Evangelical Christianity, when observed at a distance, can elicit an instinctual sense of revulsion. The kind that ensures that we have no choice but to lock our doors, roll up our windows, and keep our eyes fixed on the traffic light ahead of us. It’s often much easier to pretend we’re unaware of the man in rags shuffling from car to car, cardboard sign in hand than it is to open our wallets and our awareness of that moment and oblige the needs of a stranger.
Averting our eyes to these vinegary subcultures has given rise to a general misunderstanding about how they function. Considering the unbelievable amount of influence evangelical thought exerts in the United States, it is strange that it’s not discussed more openly or more often. Maybe it’s just really embarrassing. Perhaps the Dungeons and Dragons style class system used by charismatics to parcel out spiritual gifts and tasks to the faithful makes it difficult to address with any seriousness. Apostles, pastors, disciples, and prophets. You rolled high charisma, you’re gonna wanna choose Pastor but make sure you spec into the Preacher specialization, you’ll get a +3 to Donations after level… I mean year four.
Although it depends on who you ask and what part of the bible they’re reading from, there are three passages in as many books of the bible describing spiritual giftings and offices. Perhaps the most unusual is those who feel called into a Prophetic Anointing. They’re distinguished from the bulk of Church politics in that they:
- Can, and often will run their own specialized ministries/publication houses
- Some travel but some have their own home churches (most famously under Rick Joyner’s Morning Star network)
- Place an emphasis on analysis of current events and their correspondence biblical eschatology
- or act as the Church’s unique flavor of gypsy fortune teller clairvoyants that avoid the label of witch
- Everyone avoids talking about them if they can, no one outside of the church even bothers
But we should talk about them! Evangelical prophetic ministry guides charismatic thought and dialogue with the same force of popular preachers, like T.D. Jakes. Here’s the thing, if you’re a Pastor you have at least 52 sermons to write a year. If you’re in a hardcore denomination, you are obligated to preach Wednesday nights too, totaling 104 distinct messages to deliver, and I never saw a repeat in my decade there. So what does any sensible person do in that situation with no oversight and complete adoration and trust of his audience? You plagiarize! From blogs, from books, from sermons on CD. Guess who’s in publishing to make up for the narrow appeal of their niche Christian market.
The thing about claiming the “prophetic mantle” is that there has to be some degree of checks and balances for anyone to even bother to take it seriously. So you have some really vague hurdles to clear so the church to ensure in the fuzziest way possible that they’ve indeed found one of God’s elected PA systems. Sometimes it’s merely as rigorous as assuming they’re legit because they’ve made some money and nothing they said violated church teachings on key doctrinal points.
At least that’s how it used to be.
Two weeks ago I encountered a quote from a book called The Trump Prophecy, one that was entirely cut loose of scripture or authoritative voice beyond a convoluted origin story for Mark Taylor, the ex-firefighter claiming to have heard God. Despite TTP’s obvious shortcomings, ones that would have immediately disqualified it from being thought or spoken about seriously in a church setting, it was still somehow being quoted by Christians as if it were holy scripture. The type of holy, infallible words of God used to harass anyone who disagrees with the Christian worldview. What is remarkable is that it’s been broadly accepted by the church and has sustained its popularity in Kindle and print formats on Amazon.com for over a year.
Its what sparked that listicle about the evangelical prophecies surrounding Donald Trump I wrote last week because if scripture is no longer essential to prophesy within evangelical subculture then we need to probably stop and take notice. It means that now the church is now completely rudderless. Biblical literalism, for all the problems it posed placed the Bible itself at the center of all Christian thought. The Bible provided restrictions on how thinking was done and in a really fucked-up way it was the last line of defense from Evangelicals from being completely intellectually compromised.
Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s a flash in a Trump colored pan and no one will remember it in a few years. Except as far as the church and novelty are concerned, it has not happened in a vacuum.
Shayne Lee, a professor of sociology at the University of Houston has documented the emergence of a new market of ideas within Neo-Pentecostal thought, permitting women to begin discussing their sexualities from the pulpit.
The election of Donald Trump leads to a spiritual justification of a morally compromised individual, known as the ‘Cyrus Anointing’.
Evangelical thought and impulse changes at a snail’s pace. Even if all this has unfolded in a 48-month span, in an evangelical time frame, it’s simultaneous. This implies things are changing immensely within the church, and the arrival of new prophetic texts are being widely accepted by the faithful without a biblical foundation sets an unsettling and dangerous precedence. More so than Joel Olsteen or prosperity gospel preachers hanging an entire magical system on four verses in Malachi’s third chapter.
Yes, yes. I know. It’s better to let the McPoyle fuck-stain of a teleology and all that’s contained within go hump the neighbor’s cat in peace. Yes, I realize as a belief system it’s less useful than Victorian-era spiritualism. Yes, I’m also aware that none of us have the energy to deal with its toxic bullshit since the bulk of us exposed to this mental sepsis during our formative years are still trying to secure affordable therapy lest we experience PTSD style flashbacks whenever we see posters for that new Mercy Me movie. Yes. The Mercy Me movie. That explains the story of how the song “I can only imagine” got written.
I keep thinking about Steve, he was #5 on my list of evangelical prophecies about Trump. I suppose he could have ranked higher but he’s a YouTuber, and this entire video features a burning American flag in the background. After some consideration, to my chagrin, I think he clears the hurdle of the prophetic. I’m kind of mad about it. He wasn’t wrong. He made his claim eight weeks before the election. I think that might have been right around the time Comey notified the press about Hillary’s investigation or whatever. Still, no one thought Trump had a better than one in ten shot of winning the election at that time. It was ballsy and you gotta respect it.
” I believe now in America, God has raised up this man. Now this isn’t political. I’m not talking anything about politics. Just forget that, just get that out of your mind. I’m talking about the uncanny, unbelievable similarity between what Ezekiel told Israel and what’s going on in this country right now. Is it a conicidence that the wording in this is to build a wall? “
This quote makes me want to crash through freshly installed drywall and shatter an antique set of crystal dinnerware against my face. What’s frustrating is that as an attempt at a “prophecy”, it isn’t isn’t so terrible. It’s associative, sure. And it’s the type of associative that if you’ve ever read cards with any sort of accuracy, you do all the time. But it’s just so god damn stupid.
I hate to sound elitist about this but the bar is too low. The whole concept of prophecy is an enigma wrapped in purple robes stepping forward out of a fog of incense and delivering the terror woven into your tongue to the ones awaiting the word. Prophecy is poison. It can kill, it can heal, and in the bible, it’s understood to work in this ultimatum sort of sense of the future. If my people… do x,y, and z, then I’ll do, otherwise… is how the old testament prophets generally rolled.
Wordplay and juxtaposition are at least a strong way messages come through from deeper down the rabbit hole or from elsewhere or wherever or whoever. And it is very much a playful act, even when it betrays the arrival of serious or ominous news. Steve seems to lack that sense of playfulness. And so things become dire; the world is this dark and terrible place where the leaders have abandoned their people, and God is telling his prophet, Ezekiel, that his chosen one will build a wall and stand in the gap.
At first, I figured he was attempting to sooth the mind of other believers. People who would under other circumstances resist endorsing a morally compromised leader.
In retrospect, Steve technically did everything right. He read the energy of his present moment with accuracy. He felt an intuition while reading the bible, plucked it from the fog of ambiguity, and articulated it. He made his prediction, which at the time was unlikely of coming to pass, that proved correct. He also soothed evangelical consciouses. 5.8 Million times.
I’m not sure what my point is, maybe there’s a lot of money to be made in future prediction so long as you’re telling people what they want to hear.