As it turns out, a precursory examination of Living Word's website should give you info on why their promotion of a self-proclaimed "God Warrior" shouldn't shock you...and, sadly, in the neopente churches at the core of the "Joel's Army" movement, the actions of Living Word are not exactly an abberation.
Anyways, I start doing research. I can't find any sort of denominational affiliation on their website--not even looking in the history section or for affiliations in the ministries section (often you can find Assemblies churches that are hiding their affiliation by looking in the ministries section and finding, for example, links to Virtuous Woman (an AoG women's newsletter) or a Royal Rangers post for the kids).
Uh-oh. Danger signal one--either this is a church trying really hard to hide its denominational affiliation or it's a neopente dominionist church not linked to a specific denomination. (Yes, this is bad for many reasons.)
The home page itself gives quite a number of danger signs in and of itself, if you have any info on the specific symbology used in "Joel's Army" neopente churches in particular. (Being a survivor of one of these churches, I have more familiarity with the imagery than I want at times.)
Anyways, two danger signals right there--a blatant promotion of Joel's Army theology right on the front page:
As soldiers in God's army, we are in a war against Satan. As our enemy, Satan, the Bible tells us, wants to "sift us like wheat" (Luke 22:31).
The primary way that Satan tries to "sift us like wheat" is through persecution and opposition. In fact, 2 Timothy 3:12 tells us everyone "who desires to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (NKJ). About opposition, Charles Finney, one of the foremost evangelists of the 19th century, once said, "If you have much of the Spirit of God, you must make up your mind to have much opposition both in the church and in the world."
Christians can expect frequent, distressing battles with Satan. Christians who are lukewarm and worldly minded, however, aren't much of a threat to him, and they may never have to face spiritual conflict. But when a believer begins to genuinely seek God, warfare intensifies.
. . .
God doesn't say you can't use the sword of the Spirit if you're in sin. That's when you need it the most! At those times of testing, Satan would try to deceive me with the Word. He'd say, "Well, Jim, you've already sinned. You might as well go even further. You're out of the will of God. Why don't you just really sin. Then you can come back and ask Him for forgiveness. Remember that scripture where He says He forgets your sins?"
No! If you blow it, come back at Satan with scripture. Satan will try to say, "It's not doing anything. It's not working." He knows the power of the Word and that's why he doesn't want you to use it. And I'm warning you, he's not going to leave you alone. You've got to stay on it!
. . .
After my experience on the subway, I recognized the power of speaking the Word of God. I began to memorize scriptures and confess them over myself and my family every day. Charles Capps has ministered a lot on the power of your words. He said, "Words are the most powerful thing in the universe." He also said, "Faith comes more quickly when you hear yourself quoting, speaking, and saying the things God said."
Mark 11:23 says, "whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith" (KJV). The word "say" is used three times. "Believe" is used only once. You have what you say--not what others say about you. You will have whatever you say about you. It's a spiritual law.
This is the basic principle of seed time and harvest. The words you speak are seeds that produce after their own kind. Just as surely as they are planted, you can be equally sure a harvest will follow. Whether you're throwing fiery darts or speaking blessing, a harvest will come. If you're gossiping, you will reap a harvest from it. And if you're speaking scriptures every day, you will most definitely see the fruit of it in your life. However, before you can reap any harvest, you must first put your seed in the ground.
(And yes, they're talking specifically on the "Sword of the Lord" imagery used in these scary churches. I remember much of it from my own experiences. It's also of note that they're also relying heavily on dominion theology; "name it and claim it" in fact is derived ultimately from dominion theology and the "Prosperity Gospel" is inherently dominionist in and of itself. TV preachers--as Living Word's pastor is--are often a "gateway group" to the hardline political dominionists, if not hardline political dominionists in and of themselves (and more and more, the latter is the case).)
Danger sign number three is promotion of "name it and claim it" preacher Kenneth Copeland on their website--not entirely surprising, as this is (per reports from other posters) a large megachurch heavy into the "name it and claim it" stuff and even running its own TV empire not unlike other large dominionist megachurches, but it is important to note that they seem to be a major stop on the dominionist travelling-preacher circuit. (Copeland is actually particularly infamous as far as "name it and claim it" promoters; in fact, Copeland was one of the earlier TV preachers to explicitly promote dominion theology--the same dominion theology used as justification for political dominionism by the "Joel's Army" crowd. Copeland was also noted in the 80's televangelist scandals, and infamously solicited "seed faith offerings" because "God wanted him to buy a LearJet".)
