Templeton Foundation, Christianity Today, Oprah Network Promote New Apostolic Reformation
Bruce Wilson printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Thu May 31, 2012 at 05:39:09 PM EST
One of the factors driving the increasing radicalization of the Republican Party, which shows a growing willingness to put partisan politics above the national interest, has been the radicalization of segments of the American evangelical community.

Meanwhile, prominent university scholars, leading moderate American evangelical Christian publications, and even the Oprah TV network have promoted, unwittingly or not, leaders from what is perhaps the most radical segment of the politicized evangelical right, the New Apostolic Reformation -- a "theocratic utopian" movement, with growing ties to the Republican Party, that disaffected former movement insiders warn could become a violent "Christian jihad".

"While many fear the Islamic fundamentalists' plot to place the world under Islamic Law, the Sharia, most Americans may not know that Christian conservatives, long the dominant wing of the Republican Party, are increasingly falling under the spell of theocratic utopianism with its goal of establishing "God's Law" as the law of the land." -- Colonel V. Doner, author of Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America

Thursday, May 24th, 2012 marked the public release of a new book from one of key architects of the modern American religious right; in Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America, author Colonel Vaughn Doner - who has renounced the movement he helped create - suggests that the evangelical right's "neo-fundamentalism" is coming to mirror the radical Islamic fundamentalism behind the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

As a critic of the religious right, Colonel Doner ("colonel" is his name, not a military title) has unusual gravitas - he wasn't just in the movement, he played a major role in creating it - as an organizer, a public spokesperson, and a theorist who helped shape overall strategy.

Confesses Colonel Doner, "I was a Christian Jihadist - one of the founding members of the Fundamentalist Christian Right. I created the first Congressional 'Report Card' to make sure every person who called themselves an Evangelical Christian knew exactly how they should vote."

Doner adds a major voice to the swelling ranks of former leaders who now warn that the religious right and the Republican Party are morphing into something, very far from "conservative", that is potentially very dangerous. In the vanguard of that change is a radical segment of the evangelical right called the New Apostolic Reformation, a movement that some critics have compared the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

Meet the NAR

The New Apostolic Reformation is a religio-political movement that seeks charismatic Christian dominion over all significant sectors of society--including politics, business, media, and education--and has ties to many of the leading politicians in the Republican Party including Sarah Palin, Jim DeMint, Rick Perry, Sam Brownback, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum.

Doner devotes two chapters of his book to the NAR, and Sarah Palin's extensive ties to the movement, and cites the pioneering research Rachel Tabachnick and I have done on the New Apostolic Reformation, starting in early September 2008 following John McCain's choice to pick Palin as his vice-presidential running mate.

New Apostolic Reformation doctrine teaches that followers of competing belief systems practice idolatry and witchcraft, and NAR leaders advise their followers to burn, smash, or otherwise destroy or dispose of books, art, and other objects associated with competing beliefs, such as Catholicism, Mormonism, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hinduism, eastern religions, Christian Science, native religions, and Baha'i.

While the NAR's "Spiritual Mapping" practices include the targeting and demonization of individuals identified as practicing witchcraft and sorcery, top NAR leaders have also engaged, on a global level, in demonizing LGBT citizens and are tied to an antigay crusade, in the African nation of Uganda, behind draconian pending legislation that, in its original form, proposed establishing the death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality" and three-year prison sentences for citizens who failed to report homosexual activity to police.

C. Peter Wagner, possibly the NAR's leading theorist and widely credited as the most influential leader in the movement, traces his movement's "dominion" theology through R.J. Rushdoony, the intellectual father of the Christian Reconstructionism movement.

Rushdoony advocated a radical form of theocratic libertarianism which, according to researcher Rachel Tabachnick, "would dramatically reduce the federal government and control society through enforcement of biblical law at the local and state levels".

Recounts Colonel Doner,

"I was part of an elite team that introduced Peter Wagner, the leader of Sarah Palin's scary brand of "spiritual warfare" theology, to the theocratic concept of "godly dominion.""

