Friday, August 12, 2011

The New Apostolic Reformation and today's Republican Party

Forrest Wilder and Rachel Tabachnick have used the occasion of Rick Perry's "The Response" religious rally to take a closer look at the Christian Right network on which he is pinning his apparent Presidential hopes at the moment. The role of the Pentecostal New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) movement is particularly important in this context. The NAR is also the religious trend with which Sarah Palin has been most closely associated both religiously and politically. Forrest Wilder writes about them in the Texas Observer in Rick Perry's Army of God 08/03/2011 and The Mainstream Media's Shallow Coverage of The Response 08/09/2011, and Rachel Tabachnick in Five Points About Rick Perry's Prayer Rally Not Yet in Mainstream Press Talk to Action 08/08/2011. Kyle Mantyla at Right Wing Watch includes Rachel Maddow's news report relying heavily on Wilder's reporting in Understanding The "Apostle" In The New Apostolic Reformation 08/11/2011.

Jezebel: mastermind of the Democratic Party?

Wilder reminds us what a particular and narrow trend the NAR is within American Protestantism, despite their very outsized clout in today's increasingly radicalized Republican Party:

Some of the fiercest critics of the New Apostolic Reformation come from within the Pentecostal and charismatic world. The Assemblies of God Church, the largest organized Pentecostal denomination, specifically repudiated self-proclaimed prophets and apostles in 2000, calling their creed a "deviant teaching" that could rapidly "become dictatorial, presumptuous, and carnal." Assemblies authorities also rejected the notion that the church is supposed to assume dominion over earthly institutions, labeling it "unscriptural triumphalism." The New Apostles talk about taking dominion over American society in pastoral terms. They refer to the "Seven Mountains" of society: family, religion, arts and entertainment, media, government, education, and business. These are the nerve centers of society that God (or his people) must control.
One long-standing temptation of Radical Right groups is to model themselves along mirror-image lines of their enemies do or are imagined to do. The John Birch Society in its early years structured itself in a sort of secret cell manner, which they understood to be the way their main bogeyman, the Communist Party, operated. And for a variety of reason, not least of them concerns about protecting the tax-exempt status of the religious institutions that are their main basis, theocratic religious activists engage in no small amount of double-talk about the nature of their goals.

Baal (old-school version)
The New Apostolic Reformation, as Wilder explains, relies on a real network organized on authoritarian lines, with the leaders understood to be prophets and apostles with direct lines to God in the same way a "literalist"/fundamentalist reading of the Christian Scriptures would understand Biblical prophets and apostles to have. So it's always interesting to see what they have to say about the secrecy and clandestine intentions of the groups they perceived to be active tools of Satan:

Some of these groups' beliefs and activities will be startling, even to many conservative evangelicals. For example, in 2010 Texas prayer warriors visited every Masonic lodge in the state attempting to cast out the demon Baal, whom they believe controls Freemasonry. At each site, the warriors read a decree—written in legalese—divorcing Baal from the "People of God" and recited a lengthy prayer referring to Freemasonry as "witchcraft." Asked whether he shares these views, Stringer launches into a long treatise about secrecy during which he manages to lump together Mormonism, Freemasonry and college fraternities. "I think there has been a lot of damage and polarization over decades because of the influence of some areas of Freemasonry that have been corrupted," he says. "In fact, if you look at the original founder of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, he had a huge influence by Masonry. Bottom-line, anything that is so secretive that has to be hidden in darkness ... is not biblical. The Bible says that everything needs to be brought to the light. That's why I would never be part of a fraternity, like on campus."
Baal (counter-Trinity version)
The Charisma website reflelcts the NAR outlook. Their brief summary news report of Perry's "Response" rally is Jennifer LeClaire, 30,000 Unite In Fasting, Prayer at The Response 08/08/2011. Except on the most formal and highly-publicized occasions, like The Response rally, leaders of the NAR often don't make much effort to show their partisan preferences based on what they claim is Godly guidance:

Consider Alice Patterson. She’s in charge of mobilizing churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma for The Response. A field director for the Texas Christian Coalition in the 1990s, she’s now a significant figure in apostolic circles and runs a San Antonio-based organization called Justice at the Gate. Patterson, citing teachings by Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce and Lou Engle, has written that the Democratic Party is controlled by “an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure” unleashed by the biblical figure Jezebel. Patterson claims to have seen demons with her own eyes. In 2009, at a prophetic meeting in Houston, Patterson says she saw the figure of Jezebel and "saw Jezebel’s skirt lifted to expose tiny Baal, Asherah, and a few other spirits. There they were - small, cowering, trembling little spirits that were only ankle high on Jezebel's skinny legs."
Jezebel (new-school version)
Patterson's vision bears a distinct literary resemblance to this:

"Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask," said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit's robe, "but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?"

"It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it," was the Spirit's sorrowful reply. "Look here."

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

"Oh, Man, look here! Look, look, down here!" exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

"Spirit, are they yours?" Scrooge could say no more.

"They are Man's," said the Spirit, looking down upon them. "And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!" cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. "Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end."

"Have they no refuge or resource?" cried Scrooge.

"Are there no prisons?" said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. "Are there no workhouses?"

The bell struck twelve.
That is, of course, from Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol (1843), the concluding scene of the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Present. It's safe to say that the social vision which Dickens' fictional vision represented is a more humane one that the one embodied in Patterson's.

The dove was a favorite symbol for Asherah
Incidentally, for those not up on ancient Near Eastern religion, Baal was a Canaanite storm god, some of whose attributes were incorporated into the ancient Israelites' concept of Yahweh. Asherah was a female diety whose worship was stubbornly persistent among the ancient Hebrews, much to the consternation of the hardcore Yahwists, whose views are preserved in the Hebrew Scriptures. How Jezebel got promoted among the NAR crowd from a naughty Phoenician queen to a the mega-demon controlling the Democratic Party, I can scarcely imagine. Except that it probably has something to do with Hillary Clinton. Tabachnick calls attention to the following:

Another shocker was that Mike Bickle led part of the event. The event organizers came from Mike Bickle's youth-oriented International House of Prayer (IHOP) and Lou Engle's The Call, based at IHOP Kansas City. After Lou Engle, Bickle is one of the most controversial figures in the movement and source of the "Oprah as forerunner of the anti-Christ" statement that made the news. However, Bickle is a toxic figure in much of the evangelical world. He was the leader of the "Kansas City Prophets" in the 1980 and 1990s and was at the center of a very divisive dispute in Charismatic evangelicalism. Continuing the point about Mike Bickle, this event did not represent all conservative evangelicals. Although the big name family values guys - James Dobson, Tony Perkins, Donald Wildmon, and others - have been joining forces with the apostles for several years, this partnership is very controversial. The apostles plans to revamp Protestantism, eradicate denominations, their radical end times theology, and boisterous Charismatic manifestations are feared, and rightfully so, by many fundamentalists and evangelicals. This event was a organized and led - from the prayer leaders and messaging to the band - by the NAR. It was a duplicate of The Call events that have been held around the country. [my emphasis]
Jezebel's unhappy end, as pictured by Gustav Doré; presumably the "apostolic" Pentecostals who see her as the controlling demon of the Democratic Party are hoping for a replay

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