Of course, one can actually go to the horses' mouth to confirm that they're big on "name it and claim it", too; this page from one of their side ministries not only acts as a literal primer for "name it and claim it" but at one point literally describes God as an indulgent "sugar daddy"--and teaches that acknowledgement of reality (with, for example, a bad financial situation) is "opening doorways for Satan to steal your blessing":
God is wanting to do something good for you right now. If you'll give Him the slightest opportunity, He'll jump on it. He will find a way to bless you because He is a good Daddy. He's not an abusive Daddy. He's not a neglectful Daddy. He is good!
. . .
Sometimes that puzzles people. They can't figure out how they can say "healing is mine now" or "prosperity is mine now" when their body still hurts and their checking account is still empty. I'll tell you why you can say that--because 2,000 years ago Jesus paid the price for your healing and your prosperity. He obtained it for you way back then. So you aren't trying to get those things, they are already yours in Him.
Of course, the Devil will try to steal those blessings. He'll try to talk you out of your faith by pointing to your symptoms or your checkbook. But don't let the Devil discourage you. He's a defeated foe. When Jesus was crucified, He battled the Devil on his own territory and came out the victor. The Bible says "having spoiled principalities and powers, (Jesus) made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it," (Colossians 2:15).
In today's vernacular, that would mean Jesus whipped him completely, put him on a rope behind his car and dragged him all through the city. So when the Devil tries to steal what's yours in Jesus' name, you do the same thing to him. Put him on a rope and drag him around by opening your mouth and speaking the language of redemption!
(Of course, the "language of redemption" here consists of Marguerite Perrin-esque "I'M A GOD WARRIOR!" tantrums when someone points out the reality of things like how paying 50 percent of one's income might be ill-advised when one can't pay the rent as is.)
There's also a frightening amount of "fire" imagery with the kid's programs--here, the programs are not dissimilar to what you'd see in, well, the movie "Jesus Camp" (which is about a "Bible camp" run by "Joel's Army" neopentes under the name "Kids on Fire Ministries").
(All of this, as an aside, is a reference to "second baptism"--"baptism in the Holy Spirit with signs following", often termed "baptism in fire" by the neopente sects after the flames appearing on the heads of the Apostles at Pentecost. In other words, they're training the kids to be the front guards of "Joel's Army"; people in these groups are in fact not considered truly saved until they're ranting in tongues and swinging around "fiery swords of the Lord".)
Danger sign number five comes with the adult ministries section--which specifically mentions that they use "discipleship groups". (This, in and of itself, is a major danger sign we are dealing with a Bible-based cult; I've written on how these groups are used by churches to abuse and in fact the book The Discipling Dilemma--and various links from practically all legit exit counseling groups--detail the abusiveness of "discipling" in neopente dominionist churches. In fact, Steve Hassan's BITE Model goes into detail on how these tactics are abusive.)
Danger sign number six also involves a rare and unusual confession from a dominionist group--the operation of a front company for the purposes of "bait and switch evangelism". (The existence of front companies of this sort is also pretty much a de facto sign we're dealing with a Bible-based cult here.) They also run an FGBMFI-esque group on how to run dominionist-owned businesses--thus setting up the dominionist "parallel economy", and run internal "business fairs" within the church to promote businesses owned by fellow dominionists.
Danger sign seven may show just WHY there are so many danger signs--at least two of their groups use the name "Maranatha", which is shared by one of the most busive documented "Joel's Army" neopente groups ever documented (they have since reorganised under the name "Every Nation", partly because Maranatha was becoming so infamous that multiple state college campuses banned them outright). Most groups using the name "Maranatha" in any capacity are "Joel's Army" neopente dominionist groups--and quite a few of those have associations with either the former Maranatha or with Every Nation.
Danger sign eight is a subtle one, and one first pointed out by DailyKos (and Talk2Action and Dark Chrsitianity) user Sunfell as a trend in dominionist churches. Namely, most dominionist churches are what she terms as "Bibolatrous"--literally listing Biblical infalliability above the issue of Jesus Christ being the Son of God and Saviour in their statements of faith or doctrinal statements. And yes, Living Word would count as not only bibolatrous but explicitly dominionist (Inerrancy comes first, Jesus only third; much of the statement of faith goes on about how only "born again" Christians--later defined in the statement of faith as actively yammering in tongues in statement 7 and mere confession of Jesus as saviour or baptism or confirmation not seen as sufficient in statement 5. "Name it and claim it" and dominion theology is explicitly defined as core theology of the church in statement 8.)
