Men of God in the City of Man, Pt. 5: Epidemic

Download a PDF of Men of God in the City of Man, Part 5: Epidemic (paid subscribers only)

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 these pieces began to emerge as a narrative epidemic within one community in 2016.

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.

When I talk to people about the ideas in this essay series, many of my fellow conservative friends respond that none of this is why they voted for Donald Trump. They didn’t care about wacky things like prophecies and anointings. They wanted a supreme court that would finally end abortion. They wanted to be rid of corruption in Washington and take a sledgehammer to political correctness and (later) wokeism. Whether they voted joyfully or with their noses held, they say, it was worth it.

What do I tell them?

That I believe them. 100%.

I think hundreds of millions of Americans voted earnestly, as is their right and civic duty, for precisely those reasons. Same thing for those who voted the other way, for convictions of similar strength. This essay series isn’t about why Orange Man Bad or Trump Voter Bad. It’s not even about why people voted for anyone at all, or why their reasons for doing so were ridiculous. I voted for Gary Johnson, y’all. I’m not just living in a glass house. I’ve got glass floors, glass furniture and glass towels in my bathroom. Neither is this essay series about the belief that there are very reasonable, common sense things we ought to do ensure our elections are as fair and representative as possible, from (free) voter ID requirements, to serious scrutiny of the timing of formal investigations of candidates, to assessment of the degree to which media amplified or squelched stories based on the political predispositions of their editorial staff, to tighter limitations and controls on ballot harvesting activities.

No, this essay series is about nothing more or less than why widespread belief in literal, comic book villain-style election theft emerged…and why it hasn’t gone away despite every fact in the real world showing the belief to be an utter fantasy. It’s about how a previously isolated fringe somehow spawned mainstream belief in claims that “We have analysis of packets showing the machines were taking input from China” or “There were thousands of fake ballots in a box under the table!” or “Venezuelan voting machines perpetrated vote switching on a massive scale!” or “Thousands more people voted than were registered!”

Because in the end, no matter how much some of us may want to retcon things we said and thought over the last few years, Stop the Steal was never about media bias or voter ID requirements. From top to bottom and from beginning to end, it was built on preposterous fabrications about electoral fraud promoted by preposterous people with a preposterous collection of made-up ‘evidence’.

Before we get there, however, we must tell the story of 2016.

It is not a story about politics or faith. Not really, anyway. It is a story about language. It is a story about a story – a story of a narrative virus that produced a localized epidemic. When the narrative virus first emerged as an epidemic, however, the seeds of distrust in elections were not among its symptoms. Instead, its chief symptoms were new common knowledge about the intersection between God and American elections.

Kim Clement posing for the cover of his 1984 Christian funk album “Kim Clement and Friends”

The Alpha Variant

A filthy bathroom of a seedy bar in Durban, South Africa in 1974.

Live rock music echoes in the background. A young man sways at a sink, trying to regain focus. Another man enters. We never see his face. The young man stares into the bathroom wall, worrying with whatever consciousness he can muster about whether he went too far this time to find the old high again. He never sees the knife. He doesn’t feel the bag of whatever heroin he has left when it is pulled from his jacket. We don’t hear his cries of pain over the guitars and drums, but we see him bleeding, lurching through the door, collapsing on the street. He is left for dead.

After a brief pause, an older man enters the scene and takes pity on him. The older man summons medical care and accompanies the injured young man until he is safe. When the younger man asks the older why he stopped to help, the older man shares his belief in the God of lost sheep.

The young man was Kim Clement. And this is a true story.

After Clement was rescued from his heroin overdose and subsequent mugging in 1974, his religious conversion was rapid. Kim served in drug rehabilitation ministries. He led music therapy for children suffering from a range of disabilities and illnesses. By the late 1970s, Clement would co-found one of the first racially mixed churches in apartheid South Africa, the Lyric Christian Center. He released jazz, funk and (yes) disco-infused worship albums, the cover of one of which I selected to headline this section. Don’t pretend you’ve ever heard it, and don’t pretend you aren’t envious of that magnificent shirt. Starting from that charismatic multi-racial church in Durban, Kim Clement launched a global dual ministry through which he led churches in worship and issued prophecies.

Once he made his way stateside, that quickly became his calling card within the American charismatic-Pentecostal church: Kim Clement was The Singing Prophet. Literally. Clement would sit or stand at the keyboard and sing, then prophesy, then sing a prophecy. His was a very Old Testament style, very thus saith, often archaic, often arcane, and very often speaking as God in the first person. The style obviously included a fair bit of imagery and metaphor, as archaic-style prophecy tends to do, but in comparison to those who would come as part of the apostolic-prophetic movement in the United States, his proclamations left a lot less wiggle room. That is, he frequently gave names and dates for the predictions he made.

Kim Clement was the first person to prophesy that Donald Trump would become the President of the United States.

Sort of.

