Charismatics Are At War Over Failed Trump Prophecies
A day of reckoning has come for modern-day “prophets” in the Pentecostal/charismatic movement who falsely foretold a victory for President Trump in 2020.
One charismatic leader calls it a “rebuke from the Lord.”
A major speaker in the movement calls it “the largest scale deception I’ve seen in 49 years of following Jesus.”
And yet another pastor is blasting parts of the movement as being “sick.”
Privately and on social media, these prophets and their thousands of followers are slugging it out in an orgy of self-blame, recriminations, and fantastical hopes that somehow before Jan. 20, God will bring about a victory for Trump.
Others who’ve apologized for getting it wrong have gotten accusations, curses, and even death threats.
Jeremiah Johnson, a Charlotte, N.C.-based evangelist who in 2015 prophesied Trump would gain the White House a year later, and in 2019 prophesied Trump would win a second term, says his life was threatened after apologizing and saying on Facebook Jan. 7 he wished to “repent” for mistaken prophecy:
“Over the last 72 hours, I have received multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry. I have been labeled a coward, sellout, a traitor to the Holy Spirit, and cussed out at least 500 times. We have lost ministry partners every hour and counting.
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In a post that got 1,900 comments, Johnson said:
“I fully expected to be called a false prophet etc., in some circles, but I could have never dreamed in my wildest imagination that so much satanic attack and witchcraft would come from charismatic/prophetic people,” he continued. “I have been flabbergasted at the barrage of continued conspiracy theories being sent every minute our way and the pure hatred being unleashed.
“To my great heartache, I’m convinced parts of the prophetic/charismatic movement are far SICKER than I could have ever dreamed of. I truthfully never realized how absolutely triggered and ballistic thousands and thousands of saints get about Donald Trump.”
Johnson is part of a modern-day movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) that believes that biblical-style apostles and prophets exist today and are meant to guide the church. Johnson has been a key figure in this movement and on Nov. 7, defiantly struck back at naysayers who voted for President-elect Joe Biden.
“While we wait until January to determine our next US President,” he wrote on Facebook, “observe the stunning blindness and hypocrisy in the body of Christ. Christians who voted for the shedding of innocent blood, the Equality Act, and anti-Israel legislation (ALL things God HATES) are now picking up stones to persecute prophets who supposedly missed it.”
Johnson’s recent mea culpa included no apology for that post.
At least 40 charismatic Christian leaders predicted Trump’s reelection starting around 2018, according to J. Gordon Melton, 78, the venerable compiler of the Encyclopedia of American Religions and an American religious studies professor at Baylor University.
“Only a handful [of prophets] got it right on the 2016 election,” said Melton, “so they all jumped into this election and with one exception,” a Black prophet from North Carolina whose name he did not recall, “they were wrong.”
This is the second major hit this movement has taken in less than a year, he added. The first was during a prophetic summit last year.
“Last November when [evangelist] Cindy Jacobs had her meeting in Dallas, none of the prophets at that meeting—and it was the elite who were there—none of them hinted that anything like the coronavirus was coming,” Melton said. “That has come back to haunt them.”
Some in the movement are still holding out for some kind of last-minute miracle from God that would magically reverse the election and install Trump as president on Jan. 20. The Dallas-based Kenneth Copeland Ministries is one. On Jan. 7, host Gene Bailey and several other prophets appearing on a ministry broadcast known as Flashpoint, floated conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol. All of them encouraged listeners to continue believing in prophecies of a Trumpian victory.
“Many are on the side of, ‘Let’s attack one another. Let’s get on social media and attack the prophets. And let’s draw the sword on one another,’” said the Rev. Hank Kunneman, pastor of Hosts Church in Omaha, Neb. “And I think that is the greatest mistake we can make as true patriots, true Christians, those of us that are in the body of Christ.”
God had personally assured him there would be a miraculous outcome, he added.
“I’m telling you that’s what we’re getting ready to see,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to play out. I just know this thing is not over.”
Kat Kerr, a Jacksonville, Fla. “prophetess” known for her flaming pink hair, agreed.
“He (God) assured me in 2015 that Trump would sit in the White House for eight years,” she said. “And God assured me today when He walked into my room at noon—well, almost noon, 11:55 am.—He yelled as loud as He possibly could, ‘Justice will prevail.’”
Many NAR prophets foretell vague events that are hard to disprove, Melton said, but the specificity of these election prophecies are impossible to live down.
“Kat Kerr and others have really painted themselves in a corner,” he said. “This is a very serious problem for the prophecy group.”
