Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Joel's Army- Armed In Error

This is a really interesting assessment of Joel’s Army, coming from a secular organization known as the Southern Poverty Law Center. This organization has for some years monitored various hate groups and militias in the United States, including the KKK, obscure underground militias, and anti-Semitic groups, Neo-Nazis, etc.. The SPLC history web page states “Today, its quarterly Intelligence Report is read by nearly 60,000 law enforcement officers nationwide, and Intelligence Project research has led to criminal convictions in several hate crime cases.” They often conduct research and covert investigations. You can view a hate group map of the United States by clicking here, and also click on individual states.

A couple of months ago, I put on the blog a prophetic word concerning a vision and Joel's Army by Robert Holmes (1997). In light of Lakeland, and this report from the Southern Poverty Law Center, it seemed prudent to bring it up again. Click here to read. Also Click on the title below to see photos and video.

Arming' for Armageddon
Militant Joel's Army Followers Seek Theocracy
By Casey Sanchez

LAKELAND, Fla. — Todd Bentley has a long night ahead
of him, resurrecting the dead, healing the blind, and
exploding cancerous tumors. Since April 3, the
32-year-old, heavily tattooed, body-pierced,
shaved-head Canadian preacher has been leading a
continuous "supernatural healing revival" in central
Florida. To contain the 10,000-plus crowds flocking
from around the globe, Bentley has rented baseball
stadiums, arenas and airport hangars at a cost of up
to $15,000 a day. Many in attendance are church
pastors themselves who believe Bentley to be a prophet
and don't bat an eye when he tells them he's seen King
David and spoken with the Apostle Paul in heaven. "He
was looking very Jewish," Bentley notes.

Tattooed across his sternum are military dog tags that
read "Joel's Army." They're evidence of Bentley's
generalship in a rapidly growing apocalyptic movement
that's gone largely unnoticed by watchdogs of the
theocratic right. According to Bentley and a handful
of other "hyper-charismatic" preachers advancing the
same agenda, Joel's Army is prophesied to become an
Armageddon-ready military force of young people with a
divine mandate to physically impose Christian
"dominion" on non-believers.

"An end-time army has one common purpose — to
aggressively take ground for the kingdom of God under
the authority of Jesus Christ, the Dread Champion,"
Bentley declares on the website for his ministry
school in British Columbia, Canada. "The trumpet is
sounding, calling on-fire, revolutionary believers to
enlist in Joel's Army. … Many are now ready to be
mobilized to establish and advance God's kingdom on

Joel's Army followers, many of them teenagers and
young adults who believe they're members of the final
generation to come of age before the end of the world,
are breaking away in droves from mainline Pentecostal
churches. Numbering in the tens of thousands, they
base their beliefs on an esoteric reading of the
second chapter of the Old Testament Book of Joel, in
which an avenging swarm of locusts attacks Israel. In
their view, the locusts are a metaphor for Joel's

Despite their overt militancy, there's no evidence
Joel's Army followers have committed any acts of
violence. But critics warn that actual bloodletting
may only be a matter of time for a movement that casts
itself as God's avenging army.

Those sounding the alarm about Joel's Army are not
secular foes of the Christian Right, few of whom are
even aware of the movement or how widespread it's
become in the past decade. Instead, Joel's Army
critics are mostly conservative Christians, either
neo-Pentecostals who left the movement in disgust or
evangelical Christians who fear that Joel's Army
preachers are stealing their flocks, even sending
spies to infiltrate their own congregations and sway
their young people to heresy. And they say the
movement is becoming frightening.

"The pitch and intensity of the military rhetoric of
this branch of the global Dominionist movement has
substantially increased since the beginning of 2008,"
writes The Discernment Research Group, a Christian
watchdog group that tracks what they call heresies or
cults within Christianity. "One can only wonder how
long before this transforms into real warfare with
actual warriors."
'Snorting Religion'
Joel's Army believers are hard-core Christian
dominionists, meaning they believe that America, along
with the rest of the world, should be governed by
conservative Christians and a conservative Christian
interpretation of biblical law. There is no room in
their doctrine for democracy or pluralism.

Dominionism's original branch is Christian
Reconstructionism, a grim, Calvinist call to theocracy
that, as Reconstructionist writer Gary North
describes, wants to "get busy in constructing a
Bible-based social, political and religious order
which finally denies the religious liberty of the
enemies of God."

Notorious for endorsing the public execution by
stoning of homosexuals and adulterers, the Christian
Reconstructionist movement is far better known in
secular America than Joel's Army. That's largely
because Reconstructionists have made several serious
forays into mainstream politics and received a fair
amount of negative publicity as a result. Joel's Army
followers eschew the political system, believing the
path to world domination lies in taking over churches,
not election to public office.

