Men of God in the City of Man, Part 8: Zoonosis

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Men of God in the City of Man is a nine-part essay series that tells the story of a powerful narrative virus whose ultimate unintended target was nothing less than faith in American democracy as an institution. Part 1 introduced the idea of the narrative virus as a mechanism for astroturfing (fake grassroots) campaigns, and the idea that the danger may not come so much from forcing new common knowledge, but changing what some of the population needed to be true. Part 2 is the story of the carriers of its chief ultimate symptom: a rabid belief in rampant electoral fraud. Part 3 is the story of the creators of the narrative virus and the memetic building blocks they brought to bear. Part 4 is the story of the way in which the special environment into which those memetic building blocks were introduced changed the way that they expressed themselves on major social and cultural institutions. Part 5 is the story of how all of these pieces finally came together to create a narrative epidemic within one community. Part 6 is the story of how that epidemic went pandemic. Part 7 is the story of how mutations in the narrative fundamentally changed the path of that pandemic. Part 8 is the story of how those mutations became zoonotic, escaping the confines of a fringe species of charismatic Christian prophet into a persistent cultural phenomenon.

I am deeply indebted to the work of James Beverley, Matthew Taylor and Paul Djupe in various areas of this essay series. I have attempted to source their work where possible, but if you see something unsourced that makes a clever observation about our subject matter, please do me the favor of assuming it is the work of their dutiful scholarship.

Some of our greatest tales tell us of men who built their identity on stories that have broken.

There are a thousand pieces of precious literature and almost as many films that grapple with how a man who bet it all on belief responds when the world tells him he was wrong. Some despair and die or slowly fade. Some embrace nihilism. Some emerge in rapture and joy as if freed from the story’s grip, like a prisoner from a dark cell.

The most interesting of the stories, I think, are about those who refuse to bow to the new reality. Don Quixote’s madness is self-imposed and willful, ever revealed for its absurdity. But surrendering errantry would mean surrendering to death, as Harold Bloom put it. Blanche Dubois, when not foolishly played as a madwoman, I think, knows precisely who she is and who she cannot bear to be. And we all prefer the version of Pi’s shipwreck that has an actual tiger.

There is a more obscure source that hits nearer the mark.

The story spread that Han Fei-tzu’s mad daughter, alone of all the godspoken, persisted in her rituals. At first she was ridiculed for it – for many of the godspoken had, out of curiosity, attempted to perform their purifications again, and had discovered the rituals to be empty and meaningless now. But she heard little of the ridicule, and cared nothing for it. Her mind was devoted solely to the service of the gods – what did it matter if the people who had failed the test despised her for continuing to attempt to succeed?

As the years passed, many began to remember the old days as a graceful time, when the gods spoke to men and women, and many were bowed down in their service. Some of these began to think of Qing-jao, not as a madwoman, but as the only faithful woman left among those who had heard the voice of the gods. The word began to spread among the pious: “In the house of Han Fei-tzu there dwells the last of the godspoken…

She herself became old, and the Journey to the House of Han Qing-Jao was now the most famous pilgrimage of Path. Indeed, there were many who heard of her on other worlds, and came to Path just to see her. For it was well-known on many worlds that true holiness could only be found in one place, and in only one person, the old woman whose back was now permanently bent, whose eyes could now see nothing but the lines in the floors of her father’s house.

Holy disciples, men and women, now tended the house where servants once had cared for her. They polished the floors. They prepared her simple food, and laid it where she could find it at the doors of the rooms; she would eat and drink only when a room was finished. When a man or woman somewhere in the world achieved some great honor, they would come to the House of Hang Qing-jao, kneel down, and trace a woodgrain line; thus all honors were treated as if they were mere decorations on the honor of the Holy Han Qing-jao.

At last, only a few weeks after she completed her hundredth year, Han Qing-jao was found curled up on the floor of her father’s room. Some said that it was the exact spot where her father always sat when he performed his labors; it was hard to be sure, since all the furniture of the house had been removed long before. The holy woman was not dead when they found her. She lay still for several days, murmuring, muttering, inching her hands across her own body as if she were tracing lines in her flesh. Her disciples took turns, ten at a time, listening to her, trying to understand her muttering, setting down the words as best they understood them. They were written in the book called The God Whispers of Han Qing-jao.

Most important of all her words were these, as the very end. “Mother,” she whispered. “Father. Did I do it right?” And then, said her disciples, she smiled and died.

Han Qing-jao, from Xenocide, by Orson Scott Card

In the third book in the series that begins with the far more commercially successful Ender’s Game, there is a planet called Path. Unbeknownst to the citizens of Path, they were genetically modified by the Starways Congress, overseer of multi-planetary colonization, to carry a godspoken gene. The genetic modification was designed to produce super-intelligence in its carriers. It was also designed to produce symptoms similar to obsessive compulsive disorder. This second symptom was a leash, a mechanism to permit Starways to benefit from the genius of the godspoken of Path while constraining them as a threat to the power of Congress. Part of that leash was necessarily cultural. That is, Starways simultaneously introduced a belief among the citizens of path that the godspoken who experienced both the positive and negative features of the modification were, in fact, hearing from and communing with the gods, cleansing and sanctifying themselves to receive the wisdom associated with their superintelligence.

The OCD-necessitated rituals required by the ‘gods’ of Path varied. Some godspoken were forced to wash their hands obsessively. Some performed violent, jerking movements or dances. Han Qing-jao traced the grains in wood floors until she felt clean. Embedded in the godspoken belief cultivated in the people of Path was the idea that the gods must always be clothed. They could not or would not appear or interfere directly.

This narrative would become very important indeed when certain of the book’s characters found a way to cure the people of Path of their genetic modification. You see, most of the citizens of Path were not blessed by the modification, and many of them had long been oppressed by the godspoken. For these citizens, the unclothing of the gods was a joyful development. That was even true for nearly all of the godspoken, who felt both betrayed by the Starways Congress and grateful to be freed from their affliction. But for one, for Han Qing-jao, both the superintelligence of the godspoken and the rituals demanded of them were the clothing that the gods wore to give gifts and commune with the people of Path. The removal of that clothing by the hands of man did not mean that the gods had ceased their demands, nor that she was free to cease her purification rituals. To the contrary, the collective apostasy invested by the citizens of Path in the removal of the gods’ genetic clothing, if anything, required further penance.

For Han Qing-jao, the revelation of reality thus became one more pillar of support for her delusion, rather than a cure for it.

When the narrative virologists who prophesied eight years of a King Cyrus embedded within their virus both the memes of A Faithful Remnant Returning and Haman’s Gallows, they built certain features into the core narrative. The first was the idea that to fulfill their calling, to be faithful to the Ancient Covenant and be rewarded with the promised harvest, the ekklesia would need to keep the faith in God’s promises, even when their Christian and conservative fellow-travelers had lost their own. The second was the idea that part of God’s promise was that He was going to use the tools of the enemy against it. Attempts at fraud and evil would not only fail. They would not only be revealed. They would backfire! They would be worked out so that the decrees of the apostles might come to pass, to reveal God’s hand and reward for their faithfulness in a way that no one might deny.

For the narrative virologists in our story, the revelation of reality thus became one more pillar of support for their delusions, rather than a cure for it.

So it was that when it became clear that Donald Trump had clearly, unequivocally lost the presidential election of 2020, when some of the godspoken began to quail, to feel relief that they no longer had to look for a new way that Trump might still win, there was a remnant of the faithful who persisted in their rituals. Like Han Qing-jao, they continued to trace their lines. More importantly, others began to see, like the pilgrims to Path, that they could place a small claim on that faithfulness and holiness by joining them in their empty ritual.

And so they did.

Source: Victory Channel “America Stands” coverage, November 4, 2020

Phase 1: “So that we will know it is God”

In the initial aftermath of the election on November 3, 2020, and especially when it was becoming clear that Joe Biden had been victorious, the apostolic-prophetic community was all over the map. Dutch Sheets was praying and decreeing against a “planned coup” by Occupy Wall Street, Antifa and Black Lives Matter. Robert Henderson and Lance Wallnau were commanding angels to oversee election counting taking place in Pennsylvania and Michigan during a livestream on election night. The Victory Channel demanded in its election coverage that the “spirit of communism” bow its knee, lest America become Zimbabwe.

As early as November 5th, however, a clear narrative had emerged: that God would miraculously overturn the election in such a way that His enemies would be toppled and no one could doubt that it was God who did it. It was a narrative rich with memes of Ancient Covenants, of A Faithful Remnant and of Haman’s Gallows. It embraced the phraseology of a sudden and surprising victory, an outcome that man could not have predicted. It was layered with the language of binding, calling those who had believed the prophets in the light to believe them in the darkness, reminding those who saw a unique covenantal relationship between God and America that faithfulness would be rewarded – and faithlessness judged severely.

This message spread in nearly identical format with nearly identical language from practically every noteworthy, public-facing corner of the apostolic-prophetic community. The old days of widely held private knowledge in the charismatic-Pentecostal church, of a thousand voices crying out in a different wilderness, were gone. The modern social networking environment had produced such profound epimemetic change and convergence in the underlying memes accessed by these prophets, apostles and intercessors that there was no longer any need for a period of call and response. No one needed to look around to see what the others were saying. They repeated the common knowledge in perfect unison.

The victory He promised will come. The miracle God is about to do will be something new—something we have never seen before. He is doing it this way, so we will know that it is God Who has brought this miracle, and we did not do it ourselves…

Those of us who are the remnant of God must enter into the chamber of God’s presence and let this storm pass. To be sure, there will be a powerful judgment from God, because He is going to topple arrogant villains.

Mario Murillo, originally posted on Mario Murillo Blog, accessed through Give Him 15 (November 5, 2020)

There is going to be a divine demonstration of the justice of God that is going to be seen in the United States of America. The demonstration of the Lord’s power and His justice to “OVERTURN” is upon the United States of America.

Lana Vawser, A Word for the United States of America, Elijah List (November 5, 2020)

Some prophetic voices have said this battle will look like the book of Esther. Haman, who thought he was being exalted, was instead hanged on his own gallows…As in all these cases, the enemy will think he has won. It will look like it’s over. Then suddenly, the victory will be seen. That’s exactly what has happened so far.

Dutch Sheets, Give Him 15 (November 10, 2020)

The enemy thinks he has secured great victories in this season, but I am the master of the chess board…I have sudden moves that Satan and corrupt men will not see coming…these moves will secure victory.

Rebecca Greenwood, via Give Him 15 (November 9, 2020)

The prophets have spoken that President Trump will win the election. And President Trump won the election! However, fraud – due to unprecedented and unsupervised write-in ballots, even after the election – reversed the results before our very eyes. We are dealing with a strong network of political demons that concocted an unholy strategy to steal this election…Never forget…it’s not the fat lady singing or the television networks that have the last word. GOD HAS THE LAST WORD!

Sid Roth, It Ain’t Over Till the Fat Lady Sings! (November 10, 2020)

This is something that God is doing—that God has done. He has set things up to do this. And I feel like we’re against the Red Sea. And we need to praise God. He is going to part the Red Sea. He’s going to destroy Pharaoh’s army. We need to praise him and know that now.

Eric Metaxas, on a since-deleted Facebook stream hosted by Jim Garlow, as transcribed by Right Wing Watch (November 15, 2020)

And the Spirit of the Lord says major key puzzle pieces are being released into the hands of those seeking truth, who are fighting for truth, these are connectors, pieces that are going to cause the entire picture to make sense says the Lord…I the Lord am destroying the axle of the operation, they will suddenly fall off, the ENTIRE QUIVER FULL SAYS THE LORD OF HOSTS THIS DAY, for it is Hunting season says the Lord and hunted they shall be says the Spirit. The super predator shall become shaken prey.

Amanda Grace, Words from the Lord on November 14th, 15th, and 17th 2020 (November 17, 2020)

For some who had been more strident in their prophecies of a Trump victory in 2020, this common knowledge afforded them the opportunity to transform the words they had delivered previously to better suit the zeitgeist. No one performed this dance more expertly than Kat Kerr, who had prophesied a “landslide” victory for Donald Trump. In the early days of the post-election period, she told Elijah List’s Steve Shultz in a since-deleted video interview that the landslide referred to a “landslide” of evidence of fraud that would result in Trump’s ultimate victory.

And then [God] said, ‘It will all start with one phone call.’ Those who have been perpetrating the lie, they’ve been paid to commit lies or stealing or cheating, will begin to get very nervous…let me tell you, conviction is going to come upon some of them in the lower levels; that’s what he meant about the landslide, the smaller rocks move first, which pulls the bigger ones down. And that’s what he meant when he said, ‘Trump will win by a landslide.’ 

Kat Kerr, DAY 10, NOV. 4: Kat Kerr/Steve Shultz – Election Day +1!, Elijah Streams

Still others within the prophetic-apostolic movement began to incorporate language that veered in another direction entirely. It is not unusual within any tradition to pray earnestly that God’s will would be done. If you are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer, you will know that this is central to how Jesus taught his disciples to pray. After an election has taken place, however, it is difficult to interpret a desire that God would “reverse the edicts of men” as anything other than a request that God, well, reverse the decisions that men made about who should be the president.

Let Your hand establish the outcome of this election, let Your hand and Your arms strengthen the outcome of this election right now. In the name of Jesus, we declare it will not be established by men.

Paula White-Cain, Election Prayer Service at City of Destiny Church, November 5, 2020

Immediately following the Esther fast was a sudden reversal of fortunes. This is the glory of the whole story of the God of Esther, the unseen God who moves to actually expose Haman in the courts…

God is the one who reverses the edicts of men using the church as an agent of righteous revolution to displace kings and overthrow their decrees through the weapons of fasting and prayer. I believe there are spiritual powers on heaven and earth that are moving in corruption and fraud…

I believe God is rising now. This exposure could bring forth a sudden shift of events.

Lou Engle, Expose Expose, November 5, 2020

And Lord, if it be your will and if it be necessary, another election, another voting day…Whatever it takes under your kingdom, oh God, to bring it all in line, bring it all in line, bring it all in line with the will of God

Terri Pearsons, Eagle Mountain Church in a now-deleted video accessed via (November 8, 2020)

I think we would go too far to assume these were intended as anti-democratic sentiments, although if you watched the entire Paula White-Cain event you could be forgiven for coming to a different conclusion. I also think that it is still useful to know when this kind of language first emerged. The nature of decrees the apostles were willing to make and the constitutional and legal standards they were willing to disregard grew rapidly over the weeks that followed. One of the primary engines for that growth emerged once the apostolic-prophetic movement lent its energies toward acting as a node for the amplification and verbatim retransmission of the claims of President Trump and his legal advisers.

