The Spiritual and Political Warfare of the New Religious Right
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Wed Jul 10, 2013 at 07:19:59 AM EST
As many of the pre-Reagan era Religious Right leaders retire and/or die off, beware of the new breed. Lou Engle is one of the new breed. Although Engle has been kicking around for more than a decade, it is only in the past few years that he and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), the charismatic evangelical political and religious movement that he has come to personify, has made such a splash that it threatens to drown out the more traditional voices of the Christian Right.

In 2000, when the U.S. Supreme Court decided that George W. Bush would be president, Lou Engle saw it as the answer to his prayers. A few months before the election, Engle had held an all-day prayer event in Washington, D.C., that drew approximately 400,000.

Although Engle's prayer rally wasn't as magnetic or media buzz-worthy as when the Promise Keepers drew nearly one million to the nation's capital three years earlier, it could be seen as Engle's coming out party.

Engle's enterprise

"The prayers of the faithful were answered when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Bush v. Gore decision, giving the election to George W. Bush," Rachel Tabachnick wrote in a long essay titled "The Christian Right, Reborn: The New Apostolic Reformation Goes to War," in the Spring 2013 issue of Political Research Associates' The Public Eye. For the NAR, the DC rally was just the beginning of a more public political journey that has allowed it to become one of the most important and yet least understood religious/political movements in the country.

Since that first rally, "Engle has staged more than 20 similar rallies, and each has attracted tens of thousands of participants to stadiums across the United States. He and his organization have also become deeply involved in U.S. politics, especially in anti choice and antigay organizing," Tabachnick, a PRA research fellow who has over the past several years become one of the nation's leading experts on the New Apostolic Reformation, reported.

None other than the venerable Dr. James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, one of the Christian Right's flagship entities, and a long-time culture warrior, credited Engle with bringing out the troops for a rally at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego one week before Election Day in 2008, and making a huge difference in helping pass Proposition 8, California's anti-same-sex marriage initiative. According to Tabachnick, "Engle's organization mounted a radio campaign and sent out email and phone blasts in support of Proposition 8, and he urged attendees to be martyrs for the cause."

Journalist and Talk2Action co-founder, Bruce Wilson described Engle as "the unofficial prayer leader of the Republican Party." He has been called a "radical theocrat," and the Southern Poverty Law Center has said that he says he can occasionally "venture into bloodlust."

The New Apostolic Reformation

Engle, a New Apostolic Reformation leader, has helped build a movement that has veered away from what we have come to know as the "traditional" Christian Right. It "is rooted in Charismatic Christianity, a cross-denominational belief in modern-day miracles and the supernatural." It emerged from neo-Pentecostal movement of the 1980s and "spread to Roman Catholics and mainline and evangelical Protestant churches in the United States and worldwide."

According to Tabachnick, the NAR embraces women and minorities, and is particularly focused on youth, "sponsoring youth events that look more like rock concerts than traditional church services." Its "stylish leaders dress in casual clothes, encourage fasting and repetitive chanting as a means of inducing altered mental states, and use sophisticated media strategies and techniques to deliver their message."

It's not all style over substance as the NAR's "most prominent leaders and prolific authors claim to be creating the 'greatest change in church since the Protestant Reformation,' and they describe themselves as modern-day prophets and apostles."

What the movement is really after is "to unify evangelical and all Protestant Christianity into a postdenominational structure, bringing about a reformation in the way that churches relate to one other, and in individual churches' internal governance."

Engle calls for massive "spiritual warfare" that will result in a complete worldwide "political and social transformation": "The revolution begins, they believe, with the casting out of demons, Tabachnick states. "NAR training materials claim that communities around the world are healed of their problems -- experiencing a sudden and supernatural decline in poverty, crime, corruption, and even environmental degradation -- once demonic influences are mapped and then purged from society through NAR's particular brand of 'spiritual warfare,' which is sometimes referred to as 'power evangelism.'"

Demonic activity has caused the downfall of society, both at home and abroad. "The sources of demonic activity can include homosexuality, abortion, non-Christian religions, and even sins from the past." According to NAR leaders, "strategic prayer can literally alter circumstances in the temporal world: the spontaneous burning and destruction of religious icons and structures," Tabachnick noted.
To achieve its goals, the NAR aims to have its apostles seize control over every important aspect of society, including, the government, military, entertainment industry and education."

If the NAR falls short of world denomination, it intends, as a minimum, to "turn America back to God."

Retreat but no surrender

Why pay any attention to what thus far appears to be a marginally effective political movement?

Tabachnick argues that, "The movement is bringing about profound changes in the character of conservative Christianity and the Christian Right, both in the United States and around the globe." It is not only "building new institutions, but [it is] creating new networks and alliances among long-established institutions. The NAR's leaders are methodically transforming the nature of the relationship between congregations and their leaders, creating a much more authoritarian leadership style than has traditionally been true of evangelical Christianity. That shift is central to the movement's political potential.

