Barack Obama has recently announced a new initiative to reach out to non-dominionist evangelicals. It is a wonderful idea in practice.
Unfortunately--partly due to neopente dominionists--Barack's initiative may have a wee bit of a naming problem.
Whilst the term "Joshua Generation" has been used in African-American churches to denote the generation of people to bring social justice (much as "Moses Generation" was used for the Freedom Riders), "Joshua Generation" unfortunately has a very different connotation outside of the African-American church community...and one which Barack Obama will likely not want to be associated with.
The "Joshua Generation" Obama's campaign may not be familiar with
Whilst Barack Obama was going more for the positive connotations of "Joshua's generation" in African-American churches--namely of a group that finally brought freedom--the term unfortunately has a much darker connotation, and one more well-known in "white" evangelical and dominionist circles.
"Joshua Generation", unfortunately, also happens to be the preferred "rebranding" for the highly militaristic "Joel's Army" movement.
I'm actually not entirely surprised that Barack Obama is unaware of this. Pretty much most folks aren't--unless they are survivors of "Joel's Army" churches or have done some heavy research into neopentecostal dominionism (a community that, alas, has maybe all of fifteen or twenty people focusing on it intensely--and I'm counting the people researching from apologetics standpoints as well as strictly political and coercive-group researchers; I've been told I'm probably one of six people worldwide focusing in as much as I do, though I still find this a bit difficult to swallow).
What I hope to do in this post is to present how this could be a wee bit of a naming issue--and probably one Obama may wish to correct, at least if he wants to attract "red letter" evangelicals.
The general impression that "white" non-dominionist evangelical churches have re the phrase "Joshua Generation" is typically not positive. Some of the most strident critics of neopente dominionism are in fact from the Christian evangelical community (partly because they don't want this stuff infecting their churches and setting them up for steeplejacks)--typical is an apologetics site's condemnation of "Joel's Army" theology including its rebranding as "Joshua Generation":
Modern Dominion believers envision a future where the "manifest sons of God" (sometimes known as 'Joel's Army'), a spiritually-empowered elite, will be armed with supernatural power for the purpose of wresting control of the world from the hands of Satan's slaves. Their predecessors today are the "mighty men of God" who, while not quite of the same level of power, are nonetheless the ones faithful Christians are to take their marching orders from. They are to exercise "heavenly" dominion over whatever aspets of life they can. In some versions of this concept, the manifest children will already have perfected new Kingdom-bodies, and they will be able to stride across the earth with the power of gods. The manifest sons will have a "Joshua Generation" or "Caleb generation" as followers, the faithful few whom God will greatly empower. The manifest sons and Joshua generation would exercise dominion over society, establish the Kingdom, complete the Church, and (a few even whisper) perhaps even complete Jesus, who up until their success is a head without a Body. The organized bodies of Christianity (denominations, seminaries, interchurch agencies, most parachurch groups, and most especially the Roman Catholic Church), so dominion theory goes, are controlled by the spirit of the Anti-Christ and thus will be among the first to be vanquished by the new order.
(Unfortunately, the site also tends to dismiss evidence of steeplejacking as conspiratorialism, but it is typical of "red letter" evangelical critiques of "Joel's Army" theology.)
Another apologetics site notes:
Some of us who dealt with the Kansas City Prophets (hereafter knows as KCP in this report) in the 80's and 90's might think this report and the others associated with it are very much out of date and unnecessary now that the "prophets" have moved on and the church where they began their work has changed into Metro Christian Fellowship (formerly Grace Fellowship).
Quite the contrary! While the KCP episode may be long gone in itself, it's now necessary to bring their doctrines to light once more, because the doctrines that are so very widespread and popular within the revival churches - indeed, central to the whole apostasy - were brought into prominence at that time.
They have since grown to massive proportions and account for many seemingly inexplicable practises like impartation, the glory cloud, birthing, the inner room experience, spiritual levels, the overcomers, Joshua generation, Joel's Army, Saul and David, Ishmael and Isaac, the Jezebel spirit, school of the prophets, tabernacle of David, city church and much more.
Prophets who were hosted by Mike Bickle such as Paul Cain, Bob Jones, Rick Joyner, and John Paul Jackson have gone on to take a leading role in the formation of the New Apostolic Church.
(We'll touch more on that article in a bit--it's particularly informational.)
And we still aren't done--the information series on "Joel's Army" at Let Us Reason is a valuable resource as is info from this evangelical apologetics site. For that matter, Deception In The Church--always a reliable source of info re neopente dominionism--has done pieces on not just Joyner but Bill Hamon (another Joel's Army promoter using the "Joshua Generation" rebranding).