Another key difference between the two branches of
dominionism, which maintain a testy, arms-length
relationship with one another, is Christian
Reconstructionism's buttoned-down image and heavy
emphasis on Bible study, which contrasts sharply with
Joel's Army anti-intellectual distrust of biblical
scholars and its unruly style.

"Some people snort cocaine, others snort religions,"
Joel's Army Pastor Roy said while ministering a
morning program at Todd Bentley's Lakeland, Fla.,
revival in late May.

As this article went to press, Bentley's "Florida
Outpouring" had been running for more than 100 days
straight. Many attendees came in search of spontaneous
physical healing and a desire to be part of a mystical
community marked by dancing, shouting, gyrating,
speaking in tongues and other forms of ecstatic

Snide jabs at traditional church services are fairly
common at Bentley's revivals. In fact, what takes
place onstage at the Florida Outpouring looks more
like a pro wrestling extravaganza than church. On
stage, Bentley and his team of pastors, yell, chant,
and scream "Fire!" and "Bam!" while anointing
the call
"The Call," a 12-hour revival of up to 20,000 young
people held in a different city each year, is led by
Joel's Army pastor Lou Engle.

The audience members behave as if they are at a
psychedelic counterculture festival. One couple jumps
up and down twirling red and silver metallic flags.
Dyed-haired teenagers pulled in by the revival's
presence on Facebook and MySpace wander around looking
dazed. Women lay facedown on the floor, convulsing and
howling. Fathers wail in tongues as their confused
children look on. Strangers lay hands on those who
fail to produce tongues or gyrate wildly enough,
pressuring them to "let it out."

Bentley is considered a prophet both by his followers
and by other leaders of the Joel's Army movement,
whose adherents claim to be reviving a "five-fold
ministry" of prophets, apostles, elders, pastors and
teachers, as outlined in the Book of Ephesians. Not
every five-fold ministry is connected to the Joel's
Army movement, but the movement has spurred an
interest in modern-day apostles and prophets that's
troubling to the Assemblies of God, the world's
largest Pentecostal church, which has officially
disavowed the Joel's Army movement.

In a 2001 position paper, Assemblies of God leaders
wrote that they do not recognize modern-day apostles
or prophets and worried that "such leaders prefer more
authoritarian structures where their own word or
decrees are unchallenged." They are right to worry.
Joel's Army followers believe that once democratic
institutions are overthrown, their hierarchy of
apostles and prophets will rule over the earth, with
one church per city.
Warrior Nation
According to Joel's Army doctrine, the enforcers of
the five-fold ministry will be members of the final
generation, for whom the landmark Supreme Court
decision Roe v. Wade constituted a new Passover.

"Everyone born after abortion's legalization can
consider their birth a personal invitation to take
part in this great army," writes John Crowder, another
prominent Joel's Army pastor, who bills his 2006 book,
The New Mystics: How to Become Part of the
Supernatural Generation, as a literal how-to guide for
joining Joel's Army.

Both Bentley and Crowder are enormously popular on
Elijah's List, an online watering hole for a broad
spectrum of Joel's Army enlistees, from lightweight
believers who merely share an affection for military
rhetoric and pastors who dress in army camouflage
(several Joel's Army pastors are addressed by their
congregants as "commandant" or "commander") to
hardliners who believe the church is called to have an
active military role in end-times that have already
begun. Elijah's List currently has more than 125,000
subscribers on its electronic mailing list.

Rick Joyner, a pastor whose books, The Harvest and The
Call, helped popularize Joel's Army theology by
selling more than a million copies each, goes the
furthest on Elijah's List in pushing the hardliner
approach. In 2006, he posted a sermon called "The
Warrior Nation — The New Sound of the Church," in
which he claimed that a last-day army is now gathering
and called believers "freedom fighters."

"As the church begins to take on this resolve, they
[Joel's Army churches] will start to be thought of
more as military bases, and they will begin to take on
the characteristics of military bases for training,
equipping, and deploying effective spiritual forces,"
Joyner wrote. "In time, the church will actually be
organized more as a military force with an army, navy,
air force, etc."

In a sort of disclaimer, Joyner writes at one point
that God's army "will bring love, peace and stability
wherever they go." But several of his books narrate
with glee what he describes as "a coming civil war
within the church." In his 1997 book The Harvest he
writes: "Some pastors and leaders who continue to
resist this tide of unity will be removed from their
place. Some will become so hardened they will become
opposers and resist God to the end."

