Executive Summary: Cutting against growing tensions between the United States and Russia, influential and politically well-connected, Tea Party-aligned American evangelical leaders – including one who has called for a “military takeover” – who hold dominionist or even theocratic political leanings and are tied to former high-level U.S. military and intelligence community members, have over the past decade allied with one of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s closest political allies, Vladimir Yakunin.
[image, top, from left: Fidel Castro, World Public Forum co-founder and close Vladimir Putin confident Vladimir Yakunin, and WPF co-founder Nicholas Papanicolaou at World Public Forum 2005 “Latin America in the 21st Century” conference in Cuba. At the WPF’s Rhodes Forum in 2007 Cuban president Castro proposed an “alliance of civilizations” to oppose “the United States’ empire”. Meetings between Papanicolaou and Yakunin continued at least up into 2012. image, bottom, from left: former Undersecretary of Defense and current Oak Initiative board member Lt. General (Ret.) William “Jerry” Boykin, Oak Initiative board member Nicholas Papanicolaou, and Oak Initiative president Rick Joyner, who in a September 30, 2013 “prophetic” video commentary declared, “I believe our only hope is military takeover: martial law”. Joyner’s Oak Initiative is dominated by apostles from the New Apostolic Reformation movement, which calls on its followers to “take dominion” over all sectors of society. click on image for larger size version.]
This investigation, by the Center Against Religious Extremism (CARE), demonstrates an extensive pattern tying evangelist Rick Joyner and his Oak Initiative political organizing front, and leaders affiliated with Joyner who have pledged their lives to implement biblical law in all sectors of society, to Vladimir Putin’s inner-circle ally Vladimir Yakunin.
Last year, a September 30, 2013 call for a “military takeover” of the U.S. government and imposition of “martial law” from well-connected South Carolina evangelist Rick Joyner – who boasts close ties to former high-level U.S. military and intelligence community leaders, earned significant media coverage and also strong words from Military Religious Freedom Foundation founder and head Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, who estimated that a significant fraction of officers and NCOs might be sympathetic to such an exhortation, a form of “sedition” that crossed a “red line” according to Weinstein.
MRFF defends the rights of U.S. armed forces members who have been victims of coercive evangelizing that, according to Weinstein’s organization, is being inflicted mainly by dominionist “bible believing” Christian superior officers upon members of the military who are Christian but are deemed to hold incorrect versions of the faith (MRFF’s work has been featured in numerous mainstream media venues including The Economist, Newsweek, and perhaps most thoroughly and vividly in journalist Jeff Sharlet’s 2009 Harpers magazine story Jesus Killed Mohammed: The Crusade For a Christian Military.)
Joyner’s call for a “military takeover” and “martial law” did not lead major religious right “family values” (and ostensibly patriotic) organizations such as the Family Research Council (FRC), the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), or the American Family Association (AFA) to ostracize Joyner or distance themselves from his Oak Initiative organization. Rather, these groups signed onto a coalition that opposes Weinstein’s MRFF and whose membership includes the Oak Initiative, whose president Rick Joyner in late 2013 stated, amidst substantial critical media scrutiny, that he “will stand by” his apparent call for a military coup.
[image, below: ad for 2012 Oak Initiative summit featuring Rick Joyner, Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin, Nicholas Papanicolaou, NAR apostles Lance Wallnau, Bob Weiner, and Negiel Bigpond, and others]
The Oak Initiative – whose board is dominated by apostles from the radical New Apostolic Reformation movement – boasts organizational ties both to the Republican Party and also to leaders who have helped create the anti-government American militia movement.
Through its partnership with national hard-right, anti-gay groups such as FRC, ADF, and AFA, as well as Oak Initiative member Lt. General (Ret.) Jerry Boykin’s role as Family Research Council Executive Vice President, Joyner’s Oak Initiative has institutional links both to the elite group of hard-right, anti-LGBT rights billionaire evangelical funders associated with the annual event known as The Gathering, and to its parent organization The Fellowship (or “The Family”), which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast and whose longtime head Douglas Coe has expressed admiration for the ability of a small band of violent Bolshevik revolutionaries to take over Russia, in 1917.
Joyner’s Oak Initiative itself promotes a style of factually-challenged anti-government conspiracy theories that have been deployed, since the 1980s by far-right evangelical operatives with former military and intelligence backgrounds, to undermine confidence in the U.S. federal government and stoke anti-government fear and paranoia among millions of American citizens. Joyner has repeatedly claimed that the Obama Administration plans mass imprisonment of American citizens.
But Joyner has also enthused over the coming of a Christian authoritarian regime that will seem “like totalitarianism” and will forcibly re-educate Americans. On September 16, 2014, Rick Joyner issued a “prophetic” statement that envisioned a massive state level revolt against the federal government led by militias which, speculated Joyner, might ally with U.S. county sheriffs. In Joyner’s dream, that anti-government militia revolt led to violence and anarchy which, in turn, triggered the military takeover and imposition of martial law that Joyner had called for a year earlier, in October 2013.
Behind Joyner’s carefully calibrated “prophetic” forecasts lie an elaborate strategy and infrastructure application of Fourth Generation Warfare theory, by the American Christian right, in a nonlinear approach to delegitimizing and destabilizing the federal government – a strategy that relies both on force of arms (at the local level), infiltration, and sophisticated information warfare techniques.
Joyner’s dire predictions resemble those from Russian former KGB analyst Igor Panarin, whose forecasts of an impending breakup of the United States into six or more pieces have been promoted by the Putin regime. Since 2008, Panarin has repeatedly predicted the imminent breakup of the United States amidst economic chaos and societal decay. In 2012 Panarin announced,”There’s a 55-45% chance right now that disintegration will occur.”
American evangelical leaders linked to Putin’s inner circle include NAR leader and strategist Rick Joyner who in 2013 openly advocated a military coup against the United States government and is affiliated with controversial former U.S. military leaders implicated in torture and illegal covert operations as well as with a former head of the Central Intelligence Agency.
