During the months leading up to the U.S. presidential election, the Evangelical Christian community as a whole was portrayed as deeply divided, with a number of prominent leaders issuing strong warnings about Donald Trump concerning his character and even his policies. While exit polls indicated that 80% of self-described Evangelicals eventually voted for Trump, that number is fairly consistent with support for the Republican nominee in past elections, and it is tempered by the significant percentage (perhaps as much as half) of American Evangelicals overall who did not cast any vote in the election. So it remains unclear if Trump’s support among the broader Evangelical Christian population was unusually robust this election cycle, but it does seem conclusive that the leadership divide among Evangelicals had little effect on the electorate.
From a leadership perspective, however, our research indicates that the Charismatic/Pentecostal Christian community seems to have shown little (if any) divide over Donald Trump. It could be argued that if any subgroup within American Christianity might be shown to be in the sweet-spot for support of Trump, it would be Charismatic pastors, “prosperity gospel” preachers, and televangelists.
Charismatics/Pentecostals represent 1 out of 4 self-described Christians in the United States, a sizable voting bloc. Generally Charismatics are defined by their belief in the present supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers and the world at large, which may include spiritual gifts such as prophecy, speaking in tongues, miraculous healing, and angelic visions. The nature of various Charismatic congregations varies widely and some Charismatics may be found within traditional mainline denominations. However, the movement tends to favor independent ministries that are aligned more by their mutual theological agreement than by official organization.
What impact did strong Charismatic support for Donald Trump have on the election? What does the rise of Trumpism within the Charismatic community spell for the future of the movement? Trellis Magazine reports.
“He shall enter into the office with a whisper, but he shall be baptized with the Holy Spirt and with fire!” prophesies Kim Clement, a popular figure in the Charismatic community. Clement, along with such prophets as Chuck Pierce, Lance Wallnau, Jeremiah Johnson, and others, were instrumental in legitimizing the Trump campaign among Charismatics and crafting a tight narrative: Donald Trump is an imperfect vessel, sovereignly chosen by God to shock His enemies and open a path forward to restoring Christian power and the rule of law to America.
Certainly, a plausible narrative to turn Trump into a candidate worthy of Christian support was required. After all, there’s no lack of bewilderment among progressive-leaning Christians and non-Christians alike as to what Trump’s appeal is among staunch religious conservatives. On the face of it, Donald Trump is no holy-roller. He’s spent much of his life pursuing what in past times would most definitely be considered “worldly” and “ungodly” pursuits: money, women, fame, and power. If you take a hard look at the heroes of Christian faith over the millennia and compare them with the lifestyle and legacy of Trump, there’s no question you’ll see a stark contrast.
However, in order to understand the worldview of Charismatic Christians who embraced Trump over the election cycle, you need to take a step back and examine some of the doctrines and generally-held perspectives that have guided Charismatics in their relationship with political power.
Dominionism and the Seven Mountains. This is a body of teachings which date back to the 1970s and have propagated throughout the Charismatic community. First taught by a number of influential American Evangelicals such as Bill Bright, Loren Cunningham, and Francis Schaeffer, and since re-popularized and further developed by Lance Wallnau and others profiled here, these teachings revolve around the concept of the “seven mountains of culture.” They are: business, government, media, arts & entertainment, education, the family, and religion. In many Christians’ view, the Church for decades has focused largely on the “religion” mountain (its natural domain), neglecting the other mountains and failing to teach Christians how to achieve positions of power and influence within those domains.
While it can certainly be argued that there is merit to the idea Christians should be salt and light to the culture at large and exert positive influence in the world rather than remain in a religious silo, the seven mountains teaching swings the door wide open to escalating the “culture wars” which have come to dominate public policy in the U.S. It also encourages fringe elements which advocate for a theocratic approach to governance—namely, that America should be a “Christian nation” with leaders who enforce “Christian laws,” instead of a secular, pluralistic democracy.
