And Dyrud, a 73-year-old missionary, saw her words come true. So last week, he brought his “Appeal to Heaven” flag from Fargo, N.D., to Washington, and marched with thousands of other Christians: Christians who, like him, believe another dimension — high above the news frenzy — is in charge, a supernatural one where God reigns, and where Trump has very clearly been prophesied to serve a second term.
Another prophet Dyrud follows has assured him that “Trump is still our president” and is facing a moment much like when Moses and the Israelites fled Egypt and were not able to cross the Red Sea until God parted the waters for them. God will do something miraculous for Trump, too, Dyrud believes.
Images and references to being on the march for Jesus were common at the massive Jan. 6 rally — and later, riot — including among a segment of American Christianity that believes it has the power of prophecy. Some experts say charismatic, prophetic Christians who operate largely outside denominations make up U.S. religion’s fastest-growing subset. In recent decades, millions have been increasingly seeking out these prophets and apostles on YouTube channels, in books, group prayer calls, via regular group text chats and at conferences where breakout groups practice faith healing and raising people from the dead. And nothing has focused this disparate, independent group like Trump.
Although mainstream evangelical conservatives, including Trump’s own evangelical advisers, didn’t appear at the event, the day had been heavily promoted and covered by media and leaders of this charismatic, prophetic segment of Christianity.
“I believe something dramatic is going to happen before Congress votes on those electors. Something very dramatic that will change the outcome of that vote ... the holy spirit will enter into this situation and it’s going to be something very dramatic,” televangelist Pat Robertson told his Christian Broadcasting Network audience Jan. 4, on the eve of two days of rallies in Washington.
After the deadly Capitol siege, the prophecies continued — that Trump will remain in power.
“Anyone who think this ends tonight is totally mistaken ... you are still the president and we need you to stay on the front lines, sir,” prophet Mario Bramnick, one of Trump’s faith advisers, said Jan. 7.
“We thank God for exposing and foiling all the plans of the enemy set against him. We affirm his lawful election and pray for four more years with Donald Trump as our president!” the 24/7 National Strategic Prayer Call, a 10,000-member Arkansas-based ministry that hosts weekly live prayer calls, told its listeners Monday.
“What’s different from the past [of apostolic, charismatic Christianity] is it’s just so wound up with the person and presidency of Trump,” says People for the American Way’s Peter Montgomery, who has studied and written about right-wing religious movements for decades. “Many of these prophetic leaders in 2015-2016 said Trump was anointed by God, divinely assigned to save America and protect religious freedom. And now with them believing that Trump is standing in the way of Christianity being criminalized in the United States, this is an existential moment.”
The high-octane, emotional fight for Trump makes sense for these believers, who take the stories of Christian scripture literally and see daily life as a visceral struggle between God and the devil. Spiritual warfare is constant. Signs and wonders are everywhere. So as time passes and Trump’s options disappear, God’s move to keep him in power will be even more spectacular — evidence even more likely to spark a religious awakening or revival.
“Let’s pray like a field, moving forward, for the Lord to reveal his plans and seal our time together — as long as there is an intercessor there is still hope. We are needed at this time in our nation; we are an effective part of God’s plan for the United States,” a voice said on a call Tuesday to Intercessors for America, a Purcelleville, Va.-based ministry with 100,000 Facebook followers and a weekly prayer call. The call ended with a cacophony of callers praying in tongues.
Many believers of what some experts call “neo-charismatic” Christianity are not heavily focused on politics and more on the miraculous. Instead of a faith life that revolves around sitting in a pew listening to a sermon, they embrace the idea that the Bible is happening right now; the world is a supernatural story and they are players in it. And that includes an aspect of the religion that traditional institutional Christianity has left to the earliest centuries of the church: the notion of prophets and apostles.
Brad Christerson, a sociology professor at the evangelical Biola University who wrote a book about this phenomenon — which he calls “Independent Network Charismatic,” or “INC,” Christianity — said it is changing the face of religion in America by making it more experiential, more experimental and less theological.
“There is a breakdown in consensus about what’s scientific truth, a breakdown in faith in institutions. We’re in a period of high competition for ideas, and young people are fascinated by the supernatural. There’s more of an openness to all kinds of ways of thinking,” he said.
