As Rick Perry tests the waters for a 2012 presidential campaign, he is aligning himself with influential evangelical leaders from the Christian Right and ratcheting up his religious rhetoric.”I’m getting more and more comfortable every day that this is what I’ve been called to do,” Perry told the Des Moines Register this weekend. “This is what America needs.”
On August 6, Perry will preside over “The Response,” an all-day Christian prayer and fasting rally at Houston’s Reliant Stadium. The event is to call on God to guide the United States out of its moral, financial and political morass.
“Right now, America is in crisis: we have been besieged by financial debt, terrorism, and a multitude of natural disasters,” Perry says in his message on the event website. “As a nation, we must come together and call upon Jesus to guide us through unprecedented struggles.”
Perry’s advisers say that the idea for The Response predates any thoughts of a White House bid. But it has deepened the Governor’s relationship with a rapidly expanding national network of fundamentalist evangelicals that could provide invaluable support to his presidential campaign.
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These new evangelicals are part of the New Apostolic Reformation, an increasingly influential American Christian movement whose leaders consider themselves modern-day prophets and apostles. Many of the organisers for The Response are New Apostles, and the event’s official endorser list reads like a roster of virtually everyone important to the movement.
In a article for The Texas Observer, reporter Forest Wilder notes that the New Apostolic Reformation has been quietly expanding on the fringes of Christian fundamentalism since the 1990s. The New Apostles’ beliefs — which focus on Christian dominion and End Times — are extreme, even for other conservative Christians.
As mainstream evangelical influence wanes, however, the New Apostolic Reformation is gaining broader acceptance among conservative Christians. The Response, whose endorsers also include more mainstream fundamentalists, is evidence of the New Apostles’ emerging influence — and of its leaders growing appetite for political power.
Here’s what you need to know about the fastest-growing religious movement you’ve never heard of.
Not following the Apostles prophesies leads to earthquakes, terrorist attacks, and financial collapse.
The Apostles believe that failure to heed God's will -- as they have prophesied it -- has catastrophic consequences.
For example, Cindy Jacobs, a prominent leader of the New Apostolic Reformation, gained national media attention earlier this year when she said that birds were dying in Arkansas because of the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'
Apostle Jacobs claims to have predicted the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which she blames on Shintoism and the Emperor's pagan 'sexual intercourse' with the Sun Goddess. She also claims to have foreseen the Arab Spring and says that God will use the uprisings to 'shake up Israel' so Jewish people turn to Jesus.
On the flip side, the New Apostles believe their 'prophetic directives' can have supernatural effects. According to Wagner, he decreed in 2001 that mad cow disease would end in Europe. Incidentally, the last case of mad cow was reported the day before.
The main divergence between the New Apostolic Reformation and other Christian fundamentalist sects is their differing views of how End Times will go down.
New Apostles reject the traditional fundamentalist belief that born-again believers will be lifted up in the Rapture.
Instead, New Apostles believe that there will be seven years of battle and calamity before the Second Coming of Christ. During those Final Days, a new generation of believers will emerge to 'execute God's judgment' and cleanse the world of demons. According to this belief, the faithful must reestablish Christian control over the world -- including its social institutions -- before Christ can come back.
To achieve their goal of Christian dominion over the world, leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation are training a new generation of so-called 'super-believers' to cleanse the world before the Second Coming.
This new breed of Christians -- known as 'Joel's Army' in the early days of the NAR movement -- is now commonly referred to as the 'Elijah Generation,' or the 'Elijah Revolution.' NAR leaders refer to this youth movement in strikingly militant terms, referring to international missions as 'military bases' and local churches as 'armories.'
The Elijah Generation theology is primarily directed at people in their teens and 20s -- specifically anyone born after the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision -- through marathon prayer revivals like TheCall and The International House of Prayer (IHOP), two Kansas City-based NAR groups actively involved in The Response.
'There's an Elijah generation that's going to be the forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of their passion,' TheCall founder Lou Engle said in 2010. 'The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus is going to make war on everything that hinders love, with his eyes blazing fire.'
New Apostles identify the targets of 'spiritual warfare' through a religious reconnaissance mission known as 'spiritual mapping.'
Block by block, New Apostolic Reformation prayer networks document the location of demons, including 'generational curses' that affect certain ethnic and religious groups, such as Native Americans and Roman Catholics.
Spiritual mapping has spawned citywide prayer groups like PrayforNewark, which has mapped out every precinct in the city and assigned a volunteer to every street.
PrayforNewark is affiliated with an international prayer network that is also conducting spiritual mapping in Uganda, where it supported the country's anti-homosexuality bill calling for life imprisonment and the death penalty for gays and lesbians.
The New Apostolic Reformation believes in a Christian dominion theology known as Reclaiming the Seven Mountains, which seeks to put believers in control of the seven forces that shape society: Business, government, media, arts and entertainment, education, family, and religion.