When it comes to Donald Trump, he is seen as a person who has achieved success on the business and entertainment mountains, and now will achieve similar success on the mountain of government. It doesn’t matter if his roots aren’t in the mountain of religion (i.e., the Church), as long as his political agenda aligns with the politics of Charismatics. His brash and authoritarian style isn’t seen as a religious problem—rather, it is welcomed as a necessary evil in order to depose the liberals who have previously ruled at the top of the government mountain. In a certain sense, Trump is merely a puppet, a means to an end. As long as his administration facilities a new political order whereby the seven mountains are opened up to Christian dominionism, he has achieved the primary objective.
The Remnant. In a related teaching to the seven mountains concept, and also expounded upon by Lance Wallnau, “the remnant” is a Biblical concept whereby a small minority of people who fear God have the potential to affect outsized change in their nation or around the world. In a certain sense, the Jewish people have always been a remnant within global politics, historically. However, in the context of American politics, “the remnant” refers to a small minority of far-Left culture warriors pushing for gay rights, secularism, socialism, or other such causes and appear to exert outsized influence in the public discourse. This “remnant” is viewed as currently occupying most of the seven mountains, and thus it’s the duty of Christians to rise up and drive the remnant out of power and allow Christian values to flourish once again. Donald Trump is seen as a strong leader who will pave the way for this “taking back” process.
King Cyrus and the Nation of Israel. In this set of teachings, Donald Trump is depicted as a modern day “Cyrus” as described in the Book of Isaiah. The pagan King Cyrus was prophesied by Isaiah as being chosen by God in His soverignty to bring back political favor to the nation of Israel after years of captivity:
“The Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.” Isaiah 45:1-3
In short, Donald Trump has been anointed by the Lord to break through the evil powers who have been leading America down the path to spiritual destruction, and restore Christians to their rightful place of privilege and authority. Like King Cyrus, he’s not “of” the tribe of Israel, but he becomes a key ally and furthers their cause as if it were his own.
Taking Down the Spirit of Political Correctness. Lance Wallnau has called Trump “a wrecking ball to the spirit of political correctness”. In the eyes of Charismatics, he is seen as someone who will have the boldness and fearlessness to engage in no-holds-barred fights with the liberal establishment. Many conservatives feel like their Republican allies have been wishy-washy and weak on issues that matter to them, cavorting with the “liberal elites” rather than fighting against them, and therefore it will take a true “outsider” in every sense of the word to turn Washington, D.C. upside down.
In Charismatic theology, there is great weight placed upon the role of the “prophet” who, as in the days of the Old Testament, speaks forth the Word of the Lord and “calls things that are not as though they were.” The idea that one should moderate their speech as to avoid offending others may be considered to be a sign of weak faith. Prophets who are truly bold in their faith never hesitate to say things that are shocking or even reviled by people who don’t have the “ears to hear”—so in that sense, Trump is a kindred spirit. Political correctness, as seen by Charismatics, is simply an attempt to stifle the prophetic voice of the Church and remove Christian virtue from public discourse, so any attempt to dismantle it (no matter how forcefully) is applauded.
That Woman, Jezebel. Sometimes the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Using this rationale, it’s possible to admit that Trump isn’t an ideal candidate, but the alternative is positively demonic. Hillary Clinton isn’t just another liberal Democrat. She is Jezebel in the flesh, a satanic witch queen with an active agenda to hunt down and destroy the followers of God and remove all vestiges of godliness from the land. The thinking goes, after the last eight disastrous years of traitorous, Islam-sympathizing Obama running the country, Clinton poses the greatest threat to Christianity that America has ever faced.
It’s easy to laugh off the Clinton=Jezebel comparison as just another hyberbolic rant by a handful of right-wing extremists—however, that general sentiment has been making its way through various Charismatic channels for a long time. Even when people are careful not to label Hillary Clinton herself as Jezebel, she is representative of an overall “spirit of Jezebel” controlling America since the 1990’s, which of course is when the Clintons first arrived at the White House. (Apparently, this curse was officially broken upon the election of Trump.)
