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Jericho march in DC: Coming-out party for a movement journalists haven't really covered

Jericho march in DC: Coming-out party for a movement journalists haven't really covered

By Julia Duin
December 16, 2020

There is a massive cat fight going on right now among evangelical and Pentecostal Christians that mainstream religion reporters have all but ignored.

Other than one story by Religion News Service -- that ran mainly because famed Southern Baptist Bible teacher Beth Moore has gotten involved -- there's been little coverage on the schism between two evangelical camps as to whether President Donald Trump won or lost last month's election.

Wait, you say. The electoral college voted Monday that Trump decisively lost, right?

Not so fast.

Turn your attention to the folks attending a "Jericho march" in Washington DC last Saturday where a mix of evangelical Protestants, Catholics and Messianic Jews claimed that President Trump had indeed won the election (but it was stolen) and that somehow, miraculously, God would see to it that he, not Joe Biden, will be inaugurated next month. This might require use of military force or militias.

Every religion reporter should have watched this rally; if not all of it, at least in part to see the most poisonous marriage of religion and politics I've seen in 40-plus years on the beat.

I don't usually lead with an opinion piece, but veteran religious-liberty activist David French, a #NeverTrump evangelical, sums it up best here at The Dispatch:

This is a grievous and dangerous time for American Christianity. The frenzy and the fury of the post-election period has laid bare the sheer idolatry and fanaticism of Christian Trumpism.

A significant segment of the Christian public has fallen for conspiracy theories, has mixed nationalism with the Christian gospel, has substituted a bizarre mysticism for reason and evidence, and rages in fear and anger against their political opponents -- all in the name of preserving Donald Trump's power.

I'll explain the "bizarre mysticism" part in a moment. It has to do with the Pentecostals and charismatics, starting with the president's pastor, the Rev. Paula White, who have prophesied Trump's victory in 2020. I wrote about this trend a few weeks ago here and it's basic reading for anyone trying to understand this movement.

Back to the French essay:

A significant movement of American Christians -- encouraged by the president himself -- is now directly threatening the rule of law, the Constitution, and the peace and unity of the American republic.

It's clear now that when many of those people declared Trump to be "God's anointed" they did not mean that his presidency was "instituted by God" in the same manner as other governing authorities, as described in Romans 13. (By conventional Christian reasoning, Joe Biden's upcoming presidency is also instituted by God.)

No, they believe that Trump had a special purpose and a special calling, and that this election defeat is nothing less than a manifestation of a Satanic effort to disrupt God's plan for this nation. They were not "holding their nose" to support him. They were deeply, spiritually, and personally invested in his political success.

Still puzzled by what this is all about? I found the above telecast by NTD (New Tang Dynasty) Television, a media organization linked to the Falun Gong. The Epoch Times, which fellow GetReligionista Ira Rifkin wrote about last month, is related to NTD and has become a rising conservative media force that resembles what my old employer, the Washington Times, used to be in the 1990s and early aughts. Back then, we were the main alternate conservative news source. Now, a bunch of competitors that are even further to the right, such as NewsMax and the Epoch Times, have taken over.

As you watch it, you will see these Christians are a whole different sort than the ones you might have run into at, say, a Billy Graham crusade. They are doing prayer walks; they widely practice spiritual gifts such as healing, speaking in tongues and prophecy; they "declare" God's will as they see it and some claim they have regular access to angels and various heavenly visions.

For instance, just before opera singer Stephanie D'Urso sang "Ave Maria" to the crowd, she proclaimed, "I am hearing an army of angels coming from heaven to help our beautiful president win this battle of good vs evil."

I only watched a portion of the broadcast, so if you want a blow-by-blow account, click on the American Conservative's site and read Rod Dreher's account of it all. Dreher live-tweeted the event, which lit fires all over Twitter.

It is stunning (not in a good way) reading. I disagree with him on one small point: You can't simply call most of these folks evangelicals. It's absolutely crucial that most of these people are charismatic evangelicals. There's roughly 76 million evangelicals of this kind in the United States, if you take 23% of 33 million people. There's an equal amount of Pentecostal/charismatics because the latter include charismatic Catholics, which the former does not.

Unfortunately, other coverage of the rally, such as this Washington Post piece, was mixed in with accounts of the Proud Boy presence (and riots) in DC later in the day. That's a completely different flock of people.

Dreher (who is Eastern Orthodox) wasn't the only person who was gobsmacked by the rally. So was evangelical Beth Moore, who tweeted her disgust on Sunday. Her first tweet got 18,200 responses and 140,000 likes.

Folks, that is massive. There is a huge battle happening here and I'm not seeing journalists pick up on it.