Gene Bailey, Lance Wallnau, Dutch Sheets and Bill Johnson on Flashpoint, a new prophetic-oriented news program that charismatic televangelist Kenneth Copeland says God led him to create amid the election controversy of 2020. Source: Victory Channel, Rumble.

Phase 2: “We must expose!”

The specific claims of fraud made by the Trump campaign and its various retainers, of course, began almost immediately. By my reckoning, the transition of the apostolic-prophetic movement from a focus on promoting the narrative that God would perform a miracle to a new role as a mechanistic repeater node for those claims took a little bit longer.

By which I mean about a week.

They made up for lost time with thoroughness.

Around November 10th, a huge swath of the movement began a systematic process of promoting and decreeing the exposure of every single claim of electoral fraud, no matter how dubious. You might recall from Part 1 when we discussed the gifts of the spirit that gave the charismatic movement its name. What we didn’t discuss is that smack dab in between prophecy and speaking in tongues in the critical verse in 1 Corinthians is the spiritual gift of discernment.

Friends, it was in short supply.

On November 12, charismatic apostle Dutch Sheets began his campaign. Through his Give Him 15 website, he first promoted Sharpiegate, the silly assertion that election officials in Arizona were affecting votes by handing voters Sharpies instead of pens, the former of which could supposedly not be tabulated. He also called the claim “widely reported.” In reality, Sharpie votes get counted just fine, and it wasn’t “widely reported.” Some lady posted it in Facebook. The same day, Sheets promoted the claim that fraud was occurring through curing of provisional ballots in Georgia, a theory which emerged on the basis of a guy on Facebook named Zed who deleted his account shortly thereafter. He also promoted the claim of Georgia having a “statistically impossible” number of votes. Probably the least nutty claim was of the Biden-only nighttime ballot dump in Detroit. And I only say it is the least nutty because the claim at least resulted in a lawsuit. A lawsuit that was laughed out of court, to be sure, but hey, it was something!

His suggested concluding prayers make clear his belief in the existence of each of these frauds.

Lord, we will not stop praying for the full exposure of voter fraud in the 2020 elections, especially in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Let many reputable witnesses come forward with complaints so specific and verifiable that the need for investigations is clear...For Michigan, we decree that every detail of the ballot dumps will be made known.

Dutch Sheets, Give Him 15 (November 12, 2020)

Sheets continued on November 13 by repeating verbatim the various claims funneled by the Trump administration through anti-vax lawyer Leigh Dundas. They included boring claims like dead people supposedly voting en masse in Nevada. There were more exciting ideas, too. Remember that week where we heard about Benford’s Law proving fraud in Wisconsin (it didn’t), then about Twitter banning the phrase entirely (it didn’t)? Sheets adds the associated claim that “Mathematicians and statisticians are concluding that the voting numbers for Joe Biden in this state are statistically impossible.” He then pivots to the oft-repeated, evidence-free claims from the Trump campaign of GOP poll-watchers being thrown out of ballot-counting venues across Pennsylvania.

On the 20th, Sheets repeated Sidney Powell’s many discredited allegations, all of the Dominion claims, all of the “we’ve seen the algorithms that change votes” nonsense, all verbatim once again. He begins to entertain the various alternative outcomes that could change the winner, like the one-vote-per-state process in the House of Representatives. At this point, Sheets increasingly forgets to include that critical “if” or “alleged” in his references to fraud, stating unequivocally, “This is election fraud on a scale not seen before in America’s history.”

In short, he was kitchen sinking it. And he wasn’t the only one in the apostolic-prophetic community to do so.

  • Eric Metaxas, after suggesting “there’s nobody more sober-minded than Sidney Powell,” asserted that “the Dominion stuff was designed for voter fraud.” He then hosted Lance Wallnau and Joe Oltmann on a two-part podcast reiterating claims of collusion by Dominion employee Eric Coomer.
  • Pat Robertson told his viewers “There were many, many states where Dominion paid money to people to be allowed to count the ballots…it sickens you.”
  • George Pearsons, from Kenneth Copeland’s Eagle Mountain Church, claimed from the pulpit that “there are [ballots] through software that votes have changed,” before switching gears to mail-in voters submitting four ballots.
  • Prophet Johnny Enlow joined his voice to a chorus of assertions that Chinese money produced corrupted Dominion voting software, leading to a “Red Sea of control” over American elections. True to the form of the Haman’s Gallows meme, he then predicted that “the same Red Sea that did the controlling will now drown the very manipulators who have used it.”
  • Prophet Mario Murillo claimed a “mountain of evidence” indicating that Democrats used Chinese funding and Dominion voting machines to steal the election and alleges falsified mail-in ballots.
  • Prophet Lance Wallnau went to Facebook to share helpful illustrations of just how Dominion voting machines were being rigged.

Going far beyond the influence of any one individual, the primary media clearinghouses of the movement were central to the enmeshing of charismatic-Pentecostal voices and the movement with the Trump administration’s attempts to assert election fraud. Charisma magazine, for example, published the preposterous claims from Amir George that a national security supercomputer called the Hammer modified 3% of all votes. In classic fiat news fashion, this and many other claims leaned heavily on the classic passive voice construction, with frequent examples like, “it is believed the technology altered the election outcome.” Charisma also repeated Team Kraken claims of 3 million stolen votes, a Supreme Court backstop and then a House of Representatives backstop as evidence of a coming miracle from God. They repeated thumb drive theories, amplified by an old Hank Kunneman prophecy about a thumb drive that would signal when everything was going to change. Their news coverage treated the number of “fraudulent votes” in Trump’s lawsuits as priors. They published articles from contributors suggesting that Trump summarily impose “executive order 13848” to arrest and imprison those who clearly perpetrated the fraud.

Perhaps the most connected and highest transmission power node within these mesh networks, however, was the Victory Channel. Founded primarily as a venue for airing both Kenneth Copeland’s messages delivered through Eagle Mountain Church and those of other prophetic and apostolic ministries, Victory Channel and its prophets had covered the election and its aftermath through its America Stands programming. As the 2020 election became more contentious, however, Kenneth Copeland claimed to have been led by God to establish a more focused prophetic news program focused exclusively on God’s promises for this election.

He called that program Flashpoint.

You might remember Flashpoint featuring fairly prominently in Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Its first broadcast was on September 24, 2020. Thereafter, on a weekly basis during the post-election period, a recurring cast of characters from the apostolic-prophetic movement repeated verbatim and without any apparent due diligence practically all of the specific claims of fraud put forth by Ellis, Roger Stone, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani and others. Most of the videos from this period have been removed from YouTube as part of its heavy-handed and oppressive crackdown on “dangerous” free speech. The Victory Channel itself, however, continues to host each of the videos from its archive.

  • On the November 24 broadcast, Lance Wallnau repeats Team Kraken claims that Georgia election officials were bribed, along with the usual claims about China’s influence through HSBC lien-holder claims on Dominion patents. Gene Bailey shows a demonstration video of how Dominion machines were used to change votes. Hank Kunneman and Mario Murillo joined as well, but continued to focus more on the Haman’s Gallows prophecies that featured so prominently in Part 7. They all rejoice that the fraud will be exposed soon.
  • On the December 1 broadcast, Mario Murillo posited that the only reason all of the evidence from the claims had not been revealed is because of the forces of evil that control our country. Sid Roth reminded his compatriots and viewers not to fear, because “where two or more prophets” have agreed on anything, it is “settled,” a reiteration of our oft-stated argument that this movement’s dependence on confirmation made it particularly susceptible to narrative viruses. Hank Kunneman and Gene Bailey likewise threw their immediate support behind claims of “thumb drives discovered with votes.” They all rejoice that the fraud will be exposed soon.
  • On the December 3 broadcast, Kunneman, Bailey, Wallnau and Murillo discussed what “quickens in their spirit” upon seeing a then-famous video of a thumb drive supposedly used in Fulton County, Georgia to change votes. Wallnau reiterates Giuliani’s false claims about disallowed election observers as the group does a frame-by-frame review of the video. The prophets then discuss the “video evidence of ballots in hidden suitcases” in Georgia, the hundreds of thousands of ballots in several states and Pennsylvania truck driver claims, all of which claims ended up being demonstrated as thoroughly false. In an overflow video from that session, Kunneman asserts the specific claim that bribed election officials would begin to come forward. They all rejoice that the fraud will be exposed soon.
  • On the December 15th broadcast, Lance Wallnau was on a roll, repeating the Kraken assertions of machine manipulation in Michigan, Maricopa County, Arizona, Georgia and elsewhere. Bethel’s Bill Johnson and Dutch Sheets join the group, which proceeds to conduct a play-by-play on every claim in a Sidney Powell interview. They all rejoice that the fraud will be exposed soon.

And that’s when any possible remaining gap between the apostolic-prophetic movement within the charismatic-Pentecostal church and the Stop the Steal movement closed. How? By the full integration of its primary actors into nearly every weekly episode. Sidney Powell herself ran through all of her claims on Flashpoint on December 29th. The January 4th broadcast featured Jovan Pulitzer, origin of the claim of having “hacked the Georgia voting machines” and of there being “paper with bamboo” found as evidence of direct Chinese intervention. Ali Alexander came on a special January 5th edition to promote the Stop the Steal rallies that would take place the next day. On January 6th itself, Flashpoint ran yet another special edition in which Mike Lindell presented his entire catalog of machine switching, ballot faking and “packet capturing” claims…while Wallnau described for the audience how the capitol riots were really just Antifa.

Throughout this period, there was near universal common knowledge within this community, built on the powerful memetics of our mutated narrative virus, that God was going to use this to expose his enemies and the enemies of the church, to capture a triumph for the Faithful Remnant who had remembered America’s Ancient Covenant. I would describe the mood as an almost gleeful anger, but not in the mode of Churchill’s old quip that he likes a man who grins when he fights. This was an altogether different vernacular.

Kenneth Copeland preaching and/or practicing stand-up comedy at Hank Kunneman’s Lord of Hosts Church. Source: Eagle Mountain Church, YouTube, The Independent

And yet, beyond the laughter, it was perhaps inevitable that the Faithful Remnant would return once again to its familiar panopticon, the prison imposed by our involvement in norm-enforcing social networks that we discussed at length in Part 4. The post-election period was once again a time when dissent from the words of the prophets would not be tolerated. I guess you could say things were getting pretty Old Testamenty.

Most importantly, You are going to shake those that devised these plans of wickedness. Those that planned this coup against President Donald John Trump and the United States of America. They are going to be found out. Let them fear the Lord God Almighty, Maker of the Heavens and the Earth. It is time for their pride to be cut off. It is time for them to see who they have been plotting and planning against. You will no longer be mocked. This is Your covenant nation, Lord. These are Your promises and people. You have not forgotten us. We will war with You in Jesus’ Holy Name. Amen.

Dutch Sheets, Give Him 15 (November 22, 2020)

This is also when the confidence of the apostolic-prophetic movement that God would expose the works of the enemy in the electoral fraud perpetrated against God’s King Cyrus transformed into calls to action.

It was time for the ekklesia to take up its scepter and rule.

Charismatic-Pentecostal followers of Dutch Sheets gather in Philadelphia at 12:33 AM on December 2, 2020 to declare that “Valkyrie has fallen.” Source: Dutch Sheets Ministries, YouTube

Phase 3: “We must act!”

On November 16, in a medium-sized church just outside of Coudersport, Pennsylvania, the first of a series of emergency events was just beginning. Coudersport is a town of about 3,000 people, and you probably have no idea where it is. Imagine a triangle between Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia and draw a dot in the middle of it. That’s Coudersport. There’s a church there called the Coudersport Gospel Tabernacle. It is a Pentecostal church in submission to the apostolic reformation and polity promoted by many of our narrative virologists.

A charismatic apostle and prophet named Clay Nash from Omaha, Arkansas – a village maybe a half hour south of Branson, Missouri – dreamt this meeting into being.

On June 24th, 2020, Nash dreamed that Donald Trump was traveling to the headwaters of the Allegheny River, which are just a bit to the west of Coudersport. Dream Trump began to decree that “the original purposes of God for America would be accomplished,” and Nash felt that the dream called him and other intercessors to join the president in this decree.

On November 2, 2020, Nash dreamed once again about the “headwaters” of the Allegheny River. As he did with the first dream, he shared it with an apostle with whom his mesh network of influence frequently overlapped: Dutch Sheets. This being the day before the election, Sheets decided to fly as close as he could get to the headwaters of the Allegheny River to pray for the prophesied election outcome – and to ritualistically bury in the soil several pieces of patriotic and religious iconography. Along the way to north-central Pennsylvania, as Sheets describes later, he received a call from another prophet within his network to remind him of a dream from earlier that year. In this dream, Sheets was (please stay with me here, folks) playing football with Thomas Paine. Dream Paine was understood in the dream to say to Dream Sheets, “We must be encouraged to finish this war. We are on the battlefield. It looks at times like we won’t win, but if we persevere, we will win.”

When Paine delivered what common sense would only dictate was a perfect spiral, Sheets looked at the football. Triumph was written on it. Dream Sheets places the Triumph Football in the water, and it drifts toward the seat of America’s Ancient Covenant with God: Washington, D.C. In Washington D.C., Sheets later interpreted, the football would open to release triumph. Trump’s triumph. Or perhaps more accurately, God’s and the ekklesia’s triumph through Trump. After all, this prophetic dream spawned a series of events specifically designed to intercede against claims of electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Now, look, this is neither here nor there, but if we’re going to talk in deeply memetic terms about America, we are going to need just a little more precision about Thomas Paine, rivers and footballs.

There is perhaps no figure in early American history who would more loathe being drawn into the prophetic dream of a theologically conservative, inerrantist, dominion-oriented evangelical Christian than avowed deist Thomas Paine. To be clear, this essay series pulled no punches in its whole-hearted agreement with the contention that America has always been a culturally Christian nation back in Part 1. But Thomas Paine? You would not do very wrong to suggest that the entire third act of Paine’s life was not only influenced by but defined by the results of his unbridled antipathy toward Christian institutions. To make the choice in this case even more ironic, Paine saved his greatest fury for “revealed religion,” the texts and prophecies of men, as he saw it, which told men how to think about God. At its feet he would lay “the most detestable wickedness, the most horrid cruelties, and the greatest miseries that have afflicted the human race.” A contemporary account of the loneliness of his funeral on account of this kind of belligerence was blistering.

