Wednesday, May 16, 2018

New Apostolic Reformation targets Indigenous Canadian peoples for evangelism

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Forasmuch then as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto gold, or silver, or stone, graven by art and man's device.
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:
Acts 17:29-30

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. Romans 1:16

Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence. John 18:36

As is so often the case with items such as the following, I'm not sure what to make of it, since I'm not there and don't have firsthand knowledge of the situation. I'm uncertain as to whether the people in question are coming to true saving faith in Jesus Christ and then are being led into charismaniac error, or whether they're falling for a false gospel and a false salvation--of two bad alternatives, I hope the former is true. Charismaniacs have a habit of making extravagant claims of miracles, so I'm always skeptical of their stories of "transformation."

I'm troubled when Inuit leaders say that God is “looking to re-establish the relationship” He previously had with them; I could be wrong, but there may be a danger of old pagan practices being brought back and renamed as Christian. As the passages of scripture cited above indicate, there's only one way to come to God, and that's through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ shedding His blood on the cross as payment of the penalty of sin. None of us had a relationship with God prior to coming to faith in Jesus Christ. The gospel is for everyone, and that includes the native peoples of Canada.

Whatever my differences may be with those who are opposed to evangelism among Canadian Natives, I agree with their opposition to the New Apostolic Reformation, including its false gospel of prosperity; its acceptance of extrabiblical revelation; its excessive demonology, including "spiritual mapping" of alleged demonic strongholds and emphasis on generational curses; its unscriptural invention of the modern offices of "apostles" and "prophets;" and its dominionism. As the Lord Himself said, His kingdom is not of this world, but the New Apostolic Reformation, with its seven-mountain mandate, is very much about this world. Let us pray that the Native peoples of Canada will rely on the Bible as their only authority of faith and practice, will be able to discern truth from error, and will act accordingly.

For solid information on the New Apostolic Reformation from a Biblical point of view, I highly recommend Lighthouse Trails Research Project. Search that site under "New Apostolic Reformation," and you will find an abundance of useful information.

As reported by Geoff McMaster of the University of Alberta publication Folio, March 23, 2018 (link in original):

A new evangelical sect targeting Indigenous people in Canada is an ominous trend that should be closely watched, says a University of Alberta sociologist.

In an exposé published last fall, The Walrus reported that an American evangelical movement called the New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, has been moving north, using sociological research and “spiritual mapping” to locate vulnerable populations it deems possessed by demons.

“It is important that there's enough knowledge about the group in the communities they target, so people have the ability to understand what's coming in and how to deal with it,” said Robin Willey, a post-doctoral fellow who has studied evangelical movements in Canada.

“There is certainly something suspect about using research from the social sciences to shape strategy appearing to specifically target vulnerable populations,” he said. “It is troubling to say the least, and basically amounts to a form of neoliberal recolonization, where Indigenous populations are encouraged to ‘colonize’ themselves.”

According to The Walrus, NAR has already established a foothold among Canada’s Inuit people in the North, but most recently the movement has been recruiting new followers among the impoverished Indigenous population of Winnipeg’s north end, using the language of reconciliation to promise social transformation and healing.

But there are strings attached. NAR believes in the acquisition of wealth to bring about its vision, and that means collecting tithes. The top “apostles” have been known to pocket millions every year, following the prosperity gospel, which promises material wealth and physical healing to those who give generously, reports The Walrus.

The sect’s theology derives from the late Peter C. Wagner, who foretold of apostles infiltrating what he called the seven “mountains of culture”—education, government, media, arts and entertainment, religion, family and business in the name of God.

“That’s pretty much everything,” said Willey, “but NAR also lists business as the most important of the seven mountains, and it’s only through the accumulation of wealth that you can start fuelling influence into the other mountains."

Instead of focusing on personal salvation, as does mainstream evangelicalism, “NAR extends it to people groups, nations, communities and geographic areas. So instead of exorcising demons from a single individual, you can talk about exorcising demons from an entire people, group or community,” said Willey. Convinced they are soldiers in God’s army, NAR apostles aim to eventually take over governments and save the world from corruption and idolatry, establishing God’s new kingdom on Earth.

“They talk about saving some of the most impoverished populations on the planet,” said Willey, including those in Africa and South America.

"The interesting thing about them (in the Canadian context) is they have this language of reconciliation, which plays so well in vulnerable Indigenous communities” suffering from the cultural devastation of residential schools and their legacy of physical, sexual and substance abuse.

According to The Walrus, the movement arrived in Manitoba after one of NAR’s apostles, Cindy Jacobs, had a vision that God wanted to release the “spirit of reconciliation” among Indigenous and non-Indigenous churches in the province. The result was a recruitment drive called “Awakening Manitoba,” in which followers are inducted in emotional prayer services or faith-healing rituals.

"They believe that humans have dominion over the land—taking the biblical directive literally—and can sell that sort of thing to Indigenous people,” reminding them of their preordained rights as original stewards of the land, said Willey.

“But what comes along with that, somewhat ironically, is that there is only one religion and one religious practice that is OK.”

Under NAR’s prophecy, the only way to rid a population of demons is to destroy former religious practices and burn ungodly possessions—such as drugs, pornography, heavy metal music, even sweat lodges—in the name of purification. It is a clear violation of calls in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report for faith groups to “respect Indigenous spirituality in its own right.”

According to some estimates, there are chapters of NAR in all 50 American states. Membership numbers are hard to arrive at because followers don’t officially sign on to any church, seminary or ministry. American lawmakers such as Mike Huckabee, Michele Bachmann and former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin have all been drawn to the movement.

In assessing the threat in Canada, however, Willey said numbers matter.

“If this group is really quite small, say, sitting around five per cent of the evangelical community, how much do we really need to worry? My understanding of the evangelical movement right now is that it is becoming more segmented and more diverse.”

Though acknowledging NAR has clearly arrived in Canada, Willey said he hasn’t yet seen signs of it in Alberta. But that doesn’t mean it won’t show up here soon.

“This is a colonial discourse, and as settlers we have a responsibility to ensure people know about it," he said, to avoid substituting one form of colonialism for another.
The Walrus is a secular publication expressing what might be called left-wing views, but this blogger thought its article on the subject was quite fair. As reported by Joel Barde in The Walrus, October 23, 2017 (updated November 3, 2017):

It’s late october 2015, and around 200 people are packed into Winnipeg’s First Nations Family Worship Centre. Facing a tall cross, believers sway in unison, arms outstretched. Some cry. Others flutter their wrists, as if an electrical current were running through them.

Over the past three nights, a group of visiting religious leaders has inducted these largely Anishinaabe parishioners into their movement. The highly emotional services have built to this moment, a spiritual release called “Awakening Manitoba.” “I feel an anointing coming on!” shouts the centre’s Ojibwe pastor, Raymond McLean, pumping his fist in the air onstage. He gestures for Alain Caron—a spectacled, scholarly preacher who has won over the congregation with a series of impassioned sermons—to join him. McLean hooks a burly arm around Caron, who closes his eyes and dances to the blaring Christian rock.

Many of the worshippers make their way forward. As they reach Caron, he lays his hands on their heads and releases a torrent of inscrutable words. Some walk away. Others fall backwards into the arms of a deacon, who lays them flat and draws blue blankets over their motionless bodies.

They rest for a moment, faint smiles on their faces, invested with a radical new commission. As soldiers in God’s army, they will infiltrate government agencies, rid the world of idolatry, and urgently build God’s Kingdom of Heaven on earth. Under McLean’s command, they will start here, at home: purifying Winnipeg’s troubled North End, then spreading their message to other First Nations communities.

Since that October weekend, the Family Worship Centre has become part of the New Apostolic Reformation (nar), a growing religious movement quietly reshaping evangelical Christianity...

...The nar has promoted its theology through books, schools, and ministries. The crown jewel in its promotional efforts is the Transformations series, pseudo-documentaries that purport to show the dramatic economic and societal transformation visited on communities that accept God’s glory.

According to the Sentinel Group—which produces the movies and denies any association with the nar— the Transformations series has been translated into thirty-one languages and viewed more than 200 million times. It has also played a key role in the nar’s shift from converting individuals to societies; when shown in churches, movies are accompanied by instruction on spiritual-warfare techniques.

All of the movies feature a similar narrative: an impoverished region turns to God, eradicates non-Christian beliefs, and undergoes societal and economic healing. In Kenya, a witch doctor is driven from her community, resulting in a decreased crime rate. In Fiji, an Indigenous community burns sacred masks, putting a dramatic end to a violent civil war.

In 2001, Transformations II shone a spotlight on the Canadian North, which—along with other featured regions like Uganda—came to symbolize a theocratic tabula rasa, a world ripe for conversion. The eastern-Arctic segment of the movie opens with an animated scene: a spiritual leader of a nomadic Inuit clan learns of a new God, Jesusie, from a travelling Inuk. The leader vows to accept Jesusie if he has a successful hunt. On a moonless night, he kills a seal, then brings it back to his clan, who eat from its meat, accepting Christ as their Lord and saviour. Only later, after missionaries arrive, do they learn the whole story of Christianity.

The movie then cuts to testimony from born-again Inuit. Over lurid images of bruised bodies, they describe widespread physical and sexual abuse and alcoholism. Inuit children push rocks into a shallow grave—the eighth suicide of the year, explains the voice-over, making their rate more than twenty times the national average. Demons, according to one Inuk believer, had invaded their communities. Even the land had turned its back: caribou and berries began to disappear.

