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The NAR and Perry Go Large

Numerous news outlets and blogs have covered Texas Governor Rick Perry‘s prayer rally “The Response“, which took place last Saturday. The most comprehensive coverage was provided by Right Wing Watch, which has several clips and a guide to the various speakers. The clips show

  • James and Shirley Dobson, who called for (in RWW‘s words) “God to rescue America from the evil that surrounds it just as he rescued those soldiers from the Nazis at the ‘Miracle of Dunkirk'”
  • anti-choice activists “Alveda King, Lila Rose, Harry Jackson and Susan Tyrrell on stage to publicly pray to see the end of abortion”
  • a prayer “by Don Finto to send ‘revival’ to Israel and for the Jewish people to ‘come to their own Messiah'”
  • Mike Bickle, who railed “against those who are ‘redefining love’ against the teaching of the Bible while declaring repeatedly that regardless of what other religions say, ‘there is no other God besides Jesus’ nor any other standard of truth”
  • and a generational blessing, which included James Dobson on how “the current generation has been subjected to more wickedness, evil and lies than any generation in history”, Vonette Bright praying  for “the return of prayer and the Ten Commandments in public schools”, and “weeping prayer” from “‘Student Mobilization’ coordinator Laura Allred”.

There’s also

a short video featuring the appearances by all of your favorite Religious Right and elected leaders, including Perry, David Barton, Tony Perkins, Penny Nance, Gov. Rick Scott, Gov. Sam Brownback, Jim Garlow, John Hagee and finally even a quick shot of Perry giving some love to Don Wildmon of the AFA, the founder of the SPLC-designated hate group which footed the bill for this prayer event.

According to Kasie Hunt at Politico,

The original schedule had Cornerstone Church Pastor John Hagee speaking immediately after Perry. But the program was reshuffled at the last minute without explanation. (The full schedule was distributed just to the press, not to attendees, with the disclaimer that it was subject to change.)

…He compared Perry to Abraham Lincoln: “We pray for our governor Rick Perry who has had the courage today to call this time of fasting and prayer just as Abraham Lincoln did in the darkest days of the Civil War. We thank you for his leadership, his integrity, and his loyalty to God and country.”

(Incidentally, later this month will see Hagee in Birmingham. UK)

Also present was Sarah Posner, who has a report for Religion Dispatches:

…The lineup of speakers at The Response reflect the impact of new charismatic and Pentecostal movements, especially those emphasizing spiritual warfare and round-the-clock prayer and worship, and which have produced another sort of army. That one is not particularly intrigued by the horse race of politics, but rather focused more exclusively on the supremacy of Jesus and preparing for his return.

That caused some controversy for the organizers of Perry’s event, which included speakers and endorsers who follow the New Apostolic Reformation. The NAR’s strident language of spiritual warfare and emphasis on prophecy, signs, and wonders, has drawn scrutiny. But it has the same dominionist aims of the old religious right, even while employing some new rhetoric.

Sarah notes that there is some disquiet from other sectors of the Christian Right about this:

 A week before The Response, Marsha West, a conservative writer and editor of the website Email Brigade, wrote a scathing blog post; which she published on the website of Response host the American Family Association, and which was subsequently taken down.

West regards the NAR to be a “cult”, and it is the case that the movement’s emphasis on personally charismatic leaders empowered by the Holy Spirit has led to some troubling situations (such as the Todd Bentley fiasco). The AFA has attacked trends in neo-Pentecostalism previously.

Sarah asked Jim Garlow about it:

When I asked Garlow about West’s complaint, he shrugged it off, saying that he was not familiar with the term New Apostolic Reformation, even though he knew its founder, Peter Wagner. “I have a lot of confidence in him spiritually,” Garlow said of Wagner.

“There are a lot of theological differences here, but we’re focusing on one issue: Jesus,” Garlow added.

Wagner (whom Rick Warren has been keen to downplay past links to) receives regular messages from God and interprets all kinds of mundane events as the work of demons which need to be battled through acts of spiritual warfare and deliverance.

Garlow’s supposed unfamiliarity with the term “NAR” is unconvincing: back in 2009 he took part in a Generals International conference organised by Mike and Cindy Jacobs, who billed themselves as “Presiding Apostles” of the “United States Reformation Prayer Network”. Was Garlow not at all interested about what those words might mean?

Further commentary on The Response has been provided by Rachel Tabachnick at Talk to Action. She notes that the NAR has a national structure in place, of which Perry may be able to take advantage, and she suggests that Finto’s prayer for Israel to find the Messiah – a polite way of saying “convert to Christianity” – represents a “changing public tone towards Jews” (I looked at how the Christian Right has related to Judaism here). The involvement of Mike Bickle is also significant:

After Lou Engle, Bickle is one of the most controversial figures in the movement and source of the “Oprah as forerunner of the anti-Christ” statement that made the news.  However, Bickle is a toxic figure in much of the evangelical world.  He was the leader of the “Kansas City Prophets” in the 1980 and 1990s and was at the center of a very divisive dispute in Charismatic evangelicalism.

Garlow told Sarah that “It’s not about whether Perry becomes president, it’s about making Jesus king”, while Perry told the crowd that God’s “agenda is not a political agenda, but a salvation agenda.” And out of respect for these spiritual ideals, Perry is reportedly waiting a whole week before using the event as his electoral springboard; Politico reports that

Rick Perry intends to use a speech in South Carolina on Saturday to make clear that he’s running for president, POLITICO has learned.

According to two sources familiar with the plan, the Texas governor will remove any doubt about his White House intentions during his appearance at a RedState conference in Charleston.

3 Responses

  1. […] and Film Festival in North Carolina on the same day as Perry’s “Response” prayer rally in Dallas – Perry announced his candidature a few days […]

  2. […] a group of evangelical leaders, which included himself, to explain that his high-profile “Response” prayer event was “not a political ploy” (Perry announced his candidature a few […]

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