If you ask most people closely connected to the prophetic-apostolic movement when it was that a Trump presidency was prophesied (and by whom), they will almost universally refer you to three different Clement prophecies: one made on February 10, 2007 in Scottsdale, Arizona, one made on April 4, 2007 at Bethel Church in Redding, California and one made on June 17, 2007 in San Jose, California. Here are the key excerpts, with some of the key elements that will be important to our story highlighted in bold.

There will be a praying President, not a religious one, for I will fool the people, says the Lord. I will fool the people, yes I will. God says, the one that is chosen shall go in and they shall say, he has hot blood. For the Spirit God says, yes he may have hot blood, but he will bring the walls of protection on this country in a greater way and the economy of this country shall change rapidly, says the Lord of Hosts. God says, I will put at your helm for two terms a President that will pray but he will not be a praying President when he starts…

Kim Clement, in Scottsdale, Arizona (February 10, 2007)

This that shall take place shall be the most unusual thing, a transfiguration, a going into the marketplace if you wish, into the news media. Where Time Magazine will have no choice but to say what I want them to say. Newsweek, what I want to say. The View, what I want to say. Trump shall become a trumpet, says the Lord! I will raise up the Trump to become a trumpet and Bill Gates to open up the gate of a financial realm for the Church, says the Spirit of the Living God!

Kim Clement, at Bethel Church in Redding, California (April 4, 2007)

I will not forget 911. I will not forget what took place that day and I will not forget the gatekeeper that watched over New York who will once again stand and watch over this Nation, says the Spirit of God. It shall come to pass that the man that I place in the highest office shall go in whispering My name. But God said, when he enters into the office he will be shouting out by the power of the Spirit for I shall fill him with My Spirit when he goes into office and there will be a praying man in the highest seat in your land.

Kim Clement, at Bethel Church in Redding, California (April 4, 2007)

Now, God says, a president that I will bring into the White House and they will say he is ungodly, he does not know God

For two terms, God said, do not fear for the Lord says there will be no unnecessary, unnecessary stuff…

Kim Clement, in San Jose, California (June 17, 2007)

Over the years, Clement made a lot of prophecies. That prodigious prophetic output alone confounds efforts to search for past predictions that might fit the present; however, the quantity of prophecies isn’t the only complicating factor. Even from someone like Clement, who tended toward more specific and definite language, the vernacular of modern prophecy remains vague, archaic and indeterminately figurative. Predict that a “mighty storm shall come” to a region, for example, and there are a hundred ways to call your prediction ‘correct’. Could be a literal hurricane or a tornado. Could be a political scandal. Could be a revival at a church. Could be a series of protests. Could be an influx of immigrants. That vagueness is helpful to the prophet, but it is no help to anyone trying to research whether the prophet ever said something applicable to an event taking place in the present. If you wanted to know if anyone had predicted a political scandal, “a mighty storm” probably wouldn’t top your search terms.

In the same way, “Trump shall be a trumpet” could mean a million different things. And friends, believe it or not, there might be more than a couple men who “don’t know God” and “don’t pray” involved in the world of politics. These generalities are all but infinitely transferable.

For this reason in particular, after they were uttered in 2007, the three Clement prophecies above sat mostly dormant in archives for the better part of a decade. There are other reasons, too. But I don’t want to spoil Part 6.

Source: Mark Taylor

The Beta Variant

A normal middle-class, if slightly messy, living room in Orlando, Florida in 2011.

A firefighter’s bunkers and boots sit in the corner of the room, sooty and collecting dust. A tired man lounges in a recliner, but not at ease. He is dazed and clearly nauseated. There is a gentle glow emanating from a TV playing Fox News. A small red container of Zoloft sits on a side table next to the recliner, and a familiar voice begins to discuss international trade. It is the voice of Donald Trump. A deep voice off-stage intones, “You are hearing the voice of a president.”

Is this, like the story of Kim Clement, the dramatic start to a true story? I have no idea. But it is the start to the story told by Lieutenant Mark Taylor in his 2017 book The Trump Prophecies.

Taylor had been through the wringer.

By early 2011, he had spent two hard decades in the fire service in Central Florida. Like many first responders, Taylor endured post-traumatic stress from a variety of horrors encountered in the line of duty. In his written account, he recalls various stories that would become the stuff of recurring nightmares, like the time he found a child who had died on his knees awaiting rescue at a window in his bedroom. PTSD was only the half of it. You see, Taylor suffered from thwarted ambitions, too. Some years before, he had invested a great deal of time and treasure into the development of a novel extrication device. It had both first responder and military applications, and it seemed from early interest that this might be his ticket out of the world and life that had been causing him so much anxiety and pain. At the height of his exhaustion from the fire service, he had two major initial orders for this device nearly in place, only for both to fall through at the last moment.