This June 2nd, 2012, United States Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) will be a featured speaker at a conference hosted by the Fort Mill, South Carolina ministry of Rick Joyner,  a major apostle and prophet in the New Apostolic Reformation. In a 2007 "prophetic" writing Joyner declared,

The kingdom of God will not be socialism, but a freedom even greater than anyone on earth knows at this time. At first it may seem like totalitarianism, as the Lord will destroy the antichrist spirit now dominating the world with "the sword of His mouth" and will shatter many nations like pottery... the kingdom will move from a point of necessary control while people are learning truth, integrity, honor, and how to make decisions, to increasing liberty so that they can.

The Christian political regime that Joyner envisions would seem to entail the sort of mass coercive behavioral and ideological indoctrination that was inflicted upon citizenry by revolutionary 20th Century communist governments.

Few Americans even know the NAR exists. Yet through leading evangelical Christian publications, in the writing of mainstream academics, and even in coverage from the Oprah Network, New Apostolic Reformation leaders are being mainstreamed to the public -- as benevolent, almost saintly, figures.

"Exemplars of Godly Love"

This Spring, the May 2012 print issue of Christianity Today, founded by Billy Graham in 1956 and considered by some to be the leading evangelical Christian magazine in America, ran a feature story on an American missionary to Africa named Heidi Baker, who claims she can raise the dead and cause chicken dinners to miraculously multiply (think of Jesus, and the miracle of the loaves and fishes) in response to her prayers.

Heidi Baker is also, as my colleague Rachel Tabachnick has documented at length, one of the top female leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation.

Christianity Today is not alone.

As I've just revealed in my story Flame of Love Project: Margaret Poloma and the Templeton Foundation Mainstream the NAR, over the last decade the behemoth John Templeton Foundation has spent millions of dollars funding academic projects, such as the Flame of Love Project, that whitewash the radical agenda of the NAR and related streams of politicized evangelical Christianity.

Headed by University of Akron sociologist-emeritus Margaret Poloma, the Flame of Love Project, which has the endorsement of prominent academics such as Harvey Cox and Robert Wuthnow, touts Heidi Baker and her fellow New Apostolic Reformation leaders, including top NAR guru C. Peter Wagner as "Exemplars of Godly Love" and fails to note the apparently totalitarian agenda of their movement.

This "love-washing" of the NAR is happening in spheres beyond academia and evangelical media as well. For example:

In February 2011 the Oprah Network's Lisa Ling went to Rick Joyner's South Carolina Morningstar Ministries and gave a credulous interview with faith healer Todd Bentley, who like Heidi Baker, claims to be able raise the dead. Bentley also brags of causing tumors to literally "explode" out of people's bodies.

A little old lady gets a "godly" kick in the face

During 2008, Todd Bentley became internationally famous (and notorious) for his rolling tent healing and revival event, known within the movement as the "Lakeland Outpouring", sponsored by a Florida church under one of C. Peter Wagner's apostles.

At Lakeland Outpouring events, Bentley claimed to heal people, in ceremonies broadcast around the world on GodTV, by violently assaulting them onstage.

In these ceremonies, which became notorious, at least among appalled evangelical critics, Bentley bragged of healing elderly women by kicking them in the face with his biker boots and struck, in the stomach, a man billed as having Metastatic Stage IV Colon Cancer.

Bentley's  "Lakeland Outpouring" was one of the 2008 spiritual travel destinations for Ed Kalnins, head pastor of the Wasilla Assembly of God - a New Apostolic Reformation church that church Sarah Palin had attended for almost two decades, prior to being chosen as John McCain's running mate in the 2008 presidential election.  

During the 2008 election, footage surfaced showing Kalnins, along with  C. Peter Wagner's NAR colleague Thomas Muthee, praying over Palin and calling upon God to protect her from "every form of witchcraft" - shortly before Palin's successful bid to become governor of Alaska. Wagner later confirmed that Muthee was an NAR movement colleague, in a 2011 interview with Terri Gross, on NPR's Fresh Air radio show.

On June 23, 2008, C. Peter Wagner and several of his fellow Templeton Foundation project-certified "Exemplars of Godly Love" gathered to officially "commission" Todd Bentley as a member of their movement.

A few months later, Todd Bentley was the subject of a Southern Poverty Law Center feature story, Todd Bentley's Militant Joel's Army Gains Followers in Florida, which focused on Bentley's aggressive promotion of the doctrine that during the end-times, a supernaturally-equipped army of young believers would rise up and cleanse the world of evil.

