When Prophecy Fails: Trump Edition

When Prophecy Fails: Trump Edition January 20, 2021

Today is Joe Biden’s inauguration as the 46th President of the United States. According to many, many influential Christians, this was supposed to have been impossible.

In the months leading up to November 2020, a horde of self-appointed prophets declared in no uncertain terms that God had assured them of Trump’s victory. Most came from prominent figures in “charismatic” Christianity – those cultish sects which teach that God routinely grants miraculous powers to the faithful, like faith healing, exorcising demons, speaking in tongues, and of course, receiving prophetic visions of the future.

To be clear, these figureheads of the religious right didn’t say they were guessing or hoping that Trump would win. Each and every one of them presented this as a revelation direct from God, foretelling how events would turn out. Here’s just a partial list of the hall of shame:

John Whitman, author of Trump’s Prophetic Destiny, wrote in May 2019: “God has made it plain as to why Trump is His choice for president now and in the upcoming years.”

Kris Vallotton, a leader at Bethel Church (this Bethel Church) said in December 2019: “I believe the Lord’s gonna give him [President Trump] another term. I believe it because… the Lord wants it.”

Mark Taylor, coauthor of The Trump Prophecies, said in December 2017: “There is going to be no doubt he is going to sail right in for a second term.”

Frank Amedia, founder of Touch Heaven Ministries and Trump’s “liaison for Christian policy”, said in March 2018: “Donald Trump will be the next president of the United States again in 2020. I think you feel the power of God releasing on that.”

• Author Kat Kerr predicted a two-term Trump presidency on numerous occasions, including April 2019 when she said, “Trump is going to win again in 2020. People have their own opinions, I don’t have one; I say what God says.”

Hank Kunneman, pastor of Lord of Hosts Church, said in January 2020 that Trump would win two terms – and, to top it off, that Mike Pence would be elected in 2024.

Jeremiah Johnson, founder of Heart of the Father Ministry, said in October 2020 that he had a prophetic dream which showed him that “Donald J. Trump would be re-elected and would confirm that the spirit and power of Elijah is resting upon the Church.”

James Goll, president of God Encounters Ministries, said in April 2020: “I believe it is the will of the Lord for President Trump to be reelected.”

Denise Goulet, pastor of the International Church of Las Vegas, said in October 2020: “The Lord said to me, ‘I am going to give your president a second win.'”

Pat Robertson, who’s bumbled his prophecies so many times that having him on your side should be viewed as a bad sign, said in October 2020 that Trump would win “without question”, after which there would be five years of peace and then an asteroid would strike and bring about the apocalypse (?!).

• Televangelist and Trump “spiritual adviser” Paula White said just after the election, in a semi-coherent ranting-and-raving speech, that God was sending angels from all over the earth to assure Trump’s reelection: “I hear a sound of victory, the Lord says it is done.”

(There are many more I could have named here. See this video for more of them.)

In fact, Oklahoma pastor Curt Landry said that the chorus of prophets predicting a second term for Trump was the most unanimous he’d ever seen:

“I’ve been operating as a prophet for 30 years, and I have never in my experience as a prophet seen every prophet I know and respect — and some I respect and don’t know — all on the same sheet of music. They are all saying Donald Trump is going to serve two terms.”

So.

When the election was called for Biden, there was much confusion and dismay. Kris Vallotton posted an apology for his false prophecy, then took it down.

But even that swift retreat from honesty made him an outlier. Few of the “prophets” wavered in their belief.

Instead, most of them swiftly embraced the conspiracy theory that the election had been stolen, and preached that if Christians prayed enough, massive fraud would be uncovered and Donald Trump would be proven the rightful winner. Some of them, like Hank Kunneman, raged at weak-kneed believers who dared to suggest that the winner of the election had won the election:

“God is looking from the throne room, and he is saying, who is conceding and who is standing strong, believing me, God, that I will and I can turn this thing around, and I’m exposing fraud and crime.”

A Christian group called the Elijah List put all its chips on the table:

On the spiritual side, either a multitude of prophetic voices have been jointly misled, prophesying in total unison that Trump will serve a second term.

Or the words of these prophetic voices will prove true, shocking the nation with the reality of God.

Talk about high stakes!

Frank Amedia, mentioned earlier, plus another Pentecostal prophet, Dutch Sheets, organized mass prayer in December to end the “plot to steal America’s 2020 elections”, decreeing that “the next four years of Donald John Trump’s presidency” would lead to “a third Great Awakening” in America. Kat Kerr claimed that her false prophecy of a “landslide” for Trump really meant there would be a “landslide of exposure” of those who stole the election. Michele Bachmann ranted about God’s “iron rod” and begged him to “smash the delusion… of Joe Biden as our president”.