So it was that in April 2011, Mark Taylor found himself in a very “Why, God?” state of mind. As our scene imagined, the Zoloft he had been prescribed for his PTSD was causing nausea and malaise, and he halfheartedly watched Fox News just for the noise in the background. Now, Taylor was a charismatic Christian and was connected to prophetic and apostolic ministries. He had friends who had helped him interpret dreams before; however, he never considered himself a prophet. All the same, when Trump came on the television that day, he felt compelled to write down the words he says he heard from God. I excerpt the key elements below.

The Spirit of God says, I have chosen this man, Donald Trump, for such a time as this. For as Benjamin Netanyahu is to lsrael, so shall this man be to the United States of America! For I will use this man to bring honor, respect and restoration to America. America will be respected once again as the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth, (other than lsrael). The dollar will be the strongest it has ever been in the history of the United States, and will once again be the currency by which all others are judged...

The Spirit of God says, I will protect America and lsrael, for this next president will be a man of his word, when he speaks the world will listen and know that there is something greater in him than all the others before him. This man’s word is his bond and the world and America will know this and the enemy will fear this, for this man will be fearless. The Spirit says, when the financial harvest begins so shall it parallel in the spiritual for America.

The Spirit of God says, in this next election they will spend billions to keep this president in; it will be like flushing their money down the toilet. Let them waist (sic) their money, for it comes from and it is being used by evil forces at work, but they will not succeed, for this next election will be a clean sweep for the man I have chosen… Even mainstream news media will be captivated by this man and the abilities that I have gifted him with, and they will even begin to agree with him says the Spirit of God.

Commander-in-Chief, by Mark Taylor (April 28, 2011 per author)

First of all, yes, there is some stuff here that clearly didn’t go right, by which I mean just about everything except the prediction that Trump would become president. For example, Taylor is very clearly saying that God told him that this was about the 2012 elections, and the last paragraph is an explicit claim that the money being spent on President Obama’s re-election was a waste. The financial predictions, the currency predictions, the “man of his word” predictions, the “mainstream media…will even begin to agree with him” predictions, all on the spectrum between wrong and wrong. Similar to the Dutch Sheets predictions of judgment from Part 3, most of Taylor’s 2011 prophecy is so wrong that it would be difficult to be more wrong if being provably, objectively wrong were your sole objective.

In spite of all that, he absolutely, positively did predict that Donald Trump would become the president.

Did he really do so in 2011? It would be hard to prove either way. But short of spoiling the story, I think we can say that there were enough recipients of the prophecy who corroborate having received it as early as 2013 that it does not seem unreasonable. In any case, it was certainly circulated on a small scale within prophetic, prayer and intercessory networks well in advance of Trump toying with pursuit of the nomination.

Still, through mid-2015, Taylor’s prophecy was not widely known. Taylor himself freely admits having delayed its wider circulation. He did so in part because he had never thought of himself as a prophet, and didn’t know what to do with it. He also had doubts, some of which were confirmed when Barack Obama won reelection in 2012. Most importantly, it didn’t go anywhere because nobody had any idea who Mark Taylor was, and the networks to whom he did provide it did not overlap nearly enough with the more influential networks within the charismatic-Pentecostal movement.

Jeremiah Johnson, then based in Lakeland, Florida, discusses prophecy on the Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural program on December 17, 2017

The Gamma Variant

A sanctuary in a medium-sized, informal church. There are chairs, not pews, and little art or symbols other than a cross behind the baptismal pool and a lectern at the front of the stage. A small statured man, balding but clearly still young, kneels and bows in prayer on the steps of the stage. You see him rock slightly.

The man freezes for a moment. He looks around, somewhat frantically. It isn’t clear what he is searching for.

The man suddenly runs off stage, out of the sanctuary. He returns a moment later with a roll of paper towels, presumably from the church’s restroom. You see him furiously scribbling something on them.

You’ve met Jeremiah Johnson before, back in Part 3 of this series.

Johnson, like Taylor, was not a leading figure in the apostolic-prophetic movement. He was a rising star, to be sure, planting a church that grew rapidly almost immediately after he finished his undergraduate degree. It was a big deal for a 20-something to lead a church with a few hundred people, for him to travel as frequently as he did to deliver prophetic messages to other congregations in the region. But in comparison to the Big Names who ran Big Conferences, the men and women who oversaw massive multi-national apostolic networks, who sat on the boards of massive apostolic alliances, Johnson was a regional curiosity.

