(HT) Long report but worth reading.
Spiritual Warriors with an Antigay Mission: The New Apostolic Reformation
By Rachel Tabachnick
The New Apostolic Reformation, an aggressively political movement within Christianity, blames literal demonic beings for the world’s ills and stresses the power of “spiritual warfare” to deliver people and nations from their power. It is rapidly gaining influence in the United States and around the globe, and it aims to advance a right-wing social and economic agenda—all while reinventing the structure of Christianity.
In the late summer of 2000, Rev. Lou Engle, a political activist and Charismatic religious leader, organized an all-day prayer rally in Washington, D.C. As Engle explained later, the event originated in a pressing question that he couldn’t shake: “How can I turn America back to God?” In a dream, Engle “felt overwhelmed by the impossibility” of achieving that goal, but then he saw a vision of a verse from the Bible: “And he will go on before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous.”1 From that dream, and a subsequent “supernatural series of events,” a giant prayer rally was born. Engle named it TheCall.
By Engle’s account, TheCall drew 400,000 people to the Mall in Washington, D.C., and changed the course of the 2000 election. The prayers of the faithful were answered when the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its Bush v. Gore decision, giving the election to George W. Bush. On the heels of that success, “the inward voice of the Lord . . . reverberated strongly in his spirit,” and Engle decided to organize a similar event in another city in 2001. At the suggestion of Sam Brownback, now the governor of Kansas and then a Republican U.S. senator, he chose Boston. Brownback had told him that “you need to dig the wells of revival in New England and close the doors to false ideologies that have found entrance through Boston.”2
Since then, Engle has staged more than 20 similar rallies, and each has attracted tens of thousands of participants to stadiums across the U.S. He and his organization have also become deeply involved in U.S. politics, especially in antichoice and antigay organizing. Engle staged TheCall San Diego, for example, the week before the 2008 election, with the explicit purpose of bolstering support for Proposition 8, the California ballot initiative and constitutional amendment that limited the definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman. 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.3 James Dobson, founder of the Christian Right organization Focus on the Family, later cited TheCall San Diego as the reason for Proposition 8’s success. 4 In 2010, an estimated 10,000 people attended TheCall Houston, whose purpose was “to contend for the ending of abortion and to spark an adoption revolution.” Antichoice activism was a major focus, as well, of TheCall Detroit in November 2011.5
TheCall’s message crosses national borders as well. Engle was featured extensively in the 2013 Sundance premiere of 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.
Engle is a leader in a Charismatic religious and political movement called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). His rallies are among the movement’s most visible public manifestations, and despite Dobson’s endorsement, they reflect many of the NAR’s departures from the traditional Christian Right. The movement is rooted in Charismatic Christianity, a cross-denominational belief in modern day miracles and the supernatural. Emerging from the U.S. neo-Pentecostal movement that gained particular force in the 1980s, these beliefs spread to Roman Catholics and mainline and evangelical Protestant churches in the United States and worldwide. Pentecostalism has a history of racial diversity and women ministers, and NAR itself has broad appeal in terms of gender, race, and ethnicity, for example, and women and minorities are prominent in its leadership.7 It’s also culturally savvy, 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.8
But the NAR aims to be far more than a hipper and more diverse version of the Christian Right. Its most prominent leaders and prolific authors claim to be creating the “greatest change in church since the Protestant Reformation,”9 and they describe themselves as modern-day prophets and apostles. The movement aims 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.
The NAR believes that radical political and social consequences will follow from this religious reformation. Speaking of TheCall D.C., Engle told the movement’s flagship magazine, Charisma, that it “was part of a shift in the heavens and that God has thrown a window open,” so that we “have entered a season of time in a massive spiritual war. . . . We are in a war, and if we don’t win, we lose everything” (brackets in original).11
Consequently, NAR leaders have forged a powerful “spiritual warfare” theology that puts the political and social transformation of the world at the top of Christianity’s agenda.12 The revolution begins, they believe, with the casting out of demons. 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.”