Christerson in his 2017 book cited the World Christian Database as saying between 1970 and 2010, independent apostolic and neo-Charismatic groups — other names for the charismatic Christians who believe in these unaffiliated prophets — grew the fastest of any other. Holly Pivec, another researcher who has written two books on the movement, estimates that about 66 million Americans have come into close contact with its teachings, through books or conferences or music. The numbers are much more dramatic overseas; prophets and apostles are promoted at many of the world’s largest churches in Nigeria, Colombia and South Korea, Pivec says.
Some big-name prophets such as Randy Clark, who heads the Pennsylvania-based Global Awakening, a network of congregations and a seminary that offers a degree in “supernatural ministry,” are less focused on politics, and organize around topics such as healing. But many others, although they stick to preaching and don’t do pragmatic things such as voter drives, believe politics is a key area that must be transformed to bring heaven to Earth.
Then-presidential candidates Rick Perry, in 2011, and Bobby Jindal, in 2015, hosted “prayer” rallies of tens of thousands of people in huge arenas, featuring prophets. Prophet Lance Wallnau, who wrote a book predicting Trump’s election (“God’s Chaos Candidate”) has spoken at Values Voters Summits. Mario Bramnick met multiple times with Trump officials about immigration restructuring, among other things. Leaders of five White House “faith” offices were introduced at a prophetic event in Beltsville, Md., just before the 2018 midterms.
And the charismatic queen of American prosperity gospel, Paula White, has been by Trump’s side through his presidency, overseeing his faith office. In November, a video went viral of White prophesying that God has dispatched angels from Africa and South America to help Trump achieve victory.
In the past decade, the rhetoric and figures of independent charismatic Christianity have entered mainstream conservative politics.
Yet, beyond fighting abortion and LGBTQ equality, the political goals of the apostolic crowd are diffuse.
Dyrud says what he saw Jan. 6 was festive and happy. He never got closer than a football field away from Capitol, heard conflicting reports trickling back about violence and tear gas; he felt unclear “about what was true.” Trump’s impeachment hasn’t impacted Dyrud’s firm belief in what the prophets have told him: Trump is part of God’s plan to restore Christian values in America and he will win.
He has been active in tea party events and said he’s very concerned about what he sees as an overzealous government reaction to the coronavirus that “took people’s rights to businesses and jobs.” He believes in QAnon-like prophecies that there is a large, hidden cabal of people who want America to be subsumed into a global system of government. To him, persecuting Christians is an obvious part of this plan.
Leonard Guthrie Jr., a 48-year-old from New Jersey who has severe back problems, drove with many stops to Washington to protest the certification of the electoral college vote. He said he feels certain if he had been able to pray that day outside the Senate chamber while the lawmakers voted inside, it would have changed their votes to finalize Biden’s win. Instead, he was arrested that day after going past a barrier and starting to climb the Capitol steps. He condemned the rioters and violence and said he stepped over the police line as a way of making “my stand. I wanted to be heard.”
Guthrie believes America’s problems began with the legalization of abortion, the removal of state-sponsored prayer from public schools, and with educational and cultural systems that, to him, emphasize America’s flaws. He sees a ruling class that can in a day take the president off Twitter but won’t do the same online for the evils of child porn.
He began to see truth in the prophecies of people such as Kim Clement, who in 2007 predicted Trump would become president. The Jan. 6 rally — not the rioting, which Guthrie condemned — was part of bringing God and truth to Washington, he said: to the election results, to the beautiful story of America. “Wednesday was an appeal to heaven.”
With Trump’s future in doubt, prophets and their believers Wednesday were working hard to discern God’s will in the events this month — and to look for the next prophecy. A couple have apologized for wrong predictions (though “it doesn’t make me a false prophet,” said Kris Vallotton, senior associate leader of the massive prophetic church Bethel, in Redding, Calif.)
By Monday, Wallnau was urging followers to focus on true prophecies and disregard conspiracy theories making the rounds on prophetic sites — such as one about Trump being about to declare martial law, or another about how major social media sites are about to go black.
In December, Wallnau said on a prayer call that God would “overturn” the election because Trump’s “assignment” from God has not yet been completed. Later that month, in a video on his Facebook page, he said Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) congratulating Biden on his victory was just another example of the “deep state” that Trump was sent to fight.
Now, Wallnau said Monday, the prophetic word he’s hearing is “enlargement” — how God is just about to “enlarge his sphere on Earth.”
As far as the false predictions, he asked: “Why is it our people are so vulnerable to this stuff?”