Many others fell back on the certainty that Trump’s right-wing judges would save them. Sid Roth and Michael Murillo said, “God has thrown this election into the courts so that corruption will be exposed.” Mike Thompson of Word of Life Church released a video titled “THE PROPHETS DIDN’T MISS IT” in which he insisted, “I am very careful to only say what God says when he says it” and added, “This whole thing will be decided in the courts.”

Christian rapper Marcus Rogers insisted, “Until EVERY prophetic word including the prophetic words from last year about the Elections going to the Supreme court fall, I am going to stand,” and added, “What God is about to do is so strategic that even atheist [sic] are going to doubt themselves and question what they believe.”

Over the subsequent weeks, Trump’s inept lawsuits ran aground and sank, and state legislatures refused to play along with his election-stealing scheme. But the alleged prophets kept steering a course straight toward the iceberg. Well into December and even January, and even after Congress had officially certified the election, many of Trump’s Christian supporters continued to insist that he would remain in office for another four years – somehow.

This article from the Washington Post quotes some of them:

“Anyone who think this ends tonight is totally mistaken… you are still the president and we need you to stay on the front lines, sir,” prophet Mario Bramnick, one of Trump’s faith advisers, said Jan. 7.

“We thank God for exposing and foiling all the plans of the enemy set against him. We affirm his lawful election and pray for four more years with Donald Trump as our president!” the 24/7 National Strategic Prayer Call, a 10,000-member Arkansas-based ministry that hosts weekly live prayer calls, told its listeners Monday [Jan. 11].

(Note also that Pat Robertson got it wrong again, claiming on January 4 that “the Holy Spirit” would intervene and “change the outcome” of Congress’ vote to certify the electoral college.)

Once again, a few dropped away. Kris Vallotton reposted his earlier apology, though with a head-scratching insistence that “it doesn’t make me a false prophet”.

Jeremiah Johnson joined the ranks of the disillusioned, admitting, “I would like to repent for inaccurately prophesying that Donald Trump would win a second term as the President of the United States.” (He later wrote of getting a flood of hate mail and death threats from his co-believers for the grave sin of acknowledging reality.)

These wannabe oracles committed the one fatal error in religion: they made a definitive, testable prediction. Normally, “prophets” keep their message as ambiguous as possible, and hedge their predictions with qualifications like, “Trump will be elected if Christians are faithful and pray hard enough and vote.” That way, any failure of the prediction could be blamed on the audience for their insufficient faith.

But the 2020 election was different. It seems that the religious right loved Trump so much that they got carried away, and in their zeal, forgot that they were entering the danger zone of falsifiability.

Now, as Biden is inaugurated and no miraculous intervention has appeared, they’re scurrying around trying to figure out what to do. Via an article on Religion Unplugged, “Charismatics Are At War With Each Other Over Failed Prophecies Of Trump Victory“:

At least 40 charismatic Christian leaders predicted Trump’s reelection starting around 2018, according to J. Gordon Melton, 78, the venerable compiler of the Encyclopedia of American Religions and an American religious studies professor at Baylor University.

…Many NAR prophets foretell vague events that are hard to disprove, Melton said, but the specificity of these election prophecies are impossible to live down.

“Kat Kerr and others have really painted themselves in a corner,” he said. “This is a very serious problem for the prophecy group.”

James A. Beverley, a research professor at Tyndale University in Toronto, went further in calling the matter “the most significant crisis in the history of modern charismatic prophecy” that he has seen in 40 years of studying the movement.

“The fight over the Trump prophecies has brought a deep division in the charismatic and Pentecostal world and it has given that branch of the Christian church a serious credibility issue,” he said.

Michael Brown, a Pentecostal himself, has an idea of what escape hatch they’re going to reach for:

Certainly, the bulk of Pentecostal-charismatics who follow the prophets are in for a shock when Biden gets inaugurated Jan. 20. Rather than admit their error, Brown says some prophets have already concocted a scenario where Trump will be inaugurated “in heaven” and that God will replace Biden with Trump sometime this spring.

This kind of goalpost-moving is common when apocalyptic predictions fail – “Everything we said came true! But, uh, in heaven, where you can’t see it” – but to use it for a U.S. presidential election must be a first.

It would be nice if this humiliating failure engendered some humility in the soothsayers of the religious right. It would be nice if they found the honesty to confess that they never heard the voice of God at all, but were only projecting their own wishes and desires. It would be nice if they were chastened enough to announce that they’d no longer claim divine approval for the political platform they personally support. But we all know that isn’t going to happen.

The Christian right has become a cult of personality. They’ve tied themselves, body and soul, to this greedy, racist, adulterous wannabe-dictator. And as Trump’s ship sinks, they’re going down with him. They’ll never have the intellectual honesty to own up to their miserable failure, but we atheists and progressives shouldn’t let them forget about it. We should make sure that it hangs around their neck for the rest of their days.

UPDATE: God is dead:

Header image: Hans Gerwitz via Flickr; released under CC BY-SA 2.0 license

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