Had God abandoned the Inuit? No; God was “looking to re-establish the relationship” their forefathers had long ago accepted. Over triumphant music, the movie depicts a frenzy of baptisms and impassioned church services—the revival that was gripping the territory. People in Pond Inlet, so moved by the Holy Spirit, gather all their ungodly possessions—drugs, pornography, heavy metal music—and with the aid of the rcmp set them ablaze. “The fire of the Lord is spreading!” exclaims an ecstatic Inuk woman. Inuit are portrayed as being healthier and happier—even suicide is on the decline, they say. (A 2014 study by a Nunavut land claims group contradicts this assertion.)

The film concludes by highlighting how God is “raising up” a new set of Inuit leaders who are “not shy about declaring the Lordship of Christ.” A teacher boasts how all her pupils are Christian, and municipal councillors defiantly state that no meeting starts without prayer. One of the last shots is of Armbruster. He’s hunched down in the atrium of Nunavut’s newly built legislature, gazing at a mace made of narwhal tusk. The Lord’s prayer, he declares proudly, is encased within. “It’s brought into the legislature every time they meet to do official business!”...

...In 2004, Armbruster and Curley travelled to Fiji, where, along with other high-profile nar affiliates, they were introduced to a spiritual-warfare technique called the Healing the Land Ceremony. As evidence of its effectiveness, they were taken to a remote Indigenous community called Nootko that had, a couple of years earlier, carried out the ceremony. Once plagued by infighting, the tiny community, they were told, had healed. Even the land reacted—a stream, once polluted, now ran clean.

The technique excited Armbruster. The ceremony traces a community’s present-day conditions to the sins of its forefathers. There are five principal sources: the generational disconnect between fathers and their children; the shedding of innocent blood (murder); sexual sin (homosexual acts, sex out of wedlock); the breaking of covenants (promises and treaties); and idolatry and witchcraft (any non-Christian form of religion or spirituality). According to nar theology, sin “wounds” the land, allowing Satan’s forces to control communities.

On a sunny morning in the summer of 2007, Armbruster performed the Healing the Land Ceremony on the outskirts of Clyde River, Nunavut, a community of some 900 people. “God chose the places for people to live,” he explained, standing in a circle of community members. “When God created the earth, he created everything good—but our sins have defiled the land.” Armbruster clutched his well-worn bible in his left hand. “Much of what we received from our forefathers was good—but we have to atone for what was not.”

An elderly Inuk in a long black coat spoke next; an Inuk woman stood beside to him, translating his testimony. The man pointed toward the water. “This spot is where they prayed to the evil spirits,” he relayed in Inuktitut. “Satan used to wait out there to devour and destroy people.” The man looked ashamed. “The Lord has also shown me where a mother gave birth, then fed it to the dogs. Because of these sins the earth has been defiled. And because it’s been defiled, we have suffered much and gone through hardship...”

...At many nar-affiliated conferences over the years, Armbruster has often spoken in grandiose terms about how church has merged with state in Canada’s North. But according to Jim Bell, the long-time editor of Nunatsiaq News, Armbruster’s influence needs to be put in context. When I reached Bell by phone, he chuckled a bit, thinking about the gap between Armbruster’s claims and reality. Nunavut, he said flatly, is no theocracy. The territory has gone on to defy conservatives on hot-button issues, including same-sex marriage, bringing the legislation in line with the rest of Canada.

Bell also had a theory: fundamentalist Christianity has become central to the recreation of Indigenous identity for many Inuit. Curley and others don’t draw a distinction between evangelical and Inuit values, said Bell. “Now you could argue that they have reinvented Inuit culture in their own image. But they don’t see it that way. They believe this church is not just the expression of religious identity, it’s also an expression of a really important cultural identity.”

And that, he suggested, is why the 2004 election got so intertwined with messy questions about identity and tradition. Inuit Christians were asserting their culture and resisting what they perceived as a colonial overreach. “They were not saying we oppose protecting the rights of gay people because gay people are sinful—they were saying that we oppose this because it is not consistent with Inuit culture.”

There may also be other cultural reasons for the nar’s success. Armbruster’s ministry caught the attention of French anthropologist Frédéric Laugrand, who has written about the Healing the Land Ceremony. He believes that the ceremony mirrors elements of Inuit shamanism, such as connecting present conditions to past events and using public disclosures to bring communities together. And, like shamanism, it is highly emotional in nature. Laugrand also feels that the popularity of the ceremony—which was practised in more than twenty communities, sometimes multiple times—owes much to political forces. At the time of the Inuit revival, Indigenous groups were frustrated with the federal government and the protectionist agenda of environmental groups. In contrast, Armbruster and missionaries working in the region came with a very different message: that God gave Inuit dominion over the land, and it should be theirs to use.

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