On my return from my journey, when I arrived near Harlem, on York island, I met the funeral of Tom Paine on the road. It was going on to East Chester. The followers were two negroes, the next a carriage with six drunken Irishmen, then a riding chair with two men in it, one of whom was asleep, and then an Irish Quaker on horseback. I stopped my sulkey to ask the Quaker what funeral it was; he said it was Paine, and that his friends as well as his enemies were all glad that he was gone, for he had tired his friends out by his intemperance and frailties.

From the London Packet, as reproduced in The Life of Thomas Paine, by Moncure Daniel Conway

By later accounts, it wasn’t six drunken Irishmen in the carriage, but instead Marguerite Brazier, who had fled France after her husband compared Napoleon with Cromwell, with her sons. And it was indeed a Quaker on the horse, but the man was Willett Hicks, who would later claim achieving a deathbed conversion of Paine. The rest of the account seems accurate, more or less.

More importantly, if you placed a football with triumph written on it in the Allegheny River at Coudersport, Pennsylvania, it ain’t going anywhere near Washington D.C., folks. If it never got hung up on anything, it would travel about 225 miles downstream of the Allegheny to Pittsburgh, where it would pass by the Steelers’ lovely Heinz Field a little over three days later. Now traveling on the Ohio River, about six and a half days later, it would float past Paul Brown Stadium, where the Cincinnati Bengals play. I think it would pass fairly close by the University of Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium, but let’s be honest: a football thrown by Thomas Paine has grander ambitions than ending up in a Big XII game.

About four days later, our football would pass by where the Ohio meets the Wabash, around Uniontown, Kentucky. If the football had some sort of artificial power, it could travel up the Wabash, bang a right at the White River around Mt. Carmel, Illinois and in a couple days see Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. But our football is just an ordinary football thrown to us in a dream by one of the founding fathers, so no Colts for us. For the same reason, we can’t head up the Cumberland River to watch the Titans waste another year of Derrick Henry’s career, either. And so, we must needs float along the Ohio until we join the Mississippi, then onward to St. Louis, where eight or so days after passing by Paul Brown Stadium, we pass mournfully by The Dome at America’s Center, where the St. Louis Rams would still play if the NFL owners were not the miserly bastards that they are. After that, it’s a lonely 10 days to Baton Rouge and Tiger Stadium, then another day down the river to the Superdome.

Let’s get creative. Let’s say for a moment that the football could swim upstream, and found a way to boogie up the Youghiogheny River. And then let’s say that it could jump over the Deep Creek Dam in Oakland, Maryland. Then let’s say you brought Uncle Rico to the clubhouse at the Lakeside Golf Club in Swanton, Maryland and he wanted to make a bet that he could throw a football over them mountains. Then, if you drove over to Dragon Head Beach, called Uncle Rico and told him to recite Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis from memory while chucking his football over Backbone Mountain, which rises some 400-500 feet above the surrounding area, and if he could manage to throw it a touch under 8 miles, then you could drop the football into Jennings Randolph Lake, and some, oh, 17 days later it might float underneath the Arlington Memorial Bridge.

OK, so why the silly little escapade here? It’s not as if there is anything wrong with the Allegheny River or Coudersport, Pennsylvania, or even having a dream about the founding fathers, even of grossly historically inaccurate caricatures of them, I suppose. And all joking aside, you don’t have to travel very far east of Coudersport to be in the Susquehanna watershed, which wouldn’t take you to D.C., but would at least take you to Baltimore and northern Chesapeake Bay. Highway 44 running south of Sweden Valley, Pennsylvania is more or less the drainage divide between these two watersheds.

But after reading seven essays, presumably attempting some measure of grace for people with different values and views, you deserve some seriousness. After writing and researching those very same essays, I don’t think I am out of line in asking for some seriousness myself. Or, if you please, some discernment.

In that spirit of discernment, we must grapple with the fact that the entire impetus toward action within the apostolic-prophetic movement for November and December 2020, the foundation of what would ultimately become a self-sustaining engine of unwavering support for Donald Trump and belief in an inherently broken electoral system, was built on a dream by a prophet from the backwoods of the Ozarks about a football with “Triumph” written on it, thrown by a founding father who famously loathed Christian institutions, especially at their intersection with government, to a modern-day apostle, at which point it manages to float to Washington D.C. along a river system that actually empties into the Gulf of Mexico, in order to unlock against all hope an electoral “triumph” for Trump,

When I say “the entire impetus toward action” of this movement in November and December 2020, I am not exaggerating. I mean precisely that.

In the same way we argued in Part 3 that Jeremiah Johnson’s 2016 prophecy was transformative, converting prophetic utterances about Trump as King Cyrus into an apostolic strategy for the charismatic-Pentecostal church to ensure his election, the collaboration of Pierce and Sheets in the post-election period in 2020 was transformative, converting prophetic utterances about exposing fraud into into an apostolic strategy for the charismatic-Pentecostal church to overturn those acts of fraud to ensure Trump’s re-election.

A couple days after the election, Dutch Sheets mentioned this series of dreams to Chuck Pierce, his part-time co-author, mentor, long-time funder and overlapping mesh network node. Pierce, who had previously issued a prophecy that this unsettled period would last through January 18th, 2021, had created a sense of urgency and a specific timeline for the unfolding strategy. He immediately suggested that Sheets take other members of the ekklesia back to the “headwaters of the Allegheny.” Pierce claimed, consistent with his history of promoting new age syncretic prophecies of places of power and ley lines, that prayers at the headwaters of the Allegheny would create a line of freedom with Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. A line of triumph for Donald Trump. That’s how this group ended up at the Coudersport Gospel Tabernacle on November 16, 2020 for what Sheets was convening as a “solemn assembly.” Solemnity, bear in mind, dear reader, is in the eye of the beholder.

Father, you showed me that America is in the red zone. And we thank You, Lord. We’re down on the 10-yard line, and Father, You’ve said that the ekklesia was pushing this thing through to the goal line. Father, You showed me that that Dutch was a fullback, and Donald Trump wore 45, dear God, as a running back, and the ball was pitched to Donald Trump, and then Dutch, representing the ekklesia, ran a sweep around to begin to cause what was in front of us, an iron curtain to begin to be penetrated, and as the ekklesia ran through the iron curtain, Father, You showed me that 45 carried this ball across the goal line, and America won the game.

Dr. Greg Hood, Praying for the Elections from Pennsylvania (November 16, 2020)

After Coudersport, Sheets, along with his brother Tim, took Nash, Hood and another group of itinerant prophets and apostles from associated mesh networks to Atlanta on November 21. Georgia, as you might remember, was ground central for many of Team Kraken’s fraud claims. There, they decreed as God’s legislative authority on earth, that every “hidden [work] of darkness” would be exposed, “from Governor Kemp’s office, from Secretary of State Raffenberger’s (sic) office, down through the House, down through the Senate.” They decreed Trump’s triumph.

God, bring angelic help and angelic visitation, Lord, to the legal team of Donald John the Beloved Trump. Lord, we decree, Lord, that a verdict is being made in heaven, Lord, that Trump triumphs.

Pray for the Nation: Georgia (November 21, 2020)

The party then traveled on November 22 to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they crammed shoulder-to-shoulder into Barbara Yoder’s Shekinah Church ministry. This was, incidentally, the day that 7-day COVID-19 cases peaked in Michigan, and about two weeks before deaths would peak at over 120 per day. It was a logical location for the apostolic strategy to unfold, as Michigan was also host to many of the most aggressive claims of fraud, especially overnight ballot dumps and “dead voters.” Hundreds of thousands of charismatic and Pentecostal Christians watched online through ministry websites, church websites, Facebook, YouTube and other streaming venues as a local pastor prophesied that “Big Blue would run red.”

On November 23nd, the Pray for America tour moved on to Maricopa County, Arizona, and the Fresh Start Church, an Assembly of God (Pentecostal) church. Maricopa County, of course, would later be the site of a Jericho March, and was a focal point for a variety of electoral fraud claims. The messages, prophecies and decrees from the various prophets and apostles participating in these meetings were largely consistent with earlier events, so I do not think there is much to be gained from repeating them. However, thus far in our essay series, we have treated the influence of these individuals on the narratives, language and common knowledge of the charismatic-Pentecostal as a given.

I think it is instructive to see the language used by those following these apostolic leaders. All of the memes are here. All of the narratives, the mutations. Remnants, ancient covenants, promises of harvests, Haman’s gallows and above all, near-perfect confidence in the reality of claims of electoral fraud. And some other things besides. You can see the full chat in the video streamed on YouTube, or the comments shared on Facebook. Here is a brief selection to give you a sense of just how distributed each of the features of the narrative virus had become by this point. Names have been redacted.

Selected chat contributions from Pray for America from Arizona (November 23, 2020). Source: YouTube

From Arizona, it was on to Wisconsin for a prayer service on the 24th, jointly hosted by two organizations: Lighthouse Church in Madison, and the Global Presence Center’s Madison campus. Lighthouse is a Global Spheres church, which means that it recognizes Chuck Pierce’s apostolic authority (it is his umbrella organization). Global Presence is an apostolic-prophetic ministry with campuses in a variety of locations, operated by Stephen and Rene Springer. As in the other meetings, this one took place in a prime state for Team Kraken claims of alleged “vote switching”, a claim dutifully repeated by our chief narrative virologists. It took place at the literal week when COVID cases and deaths peaked in Wisconsin. And it incorporated similar decrees regarding fraud, Trump’s triumph and the restoration of America’s Ancient Covenants. And yes, the participants in the livestream represent yet another opportunity to witness the effects of our narrative virus on the millions of ordinary people who took part in them remotely.

Selected chat contributions from Pray for America from Wisconsin (November 24, 2020). Source: YouTube

The roadshow took a break for the Thanksgiving weekend, but returned to action almost immediately on Monday, November 29th, this time in Las Vegas. Rather than belabor the point, let me assure you that every decree, claim and feature of the other events took place here as well. However, something else happened here that would cause the apostolic strategy to accelerate further still. More accurately, on the Sunday morning before the Las Vegas event, Stephen Springer – you may remember him as one of the co-hosts of the Wisconsin event – claimed to have a dream. He shared it with Dutch Sheets.

On the morning of November 28, in a dream I saw Independence Hall and the large clock tower! An Angel came and stood on top of the clock tower and shouted, ‘When the clock strikes 3:00 AM, Valkyrie will fall and will not sing, if the sons of the Kingdom will pray!’ I then saw fervent prayer taking place in the night and through the night, and it caused the witchcraft and curse to bounce back to the sender!

“There was then another group of warriors awakened, clothed in battle array, who was surrounded and led by a host of angels! One of the angels declared repeatedly, ‘The Commander’s judgments are supreme!!!’ It energized the warriors and they joined in with the declaration!

“I then saw the Scales of Justice tip and became perfectly balanced!!!”

Stephen Springer, A Dream Communicated to Various Prophets, Give Him 15 (December 1, 2020)

To paraphrase Sheets and those who would take up the mantle of the plan to make “Valkyrie Fall,” this was a purported prophetic dream that the apostles and prophets interpreted as a post-Allegheny headwaters strategy provided by God to thwart the designs of the enemy to steal the election from Donald Trump. If you are a student of history, you will know that “Operation Valkyrie” refers both to a series of German plans to stabilize and establish martial control over the country under certain contingent events, as well as to a plan by a group of German citizens and members of the military to kill Hitler. It therefore being unclear which group was being portrayed as the Nazis (although I suspect you can figure it out), the group leading the apostolic-prophetic movement’s strategy to resist the stolen election quickly embraced Valkyrie as the rallying cry. The last ditch. The moment when the corrupt would be exposed and dangle from Haman’s Gallows. Figuratively, of course.

And so, as they conducted and then traveled between the Las Vegas and then the New Mexico events, our prophets and apostles planned. Then they returned to Pittsburgh, to the Allegheny River, for their final event on December 1st. This event, however, would end with something that all of the other events did not: Operation Valkyrie.

After the Pittsburgh service, spiritual intercessors, prophets and apostles from each state would begin to decree the end to the wicked schemes to deny Donald Trump the presidency. The prayers would cascade at three minute intervals in the order of each state’s admission to the union, beginning with Delaware at 12:30 AM ET on December 2, 2020, and ending with Hawaii at 2:57 AM ET. At these events, they would use the decree that Dutch Sheets sent to each of them on the morning of December 1st, culminating in this text:

We decree the next 4 years of Donald John Trump’s Presidency will see the fruit of God’s divine Reset of America. We will experience a Third Great Awakening; we will return to our ancient paths and foundations, including being a voice of the gospel of the kingdom to all the earth; and America’s heart will be captured once again by her Creator, Yahweh.

Dutch Sheets, Valkyrie Decree (December 1, 2020)

When Valkyrie fell and sang no more, they believed, the Steal would be Stopped. The long-promised exposure would take place. Haman’s Gallows would be occupied. The Baal prophets would be knocked from their thrones. Trump would triumph. The Ancient Covenant would be restored, and the Third Great Awakening would be unleashed.

Oh sure, Jericho Marches and Stop the Steal marches took place in the intervening weeks. Plenty of opportunities to sell pillows. For all of the publicity these events received in popular media, however, they never approached the scale of the streamed prayer events that took place throughout intercessory networks, prophetic networks and apostolic networks during this period. And yes, there was a role that many of our narrative virologists played in fomenting and participating in the events of January 6th. But this isn’t an essay series about January 6th, or the rise of Christian nationalism, or anything like that. If you are interested in those topics – and they are intriguing – I can only recommend once again that you spend time with Matthew Taylor’s 6-part podcast I recommended several essays ago.

Ours, though, is a story about a story.

It is a story about how words led a community to a place in which common knowledge became a prison. It is a story about how epimemetic forces systematically created confirmation for prophets whose credibility was built on confirmation. It is a story about how apostles arrived at strategies that could now be shared with millions within moments while pastors waited for Sunday morning and politicians waited for Meet the Press.

It is a story about what happened to men who bet everything on a story that they needed to be true precisely at the point that it had become clear that it was not.

