They are closely related to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). If I understand these movements correctly, INC Christianity it more open to the prosperity gospel than NAR Christianity, but there is a lot of overlap. Both groups believe in the traditional Pentecostal “gifts” (speaking in tongues, healing, miracles, and prophecy). They expect a great revival of the Holy Spirit will take place shortly before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, and God will raise up “apostles” and “prophets” to lead this revival.

Some of the more prominent INC prophets include Che Ahn (Harvest International Ministries in Pasadena, CA), Bill Johnson (Bethel Church in Redding ,CA), Chuck Pierce (Glory of Zion Ministries in Corinth, TX), Cindy Jacobs (Generals International in Red Oak, TX), Mike Bickle (International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO), Lou Engle (The Call in Colorado Springs, CO), Dutch Sheets (Dutch Sheets Ministries in Dallas, TX), Lance Wallnau (Lance Learning Group in Dallas, TX), Jeremiah Johnson (Jeremiah Johnson Ministries in Charlotte, NC), Kat Kerr (Revealing Heaven Ministries of Jacksonville, FL), and Shawn Bolz (Bolz Ministries of Studio City, CA).

INC prophets and apostles believe that they have been appointed to serve as God’s agents in ushering in his future kingdom, a process that many describe as God “bringing heaven to earth.” They are thus deeply attracted to Seven Mountain Dominionism, the belief that Jesus will not return until society comes under the dominion of Jesus Christ. Drawing from Isaiah 2:2 (“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains”), INC prophets want to reclaim seven cultural “mountains”: family, government, arts and entertainment, media, business, education, and religion. The goal is to place God’s appointed leaders atop these cultural mountains as a means of setting the stage for the time when God will bring heaven to earth.

As early as 2007, INC prophet Kim Clement received a word from God: “Trump shall become a trumpet. I will raise up Trump to become a trumpet, and Bill Gates to open up the gate of a financial realm for the church.” Early in the 2016, Wallnau received a similar words: “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 sense 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 “45th 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.

In early 2015, Cindy Jacobs claimed that God said to her, “I have a trump card in my hand and I’m gonna play it and I’m gonna trump the system.” When Trump announced his candidacy in 2016, Jacobs supported his candidacy through “prayer walks” through seven swing states. Jacobs was one of the religious leaders who stood behind Trump on the White House lawn when he announced an executive order on religious liberty on May 4, 2017.

Frank Amedia, an INC apostle who claims to have presented Trump with a note at a campaign stop in Youngstown, Ohio, telling the candidate that God had revealed to him that it was a “forgone conclusion” that he would win the GOP nomination, worked as Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy.” Amedia has led several of these INC leaders in the formation of an organization called POTUS Shield. The clergy associated with this organization gather regularly to pray for Trump to protect them from the Satan-inspired attacks of his political opponents. The POTUS Shield prophets seldom appeared at the White House, but they served as a kind of spiritual support group for God’s new Cyrus, who will lead America back to spiritual and economic prosperity and help to set the stage for the dominion of Jesus Christ over all the earth.

Prior to Trump, INC and NAR prophets were on the fringe. The secular media didn’t even know they existed. The only outlet that covered them on a regular basis was Right Wing Watch, a project sponsored by People For the American Way. But in recent days, the Washington Post and New York Times have recognized the influence of these Christians and their massive followings. Yesterday we posted about Michelle Boorstein’s piece at The Washington Post. A few hours ago, David Brooks of The New York Times published a column that referenced Jeremiah Johnson.

As might be expected, INC and NAR prophets prophesied a Trump victory in 2020. Some of them, including Johnson, apologized. Over at Religion Unplugged, Julia Duin has a piece on how Trump’s loss has divided the INC and NAR community. Here is a taste:

At least 40 charismatic Christian leaders predicted Trump’s reelection starting around 2018, according to J. Gordon Melton, 78, the venerable compiler of the Encyclopedia of American Religions and an American religious studies professor at Baylor University. 

“Only a handful [of prophets] got it right on the 2016 election,” said Melton, “so they all jumped into this election and with one exception,” a Black prophet from North Carolina whose name he did not recall, “they were wrong.”

