Evangelical groups are calling their own preachers to task for a spate of so-called prophecies — nearly all in support of far-right political causes and former President Donald Trump — that never came to pass. Prominent pastors are wisely urging their colleagues to commit to standards of prophecy that reject the mixing of personal political beliefs with what they claim to be divine inspiration.
Editorially, we try to avoid opining about religious faith. But invoking divine guidance to advance partisan causes smacks of the worst kind of manipulation, opening the door to abuse and financial exploitation. Pentecostal and charismatic Christian leaders have laudably begun insisting that the false prophets among them cease and desist.
“Why were most of the prophets wrong when it came to predicting the outcome of the 2020 election?” host Jan Markell, founder of Olive Tree Ministries, asked on her “Understanding the Times” Christian radio show on June 25. She followed that question with a lengthy series of pre-election recordings in which a variety of prominent evangelical preachers claimed that God had told them Trump would be reelected.
“Trump will win. … He will sit in that office for four more years, and God will have his way in this country,” author and self-proclaimed prophet Kat Kerr stated in one of the clips Markell played. Several others followed, including one by evangelist Pat Robertson and another by Jeremiah Johnson (who has since publicly repented).
“They were convinced that they were right, and we should listen to them,” Markell told listeners, “They were all wrong,” she added, laughing.
All it takes is a cheap website or a YouTube posting for charlatans to gain a global following. One Pinckneyville, Illinois, preacher who claims followers across North and South America posted a YouTube “prophecy” in May declaring that Trump would be reinstalled in the White House on July 4. It was, of course, nonsense.
But such quackery also can be deadly dangerous, such as when many protesters, claiming divine inspiration, joined in storming the Capitol on Jan. 6. “Jericho March” cofounder Rob Weaver was among the preachers who claimed divine guidance in directing followers toward Capitol Hill.
The propheticstandards.com website urges such preachers to change their ways: “We recognize the unique challenges posed by the internet and social media, as anyone claiming to be a prophet can release a word to the general public without any accountability or even responsibility.”
The petition-style statement says signatories should commit to rejecting “the spiritual manipulation of the prophetic gift for the personal benefit of the prophet or of his or her ministry, whether to garner favor, power, or financial gain. And under no circumstances can a prophet charge money to deliver a prophetic word. This is spiritual abuse of the worst kind and is detestable in God’s sight.”
Inspired words, indeed.