Phase 4: Zoonosis

Gene Bailey, Lance Wallnau, Hank Kunneman, General Flynn, Mike Lindell and Clay Clark come together on Flashpoint to discuss election fraud, Q-adjacent conspiracy theories and the upcoming “Health and Freedom” conference predecessor to the Reawaken America tour on April 1, 2021. Source: Victory Channel, Rumble.

The most interesting moment in the story of Han Qing-jao, I think, isn’t when the genetic modification is revealed for what it is. It isn’t even when she decides that its removal is just a new form of clothing the gods are wearing to require a more intentional faith. It is when all of the outsiders look and see that here there is an abiding faith that has faced a contrary reality and stayed true. Here there is an abiding faith to which we might attach our own ideas. Here there is an abiding faith we can commercialize for our own ends.

In any narrative virus, this is, to carry our virus analogy to its final point, the moment of zoonosis.

A zoonotic virus, in case you have been sleeping for the last three years, is one which is capable of transmission directly from a non-human species to a new human host. Many bird flu variants are zoonotic. West Nile. Rabies. And COVID-19…uh, probably.

When I describe a narrative virus as zoonotic, what I mean is that it achieved transmission from one distinct cultural sub-division with a set of governing narratives and ideas to a different cultural sub-division. In the same way that host genetics are so critical to determining whether physical viruses can begin to replicate within a new host, so too do host memetics determine whether narrative viruses can begin to replicate within a new host.

For that reason, sufficient memetic overlap between two populations can facilitate this. That is, if you drape an idea with enough of the core stories and values that tend to cross the boundaries between two human cultural groups, you can achieve zoonosis. Rebellion sells to kids, which is why you could still sell a pair of Levis to an East German teenager for three times retail as late as the early ’90s. Pacific Rim can’t sell its way out of a damp paper bag in the west, but fills theaters where Japanese kaiju and Chinese hairen are fundamental, well-established parts of storytelling culture. And sex sells everywhere. I think this happened – narrative zoonosis, not sex-selling, I mean – to some degree between the charismatic and evangelical church in America, and mostly in one direction. As we discussed in Part 4, the adaptation of the memes of our narrative virus not only influenced a meaningful portion of the evangelical world, it may have contributed to a shift in its fundamental beliefs. At least in practice, if not in stated doctrine. Remember: one third of Americans now believe in modern-day prophecy.

At this point, however, January 6th had passed. The absurdly and obviously unconstitutional attempt to convince or coerce Vice President Pence to accept an alternative slate of electors from the states in dispute had faded, despite the decrees of the apostles. The spurious lawsuits had run their course, and Biden had been inaugurated. Prophets who had apologized, then retracted their apologies while Operation Valkyrie proceeded, then reissued them.

Many of the godspoken were retreating into the woodwork, ready to become regular citizens of Path once again.

If the narrative virus that had become core to the identity of the apostolic-prophetic movement were to survive the breaking of its story in reality world, it would need new hosts. Hosts who needed it as much as it needed them. Sub-cultures from the mainstream, distinct species from the cultures that hosted the narrative virus during its evolution, might need the movement’s support to provide “charismatic zeal” to their more mainstream theology, as Joe Morecraft, founder of the Reformed Presbyterian Church, put it. Sub-cultures from the nominally irreligious fringes of society might need the movement’s support to provide access to the powerful networks of the newly religiously and politically connected charismatic-Pentecostal church.

Our narrative virus went zoonotic in both directions: toward the mainstream and toward the fringe. But the latter, more extreme sub-culture proved to be the more willing host, having already been infected by a narrative virus of its own. It was built of similar memetic stuff, a product of a kind of convergent evolution in narratives. And that made all the difference, I think. You see, we live in a world of mottes-and-baileys. It is a world in which expressing extreme views, retreating to more conventional ones, then pretending that they are the same is the way that politics is done at scale. In this world, the generators of those extreme views become the tone-setters, the narrative missionaries for practically every topic of interest – including the integrity of American elections.

Thus, the very last chapter of our story, I am sorry to say, tells not only of how our narrative virus went zoonotic to infect an irreligious conspiracy theory fringe, but how the governing narratives of that sub-culture went zoonotic to infect the charismatic-Pentecostal church in America in turn.

This is the chapter in our story which must tell of the QAnonification of the charismatic church, achieved through the narrative- and event-driven transformation of the identity of the apostolic-prophetic movement.

Lance Wallnau on the Jim Bakker show on January 28, 2021

Since so much of this phase of our story has necessarily focused on the role that the ministry of Dutch Sheets played in the final days of the charismatic Stop the Steal movement, it seems only fitting that he begin the story of the post-inauguration QAnonification.

On January 21st, 2021, three days after the date Chuck Pierce had prophesied would bring an end to the confusion and uncertainty around the election, and one day after Joseph Biden was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States, Dutch Sheets posted a dream sent to him by someone within his network. Rather than include its full text – it is long, and you can read it here – I will summarize. Kamala Harris is about to take a seat at the Resolute Desk. A lion moves to stop her. Harris smiles – she was expecting this – and hands a tranquilizer gun to a politician, who hesitates to use it to shoot the lion. A four-star general enters the room and puts a stop to the whole affair.

You don’t have to have the gift of Daniel or Joseph to interpret this ‘dream.’ The idea being innocently promoted is that Kamala Harris, whether that is a literal version of the vice president or a figurative representation of the far left, is trying to take over America, and that God will use the military to stop her. The text at least contemplates the involvement of the military. Sheets protests, of course, that this is only one among many interpretations, but in narrative world, the language is out there. And it would return.

Around this time, as many of the godspoken retreated, voices from the intersection of the QAnon movement and the charismatic-Pentecostal church began to emerge. Dave Hayes, known as “The Praying Medic” within the QAnon community, had been a guest on Sid Roth’s charismatic It’s Supernatural program for years. Around the same time that Sheets wink-wink-nudge-nudged the idea of a military coup in his app to facilitate daily prayer, Hayes suggested that outgoing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was sending coded messages that Trump had a plan, and might secretly have a path back to power. This idea of a secret plan, as you are probably aware, was the hallmark of many QAnon theories as well.

The adjacent notion that Trump was not only going to be forcefully reinstalled but was still the literal, actual President of the United States was immediately embraced by a wide range of voices from within the apostolic-prophetic movement in the wake of the inauguration of Biden. Johnny Enlow, two days after the inauguration, was perhaps the most strident, arguing that Trump was not only still the President of the United States, but the “primary government leader on Planet Earth.”

God is doing things with him…he’s not a passive player. He is recognized from heaven. He is recognized as the primary government leader on Planet Earth.

Johnny Enlow, THE PROMISE MAKER IS THE PROMISE KEEPER, Elijah Streams (January 22, 2021)

Lance Wallnau, Enlow’s Seven Mountains compatriot, went on the Jim Bakker show to express a similar idea.

I think people think, ‘He’s out of office, [we] have a new president,’ but what if God has an anointing on Donald Trump to be Cyrus, and there’s an illegal counterfeit in office?”

Lance Wallnau, Jim Bakker Show, as transcribed by Kyle Mantyla (January 28, 2021)

It was common, especially among those prophets who had been hangers-on to the main figures in the movement, to embrace the language underlying these ideas, even as they encountered their QAnon analogues in the wild. Robin Bullock, in February, confirmed that Biden was not “recognized by heaven” as president. Mario Murillo, in early February, was eager to urge Christians to leverage God’s history “revealing” conspiracies. Prophet Jeff Jansen, on the other hand, was saying the quiet part out loud, integrating both the belief that Trump was still the president and that the military would shortly be reinstating him.

Actually, the military is in control right now and they’ve already made their determination. Now it’s about execution. Now it’s about returning civil power after … the rightly, duly elected president from this past election comes forward and they expose the corruption, there will be civil power restored to the United States and that president will be Donald J. Trump.

Jeff Jansen, on a since-deleted Elijah Streams podcast (February 9, 2021)

Now, the core clearinghouses of charismatic-Pentecostal narratives – Charisma media and the Victory Channel – had not really gotten in the full swing of the new direction the narrative was going. They were not silent, to be clear, but mostly repeated many of the same mantras about exposure of evil schemes, giving Kat Kerr time to recast her prophecies a third time, and the like. It took time for a new version of the narrative virus to emerge. And it did, on April 1, 2021, when prophets Hank Kunneman and Lance Wallanu joined pillow magnate Mike Lindell and Flashpoint to welcome two newcomers: General Michael Flynn and Clay Clark.

We only briefly mentioned Clay Clark, a former wedding DJ turned business podcaster, in Part 2. Inspired by the words of charismatic word of faith preacher Kenneth Hagin that “there would be an atheistic, communist, Marxist and racially divisive spirit that would descend upon America” and that “the spark of the revival would start from Tulsa, Oklahoma,” Clark decided to establish a conference focused on both the COVID response and the fraud of the 2020 election that he would initially call the “Health and Freedom Conference.” Advertised first on the charismatic Flashpoint with the approval of the prophets and apostles, it held its inaugural meeting two months later.

You could do worse forming a snap judgment of the conference’s content than watching the first minute of the streamed video of the first day of the first conference there in Tulsa. What you’d see – the full video is here – is the conference’s founder Clay Clark kneeling on a stage at the Pentecostal Rhema Bible College to sign a Make America Great Again hat while a worship band plays Bethel’s “Raise a Hallelujah” in the background.

Alternatively, you might fast-forward to around minute 58 of the video. If you did, you would hear chants of “USA!” juxtaposed against a chorus of dozens of shofars, whereafter you would hear charismatic prophet Amanda Grace deliver the opening prayer. It transformed into a live prophecy about Christians in America.

The opening prayer at Clay Clark’s Health & Freedom Conference in Tulsa, Oklahoma in April 2021. Source: Rumble

You’ve seen at least one Amanda Grace election prophecy from November earlier in this essay. She issued a second prophecy that month, too. In it, she summons the now-familiar Haman’s Gallows meme, but she recasts Mordecai, the man who was supposed to be hanged on the gallows until God intervened through Esther’s kairos moment, as General Flynn, the man of the hour in this conference circuit.

Haman and his 10 sons are hanged on the gallows on the 13th day of the 12th month.

Next year is the 76 anniversary of the Nuremberg trials 10 Nazi officers hanged as Haman’s sons 7+6=13 the 13th of Adar is when the defense began of the Jews on Purim…

Let’s call Mordecai General Flynn…

Amanda Grace, Words of the Lord and Notes from November 24th, 2020 (November 24, 2020)

General Flynn could easily have occupied an honored position in Part 2, in which we discussed the chief carriers of the narrative virus and how they all had become enmeshed with the apostolic-prophetic movement within the American charismatic-Pentecostal church. After all, he had long been central to the Trump administration’s work to discredit elections, meeting multiple times with both Lindell and the President to develop his strategy. A lifelong Catholic adopted into the charismatic vernacular like so many others involved in the stolen election narrative, Flynn has also rapidly embraced and promoted nearly every conspiracy theory and fringe cause through his involvement with and leadership of the Health & Freedom Conference series, which was later rebranded with more explicitly religious wording as ReAwaken America. It is in this role that Flynn’s impact on this narrative pandemic has been far more significant.

While Flynn happily disavows QAnon as made-up nonsense, it is not hard to see how the convergent evolution of that particular narrative virus made it a near-perfect candidate for zoonosis with the charismatic-Pentecostal community’s version. Both narrative viruses were built from old memetics describing the deep state and its corruption. Both played on Faithful Remnant memes. Both embedded prophecies of a moment when the corruption would be exposed. Both were loaded with memetically powerful identification of globalists as a primary source of corruption. Both presumed the existence of a cabal of pedophiles at the heart of that globalist power, in the Deep State and in the Democratic Party. Both relied on heavily symbolic language, one because of the historical vernacular of “prophecy,” and one because of the very similar vernacular of conspiracy. Both even shared some of the very same language, most notably the idea of a “Great Awakening” as the reward for faithfulness, even if the groups differed in how they defined that reward and what the “Awakening” might be. It also probably didn’t hurt that many charismatic prophets had been happily prophesying that QAnon would be validated for years.

It is even easier to see how the ReAwaken America tour was designed and operated with facilitating this zoonosis between charismatic-Pentecostal and QAnon narrative viruses in mind. For example, around the same time that the tour was being planned, Flynn and former CEO Patrick Byrne were establishing a new 501(c)4 together. Byrne has famously embraced a wide range of conspiracy theories, has happily worked with a variety of noteworthy figures from Q on those projects (e.g. Juan Savin), and was a headlining speaker at the inaugural Health & Freedom event in Tulsa. Later that year Byrne would premiere his stolen election documentary-style film called The Deep Rig (based on a kinda-sorta e-book he published with the same name) at the Pentecostal Dream City Church in Phoenix, joined on stage by local QAnon figure BabyQ. You might remember Dream City Church from the anointing of Kari Lake we discussed briefly in Part 2. QAnon podcaster Ann Vandersteel has spoken at ReAwaken America several times. Scott McKay, QAnon “streetfighter” and Hitler apologist, was an honored guest, too.

But I said in Part 1 that I didn’t want to play the guilt-by-association game. Instead, just enjoy the 30-second synopsis of how transparently the conference series embraced the zoonosis as Lin Wood concludes a brief segment describing what God was going to do in the lives of conference-goers with refrains of “There’s your Q.” I will give you three guesses which comment earned Wood a standing ovation, and the first two don’t count.

Source: OANN, Health and Freedom Conference

This narrative zoonosis was a two-way street. Almost immediately, the major public-facing institutions of the apostolic-prophetic movement jumped into ReAwaken America’s Charismatic-QAnon syncretism with both feet. The Elijah List livestreamed it. Flashpoint promoted it on the Victory Channel. Charisma Media became its biggest sponsor, livestreamed it on their streaming video service, and sent Stephen Strang to speak at it.

Individual ministers joined the party, too. Eric Metaxas pushed the tour on his podcast. Prophet Lance Wallnau was practically a host. Sean Feucht, the former Bethel worship leader mentioned in a few places throughout this essay series, was a fixture. The aforementioned Greg Locke, too. Bill Cook, founder of the “Black Robe Regiment.” Apostle and prophet Rodney Howard-Browne, fundamental participant in both the Toronto Blessing and Brownsville revivals, hosted it at his church. Then again, Howard-Browne’s penchant for nearly all conspiracy theories nearly matches that of Patrick Byrne. Over the course of the next three years, they were joined by dozens of pastors, prophets, apostles and ministers, mostly from the charismatic-Pentecostal church and charismatic-tilting evangelical churches. Many more were present in the crowd. After all, tickets for pastors were discounted by 50%. It is unclear whether starting a Let’s Go Brandon chant (a stand-in phrase for “Fuck Joe Biden,” for the uninitiated) at one of the largest charismatic churches in the country would get you an additional discount.

