77: Pray
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Mar 25, 2009 at 09:40:25 AM EST
In 1977, the Talking Heads rose to avante-rock stardom when David Byrne's hit song "Psycho Killer" drove their "77" album up the charts. Twenty years later came another audio milestone - This American Life #77, which chronicled a radical reinvention of the biggest religion on Earth: Christianity. While Alix Spiegel didn't know that what was going on in Colorado Springs, at Haggard's church in 1997, represented a radical break with historic Christianity, she nonetheless grasped the essential - of how anti-modernist ('medieval' even ) and far right New Life Church really was. As Ira Glass introduced Spiegel's segment:
"Usually we think of prayer as a private thing... In Colorado Springs, Colorado, there's an elaborate program underway involving dozens of churches and thousands of people to pray - not just for those nearby but to try to fundamentally alter the civic life of their city, through prayer. The details of how they do this are complicated. It's almost like a modern door-to-door marketing or canvassing campaign - they use maps, and computers, and statistics to chart out what parts of their city need prayer, for what reasons - merged with something that couldn't be less modern - prayer. When This American Life producer Alix Speigel started to investigate it, it became something she could not get out of her mind. She decided she had to go to Colorado, to see what it was all about."
Spiegel found there was another, darker, dimension to the prayer program: Ted Haggard's New Life Church members were - street by street and block by block, toiling to expel, one by one, with prayer, the teeming territorial demon spirits they believed plagued their city. And they were maintaining, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, a prayer shield over their city to prevent those evicted demons spirits from re-infesting Colorado Springs.

Christianity is changing.

In her commentary for radio segment number 77 of Chicago Public Media's This American Life, episode 77, Pray, Alix Spiegel described herself as a secular Jew who, admittedly, did not understand Christianity. But what was going on at Ted Haggard's New Life Church in Colorado Springs in 1997 had, according to World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200, "no connection to historic Christianity."

In his 1998 book The Life Giving Church, Ted Haggard describeda 1992 meeting in California during which it was agreed that Haggard would materially support C. Peter Wagner. In 2001, Wagner declared the advent of a second Reformation... At 928 pages of minute, triple-spaced text, World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200, published in 2001, was reportedly the most exhaustive single research study of Christianity since the religion was born.

Widely considered one of the standard reference works on the subject, the tome was produced by the Protestant evangelical U.S. Center For World Mission and, for that, there might be reason to suspect it's objectivity. But the very point of the mammoth effort that produced the book was to generate accurate data to facilitate more effective global evangelizing efforts. Thus, it's authors took considerable pains to maintain relative academic neutrality.

World Christian Trends AD 30 - AD 2200 features clinically precise definitions of the myriad branches of worldwide Christianity which currently encompasses roughly 2.1 billion of the world's people. Ted Haggard's church, which calls itself "non-denominational," would most likely fall into a broad stream of Christianity that World Christian Trends calls Postdenominational.

Beginning on page 303 of the book, World Christian Trends lists 280 dichotomies which separate Denominational from Postdenominational Christianity. As one of those, Postdenominationalism has, according to the book, "no connection to historic Christianity."

It's a tendency that, over the last several decades, has washed over  world Christendom. According to World Christian Trends, by AD 2000 Postdenominational Christianity represented 385 million Christians globally.

And within Postdenominationalism, an even newer an more radical faith has erupted: the Third Wave.

Since the tendency emerged in the early 1980's, Third Wave Christianity came to encompass, by 2000, over four percent of the Earth's total population, some 295 million people. There are few historical precedents for such a seismic shift.

A rupture has occurred. Several hundred million Christians worldwide, more every day, are sailing into the uncharted waters of a theological system that has nothing to do with historic Christianity and which might have been, during the Medieval period, considered the wildest form of heresy.

One of the more distinctive characteristics of Third Wave Christianity, which World Christian Trends calls "radical" and "disturbing" is its doctrine that average Christians can learn to raise the dead. It's a claim one can hear promoted from the pulpit of Sarah Palin's most significant church, the Wasilla Assembly of God.

*

To listen to This American Life episode #77, "Pray", is to hear the march of the new Christian Right. In 1999, Jane Lampman, for the Christian Science Monitor, wrote two back-to-back stories about the World Prayer Center and the global prayer movement, then coordinated from the WPC which was created as a joint effort between Ted Haggard and C. Peter Wagner. One is still publicly available: Targeting cities with 'spiritual mapping,' prayer

Lampman's ground-breaking story began with:

Can the 'spiritual DNA' of a community be altered?" That's the question posed in a Christian video called "Transformations."

Kenyan pastor Thomas Muthee is convinced that it can be. In 1988, he and his wife, Margaret, were "called by God to Kiambu," a notorious, violence-ridden suburb of Nairobi and a "ministry graveyard" for churches for years. They began six months of fervent prayer and research.

Muthee was a star in the Transformations video series. In 2005, he blessed and anointed Sarah Palin.

The single best public source of research on the evolution of the ideology that's now propelling much of Third Wave Christianity is Rene' Holvast's 2005 three hundred page doctoral dissertation, Spiritual Mapping: The Turbulent Career of a Contested American Missionary Paradigm, 1989-2005 ( file is a 1.9MB PDF )

In November 2008, Brill Academic Publishers released Holvast's re-worked dissertation as a book: Spiritual Mapping in the United States and Argentina, 1989-2005: A Geography of Fear . Brill's description of the book is the following:

Spiritual Mapping is a U.S. Evangelical and Neo-Pentecostal movement (1989-2005), which developed its own religious technique to wage a 'spiritual' war against unseen non-human beings. These 'spirits' were identified along the lines of geographical territories and put on a map, whence 'Spiritual Mapping'. Its intended function was to boost the numerical growth of Christianity. This book offers a comprehensive historical-descriptive approach of both the movement and the concept, with special attention for theological and anthropological concepts. Its historical roots, relation with Argentina, self-understanding and critics are being described. The reader is presented with a unique insight into Spiritual Mapping as an expression of Americanism, as well as the socio-political concept of Manifest Destiny and U.S. religious marketing.

[ed - for more on ths subject, see Ted Haggard and The New Apostolic Reformation and also this special Talk To Action site section]




Display:
The link to Rene' Holvast's 2005 dissertation appears to not be linked to pdf file.

RAHilliard

by rahilliard on Fri Mar 27, 2009 at 09:29:30 AM EST

Best, BruceW

by Bruce Wilson on Sun Mar 29, 2009 at 01:59:09 PM EST
Parent
It's difficult enough to find valuable information about these topics and every bit helps!

RAHilliard

by rahilliard on Tue Mar 31, 2009 at 08:57:54 PM EST
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