New Apostolic Reformation

Slate is alarmed that some Pentecostals mix politics and prophecy

Slate is alarmed that some Pentecostals mix politics and prophecy

Pentecostal Christians who believe in modern-day prophecy and support President Donald Trump gathered more than a year ago in Washington, D.C. That should be enough to frighten anyone braced for battle against theocracy.  

Worse still, they gathered at the Trump International Hotel, so you know that here is something deeply menacing to the future of America.

Ruth Graham ofSlate wrote about “The Turnaround: An Appeal to Heaven,” drawing in part from an on-site report filed Jan. 18, 2018, by Peter Montgomery of People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch.

Here’s the strange twist. Montgomery’s report for the activist group surpasses Graham’s report for the more journalism-oriented web daily.

The key difference is that Montgomery’s report conveys a more nuanced picture of this melodramatic gathering, whose leaders are clearly outliers in the evangelical subculture.

Montgomery writes:

Joining [Dutch] Sheets at the conference — called “The Turnaround: An Appeal to Heaven” — were Chuck PierceCindy JacobsLou Engle and other leaders of the “intercessory prayer” movement, along with 1,300 attendees who filled the Trump hotel’s presidential ballroom to capacity for hours of music, prayer, speaking in tongues, and prophetic decrees. Many of the conference leaders have been working together and supporting one another’s ministries for decades, and they joked and teased each other on stage. But they were utterly serious about their mission in Washington, D.C.

Right Wing Watch’s video shows a small rock outfit in the background, including a saxophonist, so we can at least presume that the music was engaging.

Montgomery clearly knows the gold to be mined when a writer can sit in on a gathering of like-minded people and listen carefully to what they say.

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Buzzfeed takes the time to dig into Bethel Church and gets this complex story right

Buzzfeed takes the time to dig into Bethel Church and gets this complex story right

One of the most intriguing churches in the country is Bethel Church in northern California. If there is a Jesus movement among today’s millennials, Bethel is its epicenter.

Despite the thousands of visitors this place receives from around the world, its influence has gone almost unnoticed by the media, which tends to be clueless about current trends among Pentecostals and charismatics.

Fortunately, reporters are beginning to discover Bethel via a book by two scholars affiliated with the University of Southern California’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture. The authors of "The Rise of Network Christianity" have been planting guest editorials in several places warning readers of the evils of this movement, plus why people need to educate themselves about it -- and read their book, of course.

There’s also been articles about the movement associated with Bethel, such Bob Smietana’s recent piece in Christianity Today and a piece yours truly wrote for Religion News Service last year. 

But there hasn’t been a whole lot else. It’s a tough movement to pin down, much less write about. The latest effort at explaining Bethel -- in the form of a first-person feature story -- comes from Buzzfeed. It begins:

It’s the first day of Prophecy Week at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Or, as students here like to call the place, Christian Hogwarts.
The auditorium of the civic center in Redding, California, where first-year students have class, is so full of eager, neatly dressed young people that it’s initially impossible to find a seat. The roomful of some 1,200 students hums with expectant energy…

The piece goes on to describe Bethel Church and Kris Vallotton, one of its main preachers.

The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry is at the forefront of a burgeoning -- and decidedly youthful -- evangelical Christian revival. Some have called its movement the fastest-growing religious group in America -- a loose network of churches, led by so-called apostles, who see supernatural gifts like prophecy and faith healing as the key to global conversion. While other religious movements struggle to retain members and draw in young people, Bethel attracts millennials in droves.

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