Currently sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged interference in the Ukraine, Vladimir Yakunin is sometimes described as Russia’s second most powerful leader and is Putin’s close neighbor in an elite luxury dacha lakeside resort community near Russia’s border with Finland. Together with Greek-American financier Nicholas Papanicolaou – a board member of the U.S. evangelical political front the Oak Initiative that is dominated by members of the radical pro-theocracy New Apostolic Reformation movement (NAR), Yakunin is co-founder of the Russian-dominated World Public Forum, whose yearly Rhodes, Greece “Dialogue of Civilizations” events have brought together dominionist American evangelicals with top Russian leaders.
The American ties extend to Yakunin’s wife Natalia Yakunina, who along with her railway mogul husband is a top leader in Russia’s government-backed anti-gay rights, “pro-family” initiative.
Heavy U.S. evangelical penetration of post-Soviet Union Russia and post-Soviet Eastern European nations dates to 1992 (as detailed in a Twocare.org special report), when a coalition of fundamentalist American evangelical groups began the religious indoctrination of millions of school children across Russia and in nations of the former Soviet Union. But ties between elite U.S. evangelists and Russian leaders trace back to the late 1970s.
One acolyte of NAR apostles played a pivotal role in the disputed 2000 U.S. presidential election. In another instance of NAR influence on presidential politics, at a June 2008 NAR conference near Seattle one NAR apostle told top New Apostolic Reformation leaders, in the apostolic and prophetic networks organized by C. Peter Wagner, of her decades-long religious mentoring of future 2008 election vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Former Alaska governor Palin’s ties to the NAR movement were later confirmed, by top NAR leader Peter Wagner, in a 2011 Fresh Air NPR interview.
[image, right: NAR apostles promote the “7 Mountains” doctrine that believers are to “infiltrate” and achieve positions of influence and power in seven top sectors of society: government, business, media, education, arts and entertainment, religion, and the family]
Another of the Putin inner circle-linked evangelical leaders tied to Joyner is Ted Baehr, a steering committee member of an evangelical coalition – guided by the overtly theocratic Christian Reconstructionism movement – whose members call for a ‘second American revolution’ to implement biblical law in all sectors of society and have “signed a ‘blood oath,’ a solemn covenant with Almighty God that we were willing to be martyred in order to do God’s will.”
Under the radar
In early 2014, liberal American media coverage, notably from Mother Jones magazine and from The Nation, drew attention to the considerable role American religious conservatives associated with the Rockford, Illinois-based World Congress of Families have played in fomenting a growing anti-gay rights backlash in Russia.
In the forefront of Russia’s traditionalist backlash against gay rights, especially through their heavy patronage and financial support of the World Congress of Families, Vladimir Yakunin – often mentioned as a possible presidential successor to Vladimir Putin, and his wife Natalia Yakunina have emerged as driving forces in Russia’s ongoing government-backed attack on LGBT rights including the passage of a draconian amendment, to an existing Russian law, that prohibits “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and which has been used to attack Russian LGBT rights groups.
Vladimir Yakunin runs both the nationalist, Russian Orthodox Church aligned Center of The National Glory of Russia and St. Andrew the First-Called Foundation, identified as “initiators” of the Russian “soft power” initiative the World Public Forum (see critical coverage from WPF observer Richard Bartholomew here) and which also have played a major role in hosting and financing World Congress of Families events in Russia.
Recently sanctioned by the U.S. government for alleged Russian involvement in “the situation in the Ukraine”, Vladimir Yakunin controls one of the key levers of Russian state power, Russia’s railway system, and has been accused of corruption and of using his position to build a vast secret offshore business empire worth “billions of [U.S.] dollars”.
Underscoring the intimacy of president Vladimir Putin’s ties to Vladimir Yakunin is the fact that Yakunin shares with Putin (as reported both by the Wall Street Journal and also in Russian media) and other select Putin-aligned Russian power elites a luxury dacha compound community on Russia’s pristine Komsomolskoye Lake near the Russian/Finnish border.
“The army to set our nation free”
Unnoticed amidst the Western media coverage of the World Congress of Families’ anti-LGBT rights activism have been growing ties between the Yakunins and elements of the American evangelical hard-right antagonistic to the federal government, with dominionist or even theocratic leanings, and with links both to elite conservative evangelicalism but also to local and grassroots initiatives challenging federal authority such as the American militia movement and a new national organization of county sheriffs called the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, whose members pledge to refuse to enforce laws they consider unconstitutional and whose founder declares, “the CSPOA will be the army to set our nation free”.
Head of CSPOA is Mormon former county sheriff Richard Mack, whose frequent appearances at Tea Party and John Birch Society events have during the presidency of Barack Obama helped fuel the resurgence of the militia movement. In the 1990s Mack was the chief lobbyist for Gun Owners of America – headed by militia movement theorist Larry Pratt. Closely associated with the Christian Reconstructionism movement, Pratt contributed a chapter to the 1990 Christian Reconstructionist anthology Tactics of Christian Resistance (another chapter of the book was contributed by Herbert Schlossberg, a featured speaker in 1997 at the elite multimillionaire and billionaire evangelical right funding confab known as The Gathering.)
As described in an important report from the Boston-based nonprofit Political Research Associates, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association is part of a broader effort associated with the neo-Confederate linked Nullification movement to promote states’ rights and delegitimize the federal government.
[image, right: Larry Pratt’s 1990 book Armed People Victorious praised the efforts of Guatemalan militias under President Efrain Rios Montt. The militias Pratt praised served as counterinsurgency adjuncts of a regime that has since been implicated in using government-backed death squads and carrying out mass crimes against humanity and genocide.]
While leaders in Rick Joyner’s New Apostolic Reformation movement take care to maintain a studied public relations distance from the paleoconservative political tendency associated with the Nullification movement (which is tainted ties to overt racism), the ICA/ICAL apostle Jonathan Hansen (who can be seen here interviewing “Convening Apostle” of ICA/ICAL John P. Kelly) has worked closely with Gun Owners of America head Larry Pratt, considered one of the key figures in the rise of the Patriot and militia movements that are closely linked to the nullification campaign.