It isn't just sites critical of "Joel's Army" noting the rebranding as "Joshua Generation"--examples in these churches themselves are easy to find.
Why Obama may have a naming problem, exposed
Examples of the use of this "rebranding"--which may well have come about because of the use of the term in a "social justice generation" context in African-American evangelical churches (which are under extremely heavy steeplejack pressure, largely via "prosperity gospel" preachers like Rod Parsley and Creflo Dollar)--are rife and easily findable in Google searches.
One example is from a Joel's Army church in Wales:
Bob Jones prophesied that the season we are now coming into will be known as "The Return of the Glory" years. God is coming back - His weighty glory is going to come upon some like a cloud. The next years will be marked by this increase of glory. Some will literally shine with light. Others will walk into restaurants and people will cry under conviction. This will lead to a harvest over a billion young people. The over fifties will father this movement (they are the Joshua generation) and will help the young ones learn from their mistakes. At times a million young people will gather at a single meeting. This flame will spread all over the place and be marked by miracles, signs and wonders. A whole generation of new Christians will arise in the glory realm. The harvest will be massive. Rick Joyner says this...
"The magnitude of this harvest will ultimately astonish even the most optimistic believers. Congregations of less than a 100 will be adding a thousand believers a week for periods of time. Meetings that being spontaneously will stir entire cities until they fill the largest stadiums night after night. Previously popular sport events will be abandoned in many regions for a lack of interest. Whole towns with populations of thousands, will swarm upon neighbouring towns to evangelise them. The news media will be dominated by the harvest until they have fanned the flames throughout the world. News teams will follow apostles like national leaders, recording great miracles which will be shown with unabashed enthusiasm..."
. . .
Bob Jones is a mystic who encounters heaven every day. He lives in that realm. Years ago Bob had an encounter in heaven which he calls "The sands of time!". In this encounter he saw famous people from church and biblical history looking into a box. Each one put his hand into the box to see if their generation was the one that would see the promise, but sadly they would find there was nothing but plain sand in the box. They passed the box along the line to each successive generations, each one hoping it would fall on them. Finally it came to Bob and he expected to see the same thing - plain old sand. He put his hand in the box. To his great surprise he pulled out a piece of paper, a letter of invitation to join Joel's army. God said the invitations are going out now to THIS generation to join the great army. God said that the sands of time have fallen on us.
. . .
Back in the 80's Bob prophesied over a barren couple they would have a son called Joshua and when he comes of age it would mark the days of the Joshua generation. He prophesied that there would be a sign in the heavens which would be called the eye of God. Around three years ago scientists who study the stars found a nebula shaped just like a human eye. The scientific name for this was the Helix Nebula, but they dubbed it "The eye of God". You can see it on the internet. It is stunning. It's a sign in the heavens of the Joshua generation. Everything is declaring this season now.
The mention of Rick Joyner is particularly interesting here. As it turns out, Joyner was one of the very guys who coined the phrase "Joel's Army" to begin with (as a rebranding of what was then known as "Manifest Sons of God"--yes, there have been multiple rebrandings as each name became downright infamous in non-dominionist evangelical circles). This is the same Rick Joyner, of note, who literally invoked a figure known for genocide in comparison to "Joel's Army" (Phinehas, who is also promoted in Christian Identity circles as a "race warrior").
Another site specifically notes the use of "Joel's Army" as a codeword for young dominionists (and I can confirm in neopente dominionist circles that kids are explicitly groomed as "child soldiers in the army of God"; this led to spectacularly fatal results in the case of Matthew Murray, and has led to an entire generation of "walking wounded" that are only now becoming the subject of research by exit counselors). In the post before that, the rebranding of "Joshua Generation" is explicitly used.
Bob Jones (of Bob Jones University infamy, and who has been particularly influential in neopente dominionist and Christian Reconstructionist circles) uses the term in a slightly different, but no less disturbing, context--namely, the over-fifty God Warrior set:
To Those Over 50 Years of Age
One of the things I've been challenging all of us over 50 years old--Raise your hand. You're the Joshua generation! And most of you have got your eyes on retirement and dying. Instead of retiring--be rehiring, and beginning to show the next generation how to not make the mistakes you made. You've got--knowledge, plus experience, equals wisdom. The experience that you've got is pain and failure. You've got enough of that, to where the next generation and the youth are going to come without numbers--they're going to come. But if there's not some wise mothers and fathers behind them, it'll take them as long as it took you to overcome.