The zoonosis did not manifest only in this particular tour.

In the wild, the godspoken were still tracing their lines, embracing new, more aggressive language to prophesy Trump’s reinstatement. Jeff Jansen was still out there for all of 2021 telling people that Trump was still the double-secret probation President, soon to be reinstalled by the military. Johnny Enlow, as was often the case, struck perhaps the most strident tone. It should not be surprising, since Enlow has explicitly and publicly lent his unvarnished support to QAnon theory.

“As I was praying today, I saw a vision of DJT seated on a throne holding a golden scepter. He also had a golden crown on his head. This, I was shown, is his PRESENT status from heaven’s perspective…. Heaven does not recognize [Biden] having any scepter nor wearing any crown…

[T]he prophetic word has been true all the way from Nov 3. On that date, DJT won the election ‘as spoken by His servants the prophets,’ IT WAS FULFILLED. The only thing presently yet to be made visible is will an outrageous steal hold for a whole term. It will not! The answer from God to the question of when is—SOON.

Johnny Enlow, The Prophets Were Right, Facebook (April 30, 2021)

Mike Lindell said the same thing to Steve Bannon. Robin Bullock prophesied that one of Biden’s stumbling episodes was a sign of his imminent fall. Charlie Shamp prophesied Biden’s impending death. Amanda Grace, Nathan French, Hank Kunneman, all of them joined the train of prophesying a late-2021 surprise. And make no mistake: this symptom of our narrative virus was continuing to exert outsized influence on its hosts. As late as June 2021, fully 30% of Republican voters continued to believe Trump would be reinstated that year.

But at the fringes of the apostolic-prophetic movement, our now-zoonotic virus was producing new symptoms. In March 2022, Steve Shultz of Elijah List first starting pushing the Devolution theory to subscribers to his newsletter through an interview with aforementioned QAnon figure Dave Hayes. If you are not familiar with Devolution, it is a conspiracy theory posited by a guy in the development office at a Catholic high school that the Biden administration was a mirage, and that Trump had passed certain executive orders that permitted him to pull the real strings of government from the background. As with similar theories for Trump’s inevitable reinstatement, it assumed that this reinstallation would take place through the military. It is absolutely bonkers stuff. But in the absence of Q drops after January 6th, it filled the vacuum left in our adjacent conspiracy-oriented narrative virus. It also made its way through to all of the subscribers to Elijah List and became part of the apostolic-prophetic vernacular.

If you know someone connected to the apostolic-prophetic community OR someone connected to this narrative virus through more traditional conspiracy theory channels, I am guessing that at some point in the last year, you may have been told that you should stock up on supplies and prepare for power outages, cell phone outages and loss of internet access. A lot of this is connected to the spread of Devolution and devolution-adjacent stories about how the military might need to act to reinstall President Trump. Within the charismatic-Pentecostal community, much of it was also connected to a rash of epimemetically self-reproducing prophecies warning vaguely about these outages. Like this one from Hank Kunneman, or this one from Nathan French, both people who had also issued prophecies about Trump’s reinstatement.

At this point, the zoonosis of the election fraud narrative virus of the charismatic-Pentecostal movement to the conspiracy theory-influenced far right, and the zoonosis of the QAnon narrative virus traveling in the other direction, were complete.

It would be a mistake, however, to conclude that this meant that our narrative virus was careening solely into the fringe. Quite to the contrary, the mainstream was careening into it. The very next Flashpoint episode after the one launching the ReAwaken America tour featured Donald Trump, Jr. and Lauren Boebert describing how the current administration and environment would disenfranchise, cancel and eliminate the Godly influence of The Right People. Both would become regulars on the program. By February 2022, the influence and staying power of the movement had become so compelling that Eric Trump himself began speaking at the ReAwaken America conferences. His wife Lara was at this point already a Flashpoint, Victory Channel and Elijah Streams mainstay. By 2023, Trump properties began hosting ReAwaken America events. At the very least, Eric and Lara were able to get them to rescind Hitler apologist Scott McKay’s invite to this particular celebration. Given that Don Jr. and Peter Navarro signed up for the Vegas event in August, it sounds like that smoothed things over nicely.

Source: ReAwaken America Tour

The former president himself called in to the conference, telling Michael Flynn, “You just have to stay healthy because we’re bringing you back.” Only a couple weeks prior, Trump also joined Flashpoint for one of his only interviews of the present political season. In the meantime, Michael Flynn has become a king-maker of sorts in various smaller scale elections. And the shortest odds for GOP vice presidential nominee in 2024 belong at 7/2 to Kari Lake, anointed by Pentecostal ministers, accompanied by Sean Feucht, surrounded by the shofar-blowing ekklesia during the Maricopa Jericho march, chief promoter of widespread electoral fraud among would-be elected officials.

In the same way that the zoonosis of narrative viruses between QAnon and the apostolic-prophetic movement has become nearly complete, so too has the zoonosis between the apostolic-prophetic movement and the mainstream, such as it is, of Republican politics.

There is no litmus test, no panopticon-enforced value with more signaling power in the world of conservative politics today than the ongoing belief in a stolen 2020 election.

There is no community, no sub-group of the population that is as steady and unwavering a bastion of support for those beliefs, than the charismatic-Pentecostal church in America, and the apostolic-prophetic movement in particular.

And so they travel from all of the known universe to Path to trace a line with the faithful Han Qing-jao.

It is a good story.

But the real story isn’t about General Flynn, Donald Trump or Kari Lake. It isn’t about prophets, the New Apostolic Reformation, eschatology or dominion theology. It isn’t about Christian nationalism. It isn’t about “why white evangelicals voted for Trump.” It isn’t about election integrity or even politics at all.

The real story is about the story. It is about how words and language can achieve power beyond any original intent of the author. It is about how social networking has transformed that power. It is about how events permitted that narrative power to mutate into forms that deeply affected the world of reality. It is about how this is a feature of human culture, not any special feature of the American church.

Because, you see, the charismatic-Pentecostal church in America is far from the only institution in our exceptional nation – and it is an exceptional nation – with prophets and panopticons. There are doctrines and memetic embeddings which infect institutions and communities of both the right and left, both faith-based and irreligious in the extreme. There are apostles and apostates to be found in a thousand places, all primed for a narrative that burrows its way into our identity, that changes what we need to be true.

And we need to talk about them. All of them.

We also need to talk about how, foreign as it sounds after telling some of the oldest stories, some of our newest technologies transform this risk by an order of magnitude.

And we will. This essay series will take a pause for a few weeks. What we want to do next is talk about this. Yes, if you want to talk about these events, by all means let us talk about them. But we also want to talk about the other examples that we know you have in mind, the institutions and groups prone to narrative viruses of a similar kind.

We hope you’ll join us this Friday, July 21st at 2PM to do exactly that. We’ll keep the conversation going, and then we will publish Part 9, an assemblage of what we think and what we have heard from you.

To learn more about Epsilon Theory and be notified when we release new content sign up here. You’ll receive an email every week and your information will never be shared with anyone else.


  1. Nine parts. I can only imagine how many hours of discussion went into this. Looking forward to all of it.

    @rguinn I was wondering: did you use the narrative machine retrospectively, whether wholly or in part, to identify the sources here?

  2. OK, I feel like I’m doing a crap job explaining this, so forget everything I just said and use this rule of thumb: if an American Christian willingly says “Yes, absolutely!” to the question “Are you a born-again Christian?” then they’re evangelical. If they cringe and grudgingly say, “Yeah, I mean, I guess so, but can you clarify what you mean?” they’re probably a non-evangelical, mainline Protestant. If they say, “OK, what are you selling?” they’re Catholic.

    As someone raised Catholic and currently attending an evangelical Baptist church I audibly guffawed at this paragraph. Absolute perfection.

  3. As a socially liberal and fiscally conservative Presbyterian who is probably more agnostic now and (yes a run-on sentence) am fully ingrained with the fact that our country’s laws are based on Presbyterian polity, I too laughed out loud at this statement.

    Levity, a good carrier for important considerations.

  4. Rusty,
    Curious to see what attention, if any, the doctrine of biblical innerancy will get in this series.

    As a teenager, I was baptized in and eventually pastored at a wonderful Foursquare church in Oregon. Additionally, for several years during that time, I lived with 4 Calivinist buddies of mine.
    During my years-long exposure to both charismatic Pentecostalism and Calvinism, I found over and over again how fundamentally problematic the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and literalism is for all churches, regardless of whether it’s the reformed Eric Metaxas/Wayne Grudem/John Piper type or the charismatic Pentecostal Benny Hinn type.

    In my experience, the “charismatic norms” (like prophesy), can be a really beautiful thing. But it’s when the charismatic norms (like prophesy) are connected to the doctrine of biblical inerrancy/literalism that things can go super sideways and do anything but “edify”. As I see it, inerrancy is the core virus that has been wreaking havoc in the churches (you name the tradition) and the world for centuries.

    Anyway, really looking forward to reading these notes.

  5. Three of the mentioned fellows will make at least a cameo appearance, but it isn’t necessarily a focus of the series. I agree that it would also be fascinating to see how that narrative - the soul of American evangelicalism, really - emerged and became common knowledge, but that would be a different series.

  6. In part, although as I think you’ll discover as we go along, our aim was to be thorough enough not to have to be stingy in our source selection.

  7. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    Man, fascinating stuff. Can’t wait to read the rest.

    I was raised mainline Protestant in NY in the 80s. Never even heard of Charismatics until I moved to TX as an adult.

    I think I understand why it is the fastest-growing branch of Christianity. Vs the stuff I was raised with, my first impression as an outsider is the level of passion and… hmm… immediacy.

    I’m assuming that this is the basic story we’re discussing, I had not heard it yet. It explains what some prophets need(ed?) to be true and why.

  8. This was a great and insightful read, @rguinn.

    “Like the Widening Gyre, the most effective vectors for effective astroturfing campaigns may focus not so much on changing common knowledge but on changing What We Need to Be True.”

    Inoculation against direct responsibilities is one of the fundamental traits of human beings’ proto-centralized religions. In a context of apparent lack of control, agency was projected outward.

    Witchcraft was the reason for pain without feeling guilty and gods’ (God) wrath for pain when feeling guilty in ancient cultures.

    In this context of apparent lack of control (post 2008), changing what we need to be true is an escape from direct responsibilities when focusing on the excuses that explain the individual or collective failure as an out-of-control external factor (spiritual: evil-witchcraft- the devil or kind of real threats: immigrants - woke - deep state), that apparently has agency and goes directly against you as a cosmic good vs. evil fight. So, it’s the perfect context for this phenomenon to emerge in the American-style, spirit-filled charismatic Christianity.

    Low locus of control (direct control over outcomes) + belief in miracles (indirect control over outcomes) + best in class already system of memes (Christianity).

  9. You’ve got it nailed. Only I think that we will discover that there are many more areas of our society and culture which exhibit very similar traits in very different wrappers.

  10. Really interesting start…as someone who has walked among the movements you reference, I’m looking forward to your reflections and observations.

    I’ll just observe here that the role of discernment has always been the weak link when it comes to Pentacostal/Charismatic movements.

  11. I think increasing pursuit of experiential faith - whether that faith is in something religious or secular - is an endemic feature of the long now. So yes, I think this is right. I also think it’s a broader thing happening rather than anything idiosyncratic to this movement.

  12. 100%

    From John Gray:

    “ More than the faux-Marxian musings of postmodern thinkers, it is the singular American faith in national redemption that drives the woke insurgency. The self-imposed inquisitorial regime in universities and newspapers — where editors and journalists, professors and students are encouraged to sniff out and report heresy so it can be exposed and exorcised — smacks of Salem more than Leningrad. Saturated with Christian theology, Locke’s Enlightenment liberalism is reverting to a more primordial version of the founding faith. America is changing, radically and irreversibly, but it is also staying the same.”

  13. I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.
    -Thomas Jefferson

    I can’t think of any other group that can take on politics, economic and now religion like the ‘cast of characters’ at Epsilon Theory. Know that this note, IMO, is about the “widespread narrative virus” we have discussed over the last four years regarding politics and economics. I am comfortable adding religion to swim in these narrative waters.

    After reading Rusty’s note many times, here’s what stood out the most to me:

    “As we meet these people, I think it’s important to be clear: I have less than zero animus (hostility*) toward charismatic Christians or their beliefs. These are my people, my friends, my family. They’re who I grew up with. I LOVE these weirdos, even if the opportunity as an adult to consider my own beliefs has made all of this seem almost as weird to me as it will seem to you. Don’t read this as the old guilt-by-association game. I am not trying to convince you that those beliefs or language make any of these people guilty, bad, stupid, malicious or anything else (although some of these folks end up checking all four of those boxes for other reasons entirely).
    I’m simply trying to convince you that the carriers ARE adhering to specific charismatic norms, so that we can then start answering how on earth an edge-of-the-mainstream cultural sub-group ended up in a perfectly overlapping circle with all of the conspiracy theory symptoms of a particular widespread narrative virus.”
    (*edited by me: bold print and definition of animus)


  14. That makes one of us, Jim! :sweat_smile: But I am grateful for the vote of confidence!

  15. Avatar for KCP KCP says:

    Why do i get the feeling that Kirk just ordered Sulu to hit Warp Speed and it’s gonna kick in on Monday?

  16. I’m not comfortable - there should be something here to ensure discomfort for just about everyone - but focused and challenged to stretch my thinking.

    Looking forward to the chapter(s) with Francis Schaefer and Jerry Falwell.

    Thanks Rusty.

  17. “ there should be something here to ensure discomfort for just about everyone - but focused and challenged to stretch my thinking.”

    Yes. Thank you Ed.


  18. Parts 3 and 5, respectively.

  19. I don’t know the shape of the next eight parts, but is there a tie-in to the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ people in there or are they too far out of the umbrella of what you’re covering? Since I know admittedly very little about the Charismatics I find myself very interested to see where this all goes.