Thus all genuine Christians are obligated to vote for the candidate most likely to forbid Clinton/Jezebel from the Presidency. Otherwise, America will come under judgement from the Almighty for tolerating such wickeness at the highest place of leadership.
It’s All About the Supreme Court. If none of the previous teachings are enough to convince you, O Christian voter, to support Donald Trump, remember the Supreme Court! Given the prevalence of this argument among Evangelicals in general, it’s not necessary to devote too much time to it here. Suffice it to say, at least one and likely several Supreme Court justices will have to be chosen by the President immediately as well as over the next four years, so the thought of a liberal Democrat in charge of that selection process is anathema. Despite any distaste one might have for Trump as a person, he has pledged to nominate conservative judges (which means those who will vote pro-life, pro-religious-freedom, etc.). Thus, it must be the will of the Lord for Trump to be the next President.
The Cast of Characters
As we stated at the start of our coverage, Charismatic Christian leaders were astonishingly united in their favorable depiction of Donald Trump during the general election, and in many cases even earlier during the Republican primaries. While some Charismatics favored Ted Cruz as their initial choice, when it became clear that he wasn’t passing muster in early contests, they quickly switched allegiance to Team Trump.
We’ve broken down our profiles of prominent leaders who supported Trump into three categories. The first is a group of popular publishers who wield significant influence within the Charismatic community. The second is a group of prophets who, given their accepted role within Charismatic theology, are often at the forefront of setting the tone for religious and political discourse. Finally, we profile a number of popular preachers whose support of Trump (as well as lack of stated concern for what Trump’s candidacy represents) no doubt helped cement favorable opinion towards Trump among their audiences and beyond.
Stephen Strang, Charisma Magazine
Strang is founder & publisher of a number of notable Christian magazines such as Charisma and Ministry Today as well as book imprints such as Charisma House. His magazines and book publishing companies are highly influential and help to disseminate the viewpoints and promote the celebrity of many of the other people profiled here. Strang was included in TIME’s list of America’s 25 most influential evangelicals in 2005. He used his considerable influence this election cycle to drum up support for Donald Trump, with Charisma magazine as well as the Charisma News website serving as regular and consistent sources of pro-Trump propaganda.
Steve Shultz, the Elijah List
Known as the founder of the Elijah List, which claims to have over 240,000 subscribers. Schultz runs The Elijah List as a for-profit business, collecting advertising revenue and selling products through the publication’s list and website. The list provides a constant source of prophecies and teachings that claim to be divinely inspired, and it has presented a wide variety of pro-Trump propaganda in the days leading up to the election and even afterwards. The following example is from an article published on December 29, 2016 entitled We Are Entering a New Season Marked by Victory:
“Years of preparation in deep waters and in fire produced a crescendo of voices crying out in intercessory prayer; compounded over the years, they have caught the attention of God and have been the impetus that has broken us through into a season of victory! In the United States, God has supernaturally prepared an unprecedented political and spiritual platform to serve His plans and purposes for the world in the decade ahead….Satan’s wrath over his present losses is evident and he is pushing back through many schemes and tactics but he will not succeed at whatever he tries to hinder this present move of God. Political and religious spirits are presently raging, pushing liberal ideologies; their war is with the Word of God!”
Wallnau is a business consultant and former pastor based in Dallas, TX. Lance Wallnau conducts popular seminars and retreats around the U.S. and internationally, and he shares some similarities to motivational speakers such as Tony Robbins. Wallnau has a large online following and often uses Facebook Live video to promote his views, which early on included a full embrace of the “God’s Trumpet” prophecy concerning Trump (more on that below). Wallnau is the author of the book God’s Chaos Candidate: Donald J. Trump and The American Unraveling, which, despite its ominous title, is actually a book in praise of Trump and proclaims Wallnau’s belief that “the church in America will decide this vote.” (Arguably, it did.)
Many of the other prophets and preachers profiled here have featured Wallnau in their broadcasts and conferences, and he played a key role in framing the narrative concerning Trump as a viable and God-ordained candidate for the Presidency.
