In existential midterm races, Christian prophets become Republican surrogates (2023)


11 minutes


CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. —Lance Wallnau used to be a trader who privately believed that power lay in prophetic revelation. Then came 2015 and he began sharing a word from God: Donald Trump was "the anointed."

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Seven years later, the prophecy booms. And for Wallnau, it has been a busy run-up to the midterms.

In July Wallnau asked for rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) in front of a cheering crowd at the Atlanta Arena. In early September, he was at a conference outside Colorado Springs with Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.). And a few days after that I was here in suburban Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, for the Republican candidate for governor.Doug Mastriano, which he compared to George Washington at Valley Forge.

"Now there is another Christian colonel in charge," Wallnau told the crowd of hundreds. standing in the parking lot of a suburban restaurant. "They can out-maneuver, they can out-maneuver, and in my opinion they know how to get out of the trap. But they can't get around us if we move as one. ... The whole country will be affected by, what's happening in Pennsylvania."

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Across the country this year, figures such as Wallnau, wave from the right wing of prophetic and charismatic Christianity, has appeared with candidates as part of a growing American religious phenomenon that emphasizes faith healing, the idea that divine signs and wonders are everywhere, and spiritual warfare.

Longtime observers of religion in the United States say this rise in prophetic figures is the result of several forces. Among them are the collapse of trust in institutional sources of information, the growth of charismatic Christianity and the media ecosystems that accompany it, and a Trump presidency that brought in spiritual figures long rejected by the political and political establishments from the periphery, evangelical.

"For two millennia of church history, people have claimed to be prophets," said Matthew Sutton, an American historian of religion at Washington State University who has focused on apocalyptic and charismatic Christians. "But it's a new tactic in the US that it's part of waging a culture war."

What it means to be a "prophet" has changed many times, but the term has generally been used as an adjective, not a noun, Sutton said; anyone could say something "prophetic" against sin or injustice. Most Christians in the United States, he said, have emphasized other spiritual roles mentioned in the Bible, such as "teacher" or "elder," not "prophet" or "apostle," which they believed ended the biblical text. But in recent decades, some Americans have revived the title of prophet and given it new meaning.

This election cycle, Sean Feucht, a long-haired visionary from California and failed 2020 congressional candidate, appeared alongside Arizona gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). Dan Cox, Republican-elect Governor of Maryland,shared stagewith prophetess Julie Green. Events Wallnau attended included appearances by long-established far-right right-wing figures such as Dutch Sheets, Mario Murillo and Hank Kunneman.

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Wallnau, 66, grew up the son of an oil executive in Philadelphia and says he became a Christian at a young age while at a military academy and began to believe strongly in prophecy. At first he worked in corporate marketing for the company his father worked for, but eventually turned to business consulting and public speaking with a religious bent. His character is energetic, talkative and very anti-liberal, with a band of conspiracy theories running around, like a less angry, scripture-quoting Rush Limbaugh.

In 2015, he began to publicly share his thoughts about the future. In the months leading up to the 2016 election, 4 million people watched his video titled "Prophetic Word on Donald Trump".

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But Wallnau's public profile then "was a small thing compared to now," he said in an interview. Two million people combined across platforms including Rumble, Facebook and Audible, where he hosts a podcast, "The Lance Wallnau Show." — follow him now for his mix of theories about the shadowy plans of the "elites"; digital currency consultancy; and what he says are words, warnings and prophecies of God.


"It's market demand," Wallnau said. "Trust in the institutions is at its lowest point. In our society there is such a need to know; the psychological need for certainty is a human longing for coherence. You have to make sense of something or it scares you.”

Sutton agrees.

"Prophecy is comforting in the sense that it can tell us what the future will look like. For these people, it is a confirmation of a positive vision in which they will always succeed. It is a way of confirming their choices and values ​​and bring them comfort in a world with values ​​different from their own,” Sutton said.

At Mastriano's campaign event in September, the candidate was on stage, as was keynote speaker Donald Trump Jr. was, but neither was the person Dori Groff drove from West Virginia to see. As Wallnau took the microphone, Groff, 45, excitedly grabbed his young daughter's hand and ran forward. Years ago, when Groff was working in network marketing, he had come across Wallnau on a cassette tape. Now she listens to it every day.


"He was interested in how to motivate people, but he was also a preacher," said Groff, who says she is now a homeschool teacher.

Groff, who said she was raised in Pennsylvania by Mennonite parents who had Limbaugh every day, says she finds Wallnau funny and honest about what she sees as a moral decay in the country. She is comforted by the prophetic words. When you think of modern prophets, you think of the role of prophets in the Bible who warned and protected Israel. Prophecy, she says, is not about giving people answers to worldly questions.

"The prophetic is not like, 'God told me to take I-95,'" Groff said. "They are warnings to get your life in order: to the people, to the church, to the political scene."