Two years later, in his book The Final Quest, Joyner
described a vision (taken as prophecy in the Joel's
Army world, where Joyner is considered an "apostle")
of the coming Christian Civil War in which
demon-possessed Christian soldiers enslave other,
weaker Christians who resist them. He also describes
how the hero of the novel — himself — ascends a "Holy
Mountain" in order to learn new truths and to acquire
new, magic weapons.
Kids on Fire
Bentley, who claims to be a supernatural healer, is no
less over the top, playing his biker-punk appearance
and heavy metal theatrics to the hilt. On YouTube,
where clips of his most dramatic healings have been
condensed into a three-minute highlight reel, Bentley
describes God ordering him to kick an elderly lady in
the face: "I am thinking, 'God, why is the power of
God not moving?' And He said, 'It is because you
haven't kicked that women in the face.' And there was,
like, this older lady worshipping right in front of
the platform and the Holy Spirit spoke to me and the
gift of faith came on me. He said, 'Kick her in the
face … with your biker boot.' I inched closer and I
went like this [makes kicking motion]: Bam! And just
as my boot made contact with her nose, she fell under
the power of God."

The atmosphere is less charged with violence at "The
Call," a 12-hour revival of up to 20,000 youths led by
Joel's Army pastor Lou Engle and held every summer in
a major American city (this year's event was scheduled
for Washington, D.C. in August).

Attendees are called upon to fast and pray for 40 days
and take up culture-war pledges to lead abstinent
lives, reject pornography and fight abortion. They're
further asked to perform "identificational
repentance," lugging along family trees and
genealogies to see where one of their ancestors may
have enslaved or oppressed another so that they can
make amends. (Many in the Joel's Army movement believe
in generational curses that must be broken by the
current generation).

As even his critics note, Engle is a sweet, humble and
gentle man whose persona is difficult to reconcile
with his belief in an end-time army of invincible
young Christian warriors. Yet while Engle is careful
to avoid deploying explicit Joel's Army rhetoric at
high-profile events like The Call, when he's speaking
in smaller hyper-charismatic circles to avowed Joel's
Army followers, he can venture into bloodlust.

This March, at a "Passion for Jesus" conference in
Kansas City sponsored by the International House of
Prayer, or IHOP, a ministry for teenagers from the
heavy metal, punk and goth scenes, Engle called on his
audience for vengeance.

"I believe we're headed to an Elijah/Jezebel showdown
on the Earth, not just in America but all over the
globe, and the main warriors will be the prophets of
Baal versus the prophets of God, and there will be no
middle ground," said Engle. He was referring to the
Baal of the Old Testament, a pagan idol whose
followers were slaughtered under orders from the
prophet Elijah.

"There's an Elijah generation that's going to be the
forerunners for the coming of Jesus, a generation
marked not by their niceness but by the intensity of
their passion," Engle continued. "The kingdom of
heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by
force. Such force demands an equal response, and Jesus
is going to make war on everything that hinders love,
with his eyes blazing fire."

Although Joel's Army theology is mainly directed at
people in their teens and early 20s via events like
The Call and ministries like IHOP, sometimes the
target audience is even younger. In some of the most
arresting images in "Jesus Camp," a 2006 documentary
about the Kids on Fire bible camp in North Dakota,
grade school-aged kids dressed in army fatigues wield
swords and conduct military field maneuvers. "A lot of
people die for God and they're not afraid," one camper
told ABC News reporters in a follow-up segment.

"We're kinda being trained to be warriors," added
another, "only in a funner way."
Cain and the Intellectuals
Both Christian and secular critics assailed the makers
of "Jesus Camp" for referring to the camp's extremist,
militant Christianity as "evangelical." There is a
name, however, that describes Kids on Fire's agenda,
if you're familiar with their theology: Joel's Army.
Pastor Becky Fischer, who runs the camp, said that a
third of the kids at her camp were under 6 years old
because they are "more in touch in the supernatural"
and proclaimed them to be "soldiers for God's Army."
Her camp's blend of end-times militancy and
supernaturalism is perfectly emblematic of the Joel's
Army movement, whose adherents believe their cause is
prophesied in the Old Testament chapter titled "An
Army of Locusts."

The stark, evocative passages of that chapter describe
a locust swarm that lays waste to Israel (to this day,
the region suffers periodic locust invasions): "Like
dawn spreading across the mountains a large and mighty
army comes, such as never was of old nor ever will be
in ages to come." As remarkable as the language is,
most biblical scholars agree that it is a literal
description of a locust invasion and resulting famine
that occurred sometime between the 9th and 5th
centuries B.C.E.