As a Southern Poverty Law Center profile on Pratt characterizes, Larry Pratt “stands at the intersection of guns and Jesus, lobbying for absolutely unrestricted distribution of firearms while advocating a theocratic society based upon Old Testament civil and religious laws.” A July 2014 Rolling Stone story on Pratt, by Alexander Zaitchik, called him “the gun lobby’s secret weapon”. The report prominently noted Pratt’s ties to the overtly theocratic (or theonomic) Christian Reconstructionism movement.
From the NAR to the militia movement
One notable link between the New Apostolic Reformation, and ICA/ICAL, and the militia movement is through globe-trotting evangelist Jonathan Hansen, who joined ICAL in 2010 (the same year Kelly took over leadership of the ICA) and who can be seen in this ministry video giving a 1/2 hour interview of ICAL leader John P. Kelly. Hansen now sports the title of “Apostle at Large” for ICA/ICAL.
Jonathan Hansen’s regular ministry newsletter describes his ongoing travels, from Uganda to Russia, where he claims to meet with high-level government and military leaders. Hansen’s biography has described him as “a former law enforcement officer in the United States Air Force, a Deputy Sheriff for Spokane County, Washington, as well as a member of a S.W.A.T. Team.”
In 2001, from February into May, Hansen participated in a rolling series of “Apostolic/Prophetic” conferences, held from Washington State to Texas, as part of a four-person evangelizing team that included Larry Pratt, head of Gun Owners of America – whose role on the team was to inform audiences “how Americans are losing their freedoms”. Hansen’s job was “sharing truth from the scriptures about the judgment of the Lord coming upon our nation and why”.
“Our only hope is a military takeover: martial law”
In his September 16, 2014 “Prophetic Perspectives” video “URGENT WARNING ISIS coming to America – The Gate of Hell has opened” Rick Joyner built upon the apocalyptic vision that he aired one year earlier, during Joyner’s October 2013 call for a “military takeover”; in his September 16, 2014 statement, Joyner described a coming military takeover and the imposition of martial law in response to a nationwide overthrow of federal and state government authority, led by militia groups perhaps allied with county sheriffs.
Since the late 1990s, Rick Joyner’s Heritage International/Morningstar Ministries have partially rehabilitated the former Fort Mill, South Carolina real estate empire of disgraced 1980s televangelist Jim Bakker, and Morningstar Ministries now teems with young adults drawn by Morningstar’s free-form style of worship powered by a ceaseless, high-quality fusion of rock and country music. Two frequent performers at Morningstar have been country and bluegrass icon Ricky Skaggs and his daughter, Molly Skaggs.
In the late 2000s, according to his own account, Morningstar Ministries and Oak Initiative head Rick Joyner served as a delegate at the World Public Forum – where he would have had a chance to meet, in person, Russian potentate Yakunin.
In an October 2013 video broadcast, made shortly before a Tea Party-instigated Republican shutdown of the U.S. federal government, Morningstar Ministries and Oak Initiative head Rick Joyner stated,
“I believe our only hope is a military takeover: martial law… I believe there are noble leaders in our military that love the republic and they love everything we stand for, and they could seize the government.”
Amidst some mainstream media coverage, Joyner stood by his call for a “military takeover”, declaring in an October 3, 2013 “special bulletin”, “I make no apologies for this statement, and I will stand by it.”
Despite his voluminous writings which often attempt to position himself as on the moderate spectrum of conservative evangelical politics (for example by endorsing, in theory at least, health care reform and environmentalism), as exhaustively chronicled by People For The American Way’s Rightwing Watch, Joyner’s “prophetic” missives frequently feature warnings of impending Obama Administration-imposed totalitarianism and predictions that America will soon erupt into civil war or that citizens fighting government tyranny will launch a “second American revolution”.
One speaker at Joyner’s frequent ministry conferences has been Retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North, who masterminded the early 1980s funneling of illegal profits, from secret U.S. arms sales to Iran, to anti-communist rebel groups fighting the Sandinista government of Nicaragua. North has played a significant, if indirect role in the rise of the militia movement; during the first Reagan Administration, Oliver North participated in what was a (probably unconstitutional) series of FEMA-led contingency planning exercises, garbled tales of which have become enshrined in conspiracy theory and have fueled fear of possible government mass-internment (even execution in some versions of the story) of American citizens.
Other notable associates of Joyner’s include James Woolsey, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States, Woolsey emerged as a prominent advocate of the (now thoroughly debunked) claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein played a role in the attacks – a claim that helped propel the United States towards the disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq which has led, in turn, to the rise of ISIS.
Joyner appears to be positioning himself as a top leader of the politicized evangelical right. In his “Prophetic Bulletin #69” (July 2009) Rick Joyner describes,
“We [Morningstar] hosted a summit of Christian leaders with national influence at Heritage at the end of April. About 300 came who together represented as many as 200,000 churches and millions of believers. This gathering has been called historic.
“By this we will have the impact that we should in government and every one of the seven realms of power and influence over man.
…On August 20-22, 2009, we will gather again at Heritage to ratify the Articles of Incorporation, by-laws, elect officers, and begin to implement a plan for a grassroots mobilization of Christians across the nation.
Attendance at this summit is by invitation only…”
The Russian connection
Media coverage missed the disturbing context of Joyner’s “prophetic” call for a “military takeover” which included Joyner’s leadership in the radical New Apostolic Reformation, and his NAR-dominated Oak Initiative ties to Vladimir Putin’s inner circle.
While the American religious right has traditionally cloaked its activism in a thick veneer of patriotism, in recent years conservative evangelicals have nonetheless pursued high level connections to top Russian leaders, some of them avowed foes of the United States.
One of the top leaders and board members of Joyner’s Oak Initiative is the impressively pedigreed and accomplished Greek-American financier Nicholas Papanicolaou – a childhood friend of Christina Onassis, Vice President from 1973-1975 of the Onassis shipping empire’s Olympic Maritime company, former chairman of the Aston Martin Lagonda auto company, and one of three co-founders, with close Vladimir Putin confident Vladimir Yakunin, of the World Public Forum which was launched in 2002 and since 2003 has hosted its signature event, the yearly Dialogue of Civilizations forum, on the Greek island of Rhodes.
