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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal 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.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid