TERRY GROSS, host:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.
An emerging Christian movement that seeks to take dominion over politics, business and culture in preparation for the end times and the return of Jesus is establishing a presence in American politics. The leaders are considered apostles and prophets, gifted by God for this role.
The international apostolic and prophetic movement was named the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, by its leading architect, C. Peter Wagner. My guest, Rachel Tabachnick, has been researching and writing about this movement. She says although the movement is larger than the network of apostles organized by Wagner, and not all those connected with the movement describe themselves as part of Wagner's NAR, the apostles and prophets of the movement have an identifiable ideology that separates them from other evangelicals.
Two ministries in the movement, The Call, led by Lou Engle, and the International House of Prayer, led by Mike Bickle, helped organize Rick Perry's recent prayer rally, where apostles and prophets from around the nation spoke or appeared on stage.
The Kenyan pastor who anointed Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in 2005 while praying for Jesus to protect her from the spirit of witchcraft is also part of this movement.
My guest, Rachel Tabachnick, researches the impact of the religious right and end-time narratives on American politics. She writes for the website Talk To Action.
Rachel Tabachnick, welcome to FRESH AIR. For people who haven't heard about the New Apostolic Reformation, and I'd say that's the majority of the people, overwhelmingly, what are some of the basic beliefs or goals of this group?
Ms. RACHEL TABACHNICK: I would say the basic beliefs began with the idea of dominionism, and dominionism is simply that Christians of this belief system must take control over all the various institutions of society and government. They have some unusual concepts of what they call spiritual warfare that have not been seen before in other groups.
Spiritual warfare is a common term in evangelicalism and in Christianity, but they have some unique approaches and unique spins on this that distinguish them from other groups.
GROSS: And that literally have to do with casting demons out of people and religions and...
Ms. TABACHNICK: They use this in terms of evangelizing. So whereas we might be accustomed with the idea of saving souls, of missionaries or evangelical work to save individual souls; they believe that they can, through this demon warfare, take control over entire communities, or perhaps nations or people groups, an ethnic group, a religious group and so forth, because they believe that they are doing spiritual warfare at this higher level against these demonic principalities, what they call demonic principalities.
GROSS: So I've been reading about the New Apostolic Reformation. Tell me if you think that I've gotten this right at all. My understanding is that they are a group that believes in the end times, that there will be a second coming of Christ, that certain things need to be accomplished on Earth before he comes, and that it's their job - it's the job of the apostles to listen to what Jesus is telling them so that they can get the world ready for his second coming. Yes?
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes, what this group believes is that they must re-organize Protestant Christianity under their leadership. So instead of having all of these different denominations in Protestantism, they would unify the church, the Protestant Church, into one body under the leadership of their apostles.
And then the other thing that distinguishes them is this idea that in order to do this, they must take control over society and government and that they will do this in large part through this warfare that they are conducting with demons.
GROSS: So how does this new movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, connect to American politics?
Ms. TABACHNICK: This is a very political movement. In fact, I would call it a religio-political movement in that it has networked across the United States in something that looks like a hybrid between a religious denomination and a political party.
For example, they have what are called prayer warrior networks in all 50 states, and they have very strong opinions about the direction they want the country to take. They teach what is called dominionism. And the idea of dominionism, or dominion theology, is that all areas of society and government should come under the control of God through these apostles and prophets, and that all of these areas of society should represent Christian and biblical values.
They have interesting campaigns. One that's been very successful for the last few years is called the Seven Mountains campaign. And what this means is they teach that they are reclaiming the seven mountains of culture and society. And those mountains are arts and entertainment, business, education, family, government, media and religion.
And business is considered to be one of the most important mountains to reclaim control because this is the way that they finance the other mountains.
GROSS: So when they want to, like, reclaim government or politics, what does that mean?
Ms. TABACHNICK: They teach, quite literally, that these mountains have fallen under the control of demonic influences in society. And therefore, they must reclaim them for God in order to bring about the kingdom of God on Earth.
GROSS: And what are some of the major issues that they think are important?