Billed as a forum that promotes world peace through inter-religious and inter-civilizational dialogue, the World Public Forum has hosted a wildly eclectic range of featured speakers, from top government officials such as Yakunin (who regards the United States as an implacable foe of Russia) and Fidel Castro, to arch-social conservative religious leaders, iconaclastic intellectuals such as U.S. foreign policy critic and leading linguist Noam Chomsky, and American conspiracy theorist and perennial political candidate Lyndon LaRouche.
One of the few authorities in the West to pay sustained attention to the World Public Forum/Dialogue of Civilizations has been British academic Richard Bartholomew, who drily notes of the Yakunin-backed forum that, “For some reason, the views and analysis it [the WPF] promotes always seems to coincide with Russian interests.”
While gay rights activists have focused heavily on the World Congress of Families, the little noticed World Public Forum has also provided a parallel platform for the anti-LGBT rights social conservatism promoted by the World Congress of Families, and the WPF has provided a venue where top Russian leaders and American evangelicals involved in the WCF could meet with minimal scrutiny.
Featured speakers at the World Public Forum 2013 included the World Congress of Families’ three most prominent American leaders – Alan Carlson, Don Feder, and Larry Jacobs – who shared a stage at the event with Natalia Yakunina and Ted Baehr (mentioned below). Notable Russian leaders at the event included Yakunina, her husband Vladimir Yakunin, and Alexey Komov (alt. Alex Y. Komov) – the WCF’s top representative in Moscow.
[image, right: World Congress of Families Russia representative Alex Y. Komov has made several appearances, on the government-sponsored Voice of Russia radio and television program, to discuss “family values” with former KGB analyst Igor Panarin]
Komov, who enjoys access to top Putin government leaders including Vladimir Yakunin, has also made several Russian government TV appearances with former KGB information warfare specialist Igor Panarin, who heads Russia’s school for foreign diplomats and is known for his repeated predictions (made during periods of American economic and political instability) that the United States could break up into up to six regional subunits.
Panarin’s predictions resemble those of Rick Joyner, who up into the present has repeatedly forecast the impending breakup of the U.S. federal government.
Papanicolaou on Islam
While the World Public Forum officially accepts and welcomes all major world religions including Islam, WPF co-founder Nicholas Papanicolaou is author of the 2011 book Islam vs the United States which “examines the historical, koranic, cultural, political and all-conquering character of many of the followers of Islam. It also exposes the strategic plan of the Muslim Brotherhood for the USA”.
And through his participation in the New Apostolic Reformation-dominated Oak Initiative, Papanicolaou is affiliated with one of the most extreme, religious supremacist expressions of politicized Christianity.
While harboring special animosity against Islam, NAR leaders categorically depict all competing religious and philosophical beliefs as satanic and encourage their followers (as a part of New Apostolic Reformation doctrine), to destroy books, scripture, art, and other objects associated with other faiths – and even associated with competing forms of Christianity such as Catholicism.
Oak Initiative board member Nicholas Papanicolaou’s extensive association with New Apostolic Reformation leaders extends beyond his immediate Oak Initiative board ties. In March 2009 Papanicolaou presided over a ceremony, on the former British colony of Malta, that inducted “His Royal Majesty Drolor Bosso Adamtey I”, otherwise known by his American name Kingsley Fletcher, into Papanicolaou’s knights of Malta order.
In 1999 along with Rick Joyner, C. Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs, Dutch Sheets and Ted Haggard, Fletcher was one of the featured speakers at the “National School of the Prophets: Mobilizing the Prophetic Office for the Next Century” event in Colorado that helped launch the NAR’s elite prophetic association the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders, which meets semi-annually and releases yearly prophetic statements. Fletcher has also served as a faculty member of the Wagner Leadership Institute, the most important institution promoting NAR doctrine and practices.
Nicholas Papanicolaou is currently scheduled, along with Lance Wallnau, to speak at an October 30th to November 1st 2014 event at a non-denominational Phoenix, AZ megachurch. Wallnau is one of twenty-odd leaders on the elite ICAL Apostolic Council, “which provides advice and accountability” for the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders, perhaps the biggest apostolic network in the burgeoning NAR movement.
Wallnau is the top promoter of the NAR’s “7 Mountain” motivational mantra, which encourages believers to “infiltrate” and achieve positions of influence and power on the “seven mountains” which represent seven key sectors of society: government (including the military), business, media, education, arts and entertainment, religion, and the family.
“Knights Hospitallers Of The Sovereign Order of Saint John Of Jerusalem
The World Public Forum’s annual “Dialogue of Civilizations” is not the only event associated with Oak Initiative member Nicholas Papanicolaou that is held on the Greek island of Rhodes:
Papanicolaou and Rick Joyner are also members of a non-Catholic knights of Malta chivalric order (which has many ties to Joyner’s Fort Mill, South Carolina Morningstar and Heritage International ministries) – along with Lt. Gen. (Ret.) “Jerry” Boykin and Ted Baehr – publisher of Movieguide, which assesses the suitability of movies other other media for conservative Christian family audiences.
Perhaps by coincidence, in 2011 that order – the “Knights Hospitallers Of The Sovereign Order of Saint John Of Jerusalem” – held an event on the Greek Island of Rhodes only a few days before the World Public Forum. The October 2, 2011 Knights Hospitallers event was officiated by Papanicolaou and Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Boykin – thus bringing one of America’s most highly trained and accomplished elite soldiers, Jerry Boykin, into close geographic and temporal proximity to one of Russia’s most powerful politicians, Vladimir Yakunin.
William G. “Jerry” Boykin’s impressive experience in non-traditional warfare has included commanding U.S. Army Special Operations, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center, and the elite Delta Force. In the early 2000s Boykin caused national controversy (and triggered a Pentagon investigation) through a speaking tour of Christian churches. In many of his appearances Boykin appeared in full military uniform. In one appearance Boykin stated, “we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christians. …And the enemy is a guy named Satan.” In another appearance, discussing his 1993 battle with a Muslim warlord in Somalia in 1993, Boykin declared, “I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol.”
