One of the most elusive and frightening people afoot in the US at the moment, C. Peter Wagner is a domionionist writer often recognized as the de facto leader and founder of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Though his writings reveal impressive levels of insanity, Wagner is hardly the most vocal of the lot (compared to, say, Cindy Jacobs or Lou Engle) but his influence, including his power over politicians such as Rick Perry, Louie Gohmert and Randy Forbes – or former Hawaii Lt. Governor James Aiona – runs deep, even though these politicians sometimes, and in glaring contradiction with the facts, try to downplay the dominionist ideology of Wagner’s movement. Officially, his current position is chancellor emeritus of Wagner Leadership Institute, which serves as a training camp for leaders to enable them to join in the NAR (here is what it takes to be an apostle, by the way). He was previously president of Global Harvest Ministries, and is the author of more than 70 books. Some background for the movement is given here.
In particular, Wagner more or less founded the modern conceptions of spiritual warfare (i.e. jihad, though Wagner would never, ever use that word), especially in Confronting the Powers: How the New Testament Church Experienced the Power of Strategic-Level Spiritual Warfare and Engaging the Enemy, where he breaks the warfare down into three levels:
- Ground Level: Person-to-person, praying for each other’s personal needs.
- Occult Level: dealing with demonic forces released through activities related to Satanism, witchcraft, astrology and similar stuff, for instance through Harry Potter, Buddha jimcrack or the preservation rather than wanton destruction of heathen native American heritage (NAR leaders have bragged online about the destruction of Native American religious artifacts, perceiving the destruction as a liberating act, promoting “reconciliation” between estranged groups of people; here are some examples from Hawaii).
- Strategic-Level or Cosmic-Level: To bind and bring down spiritual principalities and powers that rule over governments.
“Strategic-level intercession” uses “spiritual mapping” and “tearing down strongholds” to engage in spiritual warfare against “territorial spirits”. Ok, so how literal and insanely does he mean “warfare”? As literally and insanely as you could imagine (there is a useful guide here). The NAR cultists actually runs around and cleanses houses and burns heathen artifacts in bonfires, and their goal is, explicitly, to take control over all aspects of business, family, government, media, religion, and education (the “Seven Mountains”), which they believe have, quite literally, fallen under the control of demons; all sin and corruption and poverty on the Earth stem from the Earth being controlled by a hierarchy of demons under the authority of Satan. The premise of Engaging the Enemy is precisely that Satan’s territorial spirit-demons may be identified by name, and that Christians are to engage in war with them; NAR leader Alice Patterson, for instance, has claimed that the Democratic Party is a “demon structure”, his wife Doris is the author of How to Cast Out Demons, and Wagner himself seems to think that anyone who disagrees with him is demon possessed. In short, they call for revolution in favor of a religious dictatorship, which is a necessary prelude for the return of Christ to Earth (we are “mandated to do whatever is necessary” to take domionion, says Wagner), which would bring about the annihilation of mankind and eternal torment of everyone but a select few. The parallels to insane Azathoth worshippers in the writings of H.P. Lovecraft are uncanny.
In Hard-Core Idolatry: Facing the Facts, Wagner doesn’t face the fact but asserts instead that Catholic saints bring honor to the spirits of darkness, and promotes burning their statues and relics (though he talks mostly about doing that in Argentina, since doing so in the US may be less than politically savvy). Indeed, Wagner, directed his associate Cindy Jacobs – a prophet in his Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders – to go to the Argentinian city Resistencia, where “they must burn the idols, like the magicians did in Ephesus,” which they did: they literally ran around in the streets playing war with an imaginary enemy and burnt down stuff. Yes, the NAR is well-and-truly the American Taliban.
For an arbitrarily selected illustration of how Wagner thinks the world works, you may turn to his claim that the early 1990s economic downturn of the Japanese economy was due to what Wagner depicted as a Shinto ritual in which Japanese emperors have sexual intercourse with a demonic succubus. The 2011 earthquake in Japan was also a result of that country being “pagan” and the emperor having sex with demons (“There is a spirit called a Harlot, a principality, who dominates nations, who dominates territories, who dominates people groups very, very clearly to such an extent that she has fornication with kin”). When he finally got some media attention in connection with Rick Perry’s 2011 prayer rally, which the NAR helped organize, he tried rather desperately to downplay these elements of his teachings.
In 2012 Wagner was honored by the state of Delaware (requested by representative Daniel B. Short), given a commodation and the key to the city of Seaford by its mayor and even received a tribute from the city council, the state Senate, and the state House that was personally read by the local state representative for his attempts to overthrow democratic rule and institute a domionionist tyranny, though that was not an explicit part of the official reason for the tribute.
Diagnosis: Insane but shrewd, C. Peter Wagner may well be among the most dangerous people in the US – his views are more or less identical to the Taliban, and he enjoys a scary and ridiculous amount of influence. The chances that he’ll succeed in implementing any kind of dominionism is admittedly slim, but his influence runs deep enough for there to be a genuine cause for worry.