The "Christians" are coming! The "Christians" are coming!

I put “Christians” in quotation marks, because IMHO this doesn’t resemble anything that Jesus (if he’s your guy, or even if he isn’t) promoted. (I had eight years of Catechism classes, four years of Catholic high school, and four years of Catholic college, so I am well-informed on the subject of Christianity.)

[A Ft. Worth pastor] stood in front of the glowing map, a 38-year-old White man in skinny jeans telling a congregation of some 1,500 people what he said the Lord had told him: that Fort Worth was in thrall to four “high-ranking demonic forces.” That all of America was in the grip of “an anti-Christ spirit.” That the Lord had told him that 2021 was going to be the “Year of the Supernatural,” a time when believers would rise up and wage “spiritual warfare” to advance God’s Kingdom, which was one reason for the bright-red T-shirt he was wearing. It bore the name of a church elder who was running for mayor of Fort Worth.

The church is called Mercy Culture, and it is part of a growing Christian movement that is nondenominational, openly political and has become an engine of former president Donald Trump’s Republican Party. It includes some of the largest congregations in the nation, housed in the husks of old Baptist churches, former big-box stores and sprawling multimillion-dollar buildings with private security to direct traffic on Sundays. Its most successful leaders are considered apostles and prophets, including some with followings in the hundreds of thousands, publishing empires, TV shows, vast prayer networks, podcasts, spiritual academies, and branding in the form of T-shirts, bumper stickers and even flags. It is a world in which demons are real, miracles are real, and the ultimate mission is not just transforming individual lives but also turning civilization itself into their version of God’s Kingdom: one with two genders, no abortion, a free-market economy, Bible-based education, church-based social programs and laws such as the ones curtailing LGBTQ rights now moving through statehouses around the country.

Even as mainline Protestant and evangelical denominations continue an overall decline in numbers in a changing America, nondenominational congregations have surged from being virtually nonexistent in the 1980s to accounting for roughly 1 in 10 Americans in 2020, according to long-term academic surveys of religious affiliation. Church leaders tend to attribute the growth to the power of an uncompromised Christianity. Experts seeking a more historical understanding point to a relatively recent development called the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR.

A California-based theologian coined the phrase in the 1990s to describe what he said he had seen as a missionary in Latin America — vast church growth, miracles, and modern-day prophets and apostles endowed with special powers to fight demonic forces. He and others promoted new church models using sociological principles to attract members. They also began advancing a set of beliefs called dominionism, which holds that God commands Christians to assert authority over the “seven mountains” of life — family, religion, education, economy, arts, media and government — after which time Jesus Christ will return and God will reign for eternity.

None of which is new, exactly. Strains of this thinking formed the basis of the Christian right in the 1970s and have fueled the GOP for decades.

What is new is the degree to which Trump elevated a fresh network of NAR-style leaders who in turn elevated him as God’s chosen president, a fusion that has secured the movement as a grass-roots force within the GOP just as the old Christian right is waning. Increasingly, this is the world that the term “evangelical voter” refers to — not white-haired Southern Baptists in wooden pews but the comparatively younger, more diverse, more extreme world of millions drawn to leaders who believe they are igniting a new Great Awakening in America, one whose epicenter is Texas.

The biggest problem with this is that when someone believes God has told them to promote a candidate or a political movement-- when they believe they are God’s chosen agent-- no one can stop them because no one can reason with them. No one can change their minds, because it’s not their rational minds that are engaged. If you believe God is on your side you can destroy anything-- a building, a town, any group of people-- in God’s name. Cf. the Crusades. (BTW, I don’t think Jesus would have endorsed that either.)

A new chapter in the ongoing crackup of American Christianity.

For decades, American Christians (left and right) have had a habit of fusing politics and religion together, to the point where many get more excited about (D) or (R) than God Himself.

The problem I see with modern American Christian prophets is that they almost never ever prophesy bad news. Their prophecies are almost always: “Healing will come, our economy will boom, disaster will be averted, you will get the spouse or kids you want, you will be wealthy.” (Not to mention, of course, that a great many are just flat out wrong, like how Katherine Kerr said God told her the Republican Party would win every election from 2016 through 2036.) No matter what, God’s plans always happen to line up neatly with every single one of their political causes.

That’s not how Biblical prophets did it. Prophets like Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, had to deliver bad news and in fact even more so perhaps than good news. They frequently foretold of imminent defeat by conquering enemies, famines, droughts, plagues, etc.

The modern evangelical conservatives would refuse to let America surrender to an enemy (foreign or domestic) any more than the Israelites would have obeyed Jeremiah’s command to surrender to Babylon.

"[A Ft. Worth pastor]…said the Lord had told him: that Fort Worth was in thrall to four “high-ranking demonic forces.”

Updating that old saying: “Dallas for culture, Fort Worth for demons.”

“The Southern Baptists just aren’t awful enough for us.”

And miracles too! Who could resist? Where can I sign in?

Trump really owed his Presidency, in no small part, to the religious right. They’re the only ones in this country capable of totally ignoring endless amounts of profoundly persuasive evidence, and STILL devoting their lives to The Greatest Story Ever Told.

I do appreciate the “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” element of this story, though. It’s as though we keep finding more and more ‘secure’ floors in the psych ward that we never knew existed, and that house more and more people – more than we ever imagined.

And not only can and do they vote, the powers behind them are attempting to ensure that they’re the only ones who can vote.

