The New Apostolic Movement uncovered ... and un-covered
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 03:23:07 PM EST
The mainstream media has plenty of time and space to devote to Sarah Palin's Hollywood hi-jinks, but apparently has little interest in delving into her fantastic religious connections.  

A few weeks back, I interviewed Rachel Tabachnick about a movement of religious conservatives called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). The story, which appeared at Alternet on Monday, March 1, was given the rather tantalizing title, "Heads Up: Prayer Warriors and Sarah Palin Are Organizing Spiritual Warfare to Take Over America". The subhead was also a juicy tease, advising that the NAR was likely "the largest religious movement you've never heard of" (

All-in-all, the piece was probably the most extensive article/interview yet published on this movement. While the piece didn't go "viral," it did provoke an interesting response. Within a few days, it became one of the "Most READ," "Most EMAILED" and "Most DISCUSSED" articles at Alternet.

A number of websites and blogs linked to the story, including such popular sites at The Huffington Post, Daily Kos, TruthOut, and Beliefnet. A host of lesser-trafficked blogs including God's Poetry Factory, God Discussion, End Bigotry in Venango County [Pennsylvania], The Oread Daily, and "The Christian Radical," also linked to - or ran --  the story.  

There were tweets, Reddits, and Diggs.

The mainstream media, however, didn't pay it any mind.

No great expectations ... but

Neither I nor Tabachnick expected producers of CNN's "The Situation Room" or the staff at the New York Times would come running. But we hoped it might spark an investigative blaze or two. It still may, but as of this writing (March 16), it hasn't.      

I asked Rachel Tabachnick why she thought the mainstream media wasn't paying attention to the New Apostolic Reformation.

Is it basically because it is too complex a movement to get a grip on? Are there other more nuanced things involved?

"There are a number of reasons that the New Apostolic Reformation hasn't garnered much attention from the mainstream media," Tabachnick told me in a series of emails. "I think that in part it's a question of branding; the movement escapes notice because they don't have a recognizable name.  If they had a label that was used every time there was a news story about an apostle or other leaders, they probably would have drawn more attention by now."

She pointed out that "Nondenominational churches don't get the press that Southern Baptists might receive, for example, because the SBC is a well known entity, and nondenominationals are not identified as a group.

"There are advantages to claiming to be simply `Christian' with no other label, something that Sarah Palin did during the elections."  

"We need more and better descriptions for our conversations about religion. For instance, the word evangelical covers many millions of people and a broad array of beliefs just as in found in the broad spectrum of Roman Catholicism or in Judaism. Both Roman Catholicism and Judaism include people with many diverse religious and political views, and so does evangelicalism.  I cringe every time I see writers refer to evangelicals as if they are all the same. Christian Zionist leader John Hagee, for instance, does not represent all evangelicals and neither does C. Peter Wagner, the Presiding Apostle of the NAR.  In fact both are quite controversial in many sectors of the evangelical world."

Tabachnick also noted that "the NAR structure is different from what we expect from a religious denomination and there has been no quick or easy way for journalists to get information about them." During the election, Tabachnick spent time on the telephone "with journalists who had questions about the NAR and Palin, but it was difficult for them to accept that there could be a religious movement on this scale that they could not identify or recognize the leadership."

Interestingly enough, "One of the curious outcomes of that work was that conservative Christian groups who oppose the NAR were posting our articles [which appeared at the Talk2Action blog], while the mainstream media did not get it," she added.

"I remember reading an article by a writer from a major paper that was very condescending about the attention given to the video of Thomas Muthee anointing Palin. She claimed that it was understandable that he would talk about witchcraft, since he is Kenyan, and therefore there was no story. This journalist totally missed the more important point that Muthee was a well-known religious figure, a leader in the NAR, and a superstar in a series of movies shown to churches around the globe."  

Tabachnick posited that getting information in the mainstream press might "continue to be a problem." Since "journalists can not access a textbook description of the NAR it basically doesn't really exist for many of them. And this is also increasingly difficult with many denominational churches. For example, during the campaign many journalists assumed that Wasilla Assembly of God, where Sarah Palin was raised, would have specific beliefs because they are a member of the Assemblies of God.  But this particular church had openly embraced NAR ideology years ago and no longer fit the stock description of AOG."  

But there is another reason that might provide a clue as to why the NAR escapes notice; "they don't fit the stereotypical picture of religious fundamentalists." With the "Religious Right constantly reinventing themselves, it appears that it is taking considerable time for this new facade to be recognized."

That may be because the "NAR welcome women leaders, are truly multi-racial, and are gaining access through extensive involvement in charities and faith-based programming," Tabachnick pointed out. "It takes a lot of time to dig into their ideology and find that their so-called openness is not necessarily a matter of altruism, but a well planned assault on religious pluralism and a strategy for taking `dominion.'"

Another problem that Tabachnick said she has encountered while trying to publicize information about the NAR is accusations by some that she sounds like a conspiracy theorist. "My primary area of work has been in End Times narratives which are the source of many of the `New World Order' conspiracy theories percolating through our society," Tabachnick pointed out.

While she "share[s] the concern of those who are careful not to be taken in by irrational and paranoid narratives," she recognizes that "some traditional fundamentalists actually do view the NAR as the apostate church of the end times and a conspiracy of the anti-Christ. "Since the NAR is poaching on a lot of other people's churches, their animosity is understandable. However, my problem with the NAR is that the movement is a very real and human assault on separation of church and state."