More recent contacts between associates of Rick Joyner’s, Vladimir Yakunin, and Natalia Yakunina comes through Nicholas Papanicolaou’s presence at the World Public Forum in Rhodes 2012, and Ted Baehr’s even more recent presence on the World Congress of Families’ VIII Moscow planning committee in October 2013.
[image, right: (at World Public Forum Rhodes Forum 2012) WPF co-founder and Oak Initiative board member Nicholas Papanicolaou (2nd from left) with WPF co-founder and top Putin inner circle insider Vladimir Yakunin (4th from left), head of Russia’s railway system and co-leader, with his wife Natalya Yakunina, of ongoing Russia government-backed campaign against LGBT rights. Yakunin is barred from travel to the United States for alleged involvement in the Ukraine.]
Movieguide publisher Baehr was also listed (as “Theodore Baer (USA), founder and publisher, Movieguide) as a speaker at the September 10-11, 2014 Moscow “Large Family and Future of Humanity” conference that was held in stead of the World Congress of Families VIII event (nominally cancelled because of international pressure from human rights groups) but that featured most of the Russian and many of the Western speakers who had been scheduled for the World Congress of Families VIII. The Large Family and Future of Humanity conference included participation of Vladimir Yakunin and Natalia Yakunina.
The Coalition on Revival
For his part, Movieguide producer Theodore Baehr has been a featured speaker (on a panel discussion with Natalia Yakunina) at the World Public Forum and also a frequent featured speaker, along with Vadimir Yakunin and Natalia Yakunina, at World Congress of Families events. In October 2013 Baehr served, along with the Yakunins, on the planning committee for the subsequently cancelled World Congress of Families VIII conference that was to be held in Moscow in September 2014.
[image, right: Steering Committee member of the theocratic Coalition on Revival Theodore Baehr, also head of the National Christian Foundation-funded Christian Film and Television Commission, talks with Natalia Yakunina at the 2013 World Public Forum Dialogue of Civilizations. Link to video of Baehr and Yakunina.]
Baehr also serves on the current steering committee of the theocratic Coalition on Revival and was a featured speaker at the COR-sponsored August 2013 California “Drawing a Line In The Sand” conference along with COR founding members E. Calvin Beisner and Jay Grimstead and COR steering committee member Peter Hammond, author of the virulently anti-gay book The Pink Agenda (review of book.) E. Calvin Beisner is head of the leading evangelical coalition opposing action to address anthropogenic climate change, the Cornwall Alliance.
Launched in the mid-1980s, The Coalition on Revival is a broad front of hard-right politicized evangelicals which – under the guidance of top leaders from the theocratic Christian Reconstructionism movement – drafted a series of documents mapping out in detail how biblical law would be instituted in all sectors of society. Those COR documents were officially released in a ceremony attended by members of the Reagan Administration White House staff, held July 4, 1986 at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
COR members have pledged to give their lives, if necessary, to impose biblical law in every sphere of society. According to former leader in COR (and now a critic) Colonel V. Doner (‘colonel’ is his first name, not a rank) the original COR members “signed a ‘blood oath’, a solemn covenant with the Almighty God that we were willing to be martyred in order to do God’s will. If you think this sounds a bit like the guys who blew up the Twin Towers, I would have to agree.” (pp. 166, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America, Samizdat Creative, 2012)
The purpose of COR, in the words of its head Jay Grimstead, was,
“To rally around the mainstream basics and create 17 Biblical Worldview Documents which would outline the Church’s biblical tasks in various areas of life such as law, government, economics, education, the media, science, the arts…
…We can thus begin rebuilding our civilization on the principles of the Bible as a united, spiritual ‘Allied Army’ of Christian leaders from every denomination and organization which cares to unite in such an effort.”
Those “17 Biblical Worldview Documents” were then distilled to a shorter work titled “42 Articles of the Christian Worldview” that was in turn distributed by the top evangelical leaders who had signed onto COR including then President of the National Association of Evangelicals Robert Dugan.
From there, COR ideas diffused widely into the evangelical mainstream, especially into the rapidly growing Pentecostal and charismatic sector of American Christianity that would in the late 1990s give birth to the radical New Apostolic Reformation movement – whose apostles and prophets now promote a stripped-down version of COR ideas through the so-called “7 Mountains mandate”. In 2005, shortly before blessing Sarah Palin prior to her successful bid for the Alaska Governor’s seat, NAR leader and Kenya evangelist Thomas introduced the 7M mandate with,
“When we talk about transformation of a community, we are talking about God invading seven areas in our society. Let me repeat that one more time. When we talk about transformation of a society, a community, it’s where we see God’s Kingdom infiltrate, influence seven areas in our society…”
Muthee went on to enumerate those sectors, including government. During the 2008 presidential election, after John McCain picked Palin as a running mate, an Alaska NAR prophet associated with ICA/ICAL apostle and prophet Mary Glazier (whose prayer group Palin had joined during her twenties) released a prophecy that envisioned the McCain/Palin ticket winning the election, with Palin then ascending to an even higher political office following a tragic, unexpected death of a national leader.
The NAR connection
“We’re in a soft revolution… either we rule and reign, either we occupy, or evil men do…The church is at war. We are at war… God tells us to take dominion, subdue, occupy, and make disciples of the inhabitants of the Earth.” – ICA/ICAL “Apostle at Large” Jonathan Hansen, July 2014 interview.
The dominionist New Apostolic Reformation (including its apostolic networks such as ICA/ICAL) has emerged as a major vector of neo-Fundamentalist (see note) efforts to gain influence in the U.S. military through predatory evangelizing. States Military Religious Freedom Foundation Head Researcher and author Chris Rodda,
“We are never surprised when investigating a complaint of overt proselytizing to find that the perpetrator is associated with an NAR church. In fact, this has become increasingly prevalent over the course of the seven years that I’ve been with MRFF.”
