The New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) is a reorganized, large Pentecostal and Charismatic movement reframed by the religious right to move into politics. My guests on this episode of the Influence Continuum are warning people about the dangers associated with the rise of the NAR.
Frederick Clarkson has written and worked at the intersection of religion and politics for over four decades. He’s currently a Senior Research Analyst at Political Research Associates, a social justice research and strategy center in Somerville, Massachusetts. He’s also the author of a very important book that I recommend everyone read called Eternal Hostility – The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy, a subject that everyone’s talking about in the media these days.
André Gagné is a full professor in the Department of Theological Studies at the University Concordia in Montreal, Canada. He has written a book in French on the evangelical supporters of Trump that will soon be published in English. His work focuses on Neocharismatic-Pentecostalism and the Christian Right, and he has done extensive research into understanding the background and the beliefs and practices of the New Apostolic Reformation.
Revealing Article in Religion Dispatches
Recently, Fred and André published an article titled “New Apostolic Reformation Faces Profound Rift Due to Trump Prophecies and “Spiritual Manipulation of the Prophetic Gift” in Religion Dispatches. The article describes a growing schism between movement prophets and apostles who say that God wants Trump to be restored as president and those who say such claims are an abuse of the role of the prophet in the Church.
The media keeps saying white Christian evangelicals are Trump’s base, but it’s more complicated than that.
Let’s begin with the Manhattan Declaration. In the mid-1990s, conservative Catholic intellectuals and Christian Right and evangelical leaders held a series of theological dialogues. Eventually, they had a breakthrough. A neoconservative Catholic professor Robert P. George found a way to bring them together in 2009. He found three concepts on which all could agree. And these were:
- Religious Liberty
And agree they did. It became their platform in the culture war.
- Life means being anti-abortion
- Marriage is the opposition to marriage equality for LGBTQ people
- Religious Liberty means exemptions from civil rights laws regarding life and marriage
These three ideas, life, marriage, and religious liberty began to appear on the websites of politically active Christian Right groups and the Pro-Life Secretariat of the Catholic Bishops. And most tellingly, Mitt Romney, in his 2012 acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention for the Republican nomination, specifically listed those three terms. As a Mormon, he needed to signal that he belonged, so he used the three themes of the Manhattan Declaration to do so.
That’s how important the Manhattan Declaration was to everything from the center-right to the far right in American politics. The 500 initial signatories included Catholic prelates and a wide range of evangelical leaders, including some NAR apostles.
The Core of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) Movement
The core element of the NAR is apostolic governance. This is why the “prophetic standards” and the signatories mentioned in Fred and André’s article are important for the movement. It boils down to the question of authority: Who is recognized to speak on behalf of God? Since many so-called prophets had prophesied that Trump would be re-elected in 2020 and their predictions failed, they either had to refer to biblical examples where false prophets were killed due to their failed predictions, or blame Biden, the Democrats and the Satanic Illuminati for stealing the election. The “prophetic standards” are guidelines to rein in the prophets and their political prophecies. But will they work? Fred and André doubt that some prophets will comply.
The Question of Dominionism
Now, people in apostolic centers and networks don’t have issues with authoritarianism because they’re already drilled this way. The internal dominionism exercised through the leadership of apostles in their centers and networks is now being taken out into society.
The political marketing strategy to move dominionism into society is called the “Seven Mountains Mandate:”
- Government and Law
- Media, News, and Commentary
- Arts and Entertainment
- Business and Economics
The theory is that if they can control these seven spheres of culture, then they can gain “dominion” over society. The NAR thus seeks to delegitimize and eliminate the institutions of democracy and other Christian traditions as obstacles to dominion.
This is the threat that they pose to civilized society all over the world.
Is It Hopeless? What Can We Do?
Few are talking about the New Apostolic Reformation, let alone the rift, and the opportunity presented here. But there are groups that are making a difference. Supporting these organizations is a place to start.
- Christians Against Christian Nationalism is a wonderful joint effort of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, mainline denominational leaders, and even some Catholics and other evangelicals.
- Americans United for Separation of Church and State website says, “Separation of church and state guarantees religious freedom, a fundamental right. Americans United shields our shared laws from the influence of any one religion so we can be free to come together as equals and build a stronger democracy.”
- The Interfaith Alliance works to “protect faith and freedom by respecting individual rights, protecting the boundaries between religion and government, and uniting diverse voices to challenge extremism and build common ground.”
Ultimately, the task is to figure out how we are all going to learn to live with one another in relative peace and harmony. We need to do this, even as we need to understand that there are people out there who think we are under the influence of demonic forces. That we are even infested with demons in some way. We need to focus on the fact we are only human beings. We may differ on religion and politics, but we’re still human beings. We’re not supernatural agents preparing for an end-times religious war.
If we value constitutional democracy, we know what to do. We have to continually inform people. Plus, we need to recognize and adapt to the Christian Right’s strategy of long-term voter mobilization. The rest of us constitute a far greater majority.
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