That is, until Charisma, the flagship magazine, podcast network and blog of the charismatic-Pentecostal movement we discussed in Part 4, published one of Jeremiah’s prophecies in July 2015. This was a month after Trump had entered the primaries. Around this time, a buck would get you a hundred that Trump would end up in the White House.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Trump shall become My trumpet to the American people, for he possesses qualities that are even hard to find in My people these days. Trump does not fear man nor will he allow deception and lies to go unnoticed. I am going to use him to expose darkness and perversion in America like never before, but you must understand that he is like a bull in a china closet. Many will want to throw him away because he will disturb their sense of peace and tranquility, but you must listen through the bantering to discover the truth that I will speak through him. I will use the wealth that I have given him to expose and launch investigations searching for the truth. Just as I raised up Cyrus to fulfill My purposes and plans, so have I raised up Trump to fulfill my purposes and plans prior to the 2016 election…

Prophecy about Donald Trump as Cyrus Figure, dated July 15, 2015 and published in Charisma on July 26. (Text accessed via God’s Man in the White House by James Beverley)

As was told in Part 3 of this series, by the time Johnson’s Charisma piece emerged in July 2015, the charismatic-Pentecostal community was a decade and a half into the steady influence of three separate, powerful memes. The allure of the meme of Rediscovering Ancient Ways had transformed the nascent model of apostolic-prophetic leadership into common knowledge. Everybody knew that everybody knew, within this community, that there were now prophets who heard from God and modern-day apostles who could work together to chart out the church’s direction on the basis of that knowledge. The Keeping Ancient Covenants meme, promoted tirelessly by Dutch Sheets and Chuck Pierce in particular, promoted the promise that leveraging the prophetic and apostolic to keep America’s historical covenant with God would surely result in the reward of a harvest – a Third Great Awakening.

The Mountains to be Conquered meme had similarly coalesced into common knowledge of a cultural mandate for an apostle-led Christian church to, as Peter Wagner put it succinctly, rule as Kings (or as Sheets puts it less succinctly, to rule as the ekklesia, God’s chosen legislature on Earth). The growth of these ideas is measurable. To wit, the Elijah List website remains the largest database of prophetic and apostolic statements referencing these ideas – we have catalogued thousands of posts there over the last 20+ years. While the memetic language of Mountains to be Conquered was present since almost the beginning of Wagner’s new apostolic reformation, the steady rise of language associated with these ideas within the apostolic-prophetic community’s written output accelerated rapidly in 2014 and 2015.

Source: Epsilon Theory,

The common knowledge which emerged from the merger of these three memes was that establishing effectively theonomic or ecclesiocratic rule over America was, perhaps, the manner in which the covenant to unlock that Third Great Awakening would be fulfilled.

This was the strategic backdrop, a pre-existing set of views for how the war would be won.

Jim Goll, referenced earlier in this essay series in context of the Kansas City Prophets, describes this idea as the Fourth Wave of the charismatic-Pentecostal movement.

This Fourth Wave emphasizes societal change by channeling these empowered Believers to impact the seven cultural mountains of religion, government, education, business, family, media, and the arts and entertainment. Fresh intercessory strategies will now arise for effective ministry in the marketplace. The supernatural power of the Holy Spirit will not be able to be contained within the “four walls of the church” but rather explode into every sphere of life.

James Goll: “The Fourth Great Wave Has Begun!”, (April 28, 2016)

And it positively jumps out of the data on the language used by charismatic-Pentecostal prophets.

Using the same Elijah List dataset, since 2008, the first election after this strategic backdrop became the prevailing narrative within the apostolic-prophetic movement, “Great Awakening” related language has reached peak density 2-6 months prior to every presidential election. Each time, a burst of “prophecies” emerge promising that a correct electoral outcome would trigger a new Great Awakening, an End Times Harvest, and that an incorrect electoral outcome would produce judgment. It might even be “America’s last chance.”

Source: Epsilon Theory,

This tendency wasn’t only present in posts and prophecies being issued from this community. You would have seen it in nationwide conference programming, too. Like Che Ahn’s Harvest Rock Church’s mid-summer “Revival and Transformation of Society – Taking the 7 Mountains of Culture” conference in 2008. Or just weeks apart from that, the Texas Ablaze: Signs, Wonders, Miracles Crusade, in which believers “at the threshold of a powerful spiritual awakening” would unlock it by, as Bill Johnson would tell them, “co-laboring with God for cultural transformation.” Or a couple weeks before that, at the Voice of the Prophets conference, thrown by the Global Awakening apostolic network, in which participants would “seize [their] prophetic destiny” and “manifest the words that have been spoken over this nation of Heaven represented on earth” in a “cultural shift.”

And that was just a sampling from 2008, when the integration of the three core strategic memes was in its infancy.

By 2016? This is what we mean by common knowledge. It is what everyone knows that everyone knows. It shapes us. It auto-tunes us. It enforces the narrative. It punishes deviation. It rewards compliance. For something like belief in prophecy, it acts as confirmation. As a source of truth. No, the weird formatting of this paragraph was not an accident or error. Each of those words is a different link. Knock yourself out.

Yet when a narrative is truly ascendant, present in the minds and mouths of everyone within a network, it can starve the room of oxygen for any others. I’ll just add a little trend-line to the chart below in case you find it helpful to see an example of just how this happens in practice.