But with some wise fathers and mothers over 50, they can show the way across Jordan. They can get behind them, advise them, oversee them, finance them--just don't get in front of them. But with that, they'll go on. So the closer you come to the Lord, the longer you live. So if you're 85, get a vision of 115, or 120. For the closer you get, the longer you're going to live.
A book by Kelley Varner explicitly promoting Joel's Army, titled "Secrets of the Ascended Life", explicitly refers to the "Joshua Generation" as being directly equivalent to Joel's Army; Varner is one of the major promoters of Joel's Army theology nowadays and actively calls for a holy war in the book directly referenced, "Sound The Alarm: The Apocalyptic Message of Joel" (itself a guidebook on "Joel's Army 101").
This site notes some examples of Joel's Army terminology here using the rebranding "Joshua Generation":
Each one of us is used to moving in the old familiar ways. We are in a season where the Lord wants to break us out of our old familiar paradigms and break us into a place to be a militant "Joshua Generation." Each one of us is at a crossroads of the Jordan. God is inviting us to die.
The Jordan represents the Cross. We die to our selfishness; we die to just us receiving and not giving away. You want a multiplication of the prophetic, you need to start prophesying. You want a multiplication of the gift of healing, then pray for the sick. You want a multiplication of moving in wisdom to counsel people, then ask God to give you wisdom and strategies for others' lives. If you start to move into the Kingdom, He will give you more. If you just go home and say we had a radical, wild conference, but you are not on fire, starting to give away Jesus, then you missed it.
This same site explicitly posts a speech by Joel's Army promoter Rick Joyner entitled "The Army of God" (which, not coincidentially, is also the name of a rather infamous dominionist domestic terrorist org).
For those who want video, a video exists of neopente dominionist James Goll (specifically linked with Joel's Army promoter C. Peter Wagner, and linked with Joel's Army denomination International House of Prayer) exists where he uses the term. (I will warn in advance this is likely to be extremely triggering to walkaways and may be chunder-inducing to the rest of you.)
In a particularly damning viewpoint, a Joel's Army preacher on Myspace explicitly uses the term and equates it with Joel's Army.
Paul Cain, a notable Joel's Army promoter, has also explicitly equated Joel's Army with the "Joshua Generation" and--in a rare moment--even explicitly equates it with its original name, the Latter Rain movement:
The conference began on February 12 which is an important date in church history. The latter rain revival began on that date in 1948. Paul Cain was a young healing revivalist during that move of God with a large gospel tent that could seat thousands. He saw many miraculous healings during that season as well as the revelatory gifts operating at a very high level. On numerous occasions, the angel of the Lord would stand by Paul giving him information about the person he was ministering to.
We believe that God is ushering in a new movement that will far surpass the former latter rain move. For years, Paul Cain had a reoccurring open vision concerning stadiums being filled and newscasters reporting on the miracles and salvations that were taking place. Some of the newscasters he saw in the vision years ago have now come on the scene.
. . .
After a powerful message on the cross, Paul began to minister prophetically. Several saw the angel of the Lord next to him as he gave very accurate words of knowledge.
We believe a new move of God was birthed at this conference. Paul was used to anoint a young man named Joshua, symbolic of the Joshua generation that will go in and possess the promises. (This young man had written in his journal three years prior that the Lord had promised him that he would literally be anointed by Paul Cain.)
Paul confessed that his generation did not know how to impart to the younger generation or how to father. He admitted his failure in that area with deep humility and regret and expressed his desire to be a spiritual father.
An army of radical revolutionaries are arising. I believe that God is about to change the understanding and expression of Christianity in our generation. The appointed time has come.
Interestingly, there seem to be multiple groups using this name in explicit ministry orgs--almost all of which are explicitly neopentecostal dominionist, and almost all of which explicitly target youth. One group that has been mentioned in other articles is a front group of HSLDA called "Generation Joshua"--explicitly playing off the terminology used in neopente dominionist circles (HSLDA's founders have close links to Tim and Beverly LaHaye; Tim LaHaye is co-author of the Left Behind books and a major force behind multiple political dominionist groups and organisation committees). Another group using the term heavily promotes "prosperity gospel" and "spiritual warfare" memes and (despite claims of nondenominational content) is explicitly neopentecostal.
Particular issues for walkaways
One group Barack Obama risks alienating with this name, along with red-letter churches outside of the African-American community, is walkaways.
The term "Joshua Generation" has come up in specific discussion of "Joel's Army" groups in exit counseling forums; as it is, the phrase tends to be quite triggering to those uf us who are survivors of these groups.