Sarah's army

In early June, 2008, then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin spent state funds to travel from Juneau, Alaska, to Alaska's  Mat-Su Valley, where she gave a speech in honor of the graduation of students in the Wasilla Assembly of God's Masters Commission program - which teaches students Bible memorization, evangelizing, and how to talk to God.

At the end of the ceremony the graduating students -  some of whom had recently traveled with Wasilla Assembly of God head pastor Ed Kalnins to Rick Joyner's Morningstar Ministries - were presented with samurai swords. A church member officiating the sword ceremony quoted Psalms 149 verses 6-9:

"May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double edged sword in their hands to inflict vengeance on the nations, and punishment on the peoples, and to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, and to carry out the sentence written against them."

Traditional Pentecostalism?

In her 2010 book The Assemblies of God: Godly Love and the Revival of American Pentecostsalism (co-written with John C. Green), Flame of Love Project leader Margaret Poloma made the claim that the video of Palin's speech at the June 2008 ceremony "reflected a traditional Pentecostal understanding of the world".

Underlining the absurdity of the claim, in early 2007 a visiting Masters Commission speaker from Arizona boasted, to these same  students, that his two young daughters were "Osama Bin Ladens in the spirit", and on September 9, 2007, a youth pastor at the Wasilla Assembly of God involved these same future graduates in a skit, held at a local high school, dubbed "Chainsaw Jesus".

The "Chainsaw Jesus" skit involved the use of an actual, running chainsaw. Explained the pastor, "Yes, we use the message of a chainsaw, but it brings the message of Jesus Christ - which is what is important about all of this."

The youth pastor was followed by Masters Commission speaker Jayme Montera, who during his sermon produced a full-length Western-style sword that he brandished for dramatic emphasis. Towards the end of his sermon Montera told the students, "when is the last time we fought for this church?...  We were created to throw punches at the enemy... Do not wait until you lose something precious before you start fighting". Montera then played an extended video clip from Mel Gibson's movie "The Patriot".

Warns Colonel Doner,

"After 20 years as a Christian Right leader I then spent a decade within the wacky Neo Fundamentalist Movement that was birthed from the ashes of the old Christian right and that formed the worldview of social issue warriors like Sarah Palin and Michele Bachmann. The bizarre world of their Dominionist-Spiritual Warfare mentality is a new and much more dangerous manifestation of the old Christian right and it has the power to bring us to the brink of civil war. It is vital that we understand what is happening and what can be done to stop it before it's too late."

Psalms 149 verses 6-9:

"May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double edged sword in their hands to inflict vengeance on the nations, and punishment on the peoples, and to bind their kings with fetters, their nobles with shackles of iron, and to carry out the sentence written against them."

I wanted to see if this was taken out of context, but it appears it was not.   So just as the Muslim jihadist can find passages in the Koran to justify his views, it appears that so too can the Christian fundamentalist. And in both cases, there are hundreds of such passages in both books, including the gospels and the New Testament in the Bible.

Does this not make one of the major problems here the texts themselves? While we all can agree that the NAR views are dangerous to democracy, how does one solve the problem of the theological views that drive the movement, and the textual passages that give legitimacy to the views?

One cannot say "Well you have the interpretation of the texts wrong, so cut it out!"

What in your view is the best way to take action against these people? Does Doner have suggestions?

by BGBlade on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 09:53:54 AM EST

The problem is, they're taking things written millenia ago and thinking that these things were meant for today.  It's been shown that many of the books of the OT were written long after King David's time, during the time they spent in Babylon.  They were written to justify the existence of the Jews as a separate people from the Babylonians, and there are clear political and cultural messages in the books.  There are many historical and other errors throughout the Bible which supports this... for instance, one of the towns "destroyed by Joshua and the Jews" didn't even EXIST in Joshua's time... it didn't exist until around the time of the removal if I remember right.  Other towns are said to have been destroyed in the same way, but they were destroyed by earthquake or fire and not by war (archaeology can detect the difference).  Plus most were not destroyed within the same time frame, and many were destroyed repeatedly.

I've even read that the "Walls of Jericho" didn't come down as originally thought and taught, but as it turns out the excavation sampling strategy on the dig that supposedly supported the idea of a collapse of the town wall, actually matched a cultural pattern.  (I'd have to dig out the reference for that one - I read that quite a few years ago and the details are hazy.)

