Forrest Wilder, staff writer at the Texas Observer. His latest article, "Rick Perry’s Army of God," is the cover story of the latest issue of the Observer.
Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas is expected to announce his entry into the 2012 presidential race. Perry will make the announcement Saturday at a conference in South Carolina organized by Erick Erickson’s RedState.com. Early backers of Perry’s presidential run have heralded him as being behind the so-called Texas economic miracle. However, many have questioned Perry’s economic claims in Texas. Questions have also arisen over Perry’s close ties to the radical wing of the Christian evangelical movement. Last Saturday, Perry helped organize and spoke at a controversial seven-hour Christian prayer rally in Houston titled "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis." While the prayer session drew 30,000 participants and received national press, little attention was paid to the Christian evangelicals Perry worked with to organize the event. The Texas Observer has just published an explosive article titled "Rick Perry’s Army of God." It exposes how a group of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets from a little-known movement known as New Apostolic Reformation have been quietly pushing for Perry’s presidential bid. We speak with the Texas Observer’s Forrest Wilder. [includes rush transcript]
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Republican Governor Rick Perry of Texas is expected to announce Saturday he’ll be entering the presidential race. Perry will make the announcement at a conference in South Carolina organized by Erick Erickson’s RedState.com. Perry is then scheduled to travel to New Hampshire, site of the first 2012 presidential primary, and then on to Iowa.
In 2000, Perry succeeded then-Governor George W. Bush, who resigned to become president. Perry went on to win three gubernatorial terms, in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Early Perry backers, at least presidential backers, have heralded him as being behind the so-called Texas economic miracle. This TV ad has already begun airing in Iowa.
JOBS FOR IOWA AD: What if we had a candidate for president with a real record of creating jobs, a conservative with proven leadership in tough times, the leader of a state that created more jobs in the past two years than the other 49 states combined, with no state income tax and no deficit, a decade of balanced budgets? What if we had a better option for president? We do. Rick Perry. Jobs for Iowa is responsible for the content of this advertising.
AMY GOODMAN: But many have questioned Governor Perry’s economic claims in Texas. The Pulitzer Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman pointed out recent economic data suggest the Texas budget gap is worse than New York’s, about as bad as California’s, not quite up to New Jersey levels.
Questions have also arisen over Governor Perry’s close ties to the radical wing of the Christian evangelical movement. On Saturday, Perry helped organize and spoke at a controversial seven-hour Christian prayer rally in Houston called "The Response: A Call to Prayer for a Nation in Crisis."
GOV. RICK PERRY: Father, our heart breaks for America. We see discord at home. We see fear in the marketplace. We see anger in the halls of government. And as a nation, we have forgotten who made us, who protects us, who blesses us. And for that, we cry out for Your forgiveness.
AMY GOODMAN: Governor Perry, leading the prayer session. It drew 30,000 participants, received national press. Little attention was paid to the Christian evangelicals Perry worked with to organize the event.
The Texas Observer has just published an explosive new article titled "Rick Perry’s Army of God." It exposes how a group of radical Christians and self-proclaimed prophets from a little-known movement known as New Apostolic Reformation have been quietly pushing for Perry to run for president. The author of the article, Forrest Wilder, is a staff reporter at the Texas Observer. He’s joining us from Austin.
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Forrest. Talk about this event that took place. And you were there. Describe what it was like.
FORREST WILDER: Well, the response was patterned after what’s "TheCall," and TheCall are events that are put on by a group by the same name out of Kansas City. They’re day-long events of prayer and fasting. They’re usually laced with pretty hardcore anti-abortion and anti-gay messages. There was a call recently where the leader of it, Lou Engle, called for a generation of martyrs. So, The Response, in its programming and its feel, was very similar to TheCall, and that’s largely because the folks that were organizing The Response, some of the primary organizers work for TheCall. So it was an explicitly not just Christian, but explicitly evangelical or fundamentalist-type rally—same kind of music, same sort of tone, same kind of themes that ran throughout the event, and a lot of, really, the same people that move in a certain circle on the religious right.
AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the people that Perry organized this event with, who they were, what they said. This was characterized in the mainstream media as very much a non-political event. You had a very different take on it.
FORREST WILDER: Well, as I write about in the article, the organizers and the endorsers of the event largely come out of what’s called the New Apostolic Reformation movement. And the founder of this movement, the sort of intellectual godfather, is a guy named Peter Wagner, and he’s termed it "the most radical change in the way of doing Christianity since the Protestant Reformation." Little bit of a grandiose statement, but it is really this movement that’s happening at the bleeding edge of evangelical Christianity in this country. And it wasn’t—it’s not really widely known, although it does have growing influence.
And I think one of the defining characteristics of it is this idea that there are modern-day prophets and apostles, that the prophets and apostles didn’t end in the Bible, and we have them now walking amongst us. And so, the leadership of the movement are self-proclaimed prophets and apostles. They hold themselves out as such, and they’re recognized as such by their followers. So this was, by and large, the set of individuals and organizations that were running The Response.
