What’s the Big Deal with the New Apostolic Reformation?

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The English-language site for the Arabic news outlet Al Jazeera recently featured an editorial by Paul Rosenberg, Senior Editor of Random Lengths News, on the neo-Pentecostal Christian network known as the New Apostolic Reformation. In the piece Rosenberg compares NAR with Islamist militia group the Taliban.

“Prior to 9/11, the Taliban government in Afghanistan did not register very much on American radar screens, with one notable exception: when it blew up two colossal images of the Buddha in Bamiyan province in early 2001. But destruction of treasured artifacts isn’t just limited to the Taliban. There’s a right-wing politico-religious presence centred in the US, but with a global reach, engaging in similar practises, destroying religious and cultural artifacts as a key aspect of its ideology of “strategic level spiritual warfare” (SLSW). Until recently a fringe evangelical movement, warned against as deviant, “spiritual warfare” is rapidly positioning itself within America’s mainstream political right. It’s well past time for political journalists to start covering what this movement is up to.”

Is the New Apostolic Reformation really comparable to the Taliban? I dislike making such comparisons because it clouds the issue. It gets people debating about Islam, terrorism, and comparing movements primarily based in the West with movements primarily based in the Middle East. It produces more heat than light. That said, I entirely agree with Rosenberg that reporters should take “a long hard look at the NAR figures endorsing Rick Perry’s prayer event on August 6.” So far most investigation of this group has come from specialty sites like Talk to Action, Right Wing Watch, and Religion Dispatches, along with a number of evangelical Christian critics, who see NAR’s practices as heretical. Even figures within the American Family Association have criticized the group, though political expedience has led them to cover that up.

“…leaders in the New Apostolic Reformation, a heretical movement that sprang from the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, claim that they hear directly from God, Jesus and angels. They even encourage their followers to contact angels despite the fact that Scripture expressly forbids contacting the spirit world because Satan and his demons can appear as an “angel of light” to deceive people. (2 Cor 11:14) Like the apostles who established the early church, these “restored apostles and prophets” believe they are called by God to lay the foundation and government for the new earthly Kingdom. Moreover, they believe that soon they will take dominion over government and dominate the world politically and spiritually.”

Some have questioned whether I am exaggerating, misunderstanding, or distorting NAR’s intentions. My only answer is that I truly hope so. I would rather be exposed as alarmist and have to eat a bit of crow than be proven right on this issue. But all the digging I’ve done, all the research I’ve done, points to disturbing trends and intentions within this network. Ever since they first came to my attention during the Sarah Palin witch-hunter blessing controversy, all I have ever found from them is uniquely focused dislike of Pagan and indigenous religions. Even if it were only dislike, I would not be worried, lots of Christians dislike Pagan and indigenous faiths, but their adherence to a doctrine of spiritual warfare in conjunction with that dislike is, in my mind, a dangerous mixture. They spread lies and misinformation about our faiths, believe that their prayers against “demons” are literally killing people, have taken credit for the earthquake in Japan, and claimed to have moved God to blind and give cancer to a Wiccan chaplain. That isn’t colorful exaggeration on my part, let’s quote the prayer warrior in question.

“In 1995, Mary mobilized a prayer network for Alaska’s prisons and began experiencing spiritual warfare as never before. She had received word that a witch had applied for a job as chaplain of the state’s prison system… Mary recalls, “As we continued to pray against the spirit of witchcraft, her incense altar caught on fire, her car engine blew up, she went blind in her left eye, and she was diagnosed with cancer” … “Ultimately, the witch fled to another state for medical treatment. Soon after, revival visited every prison in Alaska. At the women’s correctional facility in Anchorage alone, 55 of 60 inmates found Christ. “Ask largely,” Mary says. “Intercessory prayer is making a major difference in North America.”

This is not generalized prayer to convert the world to Christianity, this is willfully malefic. If you truly believe that God would blind and give cancer to a Wiccan through intercessory prayer, that’s “black” magic. Nor is that the end of it. They brag about burning Native art, and thought that the upside of the Haitian earthquake was that it broke the “strongman of the occult’s” back.

Even taking all that into account, I wouldn’t make too much of a fuss. There are lots of crazy groups out there, I’m not going to worry about all of them. But in the last decade or so they have made massive inroads into political politics, and are trying to mainstream themselves by holding events at places like Harvard. That the endorsers list of the upcoming Texas prayer event The Response reads like a partial who’s who of the New Apostolic Reformation is disturbing, not simply because Governor Rick Perry might be sympathetic to them, but because it means this “Third Wave” has succeeded in becoming a part of the mainstream Religious Right. Anti-Pagan attitudes, plus spiritual warfare tactics, plus political power is the formula that worries me. That keeps me writing on this subject.

So when I mention their latest prayer initiative, DC40, on this site, it is through this lens that I analyze it. They have been crystal clear in their goals, and in naming their enemies. They don’t try to hide it. Simply scratching the surface of their quest to bring “light” to Washington DC exposes the underbelly of their ambitions. To pretend otherwise is to simply ignore what they themselves claim to want. Again, perhaps some of you will disagree with me that this group, this network, isn’t something to worry about, or pay attention to. That I’m being sensationalist. I hope you’re right. I hope they are simply an aberration that will fade away, but I’m not sure. I think they are gaining in influence and popularity. I’m not asking anyone to engage in spiritual or magical “battle” with these people, what I’m really asking is that we stay informed, and press our mainstream media to pay attention to the politicians who accept their endorsements, emerge from their churches, or woo them for votes. I’m asking for hard questions, for direct and informed questions. That we shine the “light” they so crave back on their own activities.