Infiltration of civilian government is key to fulfilling this mission:
'The Mountain of Government is perhaps the most important of the mountains because it can establish laws and decrees that affect and control every other mountain,' New Apostolic Reformation leader John Enlow writes on the Reclaiming the 7 Mountains website. 'A government can potentially function as a virtual theocracy, but only as the individuals in power allow themselves to be puppets (i.e. servants) of the theocracy (God's rule and reign). The goal is to bring the influence of heaven to bear on whatever political machinery that exists.'
Wagner, the top leader of the New Apostolic Reformation, prophesies that God will soon transfer wealth from the 'ungodly' to the faithful.
'We can expect that God will release the wealth of the wicked that He has been promising to the righteous, large sums of wealth that will be used to bring about significant, measurable transformation,' New Apostolic Reformation founder Wagner said in 2006.
In the New Apostolic Reformation, 'Market Apostles' are charged with establishing Christian dominion over the 'mountain' of business. Apostles are encouraged to combine their ministries with business and use paid prayer intercessors to facilitate financial growth.
The rapid growth of the New Apostolic Reformation movement can be attributed to the proliferation of 'spiritual warfare' or 'strategic prayer' networks, which operate more like political campaigns than churches.
Wagner, an architect of the church growth theory that spawned megachurches, has applied the same 'church cell' concept to the New Apostolic Reformation, organising small groups of lay believers like a pyramid marketing scheme. But the apostolic prayer cells operate without the baggage of a traditional Christian church bureaucracy, expanding instead by infiltrating other churches and denominations and gaining access through religious programming and missions.
The main artery of the New Apostolic Reformation is the Heartland Apostolic Network, a 50-state operation made up of smaller regional networks like the Texas Apostolic Prayer Network. Leaders of these networks are responsible for mobilizing churches for The Response.
'Racial reconciliation' and minority recruitment is a major emphasis of the New Apostolic Reformation. Wilder reports that the prayer networks even dress up in historical costumes and perform ceremonies to repent for racial sins.
Texas Apostle Alice Patterson -- who is in charge of mobilizing churches in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma for The Response -- is a leading proponent of this multiracial fundamentalism. She has teamed up with Christian historian David Barton for a campaign to bring black voters back to the GOP. Barton considers himself an expert in African American history, according to his tax records.
Barton is a favourite among Republicans, including a few 2012 presidential hopefuls. The Texan serves on the board of Newt Gingrich's nonprofit Renewing American Leadership, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann has championed him as a Constitutional scholar for members of Congress, and Glenn Beck and Mike Huckabee have also sung his praises.
Barton was among the evangelical leaders who recently agreed Rick Perry would be their preferred candidate if he entered the GOP presidential race.
The New Apostolic Reformation burst into the national political consciousness during the 2008 presidential campaign when its prayer networks broadcast prophesies about then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who thanked her 'prayer warriors.'
Since then, the apostolic prayer networks have been increasingly influential in state and national politics. The New England Apostolic Prayer Network, for example, was actively involved in Scott Brown's successful 2009 Massachusetts Senate campaign. In the months before the 2010 midterm elections Jacobs, Engle and other Apostolic leaders like California pastor Jim Garlow organised a 40-day 'Pray and Act' campaign to mobilize conservative Christian voters. Many of the 'Pray and Act' organisers are also involved in The Response.
Engle's TheCall revivals have also energized followers for political causes. His past rallies include a stadium revival in support of California's Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage, and a December 2009 'Prayer Cast' in Washington, D.C., against healthcare reform.
Many prominent Republicans have sought to align themselves with the New Apostolic Reformation and their extensive prayer networks, an indication of the movement's growing influence among social conservatives.
2012 Republican presidential candidate U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann -- a conservative favourite known for her fundamentalist Christian views -- attended Engle's 2009 Prayer Cast rally, along with her fellow Tea Party leader U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (Brownback is one of the only governors to sign on to Perry's The Response). Engle also prayed over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at a 2009 Virginia rally called Rediscovering God in America.
But it appears no potential White House hopeful has deeper ties to the New Apostolic Reformation than Palin, who is apparently still deciding whether she will run for the Republican nomination in 2012. Palin's involvement in the New Apostolic Reformation were revealed in 2008 when videos surfaced of a Kenyan Apostle praying over Palin during a ceremony designed to protect her from witches. The extent of her relationship with the movement is still unclear, but Apostles claim the former governor has been a member of their prayer networks.
Should Palin decide to run, her connections to the New Apostolic Reformation would be a threat to any 2012 Republican candidate courting socially conservative primary voters. Many analysts think Perry's burgeoning relationship with the New Apostles is an attempt to co-opt their built-in campaign network from Palin.
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