In new reporting about anti-democratic and secessionist organizing by the Religious Right, militia groups and White supremacist factions in the Pacific Northwest, Frederick Clarkson and Cloee Cooper discuss the role being played by the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Over the years, NAR has escaped deep scrutiny, tucked behind such Religious Right notables as Jerry Falwell, Jr. Franklin Graham, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, and Ralph Reed. Nevertheless, as Clarkson and Cooper point out, NAR is “playing a growing role in American politics.”
These days NAR has a stable of stars, including Paula White, Donald Trump’s spiritual advisor, David Barton, Texas-based political strategist and purveyor of numerous faux interpretations of history, Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Leadership Conference; and Lt. Gen. William Boykin, (ret.) the notoriously anti-gay/trans and anti-BLM Executive Vice President of the Family Research Council.
According to People for the American Way’s Right Wing Watch, leaders of the New Apostolic Reformation, “which believes a triumphant, dominion-taking church will help bring about the return of Christ, were part of POTUS Shield, a network of self-described apostles and prophets who believe President Trump was anointed by God to help bring that all about.”
“NAR holds to a comprehensive theonomic vision, popularly described as Seven Mountains Dominionism, which calls for believers to take control over seven leading aspects of society: family, government, religion, education, media, arts and entertainment, and business,” Clarkson and Cooper report for Religion Dispatches (https://religiondispatches.org/convergence-of-far-right-anti-democratic-factions-in-the-northwest-could-provide-a-model-for-the-rest-of-the-nation/).
“NAR rejects such contemporary denominational offices as popes and presidents, and recognizes those prescribed in the New Testament book of Ephesians: apostle, prophet, teacher, evangelist, and pastor—what they call ‘the five-fold ministry,’” Clarkson and Cooper write.
(Wikipedia describes Theonomy, from theos (god) and nomos (law), as “a hypothetical Christian form of government in which society is ruled by divine law. Theonomists hold that divine law, particularly the judicial laws of the Old Testament, should be observed by modern societies.”)
The notion that Biblical law should govern all spheres of society, is nothing new.
In his 1973 book The Institutes of Biblical Law, philosopher and theologian Rousas John Rushdoony broke ground on what was to become known as Christian reconstructionism. Christianity Today magazine called Rushdoony’s work "the most impressive theological work of 1973, and "a monumental work that should give invaluable help for constructive thinking and practical conduct."
According to journalist Julie Ingersoll, author of Building God’s Kingdom, Rushdoony was a seminal figure in the modern day Christian nationalist movement. Ingersoll told Religion Dispatches’ Deirdre Sugiuchi that “Reconstructionists put forth what they called a ‘biblical worldview’ with a long-term strategy to bring it to bear on every aspect of culture. The key tool they developed for this was the Christian school movement—and later the Christian homeschool moment. It’s not that there weren’t others who helped build those but the early legal work, the theological justification and the earliest curriculum came from them.”
In his new book Survival and Resistance in Evangelical America: Christian Reconstruction in the Pacific Northwest (Oxford University Press)Professor Crawford Gribben, of the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University, Belfast, writes:
“Over the last thirty years, conservative evangelicals have been moving to the Northwest of the United States, where they hope to resist the impact of secular modernity and to survive the breakdown of society that they anticipate. These believers have often given up on the politics of the Christian Right, adopting strategies of hibernation while developing the communities and institutions from the ground up in the hope that a new America might one day emerge.”
“Unlike others within the Christian Right, [these] evangelicals … have given up on top-down efforts to reform American society. Instead, anticipating that in the very near future American society will almost completely break down, they are migrating in order to build communities that they hope will survive hostile social change or natural disaster and from which a new social order can be built.”
According to Clarkson and Cooper, the website of Kingdom League International in Washington State, in which Tim Taylor, an NAR Apostle is involved, reads: “We are a covenantal alliance of leaders, ministers, churches, ministries and networks collaborating together to mobilize the Church as the army of the Lord.” Taylor adds, “Our alliance is composed of leaders representing each of the seven spheres of society and the five-fold ministry.”
“In his 2008 book Operation Rolling Thunder (which was endorsed by leading Apostles, including NAR’s primary architect, the late C. Peter Wagner) Taylor, who served in Desert Storm and then retired as a Commander in the Naval Reserve in 2006, insisted, ‘throughout this book, you will find references to the army, war, battles, etc… However, scripture is clear… that our war is not with flesh and blood. Our fight is with spiritual armies of wickedness in heavenly places,’” Clarkson and Cooper note.
Former State Rep. Matt Shea (R-Spokane Valley) – a leading proponent of Eastern Washington seceding from the state, and Taylor “aren’t celebrity religious leaders whose every utterance is noted by the media. And as tempting as it might be to think of them as too fringey to be consequential, they may be better thought of as leaders in a growing movement that’s not only greater than the sum of its parts—but one that has grown in both its capacity for and its intentions towards insurrectionary violence,” Clarkson and Cooper point out.
For the Religious Right, the establishment of prayer groups and other entities for communication, have always been part of playing the long political game. As can be seen in the Supreme Court taking up a Mississippi anti-abortion case next fall that could spell disaster for abortion rights in this country, the New Apostolic Reformation is plowing fields that once seemed unfertile.
“The groups and individuals in this story are best understood less as regional actors and more as epitomizing the developing relationships between elements of the Dominionist New Apostolic Reformation, the Christian Right (as epitomized by Project Blitz) [http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/bill-berkowitz/82958/project-blitz-a-christian-nationalist-stealth-assault-on-state-legislatures], militant antiabortionism, and the insurrectionary Patriot Movement—from Washington State to Washington, DC,” Clarkson and Cooper conclude.
Bill Berkowitz is an Oakland, California-based freelance writer covering right-wing movements. His work has appeared in BuzzFlash, The Nation, Huffington Post, The Progressive, AlterNet, Street Sheet, In These Times, and many other print and online publications, as well as being cited in several books.