This just in: Former President Donald Trump not only has an angelic host surrounding him — he’s also seated on a throne with a golden crown and holding a golden scepter.
You’ve not heard about this edgy hook for a news story?
Then you’re not attuned to “Prophet Wars,” my name for the fistfight going on between powerful factions of the Pentecostal/charismatic movement over whether the 45th president will be restored to the White House sometime soon.
I’ve been amazed at how this large Pentecostal chunk of American Christianity — and there are roughly 65 million Americans that belong to this group — is being ignored by much of the media. Trump’s spiritual advisor, the Rev. Paula White-Cain, is part of this segment, so it’s not an obscure bunch.
Last week, I wrote a piece for ReligionUnplugged on a group of 85 leaders in this movement who were fed up with the “Trump prophecies;” predictions from dozens of people to the effect that Trump would coast his way into the White House last November. When that didn’t happen, several leaders began apologizing for their false prophecies; a phenomenon I covered for GetReligion here.
Then we all waited for a few months. Most of the false prophets did not retract their prophecies. Meanwhile, as detailed in the ReligionUnplugged story, a group of charismatic leaders drafted a four-page document of “prophetic standards” spelling out what biblical prophecy is — and is not — and suggesting that those who prophesy falsely, especially in a public forum, need to apologize when they get it wrong. Those who refuse to do so won’t be allowed on their social media platforms. I sum up the statement below:
If someone issues a public prophecy with specific details and dates that can be easily proved or disproved, “and that word does not come to pass as prophesied, the one who delivered the word must be willing to take full responsibility, demonstrating genuine contrition before God and people,” the statement says.
“If the word was delivered publicly, then a public apology (and/or explanation/clarification) should be presented,” it continues. “This is not meant to be a punishment but rather a mature act of love to protect the honor of the Lord, the integrity of prophetic ministry and the faith of those to whom the word was given.” The statement also calls for prophets to have their prophecies evaluated by peers in the movement, adding, “Those refusing such accountability should not be welcomed for ministry.”
By the way, you’re never on vacation in this business.
The week before last, I was in Charlotte, N.C., for some R&R when I thought I’d drop in on Michael Brown (photo on the left), one of the originators of the prophetic standards statement and a source for several of my stories.
I was just coming by to say a brief hello when he handed me a copy of the standards statement, to be released the following week. So much for the vacay. It being a Friday, I had to quickly email a bunch of folks over the weekend for comments which I wouldn’t be able to access until my plane landed back in Seattle on Monday night.
Anyway, I guess the paucity of coverage of this debate is indicative of how very few religion reporters understand the heft this movement has in the wider church.
Newsweek has been trying to follow these folks — especially Johnny Enlow of Tennessee — by cribbing off the work of the Right Wing Watch website. Granted, it takes hours to cull through these programs and most reporters don’t have the time to listen to endless broadcasts of ElijahStreams, the YouTube channel that broadcasts Enlow et al.
Still, Right Wing Watch is a project of the People for the American Way, which has no love for conservative religious groups, so buyer beware. But at least they are paying someone to monitor [Streams host] Steve Shultz, so they are useful.
This past weekend, religious liberty activist David French penned this column about the debate, calling the signers “a band of brave Pentecostals.” (Remember, the majority of the prophets out there in this movement did not sign this new document.)
Other than that, from what I can tell, the non-charismatic evangelicals are steering wide of this story.
Back to the throne-room vision I mentioned at the beginning of this piece: I figured that the pro-Trump prophets weren’t going to take a dressing-down from the prophetic standards group without a fight. And lo and behold, Enlow — leader of Restore7 ministry — did not disappoint. His heavenly Trumpian vision is enshrined in an April 30 Facebook post.
It got 5,500 likes and more than 2,000 responses.
Like I said, folks, there’s a lot of America out there that feels this way. And most journalists are utterly missing it.
Take this May 2 column by Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan. She focuses on the never-Biden folks by mentioning media outlets that refuse to book election denialists on their shows unless they’ve publicly retracted.
Well, the same thing is happening in the Pentecostal/charismatic world. The prophetic standards folks feel they’ve waited long enough for the Trump-shall-return prophecies to come true and that something needed to be done.
Those of us following this story have noticed that the prophecies have shifted backward by the week. First, Trump was going to be inaugurated instead of Biden. Then he was going to be restored by March at the latest. One even went Shakespeare on us (the play Julius Caesar to be exact) by saying Biden would be out by the “ides of March.” Then the military was going to remove Biden by the end of April, latest.
As I write this, it’s May 3. Biden’s still there. Stay tuned.
If this were a catfight among politicians, you can bet reporters would be on it. But something roiling a group of 65 million charismatic Christians? Not so much.
FIRST IMAGE: Screenshot is from 2016 YouTube video entitled “Trump: Emperor of the United States.”