Reducing immigration is in the long-term political interest of our ruling classes. This may sound improbable, considering the stupendous assemblage of money and institutional power pushing for ever-higher levels of immigration
.. our institutions are facing a crisis of legitimacy, with an ever-larger share of the people rejecting the rightness of their leadership role. This crisis of legitimacy — which Europe is experiencing as well – is reflected in the declining public confidence in our institutions. It’s a big part of the reason for Brexit and Trump.
.. immigration was the issue that showed the widest gap between “opinion leaders” and the public.
.. immigration was the issue that showed the widest gap between “opinion leaders” and the public.
.. There are no doubt many reasons for the fading legitimacy of
- Big Business and
- Big Labor,
- Big Tech and
- Big Ag,
- Big Religion and
- Big Government,
- Big Media,
- Big Academia, and
- Big Philanthropy.
But both practically and symbolically, the elite push for de facto unlimited immigration is a key contributor, as Brexit and Trump and other anti-establishment movements demonstrate.
.. passage would be a startling reversal of direction by the political class. It would be a strong signal of solidarity of the rulers with the ruled. It would demonstrate that the “executives who give the money” don’t always get their way. The benefit to our political culture (never mind the benefits to the working poor or taxpayers or assimilation) would be enormous.
A Christian movement characterized by multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism.
Their movement, which Christerson and Flory called “Independent Network Charismatic” or “INC” Christianity, has become one of the fastest-growing faith groups in the United States. Apostles like Bill Johnson, Mike Bickle, Cindy Jacobs, Chuck Pierce, and Ché Ahn claim millions of followers. They’re also aided by an army of fellow ministers who fall under their “spiritual covering.”
.. But their real power lies in their innovative approach to selling faith. They’ve combined multi-level marketing, Pentecostal signs and wonders, and post-millennial optimism to connect directly with millions of spiritual customers. That allows them to reap millions in donations, conference fees, and book and DVD sales. And because these INC apostles claim to get direction straight from God, they operate with almost no oversight.
.. Christerson: Probably the closest kinship would be prosperity gospel movement. But it’s a little different in that the INC movement has a network that cooperates more often. My sense of the prosperity gospel is that it consists of individual entrepreneurs, TV preachers, and megachurch leaders, but there’s not as much cooperation.
Also, the theology is different. The prosperity gospel would focus more on the individual’s health and wealth. This group is unique in that they really think God has put these apostles on earth to basically transform the world. It’s a sort of trickle-down Christianity, where these apostles are at the top of the mountain, exercising this power from the top down. That’s how the kingdom of God comes in.
Ironically, this group isn’t really focused on building up big congregations. Their ideas are spreading through other means, like high-profile conferences and the media products that they are selling.
Flory: These apostles are able to access a lot more money, because they are operating with a pay-for-service model, rather than relying on people’s donations and their goodwill. Congregations bend over backwards to keep people happy and keep the butts in the seats; people don’t have to pay unless they feel like it. But this is a completely different financial model, and it tends to generate much more money... They would use the word prophetic or apostolic—or they would align themselves with one of the apostles. They would say, “I am a follower of Bill Johnson,” or Mike Bickle, or Cindy Jacobs. People would tell us, “he’s my apostle” or “he’s my prophet.” The other term we hear a lot is “spiritual covering”: There’s this idea that you are under spiritual covering of your specific apostle or prophet. A related term is “impartation.” The apostles basically impart their power to you. If you are under them, the power that they have straight from God trickles down to you.
They consciously avoid any kind of formal organization or denomination. They see the strength of weak ties—it allows them room to experiment and to work with all kinds of different people. They can focus on putting together these big events—they don’t have to support a staff or donate to a seminary. They can just go straight to the marketing activities.
.. Rather than traditional worship services, many megachurches say they have “experiences.” What kind of experiences are INC churches trying to create?
Christerson: The traditional megachurch uses music and exciting preaching from great communicators. But we found that wasn’t the case with these INC-lings. They are actually not very exciting preachers. That really surprised us. For them, it’s all about encountering these supernatural manifestations. That’s the exciting experience.
.. People weren’t there to listen to him. What they wanted was for him to lay hands on them.
After he finished, people came up to the stage, and they were being slain in the spirit. People were falling down and getting healed. That’s what they are there for. They don’t want to sit and watch other people. They want to access the power themselves to make a difference in the world.
.. It’s remarkable how effectively INC personalities can get their message out without owning a television studio or buying airtime. How do they manage?
Flory: INC leaders have leveraged digital technology to get their message out—smartphones in particular, where you can get anything you want as long as you have some kind of digital connection. That just expands the world exponentially for these people.
Christerson: It’s also basically free to put your product out there. IHOP is particularly good at doing that. They say their website—in terms of viewed video content—is one of the top 50 websites in the world.
Between the internet and the conferences, they have figured out ways to leverage that big, exhilarating, hyped-up experience you get in a stadium venue. That’s where their networking comes into play. They can bring in four or five apostles, and then their followers flock to see them. People have these significant experiences that juice them up to contact the apostles over the internet. If they can go to a conference two or three times a year to get a new jolt, that becomes the new rhythm, as opposed the weekly rhythm of church life.
.. Let’s talk about the “7 mountains” theology, which is popular in these circles. On some levels, it sounds like theocracy. Christians are in charge of every part of life: the “mountains” of
- arts and entertainment,
- the family, and
On the other hand, it sounds like there’s no actual plan—aside from putting these Christians in charge. So what’s going on?
