All the attention came in the weeks before and after "The Response," Perry's highly publicized prayer rally modeled on what organizers believe is the "solemn assembly" described in Joel 2, in which "end-times warriors" prepare the nation for God's judgment and, ultimately, Christ's return. This "new" movement, the New Apostolic Reformation, is one strand of neo-Pentecostalism that draws on the ideas of dominionism and spiritual warfare. Its adherents display gifts of the spirit, the religious expression of Pentecostal and charismatic believers that includes speaking in tongues, prophecy, healing and a belief in signs, wonders and miracles. These evangelists also preach the "Seven Mountains" theory of dominionism: that Christians need to take control of different sectors of public life, such as government, the media and the law.
The NAR is not new, but rather derivative of charismatic movements that came before it. Its founder, C. Peter Wagner, set out in the 1990s to create more churches, and more believers. Wagner's movement involves new jargon, notably demanding that believers take control of the "Seven Mountains" of society (government, law, media and so forth), but that's no different from other iterations of dominionism that call on Christians to enter these fields so that they are controlled by Christians.
After Perry's prayer rally, Rachel Maddow featured a segment on her MSNBC show in which she warned,
"The main idea of the New Apostolic Reformation theology is that they are modern day prophets and apostles. They believe they have a direct line to God ... the way that they're going to clear the way for it [the end of the world] is by infiltrating and taking over politics and government."Maddow's ahistorical treatment of the NAR, however, overlooked several important realities. For anyone who has followed the growth of neo-Pentecostal movements, and in particular the coalition-building between the political operatives of the religious right and these lesser-known but still influential religious leaders, the NAR is just another development in the competitive, controversial, outrageous, authoritarian and often corrupt tapestry of the world of charismatic evangelists.
Before the NAR came along, plenty of charismatic leaders believed themselves to be prophets and apostles with a direct line to God. They wrote books about spiritual warfare, undergirded by conspiracy theories about liberals and Satan and homosexuality and feminism and more (my own bookshelves are filled with them). They preached this on television. They preached it at conferences. They made money from it. They all learned from each other.
Before the NAR, Christian right figures promoted dominionism, too, and the GOP courted these religious leaders for the votes of their followers. Despite a recent argument by the Daily Beast's Michelle Goldberg that "we have not seen this sort of thing at the highest levels of the Republican Party before," it's been there since at least 1980. Michele Bachmann is a product of it; so was Mike Huckabee. Ronald Reagan pandered to it; so did both Bushes; so does Perry.
In 2007, I saw Cindy Jacobs and other "apostles" lay hands on Shirley Forbes, wife of Rep. Randy Forbes, the founder of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, which boasts some Democrats as members and many of the GOP's leading lights. "You are going to be the mother of an army," they told Forbes, prophesying that she would "speak the power of the word into politics and government. Hallelujah!"