Sources: Epsilon Theory,

While the merged language of our incomplete narrative virus – the stuff of Jim Goll’s Fourth Wave, if you will – was powerful, the ideas were still general. Seven Mountains, Ancient Covenants, the Old Ways Restoration of an apostolic reformation – these things provided a general strategy for what the narrative virologists from Part 3 thought the church or Christians ought to do, but rarely pointed in the direction of a real-world tactic they could employ to achieve the strategic objectives they called for. There was no clear call to action, no focal point toward which they could direct the growing energy of the movement beyond prayer, personal evangelism and involvement in apostolic, intercessory prophetic networks.

Jeremiah Johnson’s July 2015 prophecy changed that.

His was the first message that everybody in the charismatic-Pentecostal community heard – and knew everybody else had heard – that provided a tangible, real-world vector for the achievement of these political aims. A path from A to B for all manner of aims of the apostolic-prophetic movement.

In reality world, it did so by laying a foundation which connected a tangible action within the capacity of every charismatic Christian American – supporting and voting for Donald Trump – to the latticework of narratives that had been built over the prior 20 years. In narrative world, it did so by activating the other two memes we described in Part 3. First and foremost, Jeremiah Johnson’s statement brought the Cyrus framing into the open, activating the power of the near-universal meme we have referred to as Hope for Broken Vessels. That the story of Cyrus and Israel’s captivity is itself a story of Jewish prophecy made this framing an irresistible temptation, I think. Beyond the literal Cyrus comparisons, all of the explanations of “bull in a china closet” behavior were further scaffolding to a Trump-as-Cyrus narrative that would be built from the underlying meme. The memetic embeddings in Johnson’s message went further than that, however. In language like “Many will want to throw him away…but you must listen”, Johnson first engages the meme of a Faithful Remnant Returning. It was an artful way of saying that only the Christians who were listening to what God was telling the prophets would be part of what God wanted to do through Donald Trump.

If you clicked on the few dozen links I attached above to every word in the section describing the pre-election Third Great Awakening chatter in 2016, you would have found that practically every other link contained references to God “raising up a Joshua company” or “a holy remnant” or a “company of prayer warriors.” Through social media and the increasing connectivity between the networks of charismatic-Pentecostal traditions embracing the apostolic polity, the shrewdest prophets had the ability to mold each prophecy precisely to the zeitgeist. We were learning, in other words, to tailor narrative viruses.

Still, it was only a seed. An early variant. This was going to take some time.

Jeremiah Johnson, even through Charisma’s reach, remained an unknown. And it wasn’t as if everyone were champing at the bit to get dragged again. Lord knows enough ‘prophets’ had been pilloried after prophesying against Barack Obama’s presidency not once, but twice. Fortunately, something else happened at almost the exact same time: A narrative missionary emerged. Someone with a platform large enough to tell everyone what this meant and how they should think about it.

Lance Wallnau sitting on an oxblood wingback chair in his backyard. Source: Lance Wallnau Ministries

Yep, Lance Wallnau again. Just as Charisma posted Johnson’s statement on their website, Lance Wallnau piped up on Facebook. He didn’t reference Jeremiah’s prophecy directly; in fact, he only referenced Kim Clement’s original reference to “Trump” being used as a “Trumpet.”

But for many, hearing the same thing from multiple people – and being told it was something Kim Clement had said years ago – got their wheels turning. Like influential men’s leadership speaker Os Hillman – who had thoroughly embraced the Seven Mountains model some years before and was a friend and colleague of Wallnau’s – connected all the dots in a subsequent Charisma post. From Clement to Johnson to Wallnau, the most connected charismatic Christians now had a prophecy with linguistic and memetic connections to the earlier statements of a beloved leader within the community (Clement) with confirmation of much of the same language from more established, credible personalities (Wallnau and Hillman).

A day later, the Christian Post published an Op-Ed from Larry Tomczak repeating the claim. “Right Wing Watch”, a well-researched but aggressively antagonistic organization (not only toward theocratic tendencies but anything vaguely Christian and conservative), also picked up on it shortly after Joe Kovacs at World Net Daily had published a brief outlining Johnson’s words and their virality on Christian social media. There was a bit of both praise and criticism on Christian blogs for a few weeks. Intercessory prayer networks and prophetic networks likewise chattered about it for at least a couple months.

Behind the scenes over the coming weeks, Wallnau was continuing to build the edifice of a Cyrus narrative, both directly and indirectly. On October 3, 2015, Wallnau recounted a meeting at Trump Tower, asserting in an additional point of connection to the “bull in a china closet” language in Johnson’s prophecy that “Trump is Heaven’s Miley Cyrus wrecking ball to the spirit of Political Correctness.” Only a few weeks later, on November 30, Wallnau would again visit Trump Tower, this time with a group of black pastors. Wallnau would tell Trump at this time that he believed the future president was a modern-day King Cyrus.

Throughout late 2015 and early 2016, however, beyond Hillman and Wallnau, the only influential missionary within the apostolic-prophetic movement who very publicly embraced the Trump-as-Cyrus narrative was Rick Joyner, leader of the massive South Carolina-based Morningstar Ministries. He would go even further, positing in an October 2015 video delivered through the Morningstar TV streaming service, that perhaps Donald Trump – humble to God through his arrogance to man – was not only a King Cyrus figure but a King David figure. Other noteworthy charismatic figures, like Dr. Michael Brown, were much more circumspect.