This is the second major hit this movement has taken in less than a year, he added. The first was during a prophetic summit last year.

“Last November when [evangelist] Cindy Jacobs had her meeting in Dallas, none of the prophets at that meeting – and it was the elite who were there – none of them hinted that anything like the coronavirus was coming,” Melton said. “That has come back to haunt them.”

Some in the movement are still holding out for some kind of last-minute miracle from God that would magically reverse the election and install Trump as president on Jan. 20. The Dallas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries is one. On Jan. 7, host Gene Bailey and several other prophets appearing on a ministry broadcast known as Flashpoint, floated conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. All of them encouraged listeners to continue believing in prophecies of a Trumpian victory.

“Many are on the side of, ‘Let’s attack one another. Let’s get on social media and attack the prophets. And let’s draw the sword on one another,’” said the Rev. Hank Kunneman, pastor of Hosts Church in Omaha, Neb. “And I think that is the greatest mistake we can make as true patriots, true Christians, those of us that are in the body of Christ.” 

God had personally assured him there would be a miraculous outcome, he added.

“I’m telling you that’s what we’re getting ready to see,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I just know this thing is not over.”

Court evangelicals rally around a new pro-Trump documentary titled “Trump 2024: The World After Trump”

The documentary will appear in September. Court evangelicals Paula White, Robert Jeffress, Franklin Graham, Mike Huckabee, Jack Hibbs, Eric Metaxas, Tony Perkins, Samuel Rodriguez, and Jack Graham are involved. This trailer is so over-the-top that some of it could pass for a anti-Trump parody of the Christian Right.

Here is Peter Montgomery at Right Wing Watch:

One of the primary target audiences for the movie is Christians who may be fed up with Trump’s divisive rhetoric and may be considering staying away from the polls or voting for Joe Biden in hopes that Biden ​may return the country to a sense of normalcy. The movie will try to convince those people that God is using Trump the way that God always uses flawed, imperfect people—and that ​though Trump may sometimes come across as a jerk, he is an effective champion of “biblical values.” The film will end with a virtual “altar call” inviting viewers to pray for salvation.

Read the rest here. For the record, Joe Biden is not a socialist.

I tried to offer a Christian response to this kind of propaganda in Believe Me: The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump:

Believe Me 3d

Tuesday night court evangelical roundup

COurt Evangelicals

What have Trump’s evangelicals been saying since our last update?

Court evangelicals are getting massive checks from the federal government. The money comes from the Payback Protection Program, a program to help small business during the pandemic.  Peter Montgomery reports. Elana Schor is also on the case.

Robert Jeffress is on the Jim Bakker Show today. He is talking about how God “orchestrated every detail” related to the pandemic and the country’s racial unrest so that his book on prayer could come out precisely at this moment.

Each chapter of Jeffress’s book offers an “inspiring story demonstrating the power of faith in the life of our nation, a prayer, and a relevant passage of Scripture to inspire and encourage” people to pray for the United States. This all sounds well and good until Jeffress starts his “America is a Christian nation” rant. In other words, this book is just an extended version of his “America Was Founded as a Christian Nation” sermon–a devotion in Christian nationalism. The interview with Bakker’s wife includes some of Jeffress’s greatest hits, including the one about George Washington kneeling in the snow for a photo-op.

Johnnie Moore, who describes himself as a “modern-day Dietrich Bonhoeffer,” wants to stand for truth.

I am still waiting for Moore to explain how he supports this.

Franklin Graham is retweeting the recently-deceased country singer Charlie Daniels:

Eric Metaxas is still hawking his book If You Can Keep It. He writes on Facebook: “It’s my mission to get this book and its message to every American. I felt that way when I wrote it and I feel that way much more urgently right now. Losing the republic cannot be an option. It is too precious. Future generations depend on what we do…” Before you buy a copy of this book, I encourage you to read some reviews. It is a deeply flawed book. Start here.

If you want to know how I differ with Metaxas on a lot of things related to Christianity, history, and American culture, check-out Emily McFarland Miller’s piece about our visits to Chicago in September 2018.