The thing is, they're reading things into a book that was meant for the time and place, and only as a reference and guide for future generations.  They've taken something and turned it into "Dictated by God" and then "Dictated by God to instruct us", and that idea would have been completely foreign for the cultures of the time.

This is even true with Jesus' day and it can be shown that the Gospels and other books of the New Testament were written with an agenda and have been added to and subtracted from many times.

REAL Bible studies are needed.  Not the worthless "Read the Bible in it's interpretations and try to figure out what it means for you" (or "This is what it means for you!") studies promoted in nearly all of the churches, but really trying to get in and understand the messages that the authors are trying to convey and how it all fits together AND THEN has bearing on today.  Real Bible study is a major area of scholarship, and requires commitment that most of us really cannot make.  (The best we can do is draw on the knowledge of the true Scholars... and winnow the good ones from the fakes.)

Sources: Archaeological information from Archaeology of the Land of the Bible - 10,000-586BCE by Mazar, combined with other readings in archaeology done over the years.  Personal studies.  Studies and readings in church history.  Conversations - both in person and online - with true Biblical scholars over the years.

(I consider myself more of a dilettante when it comes to Bible study, and not a real scholar.)

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 10:54:58 AM EST

Yes, there has been a lot of historical, archaeological, and other scientific work done on biblical texts since the translations and interpretations that "literal" readings of the Bible are based on. And anyway, what about "love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you"?

by arachne646 on Mon Jun 04, 2012 at 10:41:12 AM EST

There is also the saying of Jesus: "I came tobring not peace, but a sword", which is also often taken out of context

by rdrjames on Sun Jun 03, 2012 at 08:04:40 PM EST

that we've been saying for a long time that fundamentalism is the problem and that there is little difference between Islamist fundamentalists and Christianist fundamentalists.

I know that's something I've realized and thought for several years.  I'm glad that Doner is saying that.

I tell people of the violence we've experienced at the dominionist's hands for a reason.  I want people to know and understand that they ARE violent and that they are willing to hurt anyone who doesn't submit to their authority.  So far, the violence seems to be directed mainly towards those who are more open and vocal about their opposition.  It will get worse unless they're stopped and stripped of power.  I expect eventually it will get to the point where if you don't go to their church, pray in tongues, and support their ministers, you will be punished - maybe even by death.

I also admit that the things they did to us really had a major impact on us, and since nothing has ever been done about those "things", it really hurts (I've never seen justice done for us, only "to" us, and what was done wasn't justice).  That too has something to do with sharing the hell they've put us through, but only a little.  I DO try to keep that aspect under control.

by ArchaeoBob on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 11:04:11 AM EST

"... Do not wait until you lose something precious before you start fighting". Perhaps we should take their advice and start fighting back.

by phatkhat on Fri Jun 01, 2012 at 10:00:01 PM EST

in scripture are often set as the oppressed and powerless in private, (perhaps often also in secret) calling on God to turn the table and inflict the suffering and vengeance on their enemy. I suspect that even in the Old Testament, these "prayers" were balanced by the reality that this was something that they could not do themselves, both by reason of morality as their laws governed their behavior toward one another both fellow member of faith and foreigner, and beyond their moral compass, they found themselves powerless to accomplish what they prayer for. The grave danger with the NAR is that they are not the oppressed they claim to be, their passionate call to arms is not private prayer -- they look not to God to intervene but rather armies of "believers" taking things into their own hands, and there seems to be little understanding of any limits to their own pride, power, or greed. When you sanctify the passions which create division, cause war and persecution, and label them with Christian Titles, you set the stage for human war -- and unleash the suffering which results. Ultimately, the Jesus Creed (love God... and your neighbor as yourself) will resurface and for the survivors wounds heal. Saint or Sinner, Secular or Religious, Progressive or Conservative, people are much the same. We long to get by with our mistake and be shown mercy, yet we see suffering about us and long for justice which lifts up the weak and brings down the unrighteous powerful. Many examples exist of human conflict -- peoples and nations calling on God to use their war to bring this victory, few national examples exist where God miraculously fights the battle himself, the exodus perhaps the greatest example of such a description. There are many examples of individuals crossing the human battle lines, and their gracious interaction changing lives around them.

by chaplain on Tue Jun 05, 2012 at 09:18:28 AM EST

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