As if that weren't danger sign enough, danger sign number nine also shows up in the Statement of Faith--namely, that they are explicitly premillenial-dispensationalist. (Yes, these folks believe that "Left Behind" isn't just bad fiction but a pretty good description of what they expect to happen at the End of Days--up to and including everyone who isn't a dominionist Getting Theirs.) And--interestingly--they have a rather interesting bit of doublespeak that instructs that "anti-Semitic" methods shouldn't be used in conversions, that Jews are still seen (along with dominionists) as "chosen", but still need to convert to being "Messianic Jews" (aka neopentes who celebrate Pesach, keep kosher, and have their tent-meetings on Saturday); in fact, the document goes on to state that the ultimate destiny of all of Judaism is to convert to being neopentecostals (!). The irony of this being inherently anti-Semitic is of course lost on them.
All in all, this sounds a hell of a lot like the abusive Assemblies of God church I escaped--and their preacher not only would endorse political candidates, the head deacon is head of the state AFA and would hand out voter's guides along with the church newsletters that were sample ballots filled out with a nearly entirely Republican slate. The similarities, in fact, are enough to be alarming to me.
As it turns out, I'm right to be alarmed--and right in thinking this isn't just a one-time thing. According to this dominionist website, Hammond is quite a major promoter of premillenial-dispensationalist theology; according to this site, Hammond actively promoted a virulently anti-LGBT speaker for a Senatorial run.
A look on FACTnet's boards also confirm that Living Word, and in particular Mac Hammond, were in fact connected with the abusive Maranatha:
Bruce Harpel and the Minneapolis Maranatha used to greatly encourage support of WoF Mac Hammond and his "Living Word" entity. Read this article and tell me what you think.
It also appears that Hammond's stumping for Bachmann isn't his only support of her--according to the Minnesota Monitor (which has been giving continuing coverage of the scandal) Hammond donated over $4000 to Bachmann's campaign in June 2006 alone, may have donated as much as $14,400 total to Bachmann's campaign, and also donated funds to the election campaign for the other candidate they've publically supported in sermons--the virulently anti-gay Rev. Keith Butler:
James "Mac" Hammond, the pastor who introduced Michele Bachmann to his congregation while stating he would vote for her, donated $2,000 to the Bachmann campaign in June of 2006. His wife and fellow pastor, Lynne Hammond, also donated $2,000.
The Hammonds have donated to only one other federal candidate this cycle, Rev. Keith Butler, who had sought the Republican party endorsement for U.S. Senate in Michigan.
The donation raises further questions about whether Hammond had crossed a line by all-but-endorsing Bachmann from the pulpit, and by allowing Bachmann to testify before his congregation. Bachmann, a Republican State Senator who is running against activist Patty Wetterling for the open Minnesota sixth district Congressional seat, addressed the congregation with Hammond's blessing, stating that God had called her to run for Congress, and that she was a "fool for Christ."
In yet another warning sign, it appears that Living Word may be engaging in an astroturf campaign in regards to posts critical of the church involvement--again, this is something familiar to me with the dominionist church I escaped. (There's more evidence of astroturfing here and possibly here.)
So, well...I'm not really surprised that the church pulled the act of endorsing candidates illegally, nor am I surprised Bachmann is a screaming kook. (A lot of her statements actually sound frighteningly like things that my mother--and other people still heavily involved in the church I escaped--spew on a regular basis. Needless to say, I try to avoid my mom whenever possible.)
Now the question remains--how are we to make sure that dominionist churches are stopped from this sort of electioneering--something that has been going on, in fact, for nearly thirty years or more in the Assemblies and the Maranatha-descended churches? Are we going to let them get away with political murder again?
I say it's time to get mad as hell and not let them do this--and if the IRS doesn't take action, raise holy hell until they do. Vote Democrats in who will start investigating this sort of abuse actively. Start filming inside dominionist churches and recording televised sermons of TV-preacher dominionist churches to document this sillybuggers so we can show that Living Word isn't an abberation but part of a continuing and fundamental abuse of the tax-exempt status for churches and religious organisations that dominionist churches have flagrantly gotten away with for over a quarter of a century.