  20. The “prosperity gospel” preachers are a subset of a movement that claims much greater authority to decree various outcomes (i.e. more than just personal wealth) in the material world, so in a way, yes. You’ll also find (in Part 2) some discussion of how the prosperity gospel preachers in particular appealed to DJT as what he called “a good racket” in a way that gave other charismatic ministers and personalities both access and credibility that they had lacked before. But not a great deal on that topic specifically. Interesting as it is, it remains somewhat out-of-scope.

  21. Thanks for this article; it reminded me of this one. Tremendous writing which I think is worthy of sharing on Epsilon. I live in Oberlin OH and would note that the zeal of the students (and the enabling administration) on the Oberlin campus seems to have abated a bit after their endowment fund took that large hit over the bakery fiasco.

  22. Having completed Part 2, I hope you will consider a print version of the complete series, including the references.

  23. A word of appreciation before I read Part 2. Thank you, Rusty, for doing the hard work and creating a series of much interest in my household.

  24. It has been a beautiful reminder to me that I know so little about so much of interest out there!

  25. Absolutely.

    From the perspective of a Phoenix native living in semi-rural Arizona I can tell you that there is nothing about this that is inaccurate, in my direct experience. Having sat in Tommy Barnett’s church on a couple of occasions, broken bread with Oath-Keeper-adjacent neighbors, and attended local government meetings protested by Proud Boys I can attest to the veracity of this battle in the narrative and culture wars.

    As I remarked earlier there will probably be much in this series that will make readers uncomfortable, particularly so for the agnostic or atheist. I believe this series, this exploration, is a rare gift.

    It honestly makes me deeply sad that some may come away thinking that it’s just more evidence that the whole cloth of Christianity is trash. I get that it’s possible - even logical - to believe that.

    Augustine was a pivotal writer and thinker about a narrative and movement that both preceded and vastly exceeds him. It’s not for nothing that at the heart of narrative are words, and that “In the beginning was the Word…”

    Thanks again Rusty. Looking forward to the discussion!

  26. Thanks Rusty for all the research and thoughtful insights into these political/religious grifters. I recognize many of the names just from skimming the headlines, but don’t know the details about the tours and TV shows. You haven’t mentioned it yet, but I’m willing to bet there is significant money being taken from the cult followers pockets at these events. At least Mike Lindell is upfront about the tour being a promotion event for his pillow business.

    I’m originally from the Midwest and many of my relatives are decent people, but have fallen into the Q narrative trap because they’re hearing it at church. My relatives being “good Christians” believe if they hear it from a man of the cloth then it must be true.

    I recall visiting a Pentecostal church in 1992 and being handed a voting guide with the “recommended” candidates highlighted. Needless to say Bill Clinton was not the preferred POTUS candidate. I’m not sure if the word “dominion” came up in the sermon that day, but it was certainly strongly implied that evangelical Christians had the duty to be the army of God fighting the evil non-believers.

  27. Quick heads up that we’re condensing the comment section for the series to a single thread that will show up at the bottom of each note, mostly because that seems like the way people seemed to want to interact. If there is a single topic or idea that you wanted to pull out of the main thread, however, please feel free to start a new topic directly on the forum.

    We’ll try to mark in the thread where each new note was published to help keep people’s comments a bit clearer.

  28. Forgive me but the article you referenced was a terrible read. The term “woke” is used liberally (excuse the pun), but no key member of this movement is ever identified other than examples of relics from the past. The “woke” that this person is talking about is a cartoon in this case, an other being that doesn’t wholly exist in reality.

  29. @rguinn This seems like it’s going to be an incredible piece of work and I appreciate you sharing it with the world. I don’t think there is many people who are able to tread these waters while being able to bridge the gap but based on your previous work I think you are probably one of them. Having no first hand insight into the minds of the people and religion you are exploring, it’s already been an enlightening read.

  30. I think there are cartoonish features in the John Gray piece, and I think you’re right to observe that the author makes a lot of claims without providing many specific examples.

    But without meaning to speak for Marcos, I think there is a narrow point being made by Gray that there are inquisitorial qualities to the handling of off-narrative views that look very much like religious norms-enforcement even outside of explicitly religious settings. If we can look past Gray’s generalizing of the triumph of intersectionalism in the academy and other cultural institutions with blanket “wokeism” language, I think that’s an entirely fair assertion. It is certainly one we intend to explore, anyway!

  31. What part discusses the woke leftists who do not acknowledge facts but pervert the facts to meet their narrative? For example, read what Gorsuch wrote in 303 Creative LLC v. Elenis pg 19 second paragraph after “V” “When the dissent finally gets around to that question— more than halfway into its opinion—it reimagines the facts of this case from top to bottom. The dissent claims that Colorado wishes to regulate Ms. Smith’s “conduct,” not her speech.”

  32. Brian, I feel like Part 1 and the forum discussion thus far both seem to express pretty clearly that this is being presented as a case study that has larger implications in mind, including some of what appears to be on yours. One of the things I value most about this community is that I know I can trust it to hear a story without needing to be constantly reminded that there are analogous stories and events not being mentioned explicitly that also warrant our attention, or which exhibit very similar tendencies.

  33. Rusty, are we entering into Soul! wars? A battle for the Soul! of a country, the Soul! of an institution, the Soul! of a community?

    What do I need to be true? That Trust is not lost, for when Trust is lost, the search for Soul begins.

  34. Context is important (June 2020 piece)

    This is the main point:
    “Salem more than Leningrad”.

    This is the consequence:
    “America is changing, radically and irreversibly, but it is also staying the same.”

    Same (Jungian) archetypes, different memes?

  35. Maybe even the same memes in different environments and context.

  36. Great journey @rguinn with Part 2.

    What about S. Bannon? Maybe he doesn’t fit into this story, but it definitely has an obscure spiritual background and a ‘cosmic battle’ mindset, don’t you think?

  37. No doubt about it. If the focus were Jan 6 more specifically, I think that he would have been indispensable. Even on this topic he could have been mentioned (and was in early drafts), but the number of other threads you have to cover to adequately explain Bannon’s influence and role always felt very distracting on any re-read I did.

  38. Avatar for Pat_W Pat_W says:

    I enter this series as a very confused reader. I have little experiential knowledge of religion. Zen koans and meditation in nature do not count.

    I grabbed the reference to the Asuza Street Revival and looked it up on Wikipedia. I am reminded of the intense revivals that went on every weekend at lake Merritt in Oakland around the same time in the early 1900s. Both of my paternal grandparents attended Berkeley U. in the latter 19teens and were quite familiar with those revivals, but as astonished onlookers.

    My grandparents were on the side of science and engineering. They were liberals, possibly with a capital L. I only know that they inoculated their children, and by extension succeeding generations, against religious beliefs. They sent my dad to every church in town to attend for months until he could explain what the people believed. At age 11, when he came home and used the n-word, the next Sunday found him enrolled in a nearby Black church’s bible class. Of course, the mostly elderly congregation treated him kindly, but all he came to understand was that they believed Jesus would heal their aching hearts. Or something.

    We were supposed to learn what other people believed and think for ourselves. We were sent to church to join the choirs and learn to sing. Man, was that fun!

    So I find all this mystifying even though I have experience with the emotions of cults and can relate from that angle. I know I will take useful knowledge from the series, but will have to look up a LOT of these references. Gonna be a heavy slog, and I’m learning as much from the comments as from the notes. Thanks to all.

  39. I’m sorry you feel that way, Peter! I’m still grateful that you took the time to read it. If you’d like to talk more about anything, please feel free to send me a DM on the forum.

  40. @rguinn

    On some of these writings/comments, I always feel like the kid in the back of the class who is struggling to grasp the mysteries of addition…so with that, here goes what I have been struggling with here…

    I was raised extremely Catholic although lapsed myself when able to express my own views. But that said, aside from some leaps of logic (faith), I usually chalked things up to “do the right thing, and be a good person”. Since then, I usually avoid churches outside of weddings/funerals/etc.

    When reading the first 3 parts, without being familiar with the specifics of the individuals or movements, I keep coming back to one thing, and that is - is this sort of belief system this widespread where that number of people are willing to follow these leaps of logic blindly? It is the same thing I have asked myself a lot over the last 7-8yrs, but are all of these various churches really reading from the same “prayer books” being peddled by the individuals discussed here? I struggle to think that many people blindly believe whatever someone tells them…or maybe an “emperor’s new clothes” situation where no one wants to be accused of being a bad Christian so they go along…

    Maybe it comes from the fact our family doesn’t actively seek out situations to have these conversations, and at least my poker face is not good enough to withhold the “WTF” face if I were listening to someone explain this. But I seriously struggle to believe there are that many people who truly believe some of this.

    Is this my own naivety/isolation or are we only explaining a small fraction of the people who are the loudest protestors around the election situation?

  41. It’s a really good question! I think that there is tremendous evidence that the belief system is widespread. I also don’t think that it’s fair to say that anyone being referred to here is following anything “blindly.” Most of the really passionate participants study, read and think about these things far more than most of us think about things that we feel very strongly about.

    Part of what I’m trying to convey through this series is a sense of empathy for just how easy it is to dive into what looks like the deep end to the rest of the world when the stories have both inherent power AND align with things that we need to be true. We are ALL suckers for a good story, and when it’s tailored for us? Ooh boy. So yes, there are a LOT of people who believe all of this. And (we’ll get here, I promise) there are a lot of people who believe other things that can be plotted on a similar scale. There but for the grace of, well…anyway, every once in a while when I start really thinking one of my ideas is special, my wife will send me this meme.


  42. TIL how “good Christians” could vote for TFG…twice! I previously had loosely bought into the Liberal memes that the Christian votes were mostly based on racism due to Trump starting his campaign in 2012 with the Obama “birther meme”, but part 3 leads to a much more insidious rationale than pure racism.

    The one thing all the characters introduced in Part 3 have in common seems to be 7-figure incomes. As TV man Don Ohlmeyer said, “The answers to all your questions is money.”

    Thanks for the history lesson, got my $20 worth today.

  43. Rusty:
    When I approached you at ET Connect with a question about how AI might help in bridging the gap in the reconciling the nature of man as presented by St, Augustine in the cities of Man and God, you answered that you would be addressing that in a new series of notes. But as I read your new notes, I can see that you are going well beyond that. At Connect, there was quite a bit of discussion about defining what’s next for ET, What you are doing in using a case study of how a fundamental change in the religious charter of charismatic Christians (from saving individual souls to dominion control of civic organizations) was a catalyst for destroying institutional confidence in our election process is an eye-opener. Anecdotally, there appears to be a similar attack underway on the institutional credibility of the Supreme Court by other forces to change the narrative on what the court has actually done and will do. We definitely live in a “Fiat” world. But I digress. Thanks for your good work. You did good job in identifying denominational differences. I’m a lifelong Methodist. Your observation regarding our indecision regarding who we are is a pretty astute.

  44. Bravo for taking this on. It is stretching my vocabulary and understanding at the same time. It took me longer than the recommended reading time due to all of the rabbit holes I fell into given my complete lack of awareness of so much of this world. This is like learning a new language that we all need to know to walk among our fellow travelers.

  45. Having read part 3 now, I appreciate how deeply you’ve gone into all of this.

    Another random observation from my journey: Pentecostalist/Charismatic organizations measure their success in the capitalistic metric of membership growth, necessarily accompanied by greater income, which is taken to be the measure of God’s blessing.

    Sheets’ fistful of dollars aren’t paraded about accidentally, to the faithful they are the tangible proof that God is blessing his ministry.

    To the non-faithful they are the proof that his ministry isn’t at all like Jesus’, but the non-faithful aren’t listening so…

  46. I think that you’re right. I think that DEI/ESG, Critical Theories (of various ilks), Climate Science (Both Directions), Anti-Vaxx, Scientism all share some features of our narrative virus. I’d been meaning to talk to @bhunt about it, but I think we may do a special Office Hours segment between Parts 8 and 9 to hear more of the analogs that came to mind for readers. Part 9 is intended to be fully about that. I don’t think I’m spoiling any reveals to say that its conclusion will be that this particular narrative virus is not unique.

    Thank you, Barry. Six generations deep of Methodist tradition on my dad’s side helps!

    Me, too. I hope the ultimate exchange for the investment of time proves to be worth it. Thanks for your trust!

    This is a very good observation.

    One of the things I’ve tried to be careful about is talking too much about the money. It is very easy to use as a general purpose cudgel for people whose aim is to say “Look at these charlatans”, and none of that is really the aim of the essay series. At all. The opposite - empathy - would be nearer the mark.

    That said, whether it’s reasonable or unreasonable to consider a sharp rise in giving a blessing of the ministry (who am I to say?), I think we can say with some confidence that it affects What We Need to Be True. If we learn that converting our ministry to the issuing of election-related decrees produces five times the annual financial support of a ministry focused on more garden-variety teaching and prayer, it will affect how we much we need what we’re saying in the former to be seen as true. There’ll be a little bit of that discussion in Part 7.

  47. Rusty, this has been a welcomed eye-opener for me, as I was previously familiar with none of the apostles or prophets featured in Note 3. Thank you.

  48. Rusty,

    I started off highlighting part 3 and very quickly switched to a paint roller…

    We need more than memetics to explain that – we need epimemetics.
    I understand basic epigenitics and its extension into epigenetics of trauma. It’s a small step to epimemetics.

    Six more parts to go. I’m off to Staples to pick up more ink.

    Note: I also see this on ‘both sides of the aisle’ politically and 'both sides of main stream media." It is, IMO, very much embedded in language itself. In other words, The Word, TM, is NOT a non fungible token. Words are very fungible at best. They are very useful as a tool of man.

    I had a good Christian upbringing, IMO, and evolved into a Unitarian.


  49. It’s what an increasing number of the faithful are listening to these days that is deeply worrisome.
    I’m grateful to Rusty for chronicling these events for posterity.

  50. Only because it represents a great opportunity to present the distinction between two kinda/sorta related concepts, I want to point out that mimetics and memetics are different things! Part 3 was nominally about memetics, although mimesis certainly exerts a certain power over the propagation of many memes and narratives. Mimetics has a home on Epsilon Theory as well, however, and if you’re not read out at this point in our series, it’s never a bad time to re-recommend @Luke_Burgis’s excellent contribution to our pages from late 2021.

  51. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    Faithful Remnant

  52. 100% the same meme. I think (hope?) the other components are less analogous!

  53. Your epimemetic phases rang a bell:

    The development of language.

    The development of the printing press.

    The development of television and radio.