Ms. TABACHNICK: Well, they're the typical religious right hot-button issues, if you will - anti-abortion, anti-gay rights - but they also have a laissez-faire market ideology, the belief that government should not be involved in social safety nets, that the country is becoming socialist, if not communist - so a Tea Party mentality.
GROSS: And I think that they also advocate - tell me if I'm wrong here - the privatization of schools - of the school system.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes. All of the typical, you know, what we've come to call Tea Party issues of very small government. And in the case of the apostles, they believe this because they believe that a large government, or government that handles the safety net, is taking away what is the domain of the church and of Christianity.
GROSS: And what kind of authority do they want in government?
Ms. TABACHNICK: They want the authority to align government with what they believe is the kingdom of God, with biblical values in their interpretation.
Let me back up and say something about dominionism. Dominionism is very different than having strong beliefs or even having very strong beliefs about one's evangelical values. Dominionism is very controversial inside of the conservative and evangelical world. It's a specific theology that states that somehow God lost control of the Earth when Satan tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden and that humans must help God regain control of the Earth. And the way that they do this is by taking dominion over society and government.
The apostles and prophets have an interesting twist on this. They're not the only dominionist movement out there. Some people may be familiar with Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism. This is a different brand of dominionism.
And the apostles teach what's called strategic-level spiritual warfare with the idea being that the reason why there is sin and corruption and poverty on the Earth is because the Earth is controlled by a hierarchy of demons under the authority of Satan.
And so they teach that not just evangelizing souls one by one, as we're accustomed to hearing about, they teach that they will go into a geographic region or to a people-group and conduct these spiritual warfare activities in order to remove the demons from the entire population or the demonic control over the entire population. And this is what makes what they're doing quite different than other conservative evangelical or fundamentalist groups of the past.
GROSS: So one of the reasons why the New Apostolic Reformation is of interest now is because several of the apostles from that movement were connected to the recent Rick Perry rally in Texas, the prayer rally, which was called The Response. A couple of apostles helped organize the rally. Several others endorsed it. So what is Rick Perry's connection to the New Apostolic Reformation?
Ms. TABACHNICK: Well, looking at the event, not only were there apostles who endorsed it and participated in it, but although the event was funded, it was sponsored by the American Family Association, it was organized and led throughout by people from the New Apostolic Reformation.
And this included numerous leading apostles who were seen all through the event. The coordinators and people who led each section were from an event called The Call, and - which is associated with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City.
So actually the event, from beginning to end, was a New Apostolic event. And the major topics at these events, there are three major topics that you see as they take this event around the world, and that is usually anti-abortion, anti-gay rights and the conversion of Jews in order to advance the end times. And this was very visible at Perry's event, as these apostles led all of these different prayers and repentance ceremonies at The Response.
GROSS: You refer to the importance of Messianic Judaism in the end-times narrative that the apostles subscribe to, and you could hear that if you knew what to listen for at the Rick Perry rally when Rabbi Marty Waldman spoke and was introduced by Don Finto. And in introducing him, Finto said Waldman is the son of Holocaust survivors, but he's come to acknowledge his own messiah. What does that mean?
Ms. TABACHNICK: Marty Waldman is a quite-well-known messianic rabbi in Texas. And by messianic, we mean Jews who have converted to Christianity, but they retain aspects - they retain a Jewish identity. So they may even retain many aspects of Jewish practice.
GROSS: This is a group that's known in the vernacular as Jews for Jesus.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Jews for Jesus is only one group.
GROSS: I see.
Ms. TABACHNICK: I would argue that the network that the apostles have right now supporting messianic Jews dwarfs Jews for Jesus. It's a much more extensive network.
And what was interesting about this was that apostle Don Finto, who introduced the prayer and introduced Marty Waldman, is an elder statesman in the movement who spent the last more than a decade working to encourage churches to support messianic ministries.