"The NAR's charismatic, authoritarian leaders are well-positioned to reinvent the Christian Right, infusing it with a new wave of energy, expanding its base of support, conducting sophisticated political campaigns, and doubling down on right-wing social and economic agendas -- all while giving the Christian Right a new gloss of openness and diversity."

The "leading theorist" and the NAR's "most important organizing force" is C. Peter Wagner, a professor of "church growth" for three decades at Fuller Theological Seminary, a nondenominational evangelical seminary in Pasadena, CA. In the 1990's, Wagner headed up the International Coalition of Apostles, a networking group that "presided over an association of apostles -- many of which, in turn, claimed hundreds or thousands of ministries under their leadership." He "also formed networks of faith-healing ministries, 'deliverance ministries' that claim to free people from demon possession, and an inner-circle of leading prophets, in addition to the Wagner Leadership Institute (WLI), a network of training programs in locations across the United States, Canada, and several Asian nations."

Tabachnick pointed out that the New Apostolic Reformation's influence does not end at America's shores: "Engle was featured extensively in God Loves Uganda, a documentary about U.S. evangelical conservatives' antigay influence in Uganda, where the infamous Anti-Homosexuality 'Kill the Gays' Bill was first introduced in 2009."

The NAR might have reached its pinnacle in the summer of 2011 when 30,000 people attended a prayer rally in Houston, Texas. Promoted heavily of Texas Governor Rick Perry, then a leading contender for the Republican Party's presidential nomination, the rally featured several NAR leaders, "apostles and prophets who had for years remained under the radar were suddenly subjected to scrutiny from the media."

"Exposed to this scrutiny, NAR's leaders publicly distanced themselves from some of their more radical ideology. Webpages were removed and websites were amended to explain that the NAR's apostles are either not Dominionists, or that the term simply means to gain influence in society."

This increased scrutiny may have led to a retreat of sorts, but certainly not to surrender.




Display:

WWW Talk To Action


Christian Right Turns to Nullification to Counter Marriage Equality
Last year in The Public Eye magazine, Rachel Tabachnick and Frank L. Cocozzelli warned of the trend on the religious and political Right toward......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Historian Gerald Horne on Charleston, Church, & Slave Resistance
Professor Gerald Horne of the University of Houston notes the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was at the center of Black resistance to slavery......
By Chip Berlet (2 comments)
The Zealots Strike Back: Latest Religious Right Sputtering Over Marriage Equality Is More Weak Tea
I've been monitoring the Religious Right's response to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality, and I'm not impressed.So far, the reaction of......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Is Koch Brothers Money Fueling Criticism of Pope Francis on Climate Change?
In my last post I examined conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty. Indeed, some of......
By Frank Cocozzelli (3 comments)
Politics in Theocratic Times
The matter of religious exemptions from civil rights and labor laws is at the cutting edge of the contemporary political strategy of the Christian......
By Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Why Is the Christian Right Remaining Silent About the Dennis Hastert Affair?
In early June, the Associated Press' Mary Clare Jalonick reported that a Montana woman interviewed by the FBI claimed that "her brother was sexually......
By Bill Berkowitz (1 comment)
Remembering James Dunn: Baptist Champion Of Religious Freedom
When I began working for Americans United in 1987, one thing confused me: Why were there so many Southern Baptists hanging around?Southern Baptists were......
By Rob Boston (0 comments)
Resistance Is Futile: Some County Clerks Say `I Won't' To Marriage Equality
One week ago, the U.S. Supreme Court extended marriage equality nationwide. So where are we now?To no one's surprise, leaders of the Religious Right......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)
Celebrating July 4th
A decade or so ago I was vacationing in Hot Springs,  Arkansas.  It was July 4th and I attended the First Baptist Church in......
By wilkyjr (1 comment)
Nine Mainline Protestant Christian Martyrs
This is a tricky time for the Christian Right. Immediately following the mass murder at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church in......
By Frederick Clarkson (4 comments)
Terms, Definitions & Glossaries for Writing about the Religious Right
One of the challenges in writing about the Religious Right and what to do about it is the matter of terms and definitions. That's......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Top Southern Baptist Official Admits Churches Won't Be Forced To Marry Same-Sex Couples
For years now, Religious Right leaders have been whipping up hysteria by claiming that, should marriage equality become the law of the land, conservative......
By Rob Boston (3 comments)
The Pope, Climate Change and the Catholic Right.
The conservative criticism of Laudato Sii, ("Praised Be"), Pope Francis's encyclical on the environment and poverty that began even before its release, has now......
By Frank Cocozzelli (4 comments)
Simply Put -- LGBTQ rights are not a threat to religious freedom
I'd like to underscore the conclusion of this piece, which is crossposted from LGBTQ Nation.  The advance of civil rights for LGBTQ people is......
By Frederick Clarkson (2 comments)
Pluck Of The Irish: Same-Sex Marriage Vote Shows Yearning For An End To Clerical Domination
A provocative headline from Reuters news service last week caught my eye. "Irish plunge stake through Catholic Church's heart," it read.The headline is perhaps......
By Rob Boston (2 comments)