Christerson: They really believe that God is behind it all, that he is appointing people into these high positions, and that they will know what to do when they get there. They will be listening to God, and he will use them to supernaturally make America or the world into the kingdom of God. Some of the people that they claim are in these high position—like Betsy DeVos, Ben Carson, and Rick Perry—are part of the Trump administration. But they are not Pentecostals, and they have nothing to do with these groups. The movement just latches on to them and claims God is using Trump to bring in the kingdom.
.. Some INC people describe Trump as a King Cyrus figure—he’s not one of us, but God is using him to defeat our enemies and restore our nation. If Trump collapses or gets impeached, they will not look very good. Some of them have staked their reputation on Trump’s performance, but not all of them.
They don’t have policy goals, other than anti-abortion and anti-gay-marriage sentiments. They don’t have an idea of what it takes to reduce poverty or curb international conflict. None of that is even on their radar.
It’s a very different approach than other religious groups take. If it’s the Catholic Church, the religious right, or the religious left, they actually have a strategy. They have think-tanks and organizations, and they’re involved at different levels with political parties. This is nothing like that.
.. But the INC movement is explicitly post-millennial. In their minds, God’s kingdom can come to earth before Christ returns—and, by the way, it will be in America.
Do INC leaders engage in any self-reflection about the dangers of holding major power without oversight?
Christerson: I haven’t seen a lot of self-awareness on their part. They think they are an instrument of God—and that’s all they need. There’s a suspicion of any kind of accountability structures, because these limit the power of God working through individuals. When you have a church board and an elder board that hires a pastor, then that pastor can’t do the things that God is telling him to do—because he has to go to the board to get everything approved. The real danger, they would say, is when institutions become more powerful than the individuals that God calls.
.. INC leaders think that the business world is the key to all of this—because wealth is more powerful than all other forms of power. They anticipate this huge transfer of wealth to believers. But they see this wealth as an instrument for bringing about God’s kingdom on earth.
.. For prosperity preacher, it’s more that God is going to bless me individually to show me favor and to show that he is God. We didn’t get that from the INC leaders. They dress casually and don’t drive expansive cars or fly in their own planes.
.. One reason this movement hasn’t gotten a lot of press is that the leaders don’t seek it out. They have their own networks for disseminating information and getting attention. They are not sending our press releases.
.. Fifty thousand people show up for an apostle’s conference at the LA Coliseum, and nobody covered it.
There’s nothing more to be learned about Trump’s mixture of ignorance, insecurity and narcissism. Every second spent on his bluster is more degrading than informative.
.. spend less time thinking about Trump the soap opera and more time on questions that surround the Trump phenomena and this moment of history.
.. he represents the farcical culmination of a lot of dying old orders — demographic, political, even moral — and what comes after will be a reaction against rather than a continuing from.
.. For example, let’s look at our moral culture. For most of American history mainline Protestants — the Episcopalians, Methodists, Presbyterians and so on — set the dominant cultural tone. Most of the big social movements, like abolitionism, the suffragist movement and the civil rights movement, came out of the mainline churches.
.. You could be Catholic, Jewish, Muslim or atheist, but still you were influenced by certain mainline ideas — the Protestant work ethic, the WASP definition of a gentleman. Leaders from Theodore Roosevelt to Barack Obama hewed to a similar mainline standard for what is decent in public life and what is beyond the pale.
.. For a time, we lived off the moral capital of the past. But the election of Trump shows just how desiccated the mainline code has become. A nation guided by that ethic would not have elected a guy who is a daily affront to it, a guy who nakedly loves money, who boasts, who objectifies women, who is incapable of hypocrisy because he acknowledges no standard of propriety other than that which he feels like doing at any given moment.
.. the country divided into at least three blocks:
- white evangelical Protestantism that at least in its public face seems to care more about eros than caritas;
- secular progressivism that is spiritually formed by feminism, environmentalism and the quest for individual rights; and
- realist nationalism that gets its manners from reality TV and its spiritual succor from in-group/out-group solidarity.
.. Trump revealed the vacuum, but who is going to fill it and with what?
Is there anything Donald Trump can do to alienate evangelicals and other conservative Christians who support him? By now, it’s hard to think of what that might be. These are people who would never let men with the morals and the mouths of Mr. Trump and Mr. Scaramucci date their own daughters. And yet, Team Trump has no more slavishly loyal constituency.
.. The truth is, Christianity is declining in the United States.
.. the United States is no longer a counterexample to the West’s secularization. America is on the same path of religious decline pioneered by Europe and Canada.
.. Mr. Smith finds that what he terms “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism” has displaced authentic Christianity as the true religion of American Christians.
.. In M.T.D., the highest goal of the religious life is being happy and feeling good about oneself. It’s the perfect religion for a self-centered, consumerist culture. But it is not Christianity.
.. “America has lived a long time off its thin Christian veneer,” Mr. Smith told me. “That is all finally being stripped away by the combination of mass consumer capitalism and liberal individualism.”
.. But the standard “religious right” model, based on the idea that the American people are a morally sound majority led by decadent liberal elites, was inaccurate.
.. Conservative Christians helped elect Republican politicians, but that did not stop the slide toward secularism. True, the church gained some access to power, but it failed to effectively counter popular culture’s catechetical force.
.. Mr. Trump is not a solution to this cultural crisis, but rather a symptom of it.
.. Pope Benedict XVI himself once said that the spiritual crisis the West faces is worse than anything since the fifth-century fall of the Roman Empire. This is why St. Benedict of Nursia is so relevant to Christians today.