And now for some Liberty University Falkirk Center news:

In other words, slavery is wrong and it was always wrong regardless of whether people who indulged in it were just products of their age.

And here is Trump wonder-boy Charlie Kirk:

So if Nike is operating in slave labor camps in China, and they stopped, would you, Charlie Kirk, then support their efforts to change the name of Washington’s NFL team? Just checking.

Until next time.

What It’s Like to Talk With Pro-Trump Evangelical Family Members

Court

A gathering of court evangelicals

Check out Alex Morris’s Rolling Stone essay “False Idol–Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump.”  Morris talked to a lot of the right people, including commentators Greg Thornbury, Randall Balmer, Peter Montgomery, Charles Marsh, and Diana Butler Bass and court evangelicals Robert Jeffress and Eric Metaxas.

The most telling part of her piece is her description of a conversation with her pro-Trump evangelical mother.  Here is a taste:

In a dimly lit room, with a bottle of red wine, my mom, my aunt, and I pull our chairs close. I explain that I’m taping our conversation, that I love and respect them, and that I want to discuss why my Christianity has led me away from Trump and theirs has led them to him.

For a while, we just hit the typical talking points. There’s some discussion of Trump being a baby Christian, some assertions that the lewd behavior of his past is behind him, that in office he would never actually conduct himself as Bill Clinton had. But when I really double down, my mom and aunt will admit that there are flaws in his character. Though not that those flaws should be disqualifying.

“I don’t think he’s godly, Alex,” my aunt tells me. “I just think he stands up for Christians. Trump’s a fighter. He’s done more for the Christian right than Reagan or Bush. I’m just so thankful we’ve got somebody that’s saying Christians have rights too.”

But what about the rights and needs of others, I wonder. “Do you understand why someone could be called by their faith to vote against a party that separates families?”

“That’s a big sounding board, but I don’t think that is the issue,” says my mom.

“But it’s happening, and I’m not OK with it.”

My mom shakes her head. “No one’s OK with it.”

“If that’s your heart, then vote your heart,” says my aunt. “But with the abortion issue and the gay-rights issue, Trump’s on biblical ground with his views. I appreciate that about him.”

“As Christians, do you feel like you’re under attack in this country?” I ask.

“Yes,” my mom says adamantly.

“When did you start feeling that way?”

“The day that Obama put the rainbow colors in the White House was a sad day for America,” my aunt replies. “That was a slap in God’s face. Abortion was a slap in his face, and here we’ve killed 60 million babies since 1973. I believe we’re going to be judged. I believe we are being judged.”

Read the entire piece here.  Morris’s conversation with her family is almost identical to some of my conversations with Trump supporters over the past several years.

Maybe Trump Really is the Christian Right’s “Dream President”

Falwell

Remember when Jerry Falwell Jr. called Donald Trump the “dream president” of American evangelicals?”  Falwell may not speak for all evangelicals, but he certainly does speak for the politically-active conservative evangelicals commonly referred to as the “Christian Right.”  Trump probably is their “dream president.”

Peter Montgomery, a senior fellow at People For the American Way, makes this argument in an American Prospect piece titled “The Religious Right Moves to Cement Political Power Under President Trump.”

Here is a taste:

Amid the stream of outrage about President Donald Trump that dominates my Facebook feed, one friend desperately sought a silver lining: “Well, at least we don’t have the theocrat Pence as President.” It reminded me that I, like some of my LGBTQ friends, thought during the Republican primary that we would prefer Trump to someone like Ted Cruz, whose unshakeable religious-right ideology and matching policy agenda was clear.

We were wrong. My Facebook friend is wrong. Not only is Trump a reckless and divisive president who shows contempt for anyone who crosses him and who has energized a white nationalist movement that could wreak havoc on American political and social culture for a long time to come—he’s also the best thing that’s ever happened to the religious right.

To be fair, there was a logical foundation for believing that Trump would be less of a culture warrior than a president who is a conservative evangelical. Pence has a long anti-choice and anti-LGBTQ record. And there is a basis for the argument that Trump is so incompetent that a Mike Pence or a Ted Cruz might have been more successful dealing with Congress.

