About 100 miles from my hometown in one of the most conservative areas of Northern California, there sits a school that students have dubbed “Christian Hogwarts.”
The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry, in Redding, has drawn students from all over the world. So what makes the school special? It promises to teach students how to spot a “true prophet” as well as how to perform miracles, according to BuzzFeed’s Molly Hensley-Clancy.
The basic theological premise of the School of Supernatural Ministry is this: that the miracles of biblical times — the parted seas and burning bushes and water into wine — did not end in biblical times, and the miracle workers did not die out with Jesus’s earliest disciples. In the modern day, prophets and healers don’t just walk among us, they are us.
To Bethel students, learning, seeing, and performing these “signs and wonders” — be it prophesying about things to come or healing the incurable — aren’t just quirks or side projects of Christianity. They are, in fact, its very center.
The school teaches students all about past “prophets,” and trains them how to hear and interpret supposed messages from God. In other words, an institution that portrays itself as an education center is disconnecting more and more young people from reality. They are learning how to play into their delusions and ignore the real world.
So far, Bethel’s first-years have been learning the stories of their predecessors, ancient Old Testament prophets like Daniel and Jeremiah and Ezekiel, in preparation for today — the day they begin to become prophets themselves.
The school — which is unaccredited and does not confer degrees — sends students into Redding and across the globe armed with training in how to speak God’s words, heal the sick, and use the supernatural to win souls. It has spawned imitators across the country and on nearly every continent.
As if this wasn’t bad enough, the school and its associated church have all but taken over the quiet town of Redding. Many residents see their presence, and their power in the area, as a threat.
They see Bethel insinuating itself into every piece of Redding — politics, real estate, schools — and, in the process, altering the very fabric of their city. The church’s opponents have begun to stage protests, pressure local officials, and badger the press to expose the church. Daily, on Facebook, they catalog the infiltration of Bethel into Redding: “Bethel-owned” businesses, Bethel-sponsored events.
In Redding, BSSM’s students — some call them “Bethelbots” — are everywhere. For school assignments, students hang out in parking lots and grocery store aisles, asking strangers who use wheelchairs or crutches if they can pray for them to heal.
This may sound like the plot of a scary movie, but this is actually happening. The school, dubbed “Christian Hogwarts” despite the common anti-Harry Potter narrative we’ve seen in other denominations of Christianity, has infiltrated the city council, the police department, the local charter school, and even grocery store parking lots. They are doing this all in the name of magic, and no one seems to be able to stop them.
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