And the reason is that they believe that messianic Jews have a much better chance of converting Israeli Jews or Jews in various locations around the world than Christian evangelicals. And so what they're doing is promoting internationally, through all types of events and in magazines in the movement, promoting the idea that churches should, financially and in other ways, support messianic ministries in order to advance the conversion of Jews to Christianity and bring about the end times and the return of Jesus to the Earth.
GROSS: And how does that - yeah, how does the conversion of Jews to Christianity bring about the end times?
Ms. TABACHNICK: This is a different end-time narrative than what many people may have been familiar with that comes out of fundamentalism where the believers are raptured prior to the horrors of the end time and the rule of the Antichrist.
In this, the believers remain on Earth, and that's one thing that makes it quite different. But another difference is what is holding Jesus back from coming to Earth is that there has to be a tipping point where a certain number of Jews in Israel reach out and call for Jesus to come as their messiah. And so that's what they were referring to at this Rick Perry event.
Both Don Finto and Marty Waldman, who were there, are involved in a network of apostles in this movement that have set up messianic training centers around the world, in places where there are significant Jewish populations.
GROSS: So I don't really know what to make of this, the fact that two people spoke in kind of covert language about the importance of Jews converting to Christianity and recognizing Jesus as their savior so that Christ can return back to Earth in his second coming, the fact that that was expressed at a Rick Perry rally. I have no idea whether any of that reflects Rick Perry's own views or not.
Ms. TABACHNICK: I don't think there's any way to know what Perry believes personally. What I can tell you is that this is a part of a larger package of themes that we saw throughout the entire event.
The basic idea of this event, as all The Call events, like this was patterned after, is the idea that in preparation for the end times, barriers will be broken down, and those barriers will come down between denominations in Protestantism, between generations, racial groups, and everyone will come together for the end times as what they call one new man.
So the idea is that you were doing all of these activities all around the country, interesting ceremonies, reconciliation ceremonies, to break down these barriers to bring everybody together under the banner of Jesus for the end times.
So a significant component of that is that the resistance of Jews to conversion is blocking this utopian period in the end times, the millennial in the end times, when there will not be poverty and death and corruption, environmental degradation, all of those things will disappear under the rule of Jesus.
GROSS: Are there other things that were said at the Rick Perry rally that you would need to have some background to actually understand because it is a kind of a separate language, do you know what I mean? Like you wouldn't really understand it unless you knew the context.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes, all through the event. The three major themes were the same as we've seen in The Call events around the world: One, anti-abortion, which was expressed with the terms shedding of innocent blood; two, anti-gay rights, which was expressed in repenting of sexual immorality; and then third the theme of converting Jews.
Also, if you were watching the event, you would have noticed that it was very much about personal repentance and what they call corporate repentance of the entire country. And this - but the idea of repentance is that they are repenting of being tolerant of sin. So they are repenting of being tolerant of abortion and repenting of being tolerant of what they call sexual perversion.
GROSS: So we don't really know what Rick Perry's own beliefs are on these issues, but we do know that when he spoke at his prayer rally, he was surrounded on each side by two of the apostles. Tell us a little bit about those two apostles.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Well, one is an apostle, Alice Patterson. The other is a well-known African-American pastor, C.L. Jackson. Alice Patterson wrote a book, published last year, when she describes the journey that they have been with Perry since 2002.
And in this book, she explains that the Democratic Party is controlled by a demonic structure, and their mission was to travel around the state and to explain to African-American leaders why they should not be in the Democratic Party.
And on this journey with them was - and now I'm talking about Alice Patterson and C.L. Jackson, not Perry personally - but as they went around the state since 2002, they had with them David Barton.
And David Barton is well-known for his histories in which he claims that the founding fathers had no intention of separation of church and state. One of his early books was called "The Myth of Separation."
And he has a history in which he credits Democrats with being the source of racism throughout American history and conservative evangelicals as being the source of fighting against slavery and for civil rights.
So they traveled around Texas. So this - delivering this message to African-American churches. So the fact that Alice Patterson and C.L. Jackson were standing with Perry was indeed politically significant.