Evidence violence is more common than believed
Think I've been making things up about experiencing Christian Terrorism or exaggerating, or that it was an isolated incident?  I suggest you read this article (linked below in body), which is about our great......
ArchaeoBob (0 comments)
Central Florida Sheriff Preached Sermon in Uniform
If anyone has been following the craziness in Polk County Florida, they know that some really strange and troubling things have happened here.  We've had multiple separation of church and state lawsuits going at......
ArchaeoBob (2 comments)
Demon Mammon?
An anthropologist from outer space might be forgiven for concluding that the god of this world is Mammon. (Or, rather, The Market, as depicted by John McMurtry in his book The Cancer Stage of......
daerie (0 comments)
Anti-Sharia Fever in Texas: This is How It Starts
The mayor of a mid-size Texan city has emerged in recent months as the newest face of Islamophobia. Aligning herself with extremists hostile to Islam, Mayor Beth Van Duyne of Irving, Texas has helped......
JSanford (0 comments)
Evangelicals Seduced By Ayn Rand Worship Crypto-Satanism, Suggest Scholars
[update: also see my closely related stories, "Crypto-Cultists" and "Cranks": The Video Paul Ryan Hoped Would Go Away, and The Paul Ryan/Ayn Rand/Satanism Connection Made Simple] "I give people Ayn Rand with trappings" -......
Bruce Wilson (11 comments)
Ted Cruz Anointed By Pastor Who Says Jesus Opposed Minimum Wage, and Constitution Based on the Bible
In the video below, from a July 19-20th, 2013 pastor's rally at a Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, Iowa, Tea Party potentate Ted Cruz is blessed by religious right leader David Barton, who claims......
Bruce Wilson (0 comments)
Galt and God: Ayn Randians and Christian Rightists Expand Ties
Ayn Rand's followers find themselves sharing a lot of common ground with the Christian Right these days. The Tea Party, with its stress on righteous liberty and a robust form of capitalism, has been......
JSanford (3 comments)
Witchhunts in Africa and the U.S.A.
Nigerian human rights activist Leo Igwe has recently written at least two blog posts about how some African Pentecostal churches are sending missionaries to Europe and the U.S.A. in an attempt to "re-evangelize the......
Diane Vera (1 comment)
Charles Taze Russell and John Hagee
No doubt exists that Texas mega-church Pastor John Hagee would be loathe to be associated with the theology of Pastor C.T. Russell (wrongly credited with founding the Jehovah's Witnesses) but their theological orbits, while......
COinMS (0 comments)
A death among the common people ... imagination.
Or maybe my title would better fit as “Laws, Books, where to find, and the people who trust them.”What a society we've become!The wise ones tell us over and over how the more things......
Arthur Ruger (0 comments)
Deconstructing the Dominionists, Part VI
This is part 6 of a series by guest front pager Mahanoy, originally dated November 15, 2007 which I had to delete and repost for technical reasons. It is referred to in this post,......
Frederick Clarkson (1 comment)
Republican infighting in Mississippi
After a bruising GOP runoff election for U.S. Senator, current MS Senator Thad Cochran has retained his position and will face Travis Childers (Democrat) in the next senate election. The MS GOP is fractured......
COinMS (5 comments)
America's Most Convenient Bank® refuses to serve Christians
Representatives of a well known faith-based charitable organization were refused a New Jersey bank’s notarization service by an atheist employee. After inquiring about the nature of the non-profit organization and the documents requiring......
Jody Lane (5 comments)
John Benefiel takes credit for GOP takeover of Oklahoma
Many of you know that Oklahoma has turned an unrecognizable shade of red in recent years.  Yesterday, one of the leading members of the New Apostolic Reformation all but declared that he was responsible......
Christian Dem in NC (3 comments)
John Benefiel thinks America is under curse because Egyptians dedicated North America to Baal
You may remember that Rick Perry put together his "Response" prayer rallies with the help of a slew of NAR figures.  One of them was John Benefiel, an Oklahoma City-based "apostle."  He heads up......
Christian Dem in NC (5 comments)

More Diaries...




All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. Comments, posts, stories, and all other content are owned by the authors. Everything else 2005 Talk to Action, LLC.