#Murica !

“If you will set a King above you, he will take your money and your land, your sons for his armies and your daughters for his bed”.

In the last year I have read a bit about this amazing transformation of Christendom from living a good life and bearing spiritual fruit to a hyper macho culture that must fight ungodliness wherever it shows its retched face. I have recommended various books in various threads, and some of them are books recommended to me here on these boards. Earlier I was listening to a podcast with historian and author Kristin Kobes Du Mez who wrote Jesus and John Wayne. She laid out how the American church became more macho and militant over the Twentieth Century for much of the interview and around 45 to 48 minutes in she made a remark that really informs this discussion.

In the link below she claims that in the 1990’s Communism fell in the USSR and Christian leaders needed to rally the troops because there was no more enemy and that is when America went from a Cold War to a Culture War and the godless enemy became local. (In one sense, over the following decades we could become very isolationist because we didn’t need a foreign enemy – the enemy became liberals right here in our own country! Although that is my observation, she did not mention it so any blame for inaccuracies belong to me. To support the assertion I will mention that the current wisdom seems to be ignoring the many distant and foreign godless enemies by locking them out so we can fight the local liberal ones.)

I believe the entire interview is worth the time (and I am a stone cold atheist). Here it is:

I’ve lived in Dallas for 6 years before but never heard the original, what was it?

I was not the one asked, but I believe the last word of the phrase was FUN.
The idea being go to Dallas for fancy dinners, museums, or symphonies – but go to Forth Worth to Party! I believe Billy Bob’s was enough all by it’s lonesome to out fun all of Dallas (by local legend).

Maybe its from living on the unsophisticated side of the puddle but I don’t get this.

I am all for blowing off steam on the weekend. Did a bit myself.
Would dress up in garish costumes with quasi pagan symbols, then wearing protective equipment and body armour would take up cudgels and other weapons of ancient war and hurl projectiles at others similarly attired. Then we’d sing blood curdling war chants in victory and drink industrial quantities of beer. We called it playing cricket and hockey.

Are these guys actually doing this 24/7 or are they just bungin’ on an act for the cameras?
Not so much the guys fronting the podium, more so the heaving masses being cajoled and harrangued into doing the legwork?

You can’t be working a 40 hour week whilst engaging in “spiritual war”, can you?

The irony, of course, is that what is being described is the very enemy that the Bible talks against when talking about “spiritual warfare.” There is a very practical tip in the Bible about seeing if a prophet is legit: test them and see if their prophecies come true. There’s also all the talk about fruits of the spirit which are how we can tell if someone genuinely believes, and stuff like that.

The Bible warns against the types of “prophets” who just tell you what you want to hear. It doesn’t so much warn against those who would use Christianity for political reasons, likely because the idea that could be a thing never occurred to those who experienced Christianity as a persecutor minority religion. Still, there are principles, like how one can not love both God and Mammon–the god of money.

While I do not agree with it, I can at least understand the idea of thinking one’s religion has such great principles that they should be used to run the government. But these guys seems to yell about a “Christian nation” while ignoring what their holy book actually says.

It’s not Christianity they want. It’s tradition, and they’re willing to along with anyone saying “We’ll make things like they used to be!” That’s what “Make America Great Again” promises. They just want to return to the “good ole days,” where they were sure they were right, and didn’t have this discomfort in ambiguity that they need to stamp out with more fanatical devotion.

The part they latched onto was “if we believe hard enough, it’ll happen,” and not the “love one another.”

Is this “church” tax-exempt?

Ahhhh… :bulb: Good Question. For interested parties (who don’t mind the threat of being burned at the steak stake), that’s where to position the fulcrum. Hehe. What Republican-appointed judge will have the balls to bang the gavel on that one, however?

Wheee! It’s ThelmaLou’s Mixed Metaphor Festival!

And in fact, Jeremiah had to deal with the false prophets who told the people what they wanted to hear…I guess every generation has those.

The trouble is that today those “false prophets” (however you want to define that term) have social media platforms in addition to the old-fashioned TV, radio, and print media, so their destructive pronouncements are easily spread to more people within minutes than were likely alive on the earth in the days of Jeremiah.

Although, human nature being what it is, there are proportionately just as many gullible listeners, lazy thinkers, and stupid idiots to ingest those pronouncements as gospel (as it were) truth.

This has been brewing, quietly, for a long time - fueled by floods of dark money and disingenuous conservative politicians.

If anyone wants a little bit of deep dive into roots of this movement, this article is very informative, although a bit of a slog.

But here’s a relevant quote from the article.

“We must use the doctrine of religious liberty”, Christian Reconstructionist theorist Gary Water declared in 1982, “ to gain independence for Christian religious schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious Liberty of the enemies of God”

Now it’s a generation later. The beliefs of 7M dominionism - a philosophy espoused by the likes of Ted Cruz and and the DeVos family, believes that the church must successfully conquer the 7 mountains in order for…….something to happen…those mountains being Education, Religion, Family, Business, Government/Military, Arts and Entertainment and the Media.

They have not been successful, I think they’ve been fully defeated on the last two, but they’re playing a long game.

But understanding this is key to understanding their strategy. It’s behind the serial moral panic strategy, they’re currently at war over on Mt. Education.

But this is not something Trump started, he just figured out how to embody it and make it flesh.

And THEY are using him, too. It’s a marriage made in … well … somewhere.