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. We're talking about an emerging evangelical movement that seeks to take dominion over politics, business and culture in preparation for the end times and the return of Jesus. The movement, dubbed the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, is establishing a presence in American politics. Two ministries in the movement, The Call, led by Lou Engle, and the International House of Prayer, led by Mike Bickle, helped organize Rick Perry's recent prayer rally.
My guest Rachel Tabachnick has been writing about the New Apostolic Reformation for the website Talk To Action.
One of the people you may recognize who's connected to the movement is Thomas Muthee, the Kenyan pastor who anointed Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in 2005, while praying for Jesus to protect her from the spirit of witchcraft. A video of that went viral during the 2008 presidential campaign. I asked Tabachnick about Muthee's connection to the NAR.
Ms. TABACHNICK: The New Apostolic Reformation has another campaign that's been very successful and this is called Transformations. Transformation is the buzzword for bringing communities into dominion or gaining dominion over culture and government in a community. And the movement has put out transformation videos since 1999.
Thomas Muthee, who was what's called anointing Sarah Palin in that grainy video, was a star of the first transformation movie. And what these movies did, they show vignettes of communities or locations around the globe which they believe have been transformed through the supernatural move of God. And the process is that they, the people in the community come together, repent, pray together, expel the demons from their community - which they describe in terms of witches and witchcraft - and then that the community undergoes a transformation in which there can be miraculous healing, the growth of very large vegetables and agricultural products, the end of corruption and crime.
What was totally missed by the press was the fact that Muthee was an international leader in the movement at the time and recognized because of his role in this series of videos. And people became quite fixated on the witchcraft part of it as opposed to looking at who Muthee was and understanding his role in a larger movement.
And then the other point I would make is that although this is a movement that has mostly organized independent charismatics - so that means charismatics who are not in a denomination - there are also Pentecostal churches, churches that are in denominations, that have embraced the very distinct ideology of the movement. And one of those churches is Wasilla Assembly of God where Sarah Palin attended for over 20 years, and leaders of the movement have been there frequently to speak. So who knows what Sarah Palin personally believes but she certainly had quite a bit of exposure to the movement.
GROSS: Now you write about this group that it looks multicultural because they're reaching out to Native Americans, to African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Latinos. There are women apostles as well as men apostles, and they stress racial reconciliation. But you say they stress racial reconciliation while literally demonizing all other religions and belief systems. What do you mean?
Ms. TABACHNICK: One example would be in the transformation movies. In these vignettes, the participants do what's called spiritual warfare and spiritual mapping in some of the movies. And this is an activity to isolate where the demons are and then to start doing what they call strategic-level spiritual warfare against those demons.
Let me explain this concept of strategic-level spiritual warfare. They teach that there are three levels of spiritual warfare. The first is ground-level warfare, which is expulsion of demons - exorcism, if you will, of demons from individuals. This is nothing new. We've seen this for centuries. They have a little - a controversial twist to it because they teach that born-again Christians can harbor these demons.
Then they have a second level called occult-level spiritual warfare. This they say is fighting freemasonry, Eastern religions and witchcraft. Then there's the third level, strategic-level spiritual warfare, which is removing these principalities they call them, the most powerful demons that hold in spiritual bondage entire populations. And this might be a community, a geographic area, what they call a people group, an ethnic group or a religious group. They literally name these demons and then go on these excursions to fight these demons.
GROSS: So let me see if I understand this. Does that mean that these prayer groups are trying to exorcise mosques and get the demons out of mosques so that Muslims can convert to Christianity?
Ms. TABACHNICK: They see the demon as holding sway over a large area, so over not just the mosque but the entire people group. Let me give you a specific example about this and this is something that's coming up this November. Several groups have come together for another The Call event which will be in Detroit on November 11th. And the purpose of this one is to fight the demonic spirit of Islam.
Now I was listening to a recording. They're in preparation for this and this has been going on all throughout the year. And one of the leading apostles, and one who endorsed Perry's event, was speaking in a conference call to a group, and they placed these recordings online, and explaining to them the way that they were preparing for The Call Detroit. And one of the things that they're doing is they're literally going and putting a stake in the ground with a verse from Jeremiah at every Masonic lodge in the state. They have a ceremony to fight the demons and then they put the stake in the ground.