[note: Neo-Fundamentalism, for the purposes of this report, is a movement within conservative evangelicalism that arose in the mid-20th Century within modernist streams of evangelicalism which both held onto fundamentalist readings of the Bible but also rejected fundamentalism’s historic retreat from the public sphere. It is sometimes also referred to as “neo-Evangelicalism” or “New Evangelicalism”. Neo-Fundamentalist leaders, from Harold Ockenga onward, have promoted a strategy of “infiltrating” secular culture.]
Rick Joyner was one of the original prophets on the elite “Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders” that was formed, along with the ICA (later ICAL) towards the end of the 1990s under the guidance of top NAR organizer C. Peter Wagner.
Thus, it is no surprise that over one half of the Oak Initiative’s eleven board members are apostles in the radical, hyper-charismatic and dominionist New Apostolic Reformation movement, in what may be the NAR’s biggest apostolic network, ICAL – the International Coalition of Apostolic Leaders (formerly International Coalition of Apostles), whose 2001-2010 head C. Peter Wagner issued in a 2012 op-ed in Charisma magazine (perhaps the top NAR-associated print publication) an open call for Christian believers to “take dominion over everything”.
The New Apostolic Reformation (link to explanation of movement – sans its heavily political, even revolutionary dimension – by C. Peter Wagner) is coalescing from the mammoth and rapidly growing so-called independent, post-denominational “Third Wave” movement within global Christianity that by some estimates (see excerpt from C. Peter Wagner lecture) encompassed some 295 million adherents by 2000 and is now much larger still. Wagner calls his NAR movement as significant, perhaps even more so, than the original Protestant Reformation.
While the geographic weight of the movement is in the so-called “Global South”, its distinctive ideas and practices – which include heavy teaching on the need to fight demon powers (teaching useful for targeting human opponents said to be in league with the demons) – were invented, shaped, and packaged in America, and rapidly exported from the late 1980s onward by “church growth” experts based in the United States, by ICA/ICAL apostles, and in watered-down form by influential megachurch pastors such as Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.
“At first it may seem like totalitarianism”
In 2010 leadership of ICAL passed to apostle John P. Kelly who has aggressively led ICAL into a period of rapid overseas expansion. Like many politicized charismatic evangelical leaders, Kelly claims extensive military training, including in special forces and covert operations. One of Kelly’s biographies states that in 1965 the two-year NJ State Golden Gloves champion “was trained by the FBI and the CIA for covert operations overseas. He himself then became a trainer of the “Special Forces” during the Vietnam era.”
Among the notable ICA/ICAL apostles was the late Colonel E.H. “Jim” Ammerman, whose chaplain endorsing agency controls hundreds of active duty chaplains, well over 5%, of the chaplains serving in the U.S. military.
NAR and ICA/ICAL leader emeritus Wagner has stated that “dominion means ruling as kings” and traces the “dominion theology” of his NAR movement back through the writings of theologian R.J. Rushdoony, who founded the overtly theocratic Christian Reconstructionism movement.
Christian Reconstructionism advocates a radically laissez-faire version of capitalism and a dramatic shrinking of the federal government – with many of its powers devolved to the local level. In this form of neo-fuedalism, social safety net functions provided by federal and state government would be picked up by local chuches. Leading Christian Reconstructionists advocate the imposition of pre-Talmudic Old Testament biblical law, including capital punishment for a range of crimes proscribed in biblical scripture including adultery, blasphemy, idolatry, female un-chastity, homosexuality, and witchcraft.
One prominent apostle in the ICA/ICAL apostolic network is evangelist and prophet Dutch Sheets, who can boast former Florida Secretary of state Katherine Harris (who shut down the 2008 election Miami-Dade county Florida vote recount) as an acolyte. In 2007 at an NAR conference Sheets stated, concerning his apostolic movement, that “we have apostles in the military”.
In 2007, in a “prophetic” writing published on the Elijahlist website of an ICA/ICAL apostle and prophet, a writing he co-authored with apostle Dutch Sheets, Rick Joyner predicted a coming Christian authoritarian regime that would “seem like totalitarianism”. Described Joyner, envisioning what seemed to be the forced moral re-education of American citizens,
“The kingdom of God will not be socialism, but a freedom even greater than anyone on earth knows at this time. At first it may seem like totalitarianism, as the Lord will destroy the antichrist spirit now dominating the world with “the sword of His mouth” and will shatter many nations like pottery…. Instead of taking away liberties and becoming more domineering, the kingdom will move from a point of necessary control while people are learning truth, integrity, honor, and how to make decisions, to increasing liberty so that they can.” [emphases in the original]
In a 2014 op-ed published on the website of his Movieguide website and widely circulated in certain evangelical circles, Ted Baehr and co-author Movieguide Production Editor David Outten warned that social chaos engendered by the sexual revolution could lead the federal government to impose a Nazi-like totalitarian regime on the nation and its citizenry. Wrote the two authors,
“Reports have come out that a 2010 Pentagon directive details how United States military forces can be deployed against United States citizens in the case of emergencies – as authorized by the President.
This scenario is in many movies…
…If local police are unable to maintain public safety, U.S. military intervention probably would be welcomed by most uninformed citizens, just as it was in National Socialist (NAZI) Germany.
Ask yourself, “Why are we in such great danger?” The answer is the sexual revolution. The demise of marriage and the traditional family has resulted in massive spending on welfare, crime and prisons. America is losing the war on poverty because we’ve waged war on the family.”
Baehr’s warning resembled those promoted in 2010 by Rick Joyner’s Oak Initiative, through a video in which Oak Initiative board member Jerry Boykin warned (transcript of Boykin talk) that the federal government would soon try to impose a totalitarian Marxist regime.
Boykin detailed a number of steps that would facilitate the imposition of tyranny including: nationalization of the economy (Boykin pointed towards the “financial bailouts”, presumably of Detroit automakers), the redistribution of wealth (Boykin cited “Medicare and Medicaid”), the discrediting of “right wing Christian groups, pro-life groups”, censorship, and the elimination of legal gun ownership. According to Former Undersecretary of Defense Boykin, in the end-times Jesus will return as a warrior carrying an AR-15 assault rifle.
