According to the Bible a false prophet is one who pretends to speak for God but in reality speaks for himself and is moved by his own intentions, emotions and political commitments. (Jeremiah 14:13–15; 23; Ezekiel 13:2, 3, 10, 11).
Prophet Jeremiah, had at least three false prophet antagonists; Ahab (Jeremiah 29:21), Azur (Jeremiah 28:1), and Hananiah (Jeremiah 28:5) but nobody remembers them today.
But today’s False Prophets are getting more popular and had a religious hand in motivating the terrible events at the US Capitol according to Brad Christerson, a professor of sociology, at Biola University, a nationally ranked private Christian university in Southern California and a member of the Council for Christian Colleges.
Professor Christerson has written a very perceptive article (in The Conversation) about the self-proclaimed ‘prophets’ from a small but growing evangelical Christian movement who provided religious motivation for the January 6 events at the US Capitol. Since they think Donald Trump is God’s chosen candidate, they believe any other candidate, no matter what the vote totals show, is illegitimate.
Many white evangelical leaders have provided religious justification and undying support for Trump’s presidency, including his most racially incendiary rhetoric and policies. But Professor Christerson argues that a small segment of white evangelicalism that he and his colleague Richard Flory call the Independent Network Charismatic, played a unique role in providing a spiritual justification for the movement to overturn the election which resulted in the storming of the Capitol.
Independent Network Charismatic Christianity is a group of high-profile independent leaders detached from any formal denomination yet cooperating with one another in loose networks.
In the days and hours leading up to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on January 6 the group Jericho March organized marches around the Capitol and Supreme Court building praying for God to defeat the “dark and corrupt” forces that they claimed, had stolen the election from God’s anointed president – Donald Trump.
Jericho March is a loose coalition of Christian nationalists formed after the 2020 presidential election with the goal of overturning the election’s results. Jericho March’s main activity is organizing prayer marches around state Capitol buildings throughout the country since the election.
By imitating the “battle of Jericho” in the Bible when God commanded the army of his chosen people, the nation of Israel, to blow rams horn trumpets and then march around the city walls until God brought the walls down so Israel could conquer the city. Jericho March members believe that their prayer marches will help defeat the corrupt forces they claim, “stole” the election.
Some of the Jericho marchers, copying the original Jewish marchers, even carry ram’s horns 10-18 inches long, or the much more distinctive 3-4 foot long spiral Kudu horn Yemenite type Shofar. These marchers are generally Independent Network Charismatic Christians and are very rarely Jews.
Professor Christerson argues that the Jericho March’s strategy is peaceful prayer marches, and after the Capitol violence they released this statement: “Jericho March denounces any and all acts of violence and destruction, including any that took place at the U.S. Capitol.” There is indeed no evidence that anyone affiliated with the Jericho March organization took part in the attack on the National Capitol.
Before the 2016 election a group of Independent Network Charismatic “prophets” proclaimed Trump to be God’s chosen candidate, similar to King Cyrus in the Bible, whom God used to restore the People of Israel to the Land of Israel. After their prophesies of Trump’s winning the 2016 election unexpectedly came true, these “prophets” became very popular in Independent Network Charismatic Christianity.
According to the World Christian Database there are now over 36 million people attending U.S. independent Charismatic churches – that is, those not affiliated with denominations.
Professor Christerson writes that many of those referred to as prophets in Independent Network Charismatic Christianity predicted another Trump victory in 2020. After Trump lost the election, they did not recanted their prophecies, but adopted Trump’s conspiratorial rhetoric that the election was fraudulent. Many believe that demonic forces have stolen the election but can still be defeated through prayer.
My view is that these False Prophets are providing the theological motivation and rationalization for a Theology of Incitement to Insurrection energizing the fight to overturn the election; and much more sinister elements are using Joshua marches for their own Incitement to Insurrection political purposes.
Andrew Whitehead, co-author of “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States,” argued that “Christian nationalism really tends to draw on kind of an Old Testament narrative, a kind of blood purity and violence where the Christian nation needs to be defended against the outsiders,”
The number of extremist factions gathered under one banner on January 6, echoed the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right Rally” in Charlottesville, Virginia, which brought neo-Nazi, white supremacist Islamophobes and other extremist groups together; including the far-right, anti-government Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, a loose anti-government network that’s part of the militia movement.
But do not blame Donald Trump’s supporters for all of this. Ryan Burge has found evidence from a survey conducted by Baylor Religion Survey in 2014, before President Donald Trump’s ascent, that provides an insight into the negative aspects of the four decade long Evangelical-Republican alliance.
The survey, which can be found on the Association of Religion Data Archives site, asked the following prescient question: “Do you think that it is ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government, or is it never justified?”
At first, Burge writes (Religious News Service January 14, 2021) there is “an unmistakable negative relationship between church attendance and supporting violent revolutions against the government. Among those who say they never attend church services, at least a third of respondents believed there are times when these types of actions are permissible. As attendance increases, support for violent insurrection consistently goes down. Weekly church attenders are clearly the most opposed to these actions: Only about 22% indicate support for violence in this context.
But when political partisanship is incorporated into church attendance, a different pattern begins to emerge. Clearly, Democrats are less supportive of violence than Republicans at all levels of church attendance. And, as Democrats attend church at higher rates, that propensity for violence goes down even more.
But the same is not true for Republicans. Church attendance doesn’t have a statistically significant impact on lowering their support for violence against the government. Overall, Democrats are less supportive of violent behavior than their Republican counterparts at all levels of church attendance. The gap between Republicans and Democrats is consistently around 10 points.”
So Independent Network Charismatic Christians in particular, and evangelical Christians, Haredi Jews, and Israeli right wing settlers in general, should make themselves aware of the negative effects of the four decade long Evangelical-Republican alliance; as Jesus warned his followers in the Gospel of Matthew: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are hungry wolves.” (7:15) and “And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many [believers].” (24:11)
“For there shall arise false Messiahs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (24:24)
And it will all end in destruction. “But false prophets arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. These false teachers will infiltrate your midst with destructive heresies, even to the point of denying the Master who bought them. As a result, they will bring swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1)