As it is, one group that may be particularly "triggered" by this usage happens to be ex-Assemblies (and in particular, ex-YWAM) folks. As noted in this apologetics page critical of neopentecostal dominionism, the term "Joshua Generation" is pretty much the preferred term over the past few years for what has been referred to in the 90's as "Joel's Army":
Laurence Singlehurst of Cell UK - Ecumenical, Inter-faith one of the Leaders of Hope 2008.
Initiated by Laurence Singlehurst in partnership with YWAM, Cell UK Ministries and supported by Lynn Green - Youth With A Mission, Rev. John S Smith - UK, Director of Evangelical Alliance, Gerald Coates - Pioneer, Roger Ellis - Revelation Church and Fusion, and Matt Bird MBA - Director of Joshua Generation.
Laurence Singlehurst: is a YWAMer and also Director of Cell UK Ministries. His particular passion is equipping churches in how to reach their communities with an emphasis on network evangelism which is empowered by cell church structures. He’s also the author of: "Evangelism Toolkit", "Sowing Reaping Keeping", "Loving the Lost—the principles and practice of Cell Church", "Beyond the Clouds"; co-author of "Cell It" and "Evangelism Through Cells".
He is married to Ailish and has three children: Kiera, Justyn and Laura.
(We discuss the group using the d/b/a "Joshua Generation" above.)
One particularly active forum--not surprisingly--discussing the usage of "Joshua Generation" as a specific codeword for "Joel's Army" is the Ex-Pentecostals survivor forum. Among other things this thread specifically discusses it as a rebranding of "Joel's Army"; this thread specifically discusses the term as a code-phrase in neopente dominionist circles; and finally this thread discusses, again, its use in neopente dominionist circles.
I can personally testify to the phrase being triggering to us survivors. It's pretty much taken me till today to be able to sit down and talk about this rationally--I was in a full-out fight/flight mode that I have literally not been in since George W. Bush's inauguration speech in 2004 (and I was triggered for almost identical reasons).
A history of the "rebranding"--and potential implications
It should be noted, in all this, that "Joshua Generation" is a relatively new name for what is an old toxic movement (they've been known not only as "Joel's Army" and "Latter Rain"/"Manifest Sons of God", but also things like "Kingdom Warriors" and the like).
Per reports of a walkaway and researcher on Joel's Army movements within the Vineyard church, there is evidence to suggest that the term "Joshua Generation" would have been used, at its earliest, in the mid 90s (interestingly, the person was initially recruited into this by an Assemblies of God member in the Philippines thus showing how long this has been going on in truth) and probably started being used no later than 2000 or so.
If the term--in its context in African-American churches as the "social welfare generation bringing us freedom"--has been used at all before the mid-90s, this could be a sign of cultural appropriation; there's also been a fairly heavy emphasis in neopente dominionist groups in targeting African-Americans and African-American churches for conversion (as it is, neopente dominionist churches already see the worship style in most AME churches in particular as being neopente-friendly).
Rod Parsley and Creflo Dollar in particular are notable neopente dominionist "prosperity gospel" promoters who actively target African-Americans via "prosperity gospel"--and tend to promote the "Joel's Army" theology once they've reeled people in with that. In addition, dominionist anti-reproductive-care groups that have close ties to neopentecostal dominionists (including Operation Save America and American Life League)--as well as neopente dominionists such as Rod Parsley--have been promoting the meme that reproductive health services including the pill and abotion are a backdoor method of genocide of the African-American community. African-Americans haven't yet jumped heavily onboard to neopente dominionism, and this tends to vex the dominionists, and so historically "black" churches are being especially heavily targeted for takeover from within as a result.
As it is, neopente dominionists (ironically) are apparently aghast enough about a group not toeing the "Joel's Army" line calling itself "Joshua Generation" that the HSLDA's frontgroup is now suing. And this was not unexpected.
My worry in all of this is that Obama is going to have to do some heavy work in undoing what may ultimately be a nasty bit of cultural appropriation--and until he does, he may risk driving away the very "red-letter evangelicals" and walkaways he hopes to attract.
I do not want to see what actually looks to be a Really Good Idea scuttled because people freak out because of the name...and I'm sure Obama's folks didn't know the other implications of the name. (This goes rather beyond the urban legend of the Chevy Nova being rejected because the name could be translated to "doesn't go"--but could have similar implications as far as getting some of the very folks Obama hopes to get on his side.)
I'm just having one of those moments where I wish I could have informed them what it means in some contexts (just like a tattoo artist will generally refuse to allow a specific image unless you know what it means, and all of what it could potentially mean--some symbols tend to be used as gang signs, for instance, and people might not be aware of those contexts).