This is a type of ceremony that's been taking place all over the country. In all 50 states, ceremonies, which they call divorcing Baal - Baal being what the Israelites worshiped when they abandoned God in the Old Testament.
GROSS: So the event is in Detroit, which is very near Dearborn, Michigan, which has I think the - or one of the largest populations of Muslims in the United States.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Mm-hmm.
GROSS: Is that significant?
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes, that's very significant. The purpose of that event is to fight the spirit of Islam. In other words, to conduct spiritual warfare against the demons which they claim hold Muslims in bondage and keep them from converting. Now, of course, this is expressed in terms of love. They say we don't hate Muslims. We love Muslims but we hate that they are in spiritual bondage and don't convert to Christianity.
GROSS: So do you think that the people at the rally intend to go to mosques or directly address Muslims in any way? Like I don't know how much you know about what the plan is.
Ms. TABACHNICK: I don't know of specific plans. I can give you examples from the past. In 2008, just before the election, they held one of The Call events in Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. This was an event in support of Prop 8.
GROSS: Which was meant to make gay marriage illegal.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Correct. And so in the promotional material put out about the event, Lou Engle talked about that they had to come together and pray because this would unleash a spirit more demonic than Islam, was his words. And prior to that event they did have people who came into conflict with people in gay communities, because they did have people going out in the streets and evangelizing and so forth and there were some conflicts prior to that event.
And also I might add, by the end of that event - which was another day-long event - Lou Engle was calling for martyrs to the cause from the stage. So I am concerned about the ramifications of the event in Detroit.
GROSS: So when you say this event is intended to be spiritual warfare against the intent of Islam, are the organizers of this event publicly saying that?
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes. And in fact another person who has been there preparing for this event is Retired Lieutenant General William Boykin who is now part of the Oak Initiative. He does not announce himself as an apostle but he's a part of this Oak Initiative which includes many of the leading apostles. And he has been going to Michigan and speaking about the nine principles of warfare. One of these principles is offense instead of defense, and he is advising people that they have to act to prevent mosques from being built before they are actually constructed.
GROSS: Now let me move on to Mike Bickle. He is the leader of what is known as the International House of Prayer and he was one of the organizers of the Rick Perry prayer rally. And he is also semi-famous now for having described Oprah Winfrey as a forerunner of the harlot movement. He said she is winsome, kind, reasonable. She is utterly deceived. A classy woman, a cool woman but she has a spirit of deception and is one of the forerunners to the harlot movement. Just a brief translation of what you think he means by that?
Ms. TABACHNICK: He's talking about the end times. And in the end times narrative there is what is called the Great Harlot or the Great Harlot of Mystery Babylon, and this is a demonic figure in the end times. Throughout Protestant history this has sometimes been described as being the Roman Catholic Church. But it represents the apostate religion of the end time.
I might add Mike Bickle is one of the major thinkers in the movement. And his embrace of this particular type of ideology, which goes back to the 1940s and 1950s in something called the Latter Rain Movement, but his embrace of this ideology predates the coalescing of the New Apostolic Reformation. Mike Bickle was part of what was referred to by others as the Kansas City Prophets at Metro Christian Fellowship in the 1980s and 1990s. And his embrace of this ideology was very controversial, even among other independent charismatics at that time.
GROSS: Now Mike Bickle has what he calls the God School. And on his website he has the literature from the God School which you can read or watch videos of, and I just want to quote some of that. This is from the chapter "The Harlot Babylon: The One World Religion." He says an angel gave John one of the most significant prophecies related to the end times.
John saw a harlot that will have two global networks. First, it will be a worldwide religious network of great tolerance that will bring together the major world religions into one unified network including Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, etcetera, teaching that every road will lead to God and that everybody is good.
