News / USA

Religious Movement Linked to Texas Governor Stirs Controversy

Texas Governor and Presidential hopeful Rick Perry, speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway, South Carolina, September 5, 2011.
Texas Governor and Presidential hopeful Rick Perry, speaks to supporters during a town hall meeting at Horry-Georgetown Technical College in Conway, South Carolina, September 5, 2011.

Multimedia

Audio
  • Interview with C. Peter Wagner on the New Apostolic Reformation

TEXT SIZE - +

A religious movement that seeks to become a dominant influence in society and government is gaining ground in America. But since several key pastors of the New Apostolic Reformation shared the stage at a prayer rally last month with a leading Republican presidential candidate, the movement has also generated controversy.

Interview with C. Peter Wagner on the New Apostolic Reformation


Thousands of people gathered in a stadium in Houston, Texas, last month, for a day of prayer.

The man who called them together is now a top candidate for the Republican nomination for president: Texas Governor Rick Perry.

"You call us to repent, Lord, and this day is our response," Perry said.

Perry organized the rally with several pastors that are part of a movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation.

The NAR is a collection of Christian preachers who present themselves as modern-day apostles and prophets. And it's a major player in what's commonly called the "dominionist" movement. It aims to have America be ruled as a Christian nation.

Republican presidential candidates Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann have all reportedly associated with pastors or churches with "dominionist" views.

The NAR in particular seeks to influence what it calls the "seven mountains": government, religion, media, family, business, education, and arts and entertainment.

C. Peter Wagner, who gave the movement its name, says it is not about creating a theocracy.

"We don't believe in taking over a nation. But we believe in exerting as much influence in every one of the mountains to see the values of the Kingdom of God within a democratic society, within religious pluralism," Wagner said.

But critics say the New Apostolic Reformation aims to end religious pluralism. And even many conservative Evangelical Christians consider it a cult.

NAR pastors often blame abortion and homosexuality for natural catastrophes. Wagner says the movement believes social ills such as crime, poverty and racism are caused by diabolical influences.

"We feel that Satan sends certain demonic forces and these would be high ranking ones - to bring darkness and evil to segments of society such as cities or neighborhoods or regions or nations," Wagner said.

He says pastors lead "Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare," or intensive prayer ceremonies, to exorcize demons from specific geographical areas. One of the pastors at the Houston rally, Mike Bickle, leads the International House of Prayer megachurch in Kansas City, which runs a round-the-clock prayer session.

Rachel Tabachnick of Talk to Action, which monitors the Religious Right, says the NAR promotes intolerance.

"They claim that when they go in and remove demons from an area, and have these ceremonies, that then a place thrives in some way. If there was a drought, there's rain; there's economic improvement, corruption declines, things like that. So what they are essentially teaching is that, if our community has a problem, or if our nation has a problem, then this is because we have people who are demonically controlled," Tabachnik said.

Critics say the NAR is stridently anti-Muslim. And they warn its affection for Israel and Jews is predicated on a desire for them fulfill Christian end times prophesies.

Catherine Bowler, a professor of American Christianity at Duke University Divinity School in Durham, North Carolina, says critics are reading the movement too literally.

"The language is pretty metaphorical - like the spiritual battle language. While it stresses people out, it's still within the realm of unseen forces," Bowler said.

At the same time, Bowler says the NAR's newfound boldness in American politics is fueled by its strength in Africa, Latin America and Asia. Exact figures are hard to come by, but the movement is growing rapidly within a Charismatic Christian movement that has hundreds of millions of followers worldwide.

Forrest Wilder is a journalist at the Texas Observer magazine who investigated the New Apostolic Reformation's ties to the governor in an article entitled "Rick Perry's Army of God."

Wilder says Perry is good at latching onto new popular movements, as when his alignment with the anti-tax Tea Party helped him win reelection last year.

"Same thing could be going on here, he's tapped into a development within the religious right where there's a lot of energy and a lot of momentum and excitement," Wilder said.

Surveys show that most Americans disapprove of churches getting involved in politics. But experts say the NAR's growing influence, and its diverse following including many blacks and hispanics, could be useful to whichever candidate ends up facing incumbent President Barack Obama in next year's election.


Jerome Socolovsky

Jerome Socolovsky is the award-winning religion correspondent for the Voice of America, based in Washington. He reports on the rapidly changing faith landscape of the United States, including interfaith issues, secularization and non-affiliation trends and the growth of immigrant congregations.

You May Like

Algerians Vote in Presidential Election

There were few media reports of protests and clashes around the country, but so far no significant violence More

Sharks More Evolved than Previously Thought

The discovery could “profoundly affect our understanding of evolutionary history” More

Pakistan Military Asked to Protect Polio Workers

Request comes as authorities say a Taliban ban on vaccinations in 2012 and deadly attacks on anti-polio teams have prevented thousands of children from getting inoculated More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid