If there was any doubt that the religious right had sold its soul to Donald Trump, it was erased in the aftermath of the release of the “Access Hollywood” tapes. To a (wo)man, the nation’s so-called moral guardians insisted that Trump’s debauched behavior didn’t matter as much as ending abortion and rolling back marriage equality. In other words, they were so determined to bring their version of revival to America that they were willing to throw their weight behind a man who bragged he could “grab ’em by the p***y” just because he was a celebrity.
It was already apparent that the religious right was willing to throw its standards out the window by going all-in for Trump. This was a man who plastered a private cell phone number on social media, mocked the disabled and condoned violence at his rallies. But you would have thought reveling in degrading women would have been a dealbreaker even for the most fundified Republican. As someone who has spent most of the last quarter-century trying to make sense of what makes the religious right tick, I have found this bewildering.
Well, I may have gotten at least part of the answer. One of Trump’s most ardent defenders on the religious right apparently believes those accusing a prominent evangelist of inappropriate behavior are no different from rabid dogs.
While it’s no secret that the religious right has spent the last four years bullying the nation into bowing and praying to the orange god they helped make, some of its leaders are more obnoxious about it than others. One of the most obnoxious of all is Rick Joyner, the leader of MorningStar Ministries and pastor of its flagship church, MorningStar Fellowship Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
Joyner is one of the major voices of the New Apostolic Reformation, an overtly fascist offshoot of the religious right that believes it can bring about the Second Coming by taking over the world. Indeed, he is reckoned as a “prophet” by NAR acolytes. He was one of Trump’s earliest and most ardent religious right supporters, along with several other NAR luminaries. He even went as far as to claim that Trump was just like Jesus and the disciples, and doubled down on that line after Trump’s upset victory.
But don’t dare suggest otherwise. After all, as far as Joyner is concerned, the opposition to Trump is Satanic. Moreover, he believes that if you oppose Trump, you risk getting “smacked” by God himself.
So how in the world can a supposed man of God support a depraved and debauched man like Trump? Well, it turns out that Joyner’s support of Trump isn’t the first time that Joyner has lent his imprimatur to someone who is depraved and debauched by any standard.
For instance, one of his best buddies was Bob Jones (no relation to the family that founded Bob Jones University), a longtime fellow prophet in the same hyper-charismatic circles in which Joyner moves. In the 1990s, Jones was one of the leaders of a revival at Metro Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Kansas City when he was busted for getting several women to disrobe in front of him while in his office. While the leaders of Metro Vineyard held Jones responsible for the incident, they never filed criminal charges, and Jones was allowed back into ministry.
More recently, Joyner has been under fire for his ties to Todd Bentley, a Canadian-born evangelist who was best known for leading a revival in Lakeland, Florida in 2008. Watch a clip from that revival here.
Bentley is known for his rather violent healing methods, such as hitting, kicking and choking people. But he is now facing allegations that make the concerns raised about his revival tactics look like small potatoes by comparison.
Last week, one of his former proteges, Stephen Powell, contended that Bentley was consumed by a “perverse sexual addiction” that has resulted in him making sexual advances toward a number of men and women, and has even gone as far as preying on male and female interns and assistants. Based on accounts from several former interns and students, Powell took to Facebook to pronounce his former mentor as unfit for ministry. Watch here.
Powell detailed his claims further in a lengthy Facebook post, in which he claimed to have urged Joyner to intervene. Joyner had previously helped oversee Bentley’s “restoration” in 2008 and 2009 after he entered into an inappropriate emotional relationship that cost him his first marriage.
Joyner responded with a Facebook video of his own in which he slammed Powell for operating in “witchcraft” for threatening to go public with his claims if Joyner didn’t act. Um, Rick? What was Stephen supposed to do if no one took action, given the egregiousness of it?
Nevertheless, Joyner promised to investigate Powell’s claims. But in another Facebook video on Tuesday morning, Joyner dropped a pretty loud hint that he had already made up his mind. He claimed that Bentley’s accusers had “spiritual rabies.”
I’m used to hearing tone-deaf and callous things from fundies. But to suggest that his accusers have rabies is outrageous. Even if it turns out this is a nothing burger, there is no defensible reason for anyone calling himself a pastor to use that kind of language. It’s degrading. It’s victim-shaming. It’s wrong.
This sort of claptrap is exactly why many people of both sexes who have been sexually harassed or sexually assaulted don’t come forward for years, if at all. Imagine one of Bentley’s accusers scrolling through his or her Facebook feed, and hearing one of the grand poohbahs of the charismatic world effectively call him or her rabid. Now imagine someone who may have been a victim of Bentley’s alleged debauchery and is thinking about coming forward. After hearing this, would you be a little nervous about speaking up?
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is how Joyner and so many other men and women of God have bowed down to Trump. When you find it acceptable to use this kind of degrading language about people who accuse the leader of a big revival of debauched and depraved behavior, it’s not too big of a leap to support a debauched and depraved president.
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