As lawmakers prepared to impeach President Trump and Washington readied for President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Cliff Dyrud wasn’t focused on man-made acts. He was listening for the words of prophets.
Five years ago, a prophetess Dyrud follows said she’d gotten a message that Trump would be president and save Christian America. Trump would be “as fearless as a lion being robbed of its cubs” and cause the “tall and lofty mountains” of establishment types to fall, her prophecy went.
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.