More of the same?

August 31, 2011

Much of the backlash against critics of Governor Rick Perry's religious beliefs has focused on the idea that the charges are essentially "more of the same": more of the same secularist paranoia about religion in public life, more of the same elitist disdain for the "evangelical vote," more of the same fear-mongering over tangential connections to Christian theocrats.

But these dismissals are themselves more of the same: the same ignorance of the influence of Pentecostal and charismatic movements on American Christianity. According to one leading critic of Perry's views--researcher and writer Rachel Tabachnik, who spoke to Terry Gross last week--the New Apostolic Reformation movement is not simply the same old thing with a new name:

[The NAR] is quite radically different than the evangelicalism of my youth. The things that we've been talking about are not representative of evangelicalism. They're not representative of conservative evangelicalism. . . This is a movement that's growing in popularity, and one of the ways they've been able to do that [is that]...they're just presented as nondenominational or just Christian--but it is an identifiable movement now with an identifiable ideology."

It's a troubling ideology. The NAR's utopian vision is, as Tabachnik summarizes it, to see like-minded Christians "take control over government, arts and entertainment, media, education, business, family, and religion" to prepare for the end times. This raises serious questions for people of good will, whatever their religious beliefs.

As for Governor Perry, it's not just that he has some sort of distant, shadowy connection to the NAR that's of concern to northeast liberals. Perry has gone out of his way to identify his public expressions of religion with the NAR. His recent prayer rally was patterned after NAR themes, endorsed by NAR "apostles" and promoted by NAR personnel. As Tabachnik puts it:

A who's who of New Apostolic leaders graced the stage at Perry's [prayer rally]. Some of the crowd obviously recognized them. Young people in the audience could be seen bobbing from the waist, up and down, like Apostle Lou Engle has done for years, mimicking a movement from Jewish prayer.

Perry's prayer rally was patterned after Lou Engle's The Call.

When Perry came out to speak and pray, he hugged and thanked Alice Patterson and then had her stand by his side throughout his appearance. Patterson is an NAR apostle known for claiming to learn from a vision that the Democratic Party is "an invisible network of evil comprising an unholy structure" (emphasis in original) that was released by the spirit of Jezebel. (Lest you think she is a purely partisan visionary, Patterson also reports another vision showing that the Republican Party is under the spiritual control of Ahab.)

Ross Douthat and others are right to point out that the media is for the most part ignorant about religion. But the consequence of that ignorance isn't that some people are calling attention to Perry's beliefs. It's that his relationship with the NAR continues to fly under the national media's radar. The initial national coverage of Perry's prayer rally was nondescript and said nothing about the NAR's participation or Patterson's unique beliefs. Until Trabachnik appeared on Gross's show, few Americans knew about Perry's coreligionists--a lack of knowledge shared by those now quick to assure us that his faith is just more of the same.



The NAR is Mormonism in a different form and the fact that it is groing so fast is scary.

New Apostolic Reformation

It seems like Montanism with a political agenda. I believe this is what Bonhoeffer refers to, in a sense, when he writes about the penultimate and the ultimate in ETHICS. In this case it is the penultimate attempting to usurp the ultimate. A movement or a process attempting to usurp Christ. In Bonhoeffer's day it was the professing Church aligning itself with the state. The end result was tragic.

The Korean response

I did not touch on it in the article, but it is confirmed in the responses/comments--NAR is a significant force internationally and it is an aspect of the global church that needs more attention.

naw, just More of the Same

Dominionism can sound awful - but properly balanced it merely suggests that we are to be steward's of God's creation. To be steward's we must be involved in word and action. This is "The Christian Century" webzine afterall. You don't suggest Christians pull out of society like the pre-trib brethren and leave it to those who would be "left behind"? The notion de-legitimizes this very platform. I, for one, am much more excited about Christians infiltrating with consequence the public square rather than leaving it in it's "nakedness" as described by RJ Neuhaus. True "little christs" doing so would mitigate the fringes, yes? Like any theological view point - the extreme fringe can be dangerous - but a very powerful motivator and hence political tool. I get the impression - and it is only an impression - that a president Perry, in spite of his NAR ties, does in fact offer more of the same.

Little has enthused me about this Governor. While I suspect I know more than the average citizen about him, I have yet to spend much time analyzing outside of a few interviews, articles and right wing media buzz. What is interesting to me is that generally the buzz doesn't measure up to the man - as far as I am concerned. In spite of the hype, to me, his speeches aren't that great, off the cuff statements touch the fringes of sensational and even his persona strikes me as hollow. While I won't judge the man in total, I have to say that his alliance and persona comes across more opportunistic than heartfelt. I suspect that NAR will be the governor's version of the Rev Wright and, beyond the primaries, will go the way of Obama's "old uncle".

PS very impressive (and verbose) Chinese readership you've established - if their word count is any indication they seem to be very passionate too

response to naw, just more of the same

Dominion does have multiple meanings and you are right that one is "that we are to be steward's of God's creation." But even a cursory reading of NAR's statements about dominionism make clear that is not what they have in mind. THe idea that we have to choosed between NAR dominionism and a "naked public square" is, sorry to say, more of the same.

Dominionism and the USA

I spent half the night recently researching Dominionism which I'd already known about for a long time. Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the authors of the LEFT BEHIND series, appear to be Dominionists. Sadly the readers of this series usually believe that the books are based on the teachings of the Bible. Well, they are, if you are into the Apocalypse. I don't know what the end times will be like but I don't spend a lot of time thinking about it. Then there's  Dominionism and Reverend Moon. Those of us oldsters remember him well. Bill Berkowitz has a wonderful summary of Rev. Moon's doings, just google it. Then there's Dominionism and the American Family Association who has a mailing list with everybody who has ever been a Christian on it, more or less. Perry's prayer meeting with the AFA garnered 30,000 contacts for his campaign which is supported not only by the AFA but by the Koch brothers. Just google   Koch brothers and Perry and Dominionism. The Koch brothers support not only Perry but Bachmann and Palin and the Tea Party. I'm not starting on the Koch brothers; you can research that yourselves. Just pay attention. Organize. Make noise. These days it's the super rich against everyone else.

Marge Wood in Texas, where Perry's time in office has helped the super rich and hurt everyone else. He is a great campaigner but a terrible governor.