Second, it will be a global economic network. In the middle of the final seven years of this age the Antichrist's plan is to replace the harlot religion of tolerance with Antichrist worship. This new worldwide religion will be very strict without any toleration. All who refuse to worship the Antichrist will be killed. Satan's purpose for the harlot religious system will be to weaken the convictions of the people of the major world religions to prepare them for Antichrist worship.
So if I understand him correctly, what he's saying here is that it's the Antichrist who's responsible for some people's belief that all the world religions are good, but that's just the Antichrist's deception.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes. And what they're saying is you cannot tolerate tolerance and that you cannot tolerate religious pluralism. The narrative that he's describing there has been a common narrative to American fundamentalism for over 100 years. But there's one major difference in what Bickle is teaching there. In the fundamentalist narrative all of this happens - the seven years of Antichrist rule happens after the believers have been taken from the Earth in the Rapture.
What Mike Bickle is teaching and - to this movement is that no, the believers will remain and they have to be ready to fight and they have to be ready to be martyrs. Now this is a very different end time narrative that creates a very different activism. If you are going to still be around and you have to fight, that's very different than believing that you will be raptured and you'll just be watching from the grandstands of heaven.
Also Mike Bickle's International House of Prayer is a very youth-oriented operation and what they're doing is teaching youth that this will likely happen in their lifetime and that they must be prepared to be martyrs.
GROSS: Now we were talking about how demons figure very prominently in the New Apostolic Reformation. Lou Engle, who is one of the apostles and was one of the organizers of the Rick Perry rally, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think he said that gays are possessed of demonic spirits.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Right. And in fact, in another The Call event Lou Engle spoke at length about how one of his sons has started an International House of Prayer in the Castro district of San Francisco, and that his son is now expelling demons from homosexuals, and supposedly then this cures them of their homosexuality.
GROSS: Tell us a little bit more about Lou Engle. And again, he's also organizing the event on November 11th in Detroit.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Lou Engle has held these The Call events around the world. In fact he held one in 2008 in Jerusalem which coincided with the Global Day of Prayer. The Global Day of Prayer is also initiative of the New Apostolic Reformation movement.
Lou Engle also took The Call event to Uganda in May of 2010, where various people got on the stage and promoted the Anti-Homosexuality Bill in Uganda, which is still pending. It's a very draconian bill that would allow for execution of certain offenses and would also allow for people who don't report homosexual activity to be jailed.
The apostles have a long history in Uganda and have - and some of them have had close relationships with both political and religious leaders there. And in fact, an apostle in the movement in Uganda takes credit for promoting the Anti-Homosexuality Bill and was recognized by the parliament of Uganda when the bill was introduced.
GROSS: Can I just end this interview on a kind of personal note, personal on your behalf? You've said that you spent the first half of your life as a Southern Baptist and the second half as a Jew.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Ms. TABACHNICK: Yes.
GROSS: What changed?
Ms. TABACHNICK: I got married.
(Soundbite of laughter)
GROSS: Oh, OK. OK.
Ms. TABACHNICK: But having that background, having the Southern Baptist background and growing up in the Deep South, has helped me to be able to do this research. And it's also helped me to realize something that might not be apparent to some other people looking at the movement, that this is quite radically different than the evangelicalism of my youth. And the things that we've been talking about are not representative of evangelicalism. They're not representative of conservative evangelicalism. So I think that's important to keep in mind.
This is a movement that is growing in popularity and I think one of the ways they have been able to do that is they're not very identifiable to most people. They're just presented as nondenominational or just Christian. But it is an identifiable movement now with an identifiable ideology.
GROSS: Well, I want to thank you so much for talking with us.
Ms. TABACHNICK: Thank you, Terry.
GROSS: Rachel Tabachnick has been writing about the New Apostolic Reformation for the website Talk To Action. You'll find links to her recent articles on our website, freshair.npr.org.
We invited several people affiliated with the NAR to join us on FRESH AIR, but they were unable to do anything in time for today's broadcast. Mike Bickle has agreed to join us at a future time. We hope to schedule that soon.
Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews John Doe's new album.
This is FRESH AIR.