Even in the most aggressively pro-Trump cases, including Jeremiah Johnson’s prophecy, there was widespread reluctance to prophesy that Trump would actually win the presidency. Mark Taylor had done so, thus far only to a limited audience. Johnson, Wallnau, Johnny Enlow and the others who would “confirm” the Cyrus language during this period, however, limited their predictions to Trump being a “bull in a china shop” to the election, whatever that might mean. They prophesied that God had called him there to “shake things up” or to reveal the secrets of the deep state.

This is man who is going to be used of God to bring to light a lot of dirt. For many years to come you’re going to hear him as a man who started in the forefront and in the media to expose the secrets of darkness in society and in government here in America.

Rich Vera, on Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural (March 7, 2016)

As a rule, however, they were all very careful to say they weren’t promising Trump would actually win. After that, the Cyrus meme and charismatic chatter about candidate Trump largely faded for several months.

The Delta Variant

A man stands in a courtroom. The wood paneling and ill-fitting, too-large, too-gray suits abounding throughout the room can only mean one thing: it must be the late-1980s.

Others stand around him, lawyers, media and other interested parties, as the jury foreman stands to read the verdict. “On the eight counts of mail fraud, we the jury find the defendant, James Orson Bakker, guilty. On the fifteen counts of wire fraud, we the jury find the defendant, James Orson Bakker, guilty. One one count of conspiracy, we the jury find the defendant, James Orson Bakker, guilty.

As the characters freeze in place, the wood disc in stage center rotates, giving us a scene on the courthouse steps. Media members point dozens of microphones at a big-haired, middle-aged women with heavy makeup. She speaks into the array of devices. “I have a song for you.” Then she sings, “On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand. All other ground is sinking sand.”

She smiles and adds, ”It’s not over until it’s over,” before being rushed by lawyers into a car.

This is definitely a true story…and it also has nothing to do with our story. Not directly, anyway. But I’m not sure if you knew that Jim Bakker was not only out of prison following his conviction on only a fraction of the corrupt schemes he cooked up over a couple decades of criminal activities he pursued as a televangelist, but back in the game.

But I felt like you should know.

Because it was on Jim Bakker’s show on June 9th, 2016 that the Trump Prophecy, the actual thing firefighter Mark Taylor wrote down and distributed to friends and well-wishers back when Trump Vodka could still be found on store shelves (or at least in their stock room), was unveiled to the broader public.

OK, that’s…not entirely true. About a month and a half earlier, on April 18, 2016, Mark Taylor was a guest on Rick Wiles’s TruNews podcast, part of the charismatic Christian podcast and video streaming network TruNews. Less than a week later, a link to the TruNews podcast with some light commentary made it to Charisma. A couple weeks after that, Donald Trump became the presumptive GOP presidential nominee after Cruz and Kasich dropped out. With the risk of outright predicting a Trump win substantially reduced by his nomination, Wallnau re-emerged to retroactively adjust some of his earlier hedging.

And right away I look at it, I say ‘Oh my gosh! This guy Trump, the wrecking ball, isn’t just gonna rearrange the political landscape, this guy’s gonna go all the way to the White House. I believe he’s the 45th President of the United States. He’s gonna be a Cyrus.

Lance Wallnau, on the Strang Report podcast with Stephen Strang (May 6, 2016)

Others within the apostolic-prophetic community followed as soon as the nomination was formally announced, some to claim that they had actually predicted this would happen long ago. For example, apostle and founder of the POTUS Shield prophetic network Frank Amedia claimed God told him Trump would win the nomination in the summer of 2015. But the floodgates really began to open after Mark Taylor’s Jim Bakker Show appearance.

In true epimemetic fashion, a smattering of prophets who had previously protested against any claims that they were prophesying a Trump presidency adapted their message to a new environment and stepped out with more explicit claims. As Taylor’s long-standing prophecy were connected to the statements of Johnson, Wallnau and Clement, the expressions of the Cyrus meme and the Ancient Covenants meme were transformed almost immediately.

Practically overnight, common knowledge within the apostolic-prophetic movement within the charismatic-Pentecostal church went from “I feel like God’s telling me he’s going to use Trump to really shake this election season up and piss off the media and some politically correct people” to, essentially, “Our prophets have told us that God will unleash a third great awakening by fulfilling our nation’s ancient covenant with God, which requires us to conquer the mountains of culture and society, to rule in God’s name and through God’s laws. Our apostles will guide a faithful remnant in doing so, against great opposition, by embracing a prophesied leader, a Cyrus chosen and anointed by God who will break down the entrenched interests that have kept that remnant from their due influence and the nation from upholding its covenant.