    I might also add “the development of periodicals” in the early 18th century.

    Here’s an admittedly oversimplified take, but sometimes simplicity is revelatory:

    What do all of them have in common?

    Revolution. Both politically and intellectually. At least of the three that we have historical records of, though one might argue that myths like the Tower of Babel suggest something similar happened with the initial development of language too.

    After the printing press came Luther, and after Luther came a century of religious wars, finally settled in the mid-17th century with what today looks like the nascence of religious freedom and the separation of church and state.

    After the periodical came Walpole, then Franklin, and then Burke and Jefferson and Smith but also Robespierre and Napoleon. And through - or despite - the bloody revolutions, a framework for lasting representative government was also developed. Also an understanding of human interaction that we now call economics.

    After the radio and film came Lenin, and then Mussolini and Hitler and Stalin, but also Roosevelt and Churchill and Kennedy - and perhaps Reagan as well. Propaganda initially used for totalitarianism that led to cataclysm and genocide but also eventually for victory, stability, commerce, and a half-century of widespread peace.

    After social media came Trump, and perhaps Xi as well (in his own sphere), but others will certainly come too. And new ideas as well. History tells us it may not be pleasant, but when we’re all exhausted from fighting each other often something good comes out of it.

  54. F*cking hell, @rguinn. The scholarship and evidentiary work here is off the charts.

    Without question, the most fascinating thing for me has been the education I’ve gotten about Christian denominations—and denominations isn’t really the right word; it’s more about the major fault lines in belief.

    As a Jewish kid from Philadelphia, my understanding of Christian beliefs is limited, understandably. Initially, you were all just “goyim”, a term which belies my Ashkenazic roots (my maternal grandparents were immigrants in the 1930s). That understanding became slightly more nuanced in my 20s, when I felt confident the Christian world could be neatly categorized into three groups (and I hope anyone reading this does not take offense):

    1. Catholics & Orthodox (the most religious - kind of like Hasidim in Judaism, but without the side curls)
    2. Quiet Protestants (more modern & reformed)
    3. Loud Protestants (like #2, but more publicly Jesus-y and occasionally driven to proselytize and convert people)

    I had assumed in the US that Quiet Protestants were the largest group, which seems in retrospect to have been lazy thinking on my part, driven perhaps solely by me extrapolating from my own personal circumstances and the lack of “loud Protestants” in my social circle. And I had thought all Loud Protestants were of the Copeland/Falwell variety since, if I was watching TV on a Sunday morning in the early days of cable, I had to flip through their programs until I found WRESTLING.

    So your exposition of the differences between the evangelical and the charismatic groups, as tortured as you thought it was, was massively enlightening. This, combined with Part 4, explains why, in my ignorant eyes, the Loud Protestants seemed to become so ubiquitous. They actually were fairly widespread already, but the vectors of charismatic music and social media democratization and delivery created a massive narrative convergence, at least in terms of political expression.

    I am struck though by how mainstream the doctrinal prison seems to have become. Maybe I am still underestimating the size of the charismatic/evangelical political footprint. Or, just as likely, it is the dominance of Fiat news outlets and spokespeople that is defining the world in this Long Now way. The rhetoric is white-hot though. I am glad I live overseas. It insulates me in many ways.

    One more thing… I saw @handshaw brought this up and I will confess that I, too, was conflating the terms mimesis and memesis, which (as it did for Rusty) led me specifically to thinking about how @Luke_Burgis speaks of “thin” and “thick” desires. In one of his Substack notes, Luke writes:

    Thin desires are highly mimetic, socially-derived, fleeting, easily blown away in the mimetic winds of the present moment. They’re not able to explore or even kick the tires of current categories and definitions.

    Thick desires, on the other hand, are rooted in something real. They’re built-up over time; they are like layer upon layer of strong rock that sits under the surface of a pile of leafes; they have a history and continuity .

    I am trying to reconcile these concepts with the ET ideas of “what everybody knows that everybody knows” (WEKTEK) and “what we need to be true” (WWNTBT). For example, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the top 100 songs are an example of WEKTEK, which seems like a thin sort of mimesis in Luke B terms. But there is clearly something “thick” about the base of religious sentiment, which I think in ET terms definitely falls under WWNTBT. I don’t know that I have anything more insightful to say about that, just that it is something that I’m ruminating on now.

    Thanks for this extraordinary piece of work.

  55. Quite to the contrary, you’ve given me about three or four things to think about, new ways of phrasing things and brilliant ideas already. I’m really grateful for your contribution to this conversation, JD, and for the admittedly serious investment of time you trusted me with in reading.

  56. I guess I hadn’t been thinking of it in those terms, but yes, I think that you’re right. It is a thought that gives one both pause and hope, which is the best kind, I think!

  57. Point of order, if you will.

    Pause for a moment.

    While as an aging boomer, I am very comfortable swimming within the gaps of epsilon theory, I would not have been as a youngster.

    My journey down this rabbit hole was kick-started by an article in Psychology Today discussing Roman Catholic priest John S Dunne’s book “The Way of All the Earth.”

    I read his book in the ’70s, reread in 2018, and reviewed it again this week. Dunne talks about passing over (in Epsilon Theory talk) into the waters of uncertainty and returning to one’s faith stronger.

    We’re halfway through Rusty’s notes.

    I remain very comfortable being here. I’d be the first to let Rusty know if it fits into my serendipity synchronicity coming-of-age journey. I’m sure we all will.

    Thank you,

  58. Oh, and by the way.

    These notes, IMO, apply to every large action role playing use of the tool of language by tool maker man.


  59. OK, I just finished Part 4 and am sweating only partly because of reading while on the stairstepper.

    Beth Moore’s savage beatdown by Johnny Enlow and others for her willingness to disagree with Trumpism (King Cyrus, Broken vessel meme) seems to have a strong Machiavellian component to it.
    By that I mean ANY argument necessary to “win” by Enlow was willingly employed - in fact, he very likely believes God influenced his response (yeah, that’s my judgement, deal with it). Where do rational people of conscience within these evangelical communities find refuge?

    Where might this end when arguments cease to be adequately effective weapons? One could turn to non-verbal weapons and, since anybody can believe they are hearing orders directly from God, convince themselves that murder is acceptable and part of God’s will.

    Where this goes next is increasingly frightening as the groundwork for creating an argument in favor of agreement for using weapons of mass destruction is closer. Don’t think it can’t happen here - maybe it’s even more likely to happen here.

    My HOPE is that leaders within these communities take the time to read and digest Rusty’s body of work, allow themselves to become genuinely introspective and think “whoa, what have we done and where is this going?”
    The fanatics (sorry, not coming up with a gentler term) are motivated and they won’t stop until their choices have been taken away, or remuneration for effort has diminished significantly. Another HOPE is that good people following a fanatic come to recognize that evolutionary drift and decide to exit that particular flock.

  60. As much as we can hope, I think the idea that leaders will walk away from the brink is highly unlikely. I also think that is hoping for things to happen is also abandoning our own agency.

  61. Mostly agree, but Rusty’s writing could have impact if members bring it to leaders’ attention.

    Thing is - positive events need to happen within the evangelical community which I am not even remotely a part of. That agency must come from within and not from us unwashed heathens

  62. I’m reminded of @bhunt ’s response the other day, when someone suggested that we essentially needed to enlighten people… “if we could only open their eyes,” the person said. He observed that people are essentially sovereign beings capable of independent thought and that, to think we could just teach them how to think right, is absurd and patronizing.

    You’re obviously entitled to your own view. However, and I think this metaphor is appropriate given the series, my view (born of my own experience) is that the road to Damascus is one one walks alone.

  63. It must, and to varying degrees, it is. AND I think it is helpful to think about this as more a case study of something that social networks and the mass weaponization of meme made possible. While you may be right in this specific case, I also think we have to think more broadly about how we address this new world of ours.

  64. The case of Albert Gore, et al, v. Katherine Harris, et al , case number 2000-2808 in Leon County, Florida (the hanging chad case) is mentioned in Part 3.
    I watched nearly the entire trial live. Basically IMO, Gore’s team, led by the one-and-only David Boies, argued that the election board should hand recount the undervotes in 3 Florida counties (blue ones), and the Bush team, led by Philip Beck, said a hand recount should include all Florida counties and both undervotes and overvotes. Judge Sauls found for the defendants (Bush team), the case went to the SCOTUS, who upheld Judge Sauls, and the rest is history, depending on whether one is red or blue. If for no other reason, it is worth watching, if you can find it, the parts of the trial conducted by Philip Beck. I seem to recall his asking ~~’ so you want to count a dimple (undervote) for Gore, but not a ballot that has ‘Bush’ punched out and also written in (overvote)?’ But I can’t seem to find that question in the transcripts.

    And so now we have the ‘Republicans stole the 2000 election’ as its own meme, if I am using the term correctly. Here is case where the Democrats are crying (meming) election fraud, and I think they’re not charismatics. Perhaps you could eventually do a similar analysis?

  65. Honestly, I’m not particularly interested in doing a similar analysis of that period. Not because it didn’t happen as you say, and not because there is zero memetic power present, but because what interested me in putting together the series wasn’t really election fraud or the reasons that people have claimed it historically.

    More specifically, I observe that cries of “election fraud” in close elections are common in every democracy at every period in history. What makes 2020 fascinating as a case study is that the claims in this case were very specific, very falsifiable, very falsified, and still managed to produce a persistent, unwavering base of support. So persistent and unwavering that I think you could argue that DJT’s current public persona and 2024 campaign are functionally designed around this support and the 2020 claims attached to it. The narratives that created that kind of unwavering support are far more interesting to me than the actual claims or the election itself.

    If you wanted to find analogs pointing squarely in the other political direction - and it seems like a lot of folks do :sweat_smile: - I’d look more in the direction of unwavering, unquestioning support for Trust the Science™ narratives in the face of a replication crisis, p-hacking epidemic and outright politicization of the scientific journal complex. A few others, too.

  66. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    No doubt. This would be a huge project and I wish I had time to work on it on my own. Despite my bluster about certain topics, the replication crisis and related structural issues are major reasons why I am no longer a professional scientist.

  67. I was infected with the Charismatic Revival Fury living metaverse virus early and often throughout childhood. Mostly the ‘dime store charismatic’ strain, quoting Mathew Taylor with helpful phrasing there. Early days well before the epimemetic drift and dominion theology. Often thought I might end up in ministry. Instead I went and got a physics PhD…and got infected with the Trust the Science virus for my trouble!

    I figure a lot of people have had parallel experiences. It sometimes seems it creates a little widening gyre inside of yourself, warring metaverse infections battling for supremacy over my own beliefs and opinions.

    Quick recommendation of the pod by Mathew Taylor that Rusty linked to in part 1. Search Charismatic Revival Fury. There are a lot of audio clips presented of Jericho marches, rallies, Jan 6th, etc that I found to be very helpful. Esp if you are like me and had some personal experience with this world the audio brings back memories that really crystallized the context.

    Been trying to work on longer comments since part 1, but I keep failing. Thanks for the series Rusty it’s been on my mind a lot since you started, ever a hallmark of the ET classics.

  68. @rguinn :

    Hi Rusty,

    I have two observations from installment #5.

    Observation 1: The 120 day rolling density/Seven Mountains chart

    I have a quibble with the trendline that you dropped on this chart. Admittedly I am eyeballing, but there’s no way that what we are observing there is a steady, linear trend over the entirety of this dataset. I see what is at least three and maybe as much as five epochs in this data. My date stamps might be a bit off as the x-axis labels aren’t easy to match against the data series. They are:

    1. Beginning through mid 2014: Here we are witnessing language that has some sort of seasonality, but is mean reverting. It may not be seasonal: it might be some sort of unusual or one-time event, though could be epiphenomenal as well.

    2. Mid 2014-Mid 2016: Seems seasonal or epiphenomenal language again, but there is a step change to a higher level. And there is clearly something very unusual that happened through Q2/Q3 2015. This prophecy from Johnny Enlow seems instructive. At any rate, it’s something big.

    3 (maybe 4 as well?): Mid 2016-End of 2018– I assume that, with Cyrus in the White House, the Elijah List folks are feeling emboldened and we see seemingly limitless growth, and yet it crashes back down around Q2 2018. This is at a higher level that epoch #2 though - there has been another step change. But then there is a steady state until the end of 2019. Not sure whether this is one epoch or two. Could even be three?

    4 (or maybe 5?): End 2019-Present: Cyrus is impeached for the first time end of 2019, and here we see a proper and apparently steady linear trend for the first time in this data set. I assume your measure of density measures not just overall usage, but actually the consistency of usage as well. Thus, if we are seeing real linear trend or massive growth, it is not just because one or two people are prophesying using a lot of the seven mountain words, but ALL the prophets are doing so? It would be consistent with the decentralized nature of this group.

    Observation 2: Where this is all going

    I’ve continued to reflect on the intersection between ET terms (WEKTEK and WWNTBT) and @Luke_Burgis terms (thin vs thick desires). At some point in your series, I assume we will be crossing the proverbial chasm (with apologies to Geoffrey Moore) where people of seemingly sound mind start to believe in something that is entirely falsifiable and falsified.

    One of the things I know for a fact and have been able to illustrate with data (at the time, I led a small social media company that investigated it in detail in the French elections in 2017 - summary is here - final report is here - media coverage of our study is here), is that the widening gyre results in the balkanization of media outlets (edit: actually, I shouldn’t describe this in causal terms - it is concomitant and correlated, though i am not sure which came first, or whether it even matters). This is obvious to us now, but in 2017 it was revolutionary in French politics and frankly probably was for US politics as well. The separation goes way beyond the mainstream right vs left traditional media outlets (like Fox vs MSNBC) and touches everything… from proper citizen journalism to batshit crazy conspiracy theorists. So we know there is little to no overlap in terms of people seeing alternative views of their universe. They end up in their own echo chambers hearing the constant beat of the drum.

    It is in this context that we can understand these narratives for their emotional manipulation: for what we need to be true. This is easily not just to infer, but to see in the data. Without wanting to go completely Durkheimian, it seems to me that people who are susceptible to these narratives are those who feel alienated, or who believe that there is a break down in the social contract. It is my belief that these narratives provide individuals with a sense of greater personal efficacy as well, especially when they are widely held. There is comfort in numbers. There is consistency in imagery and metaphor and narrative structure. And people literally sit and marinate in it both because it gets them highly exercised and because of the dopamine drip.