This short RNS story was the exception:

Beth Moore, a popular Southern Baptist author and speaker, took to Twitter Sunday to voice her frustration and seeming bewilderment at the Christian zeal for Trump, saying that in her more than 63 years, she has "never seen anything in these United States of America I found more astonishingly seductive & dangerous to the saints of God than Trumpism."

With a warning to her nearly one million followers that she would be blunt, the founder of Living Proof Ministries posted a thread in which she called on Christians to "move back" from Trumpism and insisted Christian nationalism "is not of God."...

Within a few hours, the tweet thread garnered nearly 40,000 likes and more than 3,000 comments on both sides of the issue. More than a few commenters said that Moore should "stay in her lane." By mid-afternoon Sunday, "Beth Moore" was trending nationally on Twitter.

I've been warning for some time that there's an ascendant Pentecostal/charismatic movement that is, in many ways, way more aggressive and powerful than its non-charismatic evangelical counterpart.

The former is growing like crazy. The latter (if you look at declining baptism statistics in among the decidedly non-charismatic Southern Baptists as an indicator) is not so active.

I'll show you two examples of how this "prophetic" trend among charismatics is taking the lead as we speak and how easy it is to look them up. Observers group them under a heading known as the "New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)", an umbrella term for a movement that elevates modern-day apostles and prophets as the leaders of the church.

One of the major "prophets" in the charismatic pantheon is Texas evangelist Dutch Sheets. His brother, the Rev. Tim Sheets of Oasis Church in Middleton, Ohio, preached on Dec. 6 (YouTube link here) about the Holy Trinity getting involved in this election. Folks in this movement claim angelic intervention quite often, along with dreams, visits to heaven, one-on-ones with Jesus Himself, you name it.

A sample from that sermon: "King Jesus is rising to lead his people through new doors of awesome future. The Holy Spirit is activating more of the angel armies of heaven to assist the people on Earth than He ever has before. ... When you see a moment that has the attention of the Godhead, that moment must have our attention as well."

After the election, a group of 15-16 "intercessors, apostles, prophets" traveled the country for prayer meetings and "angels have been at each one of these events assisting us." While on the road, "we saw Deep State pollution we never thought was possible." They became convinced President Trump won by a landslide "but there are criminals trying to steal it."

God can turn around the election, Tim Sheets promised, and Jesus had informed him that it all depends on the response of the American church to pray away the election results. "If we stay engaged, we will turn this nation back to our covenant roots. Heaven isn't engaged to lose."

This is not just a few thousand people who believe this. These Pentecostals are providing the spiritual foundations for millions who believe the election was stolen.

A week ago, there was a podcast by two men deeply involved in this prophetic movement. One was the Rev. Darren Stott of Seattle Revival Center and the other was Charlie Shamp, an up-and-coming voice in the NAR who lives in North Carolina.

Shamp is convinced that somehow, Trump, not Biden, will be inaugurated Jan. 20. The podcast of these two men talking first deals with Shamp's incorrect 2018 prophecy that a "red tide" would sweep the U.S. Congress and his irritation at the people on social media who've called him out on it.

"The only time people come out of the woodwork to question [prophecy] is if they feel you missed something," Shamp said. "You never hear from them when you hit it; when the word you gave is right [and] there's no denying that it happened."

Shamp -- and others -- have gotten some things right, but there have been multiple misses. I wondered if Shamp has ever been in a normal workplace where you're expected to get things right 100% of the time.

For those of us in the media, no one complains when you report accurately because it's assumed that you've got your facts right. Only when a reporter is wrong are there corrections and a thorough blast from that reporter's supervisor. That happens after the first mistake. After the second, you're put on probation. After the third, you're out of a job.

Stott then asked Shamp a long question that I've punctuated to make it readable:

"So when people immaturely -- in their childish immaturity -- attack legitimate prophets," he begins before diving into another sentence. "Do you think that is actually partnering with an anti-Christ spirit to prohibit what God is trying to birth on the Earth; do you think there are many Christians that are being used unwittingly, unknowingly, ignorantly; they are actually partnering demonically to silence what God is trying to birth on the Earth through the prophets, or do you think I am just being a little dramatic?"

Instead of telling Stott that heck, yes, he was being over dramatic, Shamp responded with, "[Being] anti-Christ is anything against the anointing, right?"

A lot of this repartee includes a movement code language that is difficult to understand for outsiders. Shamp is saying that he is an anointed (by God) prophet and that anyone who questions or opposes him is opposing Christ Himself.

Folks, these are the conversations going on that, for now, are hidden away in podcasts, YouTube videos and Facebook discussions. But they are not going to stay there. You saw one outbreak with the Jericho march. This is a niche movement that mainstream reporters must, must get to know -- now.


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