James A. Beverley, a research professor at Tyndale University in Toronto, went further in calling the matter “the most significant crisis in the history of modern charismatic prophecy” that he has seen in 40 years of studying the movement.
“The fight over the Trump prophecies has brought a deep division in the charismatic and Pentecostal world and it has given that branch of the Christian church a serious credibility issue,” he said.
Beverly also believes that the QAnon movement’s speculations that Trump will engage the military to take back Washington have influenced some Pentecostal prophets.
Released last month, Beverley’s new book, The QAnon Deception, explores how some famous Christian pro-Trump figures like Mark Taylor (known as the “firefighter prophet”) and Dave Hayes (aka the “praying medic”) have direct links to QAnon.
A handful of other prophets are apologizing, including Kris Vallotton, the resident prophet at Bethel Church in Redding, Calif., a major fixture in the NAR movement. Others include Los Angeles pastor and spiritual coach Shawn Bolz (who also prophesied last Feb. 28 that COVID-19 would die down quickly).
“People are speaking words without accountability,” said Michael Brown, a leader in a 1990s movement known as the Brownsville Revival and author of the 2018 book “Playing with Holy Fire: A Wake-Up Call to the Pentecostal-Charismatic Church”. “No major prophetic voices said the COVID crisis was coming and then—when some of them prophesied that it would end in April and it didn’t—no one apologized. So we came into the elections with a bit of a black eye. The prophecies had already been off for a major event.”
What kept the skeptics away was that some in the movement had prophesied a Trump victory well before it happened in 2016 as well as the appointment of three new Supreme Court justices.
“I believe many leaders looked at Trump as some kind of political messiah who would fight our battles, give the church back its voice, and on and on,” Brown said. “It all blended together. And we sometimes prophesy what we desire.”
The end result was dozens of prophets saying Trump would win; a situation Brown said “was the largest-scale deception I’ve seen in 49 years of following Jesus.”
Brown was one of the few in the movement who sounded an early alarm that the prophets could be wrong when he published a cautionary Dec. 15 essay in thestream.org. His “Line of Fire” talk show now includes warnings against folks like Kerr and Kunemann, who he called false prophets on a Jan. 11 broadcast. That has caused some backlash.
“I’ve been called the servant of Satan and spawn of Baal because I caved and am not standing with the prophets,” Brown said. “I’ve been called Deep State and that I’m a Mossad agent.”
Certainly, the bulk of Pentecostal-charismatics who follow the prophets are in for a shock when Biden gets inaugurated Jan. 20. Rather than admit their error, Brown says some prophets have already concocted a scenario where Trump will be inaugurated “in heaven” and that God will replace Biden with Trump sometime this spring.
“This could be apostasy,” he said, “people losing their bearings in God. It’s going to get hysterical…Many people are going to be hurt. Most of the prophetic people have gone terribly wrong.”
Erica Ramirez, a Texas-born academic who is the president of Pentecostals and Charismatics for Peace and Justice and director of research at Auburn Seminary in Manhattan, says she’s not seeing much handwringing over the matter.
“I am aware of those who are still hoping for a January 20th miracle,” she said, “but no one in the Texas church circles I am in is professing that, claiming that, or even bringing it up…so it seems fringe from where I am. My sense is that, for churchgoers, January 6 showed them what was not an option, in real time, and is probably producing for many of them a sense of acceptance about the Biden presidency. Even allies like Sammy Rodriguez are backtracking. Nothing can be done.”
One other apology has come from the Rev. Loren Sandford, pastor of New Song Church in Denver, who repudiated what he called “rubber prophecies” stretched to fit a lie.
“Many people have exhorted me not to apologize,” he said in a Jan. 7 YouTube video, “insisting that I was right, that Trump actually won and the election was stolen. Well, regardless of whether or not that is true, the fact remains that Joe Biden is now confirmed as the president-elect. I will not protest that I was right in order to make my words fit the situation and deny getting it wrong. No rubber prophecy.”
On Jan. 11, he released a second video on Facebook, expressing astonishment at the vitriol he’d received.
“Since Jan. 7, I personally have been called a betrayer, a false prophet, a traitor, faithless, and some have said they found me disgusting,” he said. “I am way past broken-hearted at what Christians are saying and doing. No wonder the world doesn’t believe us.”
This article first ran at Religion UnPlugged. It is reprinted with permission.
Julia Duin is a veteran journalist who has worked as an editor or reporter for five newspapers, has published six books and has master’s degrees in journalism and religion. She currently freelances out of Seattle for the Seattle Times, Washington Post and other outlets.