    As this is true, it should also explain why people then hold onto patently false beliefs. They are either (a) not receiving alternative signals, (b) being inoculated against alternative signals by being told that they are being lied to (conspiracies are ALWAYS narratively unfalsifiable), or (c) the underlying conditions (anomie, feelings of inefficacy/powerlessness, fraying of the social fabric) have not gone away. They remain mired in a mindset that is still fertile to bullshit. And let’s face it, shit is great fertilizer: once you’ve planted in it, other weird stuff grows there as well…

    What really, really bothers me are the implications. I agree with you and @bhunt : there is no way out except by rebuilding from the bottom up. And actually it’s more complicated than that. The only way that you rebuild from the bottom up is by establishing trust, which is awfully hard to do in a digital/knock-the-chip-off-your-own-shoulder world. I see nobody in power acting in ways that fosters understanding or compromise now, which isn’t surprising either because there is a max pain prisoner’s dilemma waiting for them. What that means for us in the short to medium term is high levels of reflexive antagonism and pain. That sucks. :frowning_with_open_mouth:

  69. No quibble at all, really! Please don’t read any presumption of linearity over the full scale of time here on my part. My goal was much more simplistic: to show people who aren’t used to reading charts “it’s a lot higher now.” For what it’s worth, I think the seasonality of prophetic output is heavily influenced over some periods by this emerging desire to be saying the same things. An episodic nature, as you point out correctly, I think, is exactly how a lot of this works. If this were intended to be a more quantitative argument, this is a case where I think we would identity “hot spots” of linguistic echoing inductively rather than positing from what we know was going on in the world, but we may end up with similar “periods” that you did by doing so. Not sure.

    Yes, indeed. Part 8 on Monday.

    I try to deal with this question for a great deal of Part 8. Still, I wonder the extent to which it’s not so much an or of the things you mention, but rather a more simplistic, even rational comparison of irrational impulses. That is, does belonging value exceed the cost of cognitive dissonance of whatever alternative signals are being received (net of any inoculation effects of conspiracy communities), and can the group create in-group common knowledge structures which make this equilibrial or at least medium-term stable with enough mutual effort?

    Not a rhetorical question. I am struggling with this.

  70. I think this might be amongst the things that has always been true in at-scale human societies. The epimemetics (ahh my autocorrect has learned the word, so now it’s real!) is what has changed…we can now see via our connectedness that our belonging value required dissonance. Each of the epimemetic phases are step changes in our connectedness and each revealed a level of dissonance that had previously been the water we swim. The epimemetic shifts foment instability and change because these realizations are very difficult to assimilate both societally and individually.

  71. I was on vacation so I’m way behind in my reading, but @rguinn “bruh” as my kids say… Very well written summary in Parts 1 & 2. These worlds are actually very hard to describe and not come off as judgy or partisan. I think you did a great job, and you made this PCA Presbyterian realize a lot about his own non-denominational Pentecostal upbringing. We didn’t go to church a lot after about age 10-12 but apparently I got a whole lot of charismatic upbringing as a kid having to watch TBN/Daystar. You absolutely NAILED it when you said the part about how evangelicals “would rather die” then raise hands. That’s the way it feels when I go to any church now including my home church. It’s always been such a cringey feeling for me as a Presbyterian. That and altar calls. I’ve been caught up in it during the praise and worship sometimes, but man it takes a whole lot of Spirit to raise these hands.
    The takeover of the evangelical church by charismatics and Pentecostals is complete I think. The pendulum is swinging so far that when I visit Catholic or Orthodox churches for weddings/funerals etc I think I might actually fit in better there!!! Sorry mom!
    The only thing you’re really missing in your background research material is the media venue of Youtube. That’s been my poor mom’s current choice for radicalization content. That, and I was really, really, surprised you hadn’t written anything about Rabbi Jonathan Cahn.
    edit Lastly, what AI did you use for the awesome graphics?

  72. ^^^ I am very much appreciating this sense of humility in the series @rguinn. If we swapped out the variables and the stakes, we’d see it in a different light. The challenge is to see the light with these variables and stakes. Brilliant.

  73. It’s difficult to express how deeply I appreciate all your effort here, Rusty.

    I’m a “trust science” guy, and so a “trust the science” foe, because science so often proves “the science” to be incorrect, sometimes massively so. Eugenics had a great narrative.

    I’m the same way about faith. We’re supposed to “test every spirit” because we know we can be 100% correct one moment and worse than wrong the next. A daily examination of conscience is a discipline simply ignored in too many churches.

    McLuhan predicted electronic media would cause us to become more self-defined by emotions than thought, that we would increasingly rationalize instead of reason, and thus we were entering an era in which cannibalism and kumbaya could be alternately practiced without cognitive dissonance…the Global Village is a place where superstition and magical thinking rules.

    Is there a better description of social media?

    These chapters on how some specific ideas have become entrenched helps explain why people are loathe to believe other than what made them feel good about themselves, even when (maybe especially when) what made a person feel good about themself is shown to be demonstrably false.

    The importance of your series goes beyond its specifics.

  74. Wanted to call out the specific line I was thinking of when I heart-reacted this. Lotsa parallel thoughts crashing through my head but this needs to stand alone for a bit.

    Solid observation @cplourde.

  75. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    @rguinn I’m saving any commentary for after the final part is published, but I had to let you know this series is so compelling, and remarkable. I’m learning so much. Thank you!!

  76. Avatar for jrs jrs says:

    and Bill Gates to open up the gate of a financial realm for the Church

    Rusty, can you think of a reason why Timoteo Band would leave this bit in their 2020 video, seeing as how it’s both very specific and apparently so far also very wrong?

    Technically, would have been quite easy to splice right after “Trump to become a trumpet”.

    Maybe to keep some street cred for not overediting and not being too specific?

    I am amused by the juxtaposition of this with RFK Jr’s opinion of Gates, as well as others.

  77. Hah! Good question! Harder bit to splice, I think, and I think it’s “vague” enough that it falls into the non-falsifiable camp and risks very little. But that’s just my opinion.

  78. Tanya, I’m just so grateful that you’re taking the time to read it. I recognize that it’s such an immense investment of time. More than anything else I hope that it proves a worthwhile investment.

  79. I agree with your response Rusty, BUT, this “specific case” of Pentecostal Charismatic Evangelicals might well be the fulcrum and catalyst upon which huge events occur. It should not be even remotely minimized, as it appears that the future of our country is dependent upon the mindset of the Charismatic Evangelical community whose numbers are way bigger than I ever imagined.
    What that community needs to be true seems to put the value of Prophesy!TM way higher than either Science or Science!TM, where originators of Prophesy! can come from most any source which possesses an imagination, strong EQ, social skills, and other needs.
    We need more Beth Moores. Desperately.
    Credit to you for doing this amazing piece of work

  80. Amen, amen and amen. 100%.

  81. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    @jddphd, This list resonated with me so much (and elicited a bit of a giggle). I’m theoretically in the Quiet Protestants group (though I was raised mostly secular), but I know exactly what you mean by Loud Protestants!

  82. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    Well, I didn’t see that plot twist at the end of part 8 coming! Looking forward to seeing everyone in OH on Friday to discuss.

  83. Continue to be amazed by the staggering level of research and scholarship you have put into this series.

    One small question about the description of ReAwaken America and the Charismatic-QAnon zoonosis. You said that it was “assumed that [Trump’s} reinstallation would take place through the military.”

    Unlike any other prominent politician Trump had openly attacked the military for their dismal performance and portrayed top military leadership as a major component of the “deep state” of Beltway insiders actively working to thwart the will of the American people. Attacks on the “deep state” were a major part of his 2020 campaign (even though Trump had done next to nothing to reign them in while in office).

    Unlike almost all of the other Prophecies you’ve described, the military uprising predictions involved a much more cataclysmic event that had to take place within a matter of weeks and contradicted what Trump and his core supporters had believed about the “deep state.” True believers in electoral fraud theories might have ways to rationalize why investigations didn’t confirm their theories (e.g courts and the deep state conspired to suppress evidence/rig cases). But how could the followers of these prophets rationalize the complete failure of the military uprising prediction?

  84. FYI: Beth Moore

    @802rob :
    We need more Beth Moore’s Desperately

    @rguinn to @802rob :
    Amen, amen and amen. 100%.

  85. Very good observation and question, Hubert. I don’t have a perfect answer for you…yet.

    I can respond anecdotally, but I think some of this still has to play out in the next 18-24 months. The responses I’ve seen thus far typically take one of a few forms, all of which will be familiar to the conspiracy narrative virus:

    • Trump’s “humility” led him to reject taking advantage of something that could be so harmful to the country he loves;

    • More evil and darkness needed to be revealed before the transition could take place; or

    • Perhaps the “military takeover” was simply symbolic for patriotic Americans returning to the polls in 2024 to right what courts, investigators and the Deep State blocked in 2020.

    Most importantly, however, when it comes to the prophetic, we have to look back to the idea of “prophesy in part,” and the belief that all of this is conditional. When a prophecy fails, there is a tendency within this community to say that it is because all of the churches affected by the “woke mind virus” didn’t pray and support it enough. I’m as irritated by performative wokeism as anyone else of a conservative persuasion, to be clear, but “blaming it on the people who said the prophets were nuts” is a tale as old as time, and as applicable to the analogs I think we’ll find as this specific example.

  86. I had a dream of you pounding furiously on a keyboard, occasionally muttering quietly whilst a full glass of wine sits untouched and collecting small amounts of settling dust.
    Yes, our patience shall eventually be rewarded, hallelujah! :grinning:

  87. Trivial point of geographic order: much like the trip to Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy, our soggy football would also have to travel upstream on the Mississippi to reach St. Louis. The Ohio joins the Mighty downstream, at the almost biblical Cairo.

    And as the football prepares to exit our domestic waterways, it would pass the most Catholic, least evangelical, and most delightfully and originally sinful city of all in our republic: New Orleans. A city where said pigskin would feel just as at home as it would in the Nittany Lion-infested Alleghenies.

  88. This comment in no way demeans the prodigious effort. Rusty needs to make Pentacostal/evangelical baseball cards for all of these characters! It is akin to learning the capabilities of the starting lineup of your kid’s All-Star baseball team. Every name in the story is a blank slate from my starting point.

  89. No doubt! I think your author got tired of creating alternate scenarios, and just really wanted to get in that jab at Goodell.

    If not more!

    As always, you know it’s a good idea when the Simpsons already did it! :sweat_smile:


  90. Avatar for Tanya Tanya says:

    Holy “why am I seeing this now”, Batman! I’m stunned that just as this series is being released, all of a sudden there is an explosion in the press of probes related to the 2020 election. You can’t make this stuff up!

  91. Rusty, you said “And we need to talk about them. All of them.”

    I thought you telegraphed this ending pretty well so I know I’m not alone of people who’ve been thinking about how this story about stories frame maps to other systems. The danger we find ourselves in is another ET standby…once you first recognize the water you begin to see it everywhere. Your case study feels like it has elucidated the water of the living metaverse maybe a little too well.

    As I sit annoyed at work today I am mapping this to the language and narrative creation relied on by management executives. Summed up by an email from a week ago which notified that it is time again for our annual employee engagement survey. This online survey will be used by the management team, whom me and colleagues have almost never spoken with, to measure how things are going. The company isn’t that big.

  92. Oof, mea culpa. This kind of thing is enough to make your blood boil even without having to see the carefully crafted language a mile away.

  93. Just finished Part 8. Great stuff. What’s the AI you use for the artwork? Bc it’s awesome.

    What’s the antidote to heal those infected by the virus? Bc they’re still getting “prophetic words” about a nebulous “shaking” that’s always just over the horizon.

  94. Midjourney. Here’s the prompt I used for Part 3: /imagine donald trump with a crown and royal regalia, standing on a parapet, people bowing, christian imagery, american patriotic imagery, style of medieval illuminated text, glowing words, words jumping out of pages, watercolor, j.m.w. turner, --ar 4:3

    All of the others were different descriptors, but all ended with watercolor, j.m.w. turner

  95. Re: artwork; no narrative movement would be complete without a defining art, and in the recommended Matthew Taylor podcast I found mention of James Nesbit - source of some of the some of the memetic illustrations that carpet bombed my inbox back in the day.

    I honestly can’t get past the categorization of prophet/apostle-as-raccoon. Personal problem, I suppose: millstones for the lot of them.

    I just don’t see any evidence in the New Testament of writers - Paul, Peter, Luke - advocating any political solution to the very real (and ultimately fatal) persecution directed at them. James comes closest in chapter 5; a passage that could apply across history.

    Gumby an interesting call on Friday.

  96. Yep. And to be fair, not that you’ve suggested otherwise, this is to be expected. In modern terms we would have characterized these as a disenfranchised minority oppressed by a powerful and authoritarian state. It is difficult to imagine that seizing political power not only to escape persecution but to achieve any other social or cultural ends would have been a primary strategy here. A hope, perhaps.

    Set aside for a moment those who advocate theonomic/ecclesiocratic government for reasons of political preference rather than belief in a scriptural mandate. Those who DO arrive at a theological mandate invariably, at least in my reading, require the Greek ethnē in the Great Commission to do a lot of work. That is, they may make many arguments, but all of these that I’ve seen ultimately hinge on the argument that “make disciples of all nations” is explicitly a call to perform discipleship at the level of the national entity, necessarily requiring the discipleship of its government. It’s…a stretchy stretch, even for a group that’s often comfy with some eisegetical preference-imposition. Ethnē is translated a half dozen different ways - gentile, nation, tribe, herd, pagans - and of all the words translated to nation (esp. laos and phylē), its meaning is least like “the government of a people.” Even if it weren’t, in context it’s a pretty wild stretch.

    I informally think of these as “ends-based” views. The discipling of the nation at the government level is an end in itself, not simply a means.

    For the few arguments I’ve read that aren’t as dependent on this interpretation of “discipling nations,” they tend to be more utilitarian arguments about how maintaining a Christian government with Christian laws will produce a more sustainable Christian culture and lead to more Christians. I informally think of these as “means-based” views, by which I mean that they still see the individual as the exclusive target of discipleship; they just think that capturing government and other “spheres” or “mountains” will be an effective means to achieve a scriptural end. This is more political theory than theology, so absence of scripture as you and I have pointed out doesn’t really answer its contentions.

    This being an argument for saving the world from the top-down, however, you can probably guess where we come out on this one, too.

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