“I’d like to reactivate what Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain [who fought for the Union in the Civil war] is now handing off to Colonel Doug Mastriano – which is the importance of rallying a remnant, for the sake of an indispensable victory, in the intense heat of battle,” bellowed a middle aged man from the stage of a Sept. 16 rally for Mastriano, the Pennsylvania GOP’s gubernatorial candidate.
“And we’ll do that by putting our right hand up in the air, on the count of 3. If you’re willing to do this,” the man prodded.
PA MAGA Gov nominee Doug Mastriano rally: “Put your right hand in the air … America will have a new birth of liberty.” pic.twitter.com/UfcLDNoJD4
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) September 18, 2022
The audience then “raised their hands – exactly as German fascists would have done in the 1930s at a Nazi rally,” as observed by religious extremism researcher Bruce Wilson.
Meanwhile, at the Doug Mastriano rally in PA… pic.twitter.com/P7qoSLF2oM
— Nick Knudsen 🇺🇸 (@NickKnudsenUS) September 19, 2022
The man continued, “can you say what they said at Gettysburg – ‘when you see us lined up, as one, sweep down the hill to victory.’ On the count of three we’ll bring our hand down as one. Father, I pray that, indeed, Pennsylvania will be like Little Round Top, and America will have a new birth of liberty. As one, on the count of three. One, two, three.”
William “Dutch” Sheets is a leading figure in a fundamentalist movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation, whose followers believe America is anointed by God to convert the world to Christianity — by force if necessary — and they seek to accelerate Jesus’ return and rule over the Earth. This divine mission, as they see it, will be carried out when true believers seize control of the institutions of the U.S. government. Their allies in positions of power include members of Congress, as well as a prominent candidate for governor, Doug Mastriano, who is Donald Trump’s pick to lead Pennsylvania.
Christian nationalism is on the rise among the religious right. Many among the fundamentalist faithful seek to live in a country where their biblical views are not just protected, but imposed on others, as a matter of law. The proposition that America should be remade as a theocracy is most popular, according to a 2021 Pew poll, among white evangelicals — that is to say the Republican base. More than a third of this group believes the federal government should “stop enforcing” the separation of church and state and “declare” the United States a Christian nation. A full 29 percent would like to see the federal government “advocate Christian values.” That these are minoritarian views is little obstacle in a Republican party that has grown increasingly contemptuous of democracy and comfortable with MAGA-style authoritarianism.
The NAR movement, in particular, dovetails with the far-right of the Republican party because it blames the nation’s problems on the same enemies — abortion providers, homosexuals, religious minorities, etc. — with the distinction being that NAR followers believe these disfavored groups are literally Satanic. “They use this language of spiritual warfare,” says Steve Snow, a professor of politics who published an academic paper on NAR in the Journal of Religion & Society. “It has inevitably moved over into the political realm — so that your political opponents are demon-possessed.”
The New Apostolic Reformation emerged from the charismatic tradition of Christianity, in which believers seek direct encounters with the Holy Spirit. (In Pentecostalism, for example, this comes in the form of speaking in tongues and other “gifts of the spirit.”) But NAR goes much farther. Its followers believe that, since the turn of the millennium, the world has entered a new age of Christian apostles and prophets: men and women who receive direct revelations from God and visions for His will on Earth. (The movement is controversial even among evangelicals. Many believe the NAR movement is contrary to scripture — even heretical, full of false prophets and bunk revelations. One critic calls its teachings “utterly false and spiritually devastating.”)
The founding apostle of NAR was C. Peter Wagner, who didn’t look the part of a zealot. Wagner was a soft-spoken, avuncular figure with white hair and a Colonel Sanders goatee. Yet his theology was extreme: He infamously believed that the emperor of Japan had fornicated with the sun goddess — an embodiment of the shape-shifting Satan. This unholy union, Wagner maintained, disgusted (the one, true Christian) God, who then removed his protection from the island, precipitating the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima.
For Wagner and his followers, the bible is the story of the struggle for “dominion” over the Earth. God granted Adam dominion over the world, which he promptly squandered to Satan, in the form of the serpent in the garden. Jesus, to NAR followers, is the “Second Adam” who granted his followers a new chance to wrest dominion of the world from demonic forces. [Continue reading…]