Call it wishful thinking, the odd statements in Michele Bachmann’s stump speeches about the “rise of the Soviet Union,” or the promises of two dollar a gallon gasoline within the first six months of her administration, or even her assertion that she will make Barack Obama “a one [pause] term [pause] president.” Those statements are delusional, because there is no way to back them up.
If it were another candidate, one might just dismiss it as another empty campaign promise. But this comes from Michele Bachmann, who believes she is destined, by God, to succeed. If they are not promises, then what are they? Incredibly, to her, they carry the strength of prophecy, and she feels empowered to prophesy because of her connection to a cult of Christian conservatives who at best are misguided, and at worse are a danger to the entire world.
It’s time the political center woke up when it comes to the modern American Republican and their claims to have God on their side. It is not merely pandering for primary votes. These prayerful pols take this strident moral train right into their policy, once they get into office. These are no longer the days where the candidate pays homage to his religious roots, yet keeps a firewall between it and the ship of state he or she is elected to guide.
Pay attention to what is going on. Religious fervor is no longer the third rail of campaigning. Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas), who only two weeks ago held a Christian prayer service for the welfare of our country, has catapulted into the lead of the Republican presidential primary field, according to a new poll that came out, Thursday.
His prayer service, held in Texas “was organized and led throughout,” by a group affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation, a loose network of Christians who believe that they are waging “spiritual warfare” against “demonic principalities,” according to researcher and author, Rachel Tabachnik. It was, she said, “from beginning to end, a New Apostolic event.”
Tabachnik, who appeared on the NPR program Fresh Air, Wednesday, described the political aims of the apostolic movement as “what we’ve come to call ‘Tea Party issues’ of very small government.”
Besides the social issues we usually ascribe to the religious right, like being “anti-abortion, anti-gay rights,” Tabachnik says, they also have a fundamental “belief that government should not be involved in social safety nets, that the country is becoming socialist, if not communist … [T]hey believe this because they believe that a large government that handles the safety net is taking away what is the domain of the church and of Christianity.”
Backing Perry at the event, known as The Response, were representatives of two key groups from the apostolic movement: Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer (yes, that’s IHOP), and Lou Engle, who leads The Call. The two groups work side-by-side to establish their idea of a church-centered “dominion” over our global society. According to Tabachnik, Engle often boasts about how “one of his sons has started an International House of Prayer in the Castro district of San Francisco and that his son is now expelling demons from homosexuals, and supposedly then this cures them of their homosexuality.”
For more than ten years, The Call has held what it describes as “solemn assemblies” at stadiums around the country, because, they say, there is a “desperate need” in this country for “another great spiritual awakening,” which their events pursue through “prayer, fasting, repentance and sacrificial worship.”
The IHOP, which has been around since 1999, states, perhaps more plainly, that it is working to establish “an evangelical missions organization that is committed to praying for the release of the fullness of God’s power and purpose… and impact the seven spheres of society—family, education, government, economy, arts, media, and religion.”
The New Apostolic Reformation movement refers to those spheres as “Seven Mountains,” and the “dominionism” they believe Christianity should have over global society, they take from Genesis, when God tells man to “fill the earth and subdue, have dominion over” it. The way to achieve that dominion, C. Peter Wagner, who has recently been called the “intellectual godfather” of the NAR, wrote in a letter last week, is “to have kingdom-minded people in every one of the Seven Mountains: Religion, Family, Education, Government, Media, Arts & Entertainment, and Business so that they can use their influence to create an environment in which the blessings and prosperity of the Kingdom of God can permeate all areas of society.”
He says that although this is a departure from the way Protestants have traditionally conducted themselves since Luther’s Reformation, it is neither heresy, nor a cult, as some have said. Instead, he says, “The NAR represents the most radical change in the way of doing church since the Protestant Reformation.”
It’s not heresy, he claims, because they are just following the New Testament, where, he says, “Whenever Jesus sent out His disciples he told them to heal the sick and cast out demons.” So when Engle’s son is “expelling demons from homosexuals” in San Francisco, he is just doing the work of a dutiful disciple.
Likewise, that rationale explains what was chalked up as a bizarre episode in the 2008 presidential campaign, when Kenyan minister, and NAR stalwart, Rev. Thomas Muthee prayed to protect Sarah Palin from witchcraft during the campaign. “Let’s pray for Sarah,” he prayed, “in the name of Jesus, every form of witchcraft is what you rebuke. Make her way now.” By the way, Muthee was also at the prayer event in Texas with Rick Perry.
Despite Wagner’s Protestant protestations to the contrary, it is really hard to see this as anything other than a cult, but since we tend to use that word to marginalize groups, and the NAR is intimately inside the campaigns of some of the most popular figures of today’s GOP, we must acknowledge that it is a powerful movement with some mainstream appeal.
Palin, and now Bachmann and Perry, are all willing to be tools for a group that believes that a Christian Dominion can be achieved, where Jews can be made to convert, mosques and Muslims can be exorcised and destroyed. It’s time to counter their spiritual warfare with lessons in social, religious and cultural tolerance, since they literally eschew such tolerance as being against biblical teaching. They do not tolerate tolerance, because, they believe, you cannot tolerate someone’s behavior while you’re trying to save them from that behavior.
The New Apostolic Reformation movement has taken aim at all institutionalized religion, but especially Protestantism, because they see themselves as apostles of Jesus himself, laying the groundwork for his return. And despite Dr. Wagner’s false humility at being the head of a confederacy of Christian End Times cults, his letter, in response to the hubbub over the NAR’s connection to Rick Perry’s involvement in The Response, carried the header: “An Urgent Message from Peter.” All hail the new reformation.
A Postscript: The Call is organizing one of its prayer rallies in Detroit on 11/11/11. Expect lots of religious rhetoric about Muslims, in a city they chose because it “has become a microcosm of our national crisis—economic collapse, racial tension, the rising tide of the Islamic movement, and the shedding of innocent blood of our children in the streets and of our unborn.” Great how they just snuck Islam in there, don’t you think? I think a counter rally is necessary to fight this intolerance. Any Michiganers up for taking that challenge? Hello, ACLU?