And, you know, another aspect of their sort of theology is this idea of the "Seven Mountains," and it’s a form of Christian dominionism. They’re not the only sort of tendency or movement within American Christianity that has a form of dominionism, but this one—this doctrine is kind of a little unusual. The Seven Mountains are basically the power centers of society, so government, family, media, arts and entertainment, education, and so on and so forth. And they believe that Christians, or a certain type of Christian, are to take control of the Seven Mountains and initiate, you know, godly government, biblical values, inject them into these institutions in preparation for the installation of the Kingdom of God on earth and Jesus’ return. So that’s kind of who Perry has thrown in with in this event.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to play another clip from the event. One official endorser of the Response prayer gathering was Cindy Jacobs, the self-declared Christian prophet. Earlier this year, she made headlines when she recorded a video declaring a connection between the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" and the sudden death of thousands of blackbirds in Arkansas.
CINDY JACOBS: According to biblical principles, a marriage is between a man and a woman. So, we have to say, what happens when a nation makes a decision that is against God’s principles? Well, often what happens is the nature itself will begin to talk to us. For instance, violent storms, flooding. There’s something interesting we have been watching. Let’s talk about this Arkansas pattern and say, could it be a pattern? We’re going to watch and see. But the blackbirds fell to the ground in Beebe, Arkansas. Well, the governor of Arkansas’s name is Beebe. And also, there was something put out of Arkansas called "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell," by a former governor, this was proposed, Bill Clinton.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Cindy Jacobs. Who is she?
FORREST WILDER: Cindy Jacobs is sort of one of the kind of leading prophets within the movement. She’s based out of Dallas. She frequently issues these type of prophecies. And they’re taken very seriously by those who follow her and admire her. I mean, she is sort of, you know, a rock star in this sort of prophetic circuit. She endorsed—she was an endorser of The Response, although I did not see her appear on stage. She certainly didn’t say anything. I don’t know if she was actually there, though some of the other prophets and apostles were.
And, you know, I mean, it’s—some of this—some of their prophecies are very specific. I mean, she has also said that she predicted the tsunamis in Japan, and not just that, but that that happened because the Japanese hadn’t sufficiently come to Christianity, so, in essence, God was punishing them. Peter Wagner, the founder of the movement, for example, has said that he supernaturally—when he was in Germany in 2001, God acted through him to end mad cow disease in Germany. So they actually—they think that they have some supernatural abilities, at least as God works through them, to do things in what they call "the natural." The natural is basically the real world. So they—the supernatural and the natural, for them, are constantly interacting, and they’re kind of the bridge between the two.
AMY GOODMAN: Forrest Wilder, let me play another clip. It’s Governor Rick Perry speaking at The Response prayer gathering in Houston. And talk about, afterwards, the significance of Perry’s use of language.
GOV. RICK PERRY: Blow the trumpet in Zion. Declare a holy fast. Call a sacred assembly. Gather the people. Consecrate the assembly. Bring together the elders. Gather the children. Gather the mothers, nurturing their children at the breast.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Governor Rick Perry, who will be announcing for president, we expect, on Saturday. Forrest Wilder, what exactly is he saying?
FORREST WILDER: He’s reading from the Book of Joel, and it’s a part of the Bible, Old Testament, that is very important to the New Apostolic Reformation movement. In fact, the basis for The Response comes straight out of Joel chapter 2. And the fundamental idea here is that, just as in—was described in the Book of Joel, they have an agricultural collapse, they have drought, they have economic woes. They have—they’re having all sorts of problems as a society, and the solution to that is to get on one’s knees and repent to God, who, if your repentance is sufficient enough, will act and, you know, restore the natural good order of things.
There’s a lot of things actually going on in that particular clip that you played, of—one, note that people are, you know, sort of cheering, cheering it on, just this reading of Scripture, very energetically, because there’s all sorts of meaning that’s loaded up into that, into Joel and those particular verses. For example, "Blow the trumpet in Zion." This is a Christian Zionist—a phrase that’s very important to them. For example, John Hagee—he’s one of the leading Christian Zionists, he has a megachurch down in San Antonio—is very involved in, you know, sort of right-wing foreign policy stuff around Israel. That’s a verse that you hear a lot at their events, at their church services, at their political events. And it’s also a popular song. It’s kind of the main—I don’t know if it’s the name of the song, but that’s the theme that runs throughout the song, "Blow the trumpet in Zion." And it’s about—you know, it’s about the role that Israel plays in their End Times eschatology and the role that the Jews play in fulfilling biblical prophecy and ultimately the return of Christ and a thousand-year reign. So, you know—
AMY GOODMAN: We just have—we just have a minute, and I just wanted to get to Don Finto, and this fits right in with what you were talking about, also the issue, when talking about Jews, of the conversion of Jews. Forrest? Forrest, did you hear my question?
FORREST WILDER: Don Finto—yes, yes. Yeah, Don Finto, he’s an evangelist who works in Israel, and his—basically what he does is try to bring Jews to Jesus. And again, this fits in with this notion that enough of—there must be a believing majority in Israel so that Jesus can come back. And so, at The Response, he was on stage basically saying that—you know, calling for a mass conversion of Jews. And at one point he brought up a Messianic Jewish rabbi from Dallas, a guy named Marty Waldman. And sort of, you know, Waldman didn’t say anything. He was sort of there as a prop, as a signal, to sort of underscore and reinforce this idea that Jews in Israel are coming to Christ and that they will spur a global revival of Christianity, and then, ultimately, you know, start fulfilling some of the biblical prophecy for this End Times scenario that they have. That was totally missed, and I didn’t see any mention of that in the media, but it was an important thing that was happening there.
AMY GOODMAN: Forrest Wilder, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thanks so much for being with us. We’ll link to your piece in the Texas Observer, "Rick Perry’s Army of God."
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