Jeremiah Johnson, a traveling prophetic minister and church elder, published a prophecy in Charisma Magazine in July of 2015 claiming that Donald Trump would be used as the “trumpet of God” and have a profound effect on the upcoming election. This prophecy made waves in the Charismatic community and was picked up in a big way by Lance Wallnau.
Johnson has since gone on record saying his statements were misconstrued and were not an endorsement of Donald Trump nor a claim that Trump was destined to become President.
A worship leader and prophetic minister for many decades, Kim Clement prophesied all the way back in 2007 that Trump would be used as a “trumpet of the Lord” and that he would come to hold the highest office in the land. He issued similar statements in 2008. Clement’s prophecies influenced many, including his close friend Lance Wallnau. Clement passed away in late November 2016.
(It should be noted that Trump’s interest in running for office had been a topic of public speculation for decades, and in fact he ran briefly as a Reform Party candidate towards the end of 1999. The Simpsons ran an episode featuring Trump for President in 2000.)
Pierce is yet another prophet who claims to have prophesied the rise of Trump way in advance, by proclaiming in 2008 that God told him America had to learn to play the “trump card.” He is close friends with preacher Dutch Sheets, and the two have spent much time together traveling across the country to “rally the troops” in support of dismantling a liberal political structure which in their view hinders the move of God. Pierce sees Trump as a pivotal figure in restoring America to God’s favor, bringing Christians into a new season of “triumph”.
Patricia King is a prophet, in-demand conference speaker, and preacher who has written numerous books and study materials as well as runs an online TV ministry platform. Her channel and conferences have often promoted Lance Wallnau, and she gave him and his pro-Trump book a very favorable spotlight on TV and in her online store during the days leading up to the election.
Paula White-Cain is a popular televangelist and megachurch pastor, and her personal friendship with Donald Trump is well-documented. She was included in his inner circle of Evangelical advisors during the presidential campaign, and she led one of the official prayers at Trump’s inauguration on January 20. In an interview, she conveyed her belief that it was “providence” and “the hand of God” that Trump won out over all the other Republican candidates to become the GOP nominee, and she has stated that Trump has a “hunger for God” and is “a deep thinker” and “phenomenal listener.”
Joyner is founder of Morningstar Ministries, a vast, sprawling organization comprised of several large churches, schools, conference centers, TV channels, and more. Perhaps more than any other person profiled here, Rick Joyner is unequivocally an extremist. He has advocated for right-wing Christians in the military to seize government power and declare martial law, believes Hurican Katrina was judgment from God because of homosexual activism in New Orleans, and calls climate change a “Communist” plot. Joyner has been very outspoken about his support for Trump, and he recently declared that all of Jesus’ disciples were basically just like Donald Trump—comparing Trump directly with Peter, a similarly “bold” and sometimes “outrageous” man but ultimately “humbled” before God and “honest” at heart.
Dutch Sheets, like many leaders in the Charismatic community, runs his own ministry organization, travels extensively teaching and preaching, and has written many books including the worldwide best-seller Intercessory Prayer.
In a similar vein to Rick Joyner, Dutch Sheets has compared Trump to notable yet flawed Biblical figures such as King David and the Apostle Paul. In an essay, Sheets warned: “if we reject him [Trump] because of the sins of his past, we would also have to reject Abraham, King David, Rahab, “the woman at the well”, Mary Magdalene—all adulterers in their unrighteous past. And don’t forget murderers like the Apostle Paul.”
The day after Election Day and Trump’s victory, Sheets wrote a congratulatory article declaring that “Americans decided overwhelmingly to reject an ineffective and out-of-control government, a political system run amok, and the attack against our Judeo-Christian roots. They voted for life, their kids and grandkids, and the Constitution.”
(Actually Americans did not decide overwhelmingly. Trump in fact lost the popular vote by over 3 million votes, a dramatic first in U.S. history.)
