Friday, August 19, 2011

Bachmann Campaign Evangelical Dog Whistles: David Vs. Saul Edition

(For an explanation of the term "Evangelical dog whistles," please see my previous post.)

There was a reference that really caught my eye this morning that came from the Facebook page of a Bachmann staffer. The comment came from Peter Waldron, who works in faith outreach on the campaign.

At first glance, this may seem like an odd choice of metaphor to most people. When David is invoked as a political metaphor, it is usually in the context of David vs. Goliath, the well known Bible story about the underdog defeating his giant opponent thanks to his faith in and commitment to God. In fact, one may even expect such a metaphor to be used here. But it's not. And I believe the chosen metaphor is far more telling of the campaign's strategy.

Saul and David were both anointed Old Testament kings of Israel. David was Saul's successor. As Peter points out in his post, Saul had that anointing removed, but still wanted to be king. So he aggressively tried to hunt down David to ensure that he would not lose his position of prominence. But in the end, it was all in vain, as David was the Lord's newly chosen leader of Israel. (If you're interested in reading the whole story, you can find in in 1 Samuel  chapters 9-31.) But the importance of its use here lies not only in the story itself, but in what group of Americans often invokes that story.

I was first exposed to this teaching seven years ago. Although I was raised in a liberal mainstream Lutheran home, I had a number of Evangelical friends and ultimately attended an Evangelical college here in Minnesota. It was there that I was first exposed to the distortions that have led to the ugly marriage of American Christian culture to right-wing politics. After graduating, a number of my friends had become involved with what is often referred to as the New Apostolic Reformation, 24/7 Prayer Movement, or the Latter Day Rain Movement. This movement is typified by heavy emphasis on prophecy, charismatic spiritual gifts (speaking in tongues, discernment, healing, casting out demons, etc.) 24/7 prayer meetings (International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Lou Engle's The Call rallies, etc.), and the end times. Due to those friendships, I attended a number of conferences/speakers both here in Minnesota and Kansas City. After seeing the ins and outs of the movement, there was too much that I found to be both theologically and politically unsound to join their ranks, but my time with them has given me some unexpected insight into some of today's current political climate.

During that time, I attended a charismatic conference called The Holy Spirit Conference that is hosted at North Heights Lutheran Church in Arden Hills, MN. (I know what you're thinking...Lutheran?? They are not your typical Lutherans that fall under one of the well known denominations. Rather they are part of Lutheran Renewal which is steeped in the charismatic and prophetic movements.) At the conference, one of the evening speakers was R.T. Kendall. He is a prominent speaker in such circles and has ties to those who started the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, which has become a model for other houses of prayer including those in the Twin Cities.

His presentation was titled "The Anointing-Part 1." (I missed part 2.) I would always take notes at these conferences in journals that I still have, so the second I saw Peter Waldron's comments today, I immediately got them out. In this presentation, RT Kendall focused on 1 Samuel 16 to list three categories of people in God's work: Yesterday's man (Saul), Today's man (the prophet Samuel), and Tomorrow's man (David). The first has lost his anointing, the second must break with the past (one he previously anointed) and follow the Holy Spirit, and the third is waiting for his time to come. In this story, anointing refers to God's approval and power to take up a role of leadership in the kingdom. In this first part of his presentation, he focused on Saul. He pointed out that Saul was originally called by God and anointed, but once he disobeyed God that anointing was removed. However, rather than accept that, Saul continued to try to live his anointing through his own plans and power. In other words, he was no longer God's chosen one, but he still acted like he was. In Kendall's words, he was trying "to live someone else's anointing" and he "became deaf to the Holy Spirit." The significance of this to him is that people can still walk with the appearance of the anointing but not have God's approval.

So, what does all that have to do with Rep. Bachmann's campaign strategy??

As I'm sure you are aware of, prior to announcing his run for the nomination, Rick Perry hosted a prayer rally titled "The Response." This rally was based largely off of the pattern set out by Lou Engle and his "The Call" rallies. The worship was led by a team from Mike Bickle's International House of Prayer (of which Lou Engle is a also a senior leader.) Although, I don't know who originated these teachings  (Bickle and Kendall are quite familiar with one another and endorse each other's books), the teaching of Saul's lost anointing is also one that Mike Bickle preaches. You can watch him present this during a 2005 teaching in this video. In other words, this is a teaching that New Apostolic Reformation circles know well. It is a key piece in their theology on how to live in and recognize God's annointing. Any candidate using a reference to this story will immediately grab their attention.

By hosting "The Response" as his last big event before announcing his campaign, Rick Perry has established his dedication to courting this group of voters. Such circles also frequently teach about the importance of having godly leader to establish godly policy to avoid bringing God's judgement upon our nation. They are looking to vote for someone that is on their team, so to speak. Rick Perry established that through his rally.

By invoking the comparison to Saul and David, Michele Bachmann's campaign is trying to send a message to the same voters. They are seeking to undermine the support among that group for one of their main competitors. They are trying to declare Rep. Bachmann to be the candidate that is truly one of them while the other may be so just in appearance - much like Saul appeared to be God's chosen even after it was really David that had the anointing. By invoking Saul, they essentially declare Rick Perry to be old news. They say to the NAR voters "This is the anointed one! Perry was God's leader in the past, but this is God's future leader. She is the one after God's own heart!" The language Waldon chose in that post may have initially seemed odd to some, but it was far from unintentional.

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