On/File: A Continuing Record of People, Groups, Movements, and Events Impacting Contemporary Religion

    Source: Getty / Newsweek.‎‎

1) Charismatic Christian leaders, critical of fellow charismatics in the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) and their support of former President Donald Trump and the events of January 6, have intensified their opposition with a new statement and website, www.narandchristiannationalism.com. The 1,544-word statement condemns Christian nationalism, which is the belief that America is a Christian nation and that its government must support Christianity as the nation’s defining and original religion. The statement seeks to disassociate what it claims to be the majority of the nation’s roughly 73 million Pentecostals and charismatics from what these leaders say is a fringe element that espouses “a dangerous and unhealthy form of ‘Christian nationalism.’” The statement disavows any association with a movement “that speaks of a potential Christian uprising against the government or hints at the use of force to advance God’s kingdom…[and]…rejects all ideologies and movements claiming ethnic or racial superiority.” It follows public criticism of leaders in the NAR who prophesied that Trump would successfully overturn the election results and be declared president again.

The statement also asserts that “radicalism in the movement had strong connections with the Capitol riot,” mainly because some participants bore signs containing prophetic messages and were blowing a shofar (a prominent practice among prophetic charismatics). The statement has garnered 64 signatures so far, although few from leaders of the NAR, such as Cindy Jacobs, Ché Ahn, and Texas evangelists Lance Wallnau and Dutch Sheets. Organizers of the effort worry that as 2024 approaches, and if Trump runs for president again, such prophetic voices might again make themselves heard. Critics Holly Pivec and Biola University professor Douglas Geivett, authors of a new book on the NAR, say the new website and statement amount to “damage control efforts” to keep the apostolic movement afloat. Some have accused the drafters of the new statement of being conspiracy theorists who have exaggerated the size and dangers of the NAR linked to Christian nationalism. Meanwhile, the signers don’t deny that they still believe in prophecy and the continuation of New Testament apostolic offices and authority, even if they reject the NAR label. (Source: Newsweek, October 20)

    Source: Orient XXI (Wikimedia Commons).‎‎

2) The Grand Mufti of Oman, Ahmed Al-Khalili (b. 1942), has become a key figure for conservative forces in the sultanate, writes independent scholar Pierre Bernin in Orient XXI (Oct. 6). Located on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula, Oman is the only country where Ibadi Islam (the faith of less than 1 percent of Muslims around the word) plays a dominant role, although Sunnis may actually have become a numerical majority in the country (even though religious statistics are a sensitive topic and are not published). Al-Khalili had previously kept a low profile on some issues during the rule of Sultan Qaboos, who relaxed Ibadi social rigorism in exchange for granting Ibadi religious elites privileged access to positions of power. Qaboos also opened a new chapter of reform on social and economic issues in the country. But after his death, Al-Khalili was given greater freedom to speak his mind about issues at home and abroad, and since 2020, a conservative discourse on public issues has emerged around Al-Khalili, not only in Oman but internationally. The mufti has tried to assume the role of protector of Muslims, even if his marginal status on the global Muslim scene as an Ibadi cleric hardly allows him to strike that pose.

Al-Khalili supports Palestinian armed resistance, criticizes Islamophobic policies in India, expresses concern about the fate of Muslims in Europe, and praises the Taliban victory in Afghanistan as a model for Muslims. In Oman, he linked the Covid-19 pandemic to homosexuality and called earlier this year for prohibiting a gathering around a visiting Hindu yogi. Clerics close to him have called for the closing of all places selling alcoholic beverages and claimed that the introduction of new taxes without popular assent was not Islamically acceptable, thereby undermining the government’s fiscal strategy. Al-Khalili and his associates probably satisfy the expectations of a part of the population that is less progressive than the country’s political elites and leaders. In contrast with neighboring states, both conservative and progressive sectors of Omani society currently have the opportunity to make their voices heard.
(Source: Orient XXI, October 6)