But it is hard to imagine the religious right doing any better under a President Pence or President Cruz than they are with President Trump. But because the president is the crass, amoral, prideful, and dishonest huckster Trump, rather than a faith-on-their-sleeve true believer like Pence or Cruz, the religious right has been able to have to wield an outsized influence on national policy while avoiding the kind of scrutiny that would come if they were working with one of their own in the White House.

During his campaign, Trump offered conservative evangelicals a deal: help him take the White House and he would make them more politically powerful than ever before. They took the deal, urged voters to overlook his glaring character flaws, and helped put him in office. Trump’s conservative Christian cheerleaders have told him repeatedly that he is on a divine mission and that God intervened in the election. Religious right leaders upheld their end of the deal and delivered an overwhelming majority of white evangelical votes to Trump. Now he’s upholding his end by giving them more than they might have expected even from a President Pence.

Read the rest here.

The POTUS Shield and the Court Evangelicals

frank-amedia-potus-shield-just-potus12

As one of my friends on FB wrote, “shouldn’t it be the White House, and not the Capitol, in the logo?

Yesterday I wrote about INC–Independent Network Charismatic Christianity.  These charismatic preachers with large followings make up a significant part of what I have been calling the court evangelicals.

I have been learning more about INC by the hour.  Thanks for everyone who has been e-mailing with leads.  Last night I read Peter Montgomery‘s extensive report on POTUS Shield, a group of charismatics preachers who believe that Donald Trump will “bring about the reign of God in America and the world.”

He writes:

In the early morning hours of November 9, 2016, God told Frank Amedia that with Donald Trump having been elected president, Amedia and his fellow Trump-supporting “apostles” and “prophets” had a new mission. Thus was born POTUS Shield, a network of Pentecostal leaders devoted to helping Trump bring about the reign of God in America and the world.

Amedia described the divine origins of POTUS Shield during a gathering that spread over three days in March 2017 at the northeastern Ohio church he pastors. Interspersed with Pentecostal worship, liturgical dancing, speaking in tongues, shofar blowing, and Israeli flag waving, Amedia and other POTUS Shield leaders put forth their vision for a Christian America and their plans to bring it to fruition through prayer, political engagement and organizing in all 50 states. Among the many decrees made at the event was that Islam must be “completely broken down.”

POTUS Shield’s leaders view politics as spiritual warfare, part of a great struggle between good and evil that is taking place continuously in “the heavenlies” and here on earth, where the righteous contend with demonic spirits that control people, institutions and geographic regions. They believe that Trump’s election has given the church in America an opportunity to spark a spiritual Great Awakening that will engulf the nation and world. And they believe that a triumphant church establishing the kingdom of God on earth will set the stage for Christ’s return. Amedia says that the “POTUS” in the group’s name does not refer only to the president of the United States, but also to a new “prophetic order of the United States” that God is establishing.

Read the entire report here.

Montgomery also did an interview with Sunnivie Brydum at Religion Dispatches.

The ties between POTUS Shield and the court evangelicals are becoming clear:

Frank Amedia, the co-founder of Touch Heaven Ministries, is a “Christian policy liason” for Trump.  Amedia claims to have had a vision of a giant broom sweeping all the liberal judges from the Supreme Court.  He also believes he can control natural events like tsunamis and tornadoes.

Dutch Sheets, another leader of the POTUS Shield movement, was apparently part of a group of evangelical leaders who prayed with Donald Trump in the White House.

Rick Joyner, founder and director of MorningStar Ministries, also visited Trump in the White House.

Bishop Harry Jackson of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, has been a longtime court evangelical.  Here he is talking about 7 Mountain Dominionism.

Herman Martir, a Filipino-American pastor in Texas and a representative of this wing of evangelicalism, serves on Trump’s National Diversity Coalition.

Cindy Jacobs, a self-proclaimed prophet and a leader in the POTUS Shield movement, was on the White House lawn when Trump signed his executive order on religious liberty.

More to come.