Known for his vitriolic rhetorical attacks on Islam, while serving as Undersecretary of Defense Boykin headed an effort to “Gitmoize” the infamous Iraq prison of Abu Ghraib, by implementing torture and interrogation techniques pioneered at the now-infamous Guantanamo Bay U.S. prison camp.
The final stage in the plot to impose tyranny, according to Boykin, would be the creation of a “constabulary force” under a provision in the Obama Adminstration’s proposed health care reform legislation. Explained Boykin,
“Remember Hitler had the brown shirts and in the night of the long knives even Hitler got scared of the brown shirts and killed thousands of them. Well, so you say, are there any signs that that’s actually happened. The truth is, yes. If you read the healthcare legislation which, by the way, no one in Washington has read, but if you read the healthcare legislation, it’s actually in the healthcare legislation. There are paragraphs in the healthcare legislation that talk about the commissioning of officers in time of a national crisis to work directly for the president. It’s laying the groundwork for a constabulary force that will control the population in America.”
In 2012, the same year he was appointed Vice President of the far-right evangelical activist organization the Family Research Council (identified by the liberal Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-LGBT hate group), Boykin detailed, at the FRC’s annual Washington, D.C. Voter Values Summit, the various ways in which political progressives resemble Hitler’s Nazis.
Team “B”, Revisited
Among Oak Initiative president Rick Joyner’s many ties to former high level U.S. intelligence and military officials are his association with former CIA Director James Woolsey and former acting US Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Policy Frank Gaffney (appointed in 1987, Gaffney’s nomination was blocked by the U.S. Senate) who subsequently launched the neoconservative Center For Security Policy.
In 2011, by his account, Joyner could be found on a panel with Woolsey and Gaffney, at the 2011 annual National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) Convention in Nashville, discussing an alleged plot to impose Sharia law in the United States.
As Joyner describes, “Both James Woolsey and Frank Gaffney were a part of putting together the “Team B II Report,” SHARIAH, the Threat to America”. Joyner’s Oak Initiative distributes that “Team B II Report”, which echoes the CIA’s Cold War “Team B” effort to reevaluate and challenge then-existing CIA judgment of Russian and Soviet military capability. The resulting Team B report helped undermine nuclear arms control efforts, and a number of critics (including from the CIA) have accused the Team B effort of substantially exaggerating Soviet military and nuclear strength.
The strength of the alleged pro-Sharia plot in America belies its actual numbers claimed Joyner, who wrote in a 2011 Oak Initiative newsletter,
“Many think that we could not possibly be under a threat by those who compose such a tiny portion of the population. That is the big mistake which has led to the overthrow of some of the most powerful and established governments in history. The Bolsheviks in Russia only numbered twenty thousand in a nation of over one hundred million. That is just a tiny fraction of one percent. The word Bolshevik means “minority,” and anyone who took their threat as serious was considered somewhere between out of touch and paranoid—until this minority took over the country. Seditionists well understand that it does not take large numbers for a government overthrow and consider small numbers an advantage that helps keep them and their purpose off the radar screen.”
In 2014 at the Frank Gaffney-moderated National Security Action Summit II (whose featured speakers included former Vice President Dick Cheney and former CIA Director James Woolsey), Family Research Council Vice President Boykin identified a different population as posing existential threat by jokingly quipping to a reporter from an Israeli news outlet that “the Jews are the problem. The Jews are the cause of all the problems in the world.” Boykin also claimed, at the event, that President Barack Obama uses “subliminal messages” to convey support for Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood (see link, above.)
Both Boykin’s Family Research Council and Ted Baehr’s Christian Film and Television Commission are heavily funded by the National Christian Foundation, the biggest foundation represented at the annual event known as The Gathering, the subject of multiple reports from the Center Against Religious Extremism. The Gathering, by its own account, was launched following a 1985 meeting at The Cedars, the Arlington, VA headquarters of The Fellowship, which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast.
In the late 1980s during a series of sermons held at the Colorado headquarters of The Navigators (a Christian “discipleship’ organization heavily funded by the National Christian Foundation), longtime Fellowship head Douglas Coe recounted, with obvious enthusiasm, how a small band of Bolshevik revolutionaries was able to take over Russia.
“The greatest threat we face today… is our own federal government
Through his leadership in the New Apostolic Reformation movement (described below) Joyner also has access to developing national networks poised to challenge, at a moment’s notice, federal authority. Joyner’s NAR movement has, in turn, worked for several decades at inciting anti-government passions.
In 2008, ICA apostle Jim Ammerman’s official chaplain endorsing agency newsletter published an op-ed, from a retired U.S. military officer, which argued that four sitting United States senators – Dodd, Biden, Clinton, and Obama – should be be “arrested, quickly tried and hanged!!!” for treason, for voting against a bill that would have established English as the official language of the United States.
From the late 1990’s and up into the 2008 presidential election, Retired Colonel Jim Ammerman engaged in an extensive pattern of anti-government agitation and, along with one of his top chaplains James F. Linzey, went on national speaking tours to promote a class of New World Order and Federal Reserve conspiracy theories, some of which had racialist and anti-Semitic overtones – theories which have been widely credited with helping inspire acts of right wing violence and also the rise of the militia movement in the 1990’s.
One of Ammerman’s presentations, given during a mid-1990s tour Ammerman made in numerous U.S. cities across America to audiences in the burgeoning militia movement, was packaged and sold as a VHS cassette titled “Imminent Military Takeover of the U.S.A. II”. In his presentation (see story linked above, for video samples) Ammerman claimed, based on information from his high-level contacts in the Pentagon, that hundreds of thousands of German, Chinese, and United Nations troops hidden in national parks were ready, as soon as president Bill Clinton signed over American sovereignty to the U.N., to rampage out and force American citizens into concentration camps. Ammerman claimed that both Bill and Hillary Clinton were in the Illuminati, but that Hillary Clinton outranked her husband in the organization. Ammerman also claimed that Jewish bankers, such as the Rothschilds, were behind the vast plot, the sources of which – ultimately – were satanic.