In the Book of Joel, the locust invasion is described
as an omen that an Assyrian army to the north may
attack Israel if it fails to repent as a nation. But
nowhere is the invasion described as an army of God.
According to an Assemblies of God position paper: "It
is a complete misinterpretation of Scripture to find
in Joel's army of locusts a militant, victorious force
attacking society and a non-cooperating Church to
prepare the earth for Christ's millennial reign."

The story of how an ancient insect invasion came to be
a rallying flag for 21st-century dominonists begins
just after World War II in Canada. Out of a small town
in Saskatchewan, a Pentecostal preacher named William
Branham spearheaded a 1948 revival in which he claimed
that his followers lived in a new biblical time of
"Latter Rain."

The most sinless and ardent of his flock would be
called "Manifest Sons of God." By the next year, the
movement was so strong — and seemed so subversive to
some — that the Assemblies of God banned it as a
heretic cult. But Branham remained a controversial
figure with a loyal following; many of his followers
believed him to be the end-times prophet Elijah.

Michael Barkun, a leading scholar of radical religion,
notes that in 1958, Branham began teaching "Serpent
Seed" doctrine, the belief that Satan had sex with
Eve, resulting in Cain and his descendants. "Through
Cain came all the smart, educated people down to the
antediluvian flood — the intellectuals, bible
colleges," Branham wrote in the kind of
anti-mainstream religion, anti-intellectual spirit
that pervades the Joel's Army movement to this day.
"They know all their creeds but know nothing about
The Gates of Hell
Branham was killed in a car accident in 1965, but his
Manifest Sons of God movement, the direct predecessor
of Joel's Army, lived on within a cluster of
hyper-charismatic churches. In the 1980s, Branham's
teachings took on new life at the Kansas City
Fellowship (KCF), a group of popular self-styled
apostles and prophets who used the Missouri church as
a launching pad for national careers promoting
outright Joel's Army theology.
The Joel's Army movement began with the 1940s
preaching of William Branham, whose group was banned
as heretical by the Assemblies of God.

Ernie Gruen, a local pastor who initially promoted and
gave citywide credibility to KCF pastors in the early
1980s, cut his connections in 1990. Concerned about
KCF's plans to push its teachings worldwide, Gruen
published a 132-page insider's account, based on taped
sermons and conversations and interviews with parents
who had enrolled their kids in KCF's Dominion school.

According to Gruen's report, students at the school
were taught that they were a "super-race" of the
"elected seed" of all the best bloodlines of all
generations — foreknown, predestined, and
hand-selected from billions of others to be part of
the "end-time Omega generation."

Though he'd once promoted these doctrines himself,
Gruen became convinced that the movement was turning
into an end-times cult, marked by what he summarized
as "spiritual threats, fears, and warnings of death,"
"warning followers to beware of other Christians" and
exhibiting "a 'super-race' mentality toward the
training of their children."

When contacted by the Intelligence Report, Gruen's
spokesman said that Gruen stands by everything he
published in the report but no longer grants media

The Kansas City Fellowship remains in operation and
has served as a farm team for many of the all-stars of
the Joel's Army movement. Those larger-than-life
figures include John Wimber, the founder of a
California megachurch, The Vineyard, who, before his
death in 1997, proclaimed that Joel's Army would not
only conquer the earth but defeat death itself. Lou
Engle founded The Call based on the Joel's Army
visions that KCF "prophet" Bob Jones (not to be
confused with Bob Jones III of Bob Jones University)
received while at KCF. Mike Bickle, another KCF
member, stayed in Kansas City to form the
International House of Prayer.

IHOP members and other Joel's Army adherents are well
aware of how their movement is perceived by other
conservative Christians.

"Today, you can type 'Joel's Army' into a search
engine and a thousand heresy hunter websites pop up,
decrying the very mention of it," writes John Crowder
in The New Mystics. Crowder doesn't exactly allay
critic's fears. "This is truly warfare," he writes.
"This battle is not a game. They [Joel's Army
warriors] will not be on the defense; they will be on
the offense — and the gates of hell will not be able
to hold up against them."

So far, few members of the secular media have taken
notice of Joel's Army, even as they report on
Protestant dominionists like Pat Robertson or the more
outrageous calls for the stoning of gays and lesbians
emanating from Reconstructionist circles. There are
exceptions, however. On the DailyKos, a well-read,
politically liberal blog, a diarist has been blogging
for two years about her experiences as a walkaway from
a Joel's Army church. She writes under a pseudonym out
of fear of physical reprisals.

She may have real cause for concern. As Wimber, the
late founder of The Vineyard, put it in one of his
most famous and fiery sermons, one that is still
frequently cited by Joel's Army followers: "Those in
this army will have His kind of power. … Anyone who
wants to harm them must die."