Tabachnick maintained that "Those of us who do this research and writing are fighting for religious pluralism which allows Baptists to be Baptists, Jews to be Jews, Presbyterians to be Presbyterians, and so forth. There is nothing anti-religious about our work.   However, in the progressive world I think we often allow the Religious Right to bully us into thinking this means we can't speak out without being anti-religious.  

"Gary North, one of the leaders of the openly theocratic Reconstructionist movement, has explained how they take advantage of "the dilemma of democratic pluralism" because pluralists must by definition tolerate the agendas of those who would eliminate pluralism. True, but we also have the right and the responsibility to educate the public on threats to religious pluralism, and I believe that one of the great threats at the moment is the dominionist agenda of the New Apostolic Reformation."


...allegation. It appears to me that the NAR, as it has been described by its works and intentions, is in fact a conspiracy -- to undermine the 1st Amendment to the Constitution by nullifying the religion aspect of it. But there is such a knee-jerk reaction against conspiracy theories these days that perhaps the mainstream press is worried about looking into a real conspiracy.

Perhaps this article will challenge someone to look a little deeper. I am hoping for the Washington Post to pay attention -- they have certainly brought the ugly to light in the past.

by Khalila RedBird on Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 04:54:30 PM EST
Actually, the NAR isn't a conspiracy in the sense of a secret group of plotters.  The NAR is quite open about its ambitions.

Still, it's hard to write or talk about the NAR without coming across as sounding like "conspiracy theory."  A couple of months ago, I tried to write a press release for my own group (New Yorkers Against Religion-Based Bigotry) calling attention to Pray For Newark.  I was unable to finish writing the press release in time for our meeting on the topic, because I couldn't figure out how to write it without looking like "conspiracy theory."  Although the NAR itself is open about its goals, Pray for Newark has a much more innocuous exterior (e.g. prayers "that there will be no murders on this street").  So it was exceedingly difficult for me to explain, in a concise, news-story-like format, exactly what's wrong with Pray for Newark.

I also think that those of us who oppose "conspiracy theory" may need to be more careful about how we express ourselves in opposition to "conspiracy theory," lest we worsen a journalistic climate which makes it hard to expose real dangers like the NAR.

I myself am very concerned about the recent popularization of what I prefer to call "grand conspiracy ideology" (e.g. claims about "the Illuminati" and "the New World Order") rather than just "conspiracy theory."  Especially when grand conspiracy ideology is advocated by adherents of movements, like the NAR, that are also making a point of infiltrating police departments, etc., I fear that the recent popularization of grand conspiracy ideology may result in a lot of police harassment of the various religious minorities that are identified with "the Illuminati."

by Diane Vera on Sat Mar 20, 2010 at 02:16:34 PM EST

"She claimed it was understandable that he would talk about witchcraft since he was Kenyan."
How in the world did this ever make past this woman's editor? Talk about bigotry! This does illustrate one of the major problems that I've seen and that is that a lot of erstwhile progressive journalists hold any form of religion in comtempt. They discount it. I've heard any number of proressives who dismiss John Hagee as "just a preacher" or cynically state "he's just in it for the money". They refuse to take him and the others seriously. This is a big problem.

by Frank Frey on Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 05:34:53 PM EST
Exactly! This is what is happening with Hagee and this CUFI event that he held on the night of Biden's arrival in Israel.  This should be big news but thus far it has not made it into mainstream outlets.  

Like Hagee, the Apostles and Prophets are impacting politics around the world but no one is paying any attention because they are disregarded as just those people  that you see waving their hands and falling down on the floor on Trinity Broadcast Network.  

by Rachel Tabachnick on Fri Mar 19, 2010 at 10:20:39 AM EST

"But they're a CHURCH, they can't be THAT BAD!"

That is a quote from people I've talked with down here.  Even when faced with the evidence, they refused to accept it.

In fact, they claimed that we were a bunch of conspiracy nuts.  (One person even got angry when C street started breaking into the networks, because I'd told him about it months previous and he suggested it was all a conspiracy theory!)

Another aspect to this is that dominionism supports the goals of the elites (or at least, it appears that they think they can control them).  Those same elites tend to pay the paycheck for the national news sources...

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by roneybhatt on Wed Mar 07, 2012 at 02:25:31 AM EST

This article helped me take step back and - WOW!

"Wagner teachers that there will soon be a "great transfer of wealth" from the ungodly to the godly and has set up structures in preparation. The Wagner Leadership Institute teaches courses in prophecy as well as foreign currency exchange."

After I read this I remember all the prophecy b.s I was taught about the 'one world government' - now I am beggining to see that God has a twisted sense of humor - It very well may happen but godless Christians will be the one world government - not the one they said it would be but themselves.

by FFL on Fri Mar 19, 2010 at 06:22:47 PM EST

I've written a separate post, Publicizing the existence of the NAR -- some suggestions, in reply to the above.  I hope that at least one or two of my suggestions turns out to be helpful.

Keep up the good work of exposing the NAR!

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It takes a lot of time to dig into their ideology and find that their so-called openness is not necessarily a matter of altruism, but a well planned assault on religious pluralism and a strategy for taking `dominion.HCG drops

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postle of the NAR.  In fact both are quite controversial in many sectors of the evangelical world."smarsh

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Thomas Muthee anointing Palin. She claimed that it was understandable that he would talk about witchcraft, since he is Kenyan, and therefore there was no story.

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