These conspiracy narratives were not secular; they were interwoven with apocalyptic Biblical narratives and presented as “Bible prophecy”, and retailed through a ministry called the Prophecy Club which sells videos of presentations on conspiracy theories packaged within a “prophetic” Christian context. During the 1990s the Prophecy Club achieved a scale of distribution, through a patched-together assemblage of local television and radio networks, that could in theory reach roughly 10% of the American population.
Men in uniforms, with dark news
Hundreds of Prophecy Club videos can now be seen on Youtube. Although the conspiracy theories marketed by the Prophecy Club do not stand up to factual scrutiny, the American target audience had reason to take these conspiracy theories seriously; many of the far-right evangelical Prophecy Club presenters traded on their presumed authority based on their real careers in the United States military and in federal law enforcement agencies, and also claimed their theories were based on secret information divulged to them by current insiders in the Pentagon.
One such individual was the late Ted Gunderson, an impressively credentialed G-man who had helped investigate Marilyn Monroe’s death and the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Gunderson had also headed the Los Angeles branch of the Federal Bureau of investigation and was in 1979 even interviewed as a possible candidate to head the national FBI.
Following his retirement that year, in 1979, Gunderson proceeded to an over 3-decade career of promoting a dizzying array of factually challenged or wholly unsupported conspiracy theories, many of which were couched in an explicitly evangelical Christian ideological framework – such as claims, which proliferated in the late 1970s and 1980s, that a vast national (or international) conspiracy of satanists (tied to the highest levels of U.S. government according to Gunderson) was torturing, sexually abusing, even sacrificing wholesale tens or hundreds of thousands (even millions, by some accounts) of children annually (Texas megachurch pastor John Hagee, whose political endorsement John McCain pursued, then rejected in 2008, has also promoted this class of conspiracy theory).
Another such conspiracy theorist is Al Cuppett, an evangelical former Joint Chiefs of Staff Action Officer who maintains an active conspiracy theory blog and has been a frequent Prophecy Club speaker. During the 1990s Al Cuppett could be found giving talks, on the same circuit Jim Ammerman was plying, in which Cuppett advised credulous audiences on “black operations, Bible prophecy, and U.N. foreign forces training on American soil to come after Christians.”
Cuppett also wrote a forward to the book America Sold Out: The Coming Persecution and Complacency of the Church (2003, Zulonpress.com), written by “Ray Hope” ( a pseudonym). The book, which cited Cuppett extensively, claimed that the U.S. federal government had bought thousands of steel railroad cars fitted out with leg shackles and guillotines.
These are only a few examples. The full range of this activity is far beyond the scope of this report, but there are certainly dozens, and possibly hundreds, of evangelicals who, at any given time, are circulating on church circuits, talk radio, and other sub-mainstream media venues across America, distributing similar conspiracy theory and menacing disinformation.
While the American hard evangelical right is generally opposed to federal government authority, movement tacticians appear split on the immediate value of a violent revolution. Despite frequent rumblings from the anti-government base, the elite tendency represented by the elite multi-millionaire and billionaire members of the annual funding and strategy confab known as The Gathering, with its close ties to the Washington D.C. evangelical network called The Fellowship, which hosts the National Prayer Breakfast, is moderately supportive of federal authority – at least in the abstract.
But even some prominent members of that elite evangelical leadership cadre, such as 2011 National Prayer Breakfast and The Gathering speaker Eric Mataxas, have helped stoke the fires of populist insurrectionary sentiment.
In July 2012 Metaxas – a global warming denialist and heir-apparent to the ministry empire of the late Watergate felon-turned prison evangelist Charles Colson – suggested, in a speech before a hard-right Catholic audience in Washington, D.C., that the Obama Administration’s might represent a totalitarian threat akin to that faced by German Christians such as theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer during the rise of Hitler’s Third Reich. Warned Metaxas,
“if we don’t really use all our bullets now, we will have no fight five years from now. It’ll be over. This it. We’ve got to die on this hill.”
Echoing such sentiments, in 2013 evangelical activist pastor David Lane, described as a “behind-the-scenes power broker” who specializes in mobilizing the conservative evangelical vote, wrote in an op-ed published, then hastily disappeared by the far-right evangelical publication World Net Daily, in a piece titled “Wage War To Restore a Christian Nation”, that “If the American experiment with freedom is to end after 237 years, let each of us commit to brawl all the way to the end.” Lane quoted United Kingdom prime minister Winston Churchill’s stalwart anti-Nazi World War Two rhetoric from the deadly days of the air war over London between the Royal Air Force and Hitler’s Luftwaffe: “upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization.”
Such rhetoric can be deployed, depending on the need, to incite insurrectionary passions or to emphasize the existential nature of ongoing culture war struggles – such as at The Gathering in 2006 when, during a three and a half hour presentation, Alliance Defense Fund lawyer Jordan Lorence described to The Gathering the changing nature of the ADF’s approach:
“We were used to really nice rifles and really nice hand grenades, and maybe a bazooka or two. And we had no concept of aircraft carriers, and fleets of bombers, and cruise missiles, Normandy Beach D-Day invasions. We were more into this guerrilla warfare thing.”
Joining the ADF at the presentation was Family Research Council President Tony Perkins (whose FRC Jordan Lorence had just described to The Gathering as the ADF’s “sister organization on the policy side”) who told The Gathering that next to the threat of militant Islam, the second greatest threat facing America was the gay rights movement.
In 2012, the same year the FRC brought on former Undersecretary of Defense Boykin as a Vice President, FRC head Tony Perkins became president of the elite Council For National Policy which, like The Gathering, brings together financiers with top evangelical activists and strategists. Seminal architect of the modern religious right Paul Weyrich described the secretive, invitation-only CNP, whose enthusiastic support may have galvanized evangelical support for Sarah Palin in the 2008 election, as an event “where the big doers meet the big donors to get things done.”