Bill & Beni Johnson
The Johnsons are a husband-wife pastor team who lead Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Bethel is known for its staunch advocacy of “signs & wonders” and miraculous healings, as well as evangelism-focused training of young people from all over the world at the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. Beni’s early and enthusiastic support for Trump came as a surprise to a number of her followers. After the election Bill published an overwhelmingly pro-Trump statement on Facebook defending his vote and his conservative political views, which caused considerable backlash after it went viral. He has since apologized on Facebook—not for his views, but for the way he communicated them and the ensuing fracas.
C. Peter Wagner
A major figure in the Charismatic world over the past several decades, C. Peter Wagner was a founding figure of the New Apostolic Reformation and was instrumental in promoting the idea that modern-day Apostles and Prophets were rebuilding the Church and thereby ushering in a new era of authority and influence. Wagner promoted Trump through his Facebook page in February 2016 (still in throes of the Republican primary) with a post titled “I Like Donald Trump.” He cited many of the arguments covered previously, such as the Trump=Cyrus comparison and the fact that Trump has been successful on the business “mountain”. He said he would “vote for a commander-in-chief, not a bishop-in-chief”—thus Trump’s multiple marriages, profane speech, and lack of actual Biblical knowledge isn’t a “make or break” issue. Wagner passed away in October 2016.
Dr. Michael Brown
Dr. Brown is a radio host and conservative commentator who, as a Messianic Jew, has been an outspoken advocate for confronting Judaism with the lordship of Jesus. He is also known for his frequent and public condemnations of homosexuality, recently comparing leaving homosexuality to going on a diet to lose weight. Dr. Brown supported Ted Cruz during the primaries and was reluctant to embrace Trump at first, but eventually came to persuade his audience to vote for Trump as “a wrecking ball to the negative parts of the political system”. After the election, he was interviewed by Rick Joyner on MorningStar TV, where he proclaimed that Trump was elected President “by the sovereign intervention of God” and that “God raised him up, no question.”
Evaluating Donald Trump’s Long-Term Impact on the Charismatic Community
These are early days yet in the Trump presidency, so it remains to be seen how Charismatics in aggregate will react to the political climate going forward. Nevertheless, it’s of serious concern how Charismaticism will continue to be a force for good in the religious landscape of America when so much of the population, including progressive Christians and as well as some Evangelicals aghast at the election results, is deeply and fervently opposed to the Trump administration and its scorched-earth, post-truth approach to political engagement.
With so many serious, God-honoring Christians revisiting the Jesus narrative and all that he stood for in his ministry, comparing that with Trump’s collusion with groups advocating racism, homophobia, religious intolerance, and violent rhetoric (as well as Trump’s negative personal characteristics), and coming to the conclusion that Donald Trump has virtually nothing to do with Christianity as defined by orthodox New Testament teachings, it begs the question: how can Charismatics have fallen into such error? Is this simply an aberration, a moment in time when well-meaning people have simply fallen sway to an exciting, populist uprising? Or is this emblematic of a larger problem that was there all along?
Charismatics who were not Donald Trump supporters during this past election cycle and perhaps were even dead set against him must ask themselves some profound and potentially disturbing questions in the wake of Trump’s inauguration. What role should prophets and preachers have in determining democratic elections? How can we descern if their support for a particular candidate is “of the Lord?” When does advocacy for general policy positions cross the line over to idolatrous support of worldly power players? How can Christians intellectually accept the belief that one political party of one particular nation is being influenced by demons?
Lastly, and most importantly, when leaders we have trusted in the past to convey messages that honor God and follow the teachings of Jesus tell us things that seem to advocate for stridently anti-Jesus behavior like racism, political extremism, and hate speech towards minority groups, what do we do? Do we remain silent? Or do we speak out and tell our neighbors that these prophets and preachers aren’t representative of our views?
Right now, for better or for worse, Trump is our U.S. President. Four years from now, that position will once again be up for grabs. And the outcome of that election, like this one, may be determined by the actions of Charismatic Christians. The questions presented above, and any subsequent conclusions reached, matter.