After all, as we showed above, it isn’t a coincidence that the highest concentration of “Ancient Covenants / Great Awakening” language on Elijah List in history began in late May to June of 2016. Lou Engle, founder of a variety of large nationwide prophetic and apostolic ministries, was among the most direct in connecting these powerful memes in this new way.

Brothers and sisters, we must judge these dreams as prophecy. If they are God then we are in a defining moment for the covenant of this nation to stand and the covenant of our forefathers to be released for a Third Great Awakening.

We cannot afford to be jaded about these elections. We cannot be neutral and let history forge its own way. The future will be made by someone who stands in the gap and asks God to release His divine choice into this nation who will uphold the covenant. This is critical.

“Lou Engle’s Word About the Elections! A Call For a 40-Day Fast Starting Today!”, published on Elijah List

The need to get on the Trump Train quickly was palpable. Henry Gruver joined Frank Amedia in the retroactive credit game, claiming on a podcast after the nomination was sealed that he experienced a vision of Trump clothed as a King back in March 2016. Hank Kunneman, Mike Thompson, Jill Steele, Patricia Greene, Kat Kerr, Dutch Sheets and Chuck Pierce – at various points over the next few months, they all joined the rising chorus of prophetic predictions of a Trump presidency. Or at the very least they joined their voices to prophecies about his anointing and selection by God to the role, with the question of the election outcome still left somewhat vague or in doubt.

Media missionaries within the charismatic-Pentecostal community likewise were beginning to frame what everybody knew that everybody knew in context of the new expression of the memes. Headlines like, “More Christian Prophets Are Confirming That Trump Is Our New President!” and “Donald Trump Prophesied to Become Our Next President” emerged. Mark Taylor had largely moved on to prophesying an alliance of America and Russia to overthrow the illuminati, among various other things, but the message was out of his hands by this time.

When the narrative found its way into non-charismatic evangelical hands, however, its epimemetic adaptation to that environment was rapid. The underlying Cyrus memes were unchanged. The way in way they were expressed in language and narrative, however, had to change. Remember, modern prophecy is simply not a thing for most evangelicals. For your average Southern Baptist, “A retired firefighter, a singing South African prophet and a business book-on-tape guy from Ft. Worth” is a start to a good joke, not a way that you hear from God. A “calling,” sure. “God’s chosen”, maybe. But all this “prophesied to be God’s King Cyrus” stuff doesn’t work for non-charismatic evangelicals.

I feel quite certain that the evangelical-adapted version of these memes was already bouncing around various circles by the summer of 2016. You might have observed scaled down versions yourself, like in May 2016, when Jerry Falwell, Jr. told Anderson Cooper that he wasn’t voting for a “pastor-in-chief.” But the first thorough public example I know of an evangelical-adapted narrative of the meme of Hope for Broken Vessels emerged very shortly after the Mark Taylor prophecies had merged with those of Clement, Johnson and Wallnau into charismatic common knowledge. On June 14, a man named Jerry Kaifetz penned a piece in WorldNetDaily that borrowed practically every argument, analogy and meme from the apostolic-prophetic sources that had promoted them. But he stripped them of phrasing and language that would have made them poorly adapted to the non-charismatic evangelical Christian mainstream. Kaifetz, another in a distinguished list of names of people you probably had no reason to know before, is a long-time writer and leader within the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement (IFB). If you’re not familiar with the IFB, think of the purest form of non-charismatic evangelicalism you can imagine – then turn it up to 11.

We are electing a president, not a national pastor. The American electorate is not a pulpit committee...

God has a history of using men whom today’s anti-Trump evangelicals would reject in resounding fashion. Take, for instance, the Persian King Cyrus...

I don’t know how I could more clearly see Donald Trump represented in the person of King Ahasuerus, with Esther, of course, being America’s conservative voters. Just as back in the Persian Empire, survival was the only issue that counted…Sound familiar?

Jerry Kaifetz, in God has a history of using men like Trump, WorldNetDaily (June 14, 2016)

From this point, this precise framing would emerge seemingly everywhere, but especially from more traditional evangelical strongholds. For example, in September 2016, candidate Trump conducted a meeting with a group of non-charismatic evangelical leaders (along with a handful like theologian Wayne Grudem who might be described as charism-curious). Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist in Dallas and one of the most influential evangelical leaders in America, ended the meeting saying that he was “not voting for Trump to be the teacher of my third grader’s Sunday-school class.” Around the same time, the National Religious Broadcasters hosted a debate among various Trump-supporting and Never-Trump evangelicals. At the event, long-time Christian evangelical broadcaster and author Janet Parshall delivered as clear a conjuration of the meme of Hope for Broken Vessels as anyone could hope for.

We are not electing a messiah.

Can God use a Persian and a pagan king like Cyrus to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem? Can God use an adulterer and a murderer and call him the ‘apple of his eye?’ Can God take a Jewish intellectual who was the ISIS of his day, and use him to author over half the New Testament and grow His church?

Noah was a drunk. Abraham lied, Jacob was a liar, Moses was a murderer, Samson was a womanizer, Rahab was a prostitute, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Job went bankrupt, Peter denied Christ.

God has a track record of using flawed and broken people even when it doesn’t look right to us.

For me, I choose to keep the Republic.

Janet Parshall, comments delivered at the Evangelicals Debate the 2016 Election: Trump, Clinton, or Other? event on September 16, 2016 (emphasis mine)

The slightly amusing part of this quote, at least to me, is that when God calls Cyrus “His anointed” in Isaiah 45, the plain meaning in the Hebrew is transliterated as mashiach. As in messiah. Saying that God is raising up a new Cyrus in context of an election is literally saying that you are “electing a messiah.”

More to the point, check the language in Kaifetz’s headline, then read the penultimate statement from Parshall in the quote above. I don’t know if one of them took the “God has a record of using people like” language from the other – in fact, I rather doubt it. To the contrary, the presence of narrative enforces this kind of linguistic consistency with zero effort at all on the part of the speaker. That’s the power of meme. But the real power here is in the epimemetic forces of overlapping social networks in context of one-to-many communication. We took all of the energy of years of charismatic promotion of Cyrus prophecies and channeled it into a sensible-sounding, powerful, unassailable rhetorical position for evangelical leaders who couldn’t care less about what the so-called prophets and apostles of the charismatic-Pentecostal church thought.

The suffusion of the adapted framing throughout the evangelical church was such that even opinion journalists within the mainstream media ended up asking the question, “Does the ‘Cyrus prophecy’ help explain evangelical support for Donald Trump?” As a shorthand, if a headline asks a question, the answer is nearly always no. This may skew closer to a maybe. Again, I think the vast majority of voters cast votes for Trump or Clinton for reasons wholly unrelated to anything we are discussing here. It’s not like evangelicals voting for GOP candidates is some miraculous new property of American elections. But did hundreds of thousands, maybe even a million or two, hold their noses and vote for a candidate they might otherwise have found unacceptable because these framings had sufficient memetic power to change what their vote meant? What they were supporting? Wallnau, true to form for an evangelist, claims a few million more than that in connection with the publishing of his top-selling pre-election book, God’s Chaos Candidate. He may not be wrong. It’s impossible to say.

But it also doesn’t matter. This isn’t an essay series to come up with new and exciting condescending reasons to explain why people did or didn’t vote for Donald Trump. We are telling the story of the energy behind stolen election fantasies, and there are features of 2016 election prophecy that must be included in that story.

As you might recall, Trump won. That’s when the celebrations for many of our narrative virologists, carriers and others began. So, too, did the next phase of electoral and political prophecy in the American charismatic-Pentecostal church. And this time, the scope of the narrative’s spread would not be confined to the charismatic fringe and some adjacent affected leaders within the evangelical church.

It was time for the narrative epidemic to go full-blown pandemic.

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.

Continue the discussion at the Epsilon Theory Forum

38 more replies


Avatar for RobMann Avatar for Tanya Avatar for rguinn Avatar for jpclegg63 Avatar for ryancl456 Avatar for Marcosmarin Avatar for rechraum Avatar for Desperate_Yuppie Avatar for Cactus_Ed Avatar for CSWilson Avatar for cplourde Avatar for jrs Avatar for Victor_K Avatar for Kaiser147 Avatar for Zenzei Avatar for KCP Avatar for david.c.billingsley Avatar for davibw1 Avatar for handshaw Avatar for Pat_W Avatar for chudson Avatar for jewing Avatar for BillKittler Avatar for jddphd

The Latest From Epsilon Theory


This commentary is being provided to you as general information only and should not be taken as investment advice. The opinions expressed in these materials represent the personal views of the author(s). It is not investment research or a research recommendation, as it does not constitute substantive research or analysis. Any action that you take as a result of information contained in this document is ultimately your responsibility. Epsilon Theory will not accept liability for any loss or damage, including without limitation to any loss of profit, which may arise directly or indirectly from use of or reliance on such information. Consult your investment advisor before making any investment decisions. It must be noted, that no one can accurately predict the future of the market with certainty or guarantee future investment performance. Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.

Statements in this communication are forward-looking statements. The forward-looking statements and other views expressed herein are as of the date of this publication. Actual future results or occurrences may differ significantly from those anticipated in any forward-looking statements, and there is no guarantee that any predictions will come to pass. The views expressed herein are subject to change at any time, due to numerous market and other factors. Epsilon Theory disclaims any obligation to update publicly or revise any forward-looking statements or views expressed herein. This information is neither an offer to sell nor a solicitation of any offer to buy any securities. This commentary has been prepared without regard to the individual financial circumstances and objectives of persons who receive it. Epsilon Theory recommends that investors independently evaluate particular investments and strategies, and encourages investors to seek the advice of a financial advisor. The appropriateness of a particular investment or strategy will depend on an investor’s individual circumstances and objectives.