THE VAST MAJORITY of Christians don’t riot at government buildings, but devotion to politics does grow intense. That’s not a new phenomenon, but it was particularly pronounced after Biden declared victory and Trump declared fraud in the November elections.
At a “Jericho March” in December, Christian author and radio host Eric Metaxas emceed an event for Christians to pray for Trump to prevail. Controversial radio host Alex Jones offered a theological twist: “This is the beginning of the great revival before the Antichrist comes! Revelation is fulfilled!” He added: “I don’t know who’s going to be in the White House in 38 days, but I do know Joe Biden is a globalist, and Joe Biden will be removed one way or another!”
The crowd roared.
“They’ve undermined the faith of believers, and they’ve made it more difficult for Christians to share the gospel going forward.”
Paula White, a Florida-based charismatic preacher and a chief evangelical adviser to Trump, held a prayer service the day after the election, attempting to declare victory for the incumbent. White called on angels from Africa and South America to intervene. She spoke in tongues. She chanted: “I hear a sound of an abundance of rain, I hear a sound of victory.”
The video went viral, provoking scores of parodies and online skewering. White grew noticeably quiet about allegations of election fraud and didn’t persist in bolstering Trump’s claims that the contest was stolen.
Neither did Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas and a fervent Trump supporter and evangelical adviser. (At a “Celebrate Freedom” rally in 2017, the choir from Jeffress’ church sang an anthem dubbed “Make America Great Again.”) Jeffress didn’t disavow Trump after the election, but he also didn’t show up at rallies to protest the outcome.
Other Christian leaders did persist: On Jan. 4—three weeks after the Electoral College confirmed Biden’s victory—televangelist Pat Robertson told his audience: “I believe something dramatic is going to happen before Congress votes on those electors. Something very dramatic that will change the outcome of that vote.”
The dramatic riot two days later didn’t change the outcome of the vote.
Meanwhile, Jeremiah Johnson wasn’t the only self-proclaimed prophet apologizing for his predictions. In Northern California, Kris Vallotton of the charismatic Bethel Church—home to the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry and the widely popular Bethel Music—apologized in November for predicting a Trump win.
After followers questioned Vallotton, he removed the post. When Vallotton reposted the apology on Jan. 9, a follower replied: “The Red Sea didn’t part until the Egyptians were right on top of them. It isn’t January 20 yet.”
Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris took the oath of office on Jan. 20.
Johnson, Vallotton, and other self-identified prophets contended their errors about Trump didn’t make them false prophets. But Vallotton admitted: “It’s obviously humiliating. … This is the beginning of me cleaning up my mess.”
It’s not clear what that cleaning up of the mess entails, but Holly Pivec, co-author of A New Apostolic Reformation?—a book about Christians claiming to be modern-day prophets—says the failed prophecies surrounding Trump brought “shame” to the Church: “They hurt its witness to the watching world, they’ve undermined the faith of believers, and they’ve made it more difficult for Christians to share the gospel going forward.”
Pivec thinks theology unmoored from the clear teaching of Scripture also makes followers vulnerable to the kind of conspiracy theories that have proliferated in movements like the QAnon fantasy.
That’s not just a problem in one theological branch. Russell Moore at the Southern Baptist Convention’s ERLC said the No. 1 question he’s been getting from pastors is “how to deal with these social-media-generated conspiracy theories and cultish ideas—and trying to differentiate between ideas that are just flaky, and ideas that are truly dangerous.”