In the diffuse religious market of 2022, it is difficult to gauge exactly what these self-proclaimed prophets can offer politicians. Polls in Pennsylvania's gubernatorial race show Mastriano whose events bear that out God is on your side in an existential struggle against evil, behind the democratjose shapirosignificantly. Mastriano's campaign did not respond to a message seeking comment.


Experts say the prophets, through their vast social platforms, offer a channel to millions of voters, and more star power than the common blessing of the local pastor.

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The prophets "are so radicalized, much more so than the traditional Christian right," said Paul Djupe, who studies charismatic faith, religion and politics at Denison University. A large portion of Americans from various religious groups "believe that God reveals his plans for the future to people as prophecy," he said.

Djupe's research shows a very strong correlation between believing in prophecy and believing that God told the prophets that Trump would be president in 2020. He also shows a strong correlation between doomsday and prophetic beliefs and radical and anti-democratic politics.

"It's like, 'The other side is evil. I know because I'm in contact with God. And God tells me their plans are demonic,'" Djupe said.

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Republican politicians, including former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, have already engaged in this area of ​​Christianity, said author Sarah Posner, who has written two books on the Christian right and politics. But Trump changed something. "He made all these B-listers and C-listers, made them celebrities, hosted events at the White House where they sang songs and spoke in tongues," Posner said. "These changes in the charismatic world are being incorporated into evangelization."


But the increasing involvement of some prophets in politics has created conflicts in the wider charismatic-Pentecostal-prophetic world. Several prophets incorrectly and divisively prophesied that Trump would still be president in 2020, sparking a crisis for some believers. A group of charismatic leaders, many of them critical of Trump, produced a prophetic standarddeclarationintended to affirm the "essential" role of the prophetic gifts, with a gentle warning.

"The prophetic ministry is of great importance to the Church and should be encouraged, welcomed and nurtured," the statement read. "We recognize the unique challenges that the Internet and social media present, as anyone claiming to be a prophet can release a word to the general public without any accountability or responsibility. While it is not possible to stop the flow of ​​such words online, we encourage all believers to check the lives and fruits of those they follow online.”

Wallnau said he did not sign the prophetic standards statement because he felt it was motivated by anti-Trump sentiment. But Wallnau's views on the emergence of prophecies are complex.


On his social platforms, he criticizes people who "press prophets to offer prophecies like a Pez dispenser about Trump and the deep state." Prophets are not perfect, he says, and Christians should use prophecy to supplement their prayer and faith in God, not as a prediction of specific futures.

"There is a prophetic movement, but for that to happen we need a new generation of prophetic watchers and listeners who listen to what God is saying, not in a teenage fever trying to collect all the prophecies and conspiracies, they can endure," he said. He told hisfacebook audiencethis fall on a show about how prophecy works. "We live by faith, not by prophecy of election."

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However, Wallnau says a bigger problem in the prophetic community is Christians who have not accepted that God anointed Trump and his social platforms are full of promises to "expose" or spread "the truth." He has written several times about last month's attacks on Paul Pelosi, the husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), suggesting that "something strange is going on here."


Wallnau's Facebook page says "entertainment website," and that tag might seem appropriate. On camera, he is the upstanding and enthusiastic political prophet whose study is decorated with a large picture of the US Capitol falling down! bam! Bam!" In an interview, he emphasizes the need for people to listen carefully, quoting atheist moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who often talks about healing divisions in the country.

"I'm sorry to say it, but voters with little information will go to their favorite pundit or the National Enquirer or a YouTube prophet. It's a shame for those of us who consider ourselves prophets," Wallnau said. "But we still believe in the prophetic."

Most prophetic believers today, Wallnau said, "still believe that God speaks, and they don't listen to any of us." He calls his own record of prophecies "pretty good," in part because he covers himself and doesn't embrace conspiracy theories. as fully as the others. "I'm going right to the edge, but God help me not to fall off the cliff," he said.


Some of Wallnau's supporters praise him for the charitable work he does. But sometimes he also asks something from his fans and encourages them to combine their support for his spiritual gifts with financial support.

“That's why I have a constant feed of what's going on in the world, I'm giving that away! For example, do you want to grow your finances? Give it away! Give it up when God says to give it up,” Wallnau said on a show in September about how prophecy works. He turned to his co-host, Mercedes Sparks, as they both started laughing.

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"How can they give it away?" he asked Sparks.

"Like if they want to cooperate with us? With this kind of teaching?" she said.

“Delivery connects you to what you plant,” Wallnau said. "If you sow the revelation or the word in the spirit of the prophet, you will get the prophetic revelation and the word. ... So you want to go to and partner with us because I'm interested in lifting up the gifts that God gave you."

He knows that political prophets have believers who will follow them no matter what. Which, Wallnau says, worries him: With hungry audiences comes more pressure for prophets and would-be prophets to make mid-term predictions, and thus more false prophecies and more disappointment.

"I'm worried [after Tuesday] that it's going to get warmer," he said. "When you start messing with kings and governments, you'd better be licensed."

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