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

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

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid