Destroying arguments and captivating thoughts Spiritual warfare prayer as global praxis

Destroying arguments and captivating thoughts Spiritual warfare prayer as global praxis
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Destroying arguments and captivating thoughts Spiritual warfare prayer as global praxis
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Destroying arguments and captivating thoughts:
Spiritual warfare prayer as global praxis
Ruth Marshall
To cite this article: Ruth Marshall (2016) Destroying arguments and captivating thoughts: Spiritual
warfare prayer as global praxis, Journal of Religious and Political Practice, 2:1, 92-113, DOI:
10.1080/20566093.2016.1085243
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Published online: 04 Jan 2016.
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Journal of religious and Political Practice, 2016
Vol. 2, no. 1, 92–113
http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20566093.2016.1085243
SPECIAL ISSUE: PRAYER AND POLITICS
Destroying arguments and captivating thoughts: Spiritual
warfare prayer as global praxis
Ruth Marshall‡
departments of Political science and study of religion at the university of toronto, toronto, canada
The church holds the balance of power in world affairs . . . Even now, in this present throbbing
moment, by means of her prayer power and the extent to which she uses it, the praying church
is actually deciding the course of world events. (Billheimer 1982, in Jacobs 2009: 215)
There is a raging battle going on day and night between two opposing forces. You may
not believe it. But whether you believe it or not, you are involved in that battle anyway.
This battle is going on between negative and positive powers, evil and good, the real
thing and the counterfeit, light and darkness, right and wrong. Even if you do not like
© 2015 taylor & francis
ABSTRACT
This paper focuses on contemporary charismatic Christian
practices of spiritual warfare and its techniques of warfare
prayer. The paradigm of “global spiritual warfare” with its
apocalyptic visions, violent language and its obsession with
enemies, appears as a particularly polemical instance of
Christian supersessionism and expansionism. Drawing on
material from Nigeria and the United States, I briefly explore
two related axes in order to bring to light the centrality
of prayer conceived as a form of political praxis. First, the
ways in which charismatic Christianity self-consciously and
antagonistically constructs itself as a global force. In this global
expansion, prayer as an embodied form of inspired speech is
central both to the construction of militant subjects and the
occupation of public space. Secondly, since the violence of
spiritual warriors is mostly effected through their prayers and
testimonies, we are led to question the place of an activist,
pragmatist, or even performative model of truth for a political
problematics of emancipation and democratization.
KEYWORDS
Pentecostalism; politics;
spiritual warfare; political
theology
CONTACT ruth Marshall ruth.marshall@utoronto.ca
‡ruth Marshall is associate Professor in the departments of Political science and study of religion at the university
of toronto. she is the author of Political Spiritualities: The Pentecostal Revolution in Nigeria (university of chicago
Press, 2009) and numerous scholarly articles on the political implications of Pentecostalism and postcolonial
politics. she is currently working on a new book which examines the renewed ethico-political force of religious
language in the public sphere and the political challenge that global revivalism poses to democratic forms of life.
this work was supported by major grants from the social science research council, new directions in the study of
Prayer Program, and the social sciences and Humanities research council of canada.
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 93
to talk about wars and bloodshed or violence, you have no option when it comes to
spiritual wars because you are already involved. (Olukoya 2013a)
Focused on the struggle to realize the “Kingdom of God” through evangelism, con-
version and the persisting in faith of the saved, charismatic Christians across the
world today know they are locked in an epic end-times battle with the demonic –
“for we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, powers,
spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6: 12). Satan and his demons are real,
and they constantly intervene in the material natural world to nefarious ends.
Holding sway over entire nations or territories, satanic powers seek to thwart
the Christian at every turn, especially in their goal to realize the evangelization
of the entire world, a necessary condition for the return of the Messiah. The
ends of spiritual warfare are a radical transformation of individual and collective
existence through the piercing of the phenomenal veil of a material, fallen world
with the knowledge acquired by the power and inspiration of Holy Spirit, the
charismatic gifts promised by God to the repentant convert and announced by
Peter at Pentecost. Thus the “balance of power in world affairs”, as well as the
everyday lives and ultimate destinies of individuals, peoples, and nations, are
suspended upon the struggle in the noumenal realm between God and Satan,
light and darkness, good and evil, Truth and the lie. Whether we know it or not,
we are all involved in this battle.
While a conception of evangelism, conversion, and Christian life as a form
of spiritual warfare (a struggle against the flesh, sin and death; a purification
in and through the Spirit and the blood of Christ) is central to a long apostolic
tradition, nonetheless, globalized charismatic Christianity, with its now half a
billion adherents (and still growing exponentially), has taken it from the margins
of contemporary Christian orthodoxy to the mainstream of Christian practice,
especially across the Global South. It has also reinvigorated the figure of the mil-
itant Christian subject. Prayer is the weapon of this warfare, and thus the central
means of redemptive praxis. One does not become a spiritual warrior, or indeed
a charismatic or Pentecostal Christian, simply through a decision or ritual act of
conversion, rather, charismatic faith is an active, engaged commitment, whose
very performance brings about the “new creature” (Marshall 2009). Putting on
“the whole armour of God” thus involves a process of de-and re-subjectivation,
whose dynamics I have analyzed elsewhere (Marshall 2009; 2010). Today, such
subjectivation can take the literal form of the “spiritual boot-camp”: the body
and soul are intensely worked upon to produce a new militant and empowered
Christian subject ready and able to “wage war” (McAllister, this issue).
This paper will focus on the most specific and recent iteration of spiritual warfare
and its techniques of warfare prayer and consider some of the various ways in which
they should be understood as polemical. The question is more complex than an easy
pun on the etymology of polemics might imply (Polemos, the Greek term for war,
was used by Plato in the Republic (469) to refer to war against barbarians, or non-
Greeks, as distinct from stasis – civil war, or internecine strife). First, religion itself
94 R. MARShALL
is a polemical concept (Anidjar 2009; Marshall 2014a) and Christianity is especially
so, insofar as it functions as the origin or archetype of the concept of religion, and
dominates the semantic and institutional space in which all other religions today “take
place” (Marshall 2014a; Derrida 2001: 74). The paradigm of “global spiritual warfare”
with its apocalyptic visions, violent language and its obsession with enemies, appears
as a particularly polemical instance of Christian supersessionism and expansionism.
I briefly explore two related axes in order to bring to light the centrality of prayer
conceived as a form of political praxis.
First, the decisive ways in which charismatic Christianity self-consciously con-
structs itself in the latter part of the twentieth century via relations of antagonism
that we could gloss, just to fool with my Platonic reference, as both polemos, antag-
onism directed to a “barbarian outside”, on various scales of time and space, and
stasis, struggles that would be internal to and indeed participate in the ongoing
construction of an evangelical Christian tradition. This image of war has implica-
tions not captured by the theological distinction between apologetics and polem-
ics, insofar as this antagonistic construction is not principally occurring at the level
of theology, but of embodied, discursive practice. Indeed, although the apostolic
texts make several references to spiritual warfare, the classical Greek word polemos
is never used in this context. Rather, the term deployed by Paul in the famous
verse of his second letter to the Corinthians concerning the nature of “the weapons
of our warfare” (2 Cor. 10: 4) is strateias which he also uses in his exhortation to
Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6: 12), a term which translates
as (military) campaign, or expedition, and which is used figuratively by Paul to
describe the apostolic career. While understanding charismatic spiritual warfare
does mean paying attention to its theological content, this theology is less a set of
doctrines or dogmas than an ensemble of practices, the political valence of which
depends on the ways in which in any given context they become operationalized
as a pragmatic, strategic, concerted campaign.
Secondly, a cursory consideration of the ways in which militant forms of evan-
gelical Christian subjectivity are constructed today, or present themselves, as pos-
ing a problem for modern democratic politics. Specifically, I’m interested in how
the problem is construed in terms of an opposition between reasoned debate,
consensus and discourses on toleration, freedoms of conscience and speech on the
one hand, and, on the other, an insurrectional speech operating on the register of
the performative, the rhetorical, or the propagandistic, and a politics of agonism,
antagonism, intolerance or even violence. In this opposition, the relationship
between language and truth is crucial, not least since the violence of spiritual
warriors is mostly effected through their prayers and testimonies. It leads us to
ask the question of the place of an activist, pragmatist, or even performative
model of truth for a political problematics of emancipation as well as a deeper
democratization.
Developing an overview of the place of spiritual warfare and warfare prayer in
the practices and piety of some half a billion people is a task I obviously cannot
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 95
attempt here. Indeed, one of the most fascinating aspects of the globalization of
charismatic Christianity today, but the most difficult to conceptualize, track and
analyze, are the concrete, material ways in which specific discourses and practices
emerge at the interface of the local and global. As a redemptive faith, charismatic
Christianity entails a concerted local engagement with a fundamentally global,
transcendent orientation. The latter is figured theologically through the idea of
a return to an apostolic origin, a return whose soteriological thrust is realized
through a polemical engagement with local cultural forms, idioms and histories
that stages a break with them, rather than through a process of translation or
acculturation, thus creating “an uprooted local culture engaged in spiritual war-
fare with its own roots” (Casanova 2001: 437). Specifically, “spiritual warfare”,
directed against forms of “pre-modern” local culture or “postmodern” cultural
decadence, as well as competing faiths or ideologies – mission-based Christianity,
Islam, Hinduism, communism, secularism – deliberately undermines the extant
organizing divisions or distinctions of social life according to the Pauline model
“there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free” (Gal. 3: 28). In particular, as I
have argued previously, the charismatic deployment of language as performative
stages conversion as that which deactivates or suspends the naturalized or juridical
properties that define or categorize the believer. The transcendence of the limits
of situated existence is also materially constructed through the self-conscious
cultivation and rhetorical projection of an ever-expanding spatial and tempo-
ral presence, connecting believers across virtual networks of shared aspirations
and concerted actions (see Coleman 2000; 2006). What is most striking in this
construction is the central role of embodied forms of inspired speech – tongues,
prayer, praise, prophecy – both in the construction of militant subjects and the
occupation of public space.
Militant machine gun prayer
Violent prayer coupled with violent faith gives you uncommon breakthroughs . . . It is
adamant prayer; stubborn prayer; enough-is-enough prayer; unapologetic prayer, that
is, prayers you pray without regret; bold prayer, that is, fearless with courage to demand
a response; unwavering prayer; steadfast prayer. It has just one goal: elimination of
the enemy. (Olukoya 2013a)
Dr. Daniel Olukoya is a Nigerian pastor and the General Overseer of the Mountain
of Fires and Miracles Ministry (MFMM), founded in 1994.1 MFMM character-
izes itself on its website as a “do-it-yourself gospel ministry where your hands
are trained to wage war and your fingers to fight”. It also claims (falsely) that its
headquarters, located on the expressway between Nigeria’s southwestern cities of
Lagos and Ibadan, is the “largest single Christian congregation in Africa” “with
attendance of over 100,000” [or 200,000, depending on which website you’re on]
in single meetings.2 Olukoya’s ministry specializes in “deliverance” from demonic
oppression, and those attending MFMM’s prayer headquarters often spend several
96 R. MARShALL
days, or even weeks at the site, subjecting themselves to exhausting three-day
sessions of fasting, all night prayer vigils, and extremely intense sessions of deliv-
erance prayers full of violent, aggressive language. Believers are exhorted to “dip
their fingers in the blood of Christ” and “poke out the eyes of their enemies” and
violent words like “die”, “break”, “destroy” and “fire” are repeated like bullets fired in
rapid succession. It is literally “machine-gun prayer” that is “heaven bombarding” that
gives “God no alternative but to answer”. It is intensely physical, and often induces
violent shaking, vomiting, writhing on the ground or complete loss of consciousness
(see Butticci 2013; Ugwueye & Uzuegbunam 2013). The “prayer points” presented at
MFMM’s “Power Must Change Hands” service held in London UK on 30 June 2013,
called for the death and destruction of “oppressors”, “flying wickedness”, “satanic armed
robbers flying in the heavenlies”, “power bases of wickedness in my family” and any-
body “plotting against my destiny”. In his 101 Weapons of Spiritual Warfare (2013b),
Olukoya refers to the “Angel of Death” as a “powerful weapon of deliverance”. Citing
2 Kings 19: 35,3 he argues that death is one of God’s “diverse weapons”: “Beloved,
some of these weapons are fearful and intimidating. There are seasons when God
reveals His veracious power. God has the capacity to deal with the enemy mercilessly,
decisively, and in a tragic manner. The Bible declares that the Lord killeth, in other
words, God is a killer. Deut. 32: 39”. Through their warfare prayers, believers can call
upon God’s messengers, the “angels of death” to deal with their enemies. One of the
most powerful weapons, which nonetheless “cannot be understood or used by
amateur students in the field of spiritual warfare,” is the “Mystery of Substitution”:
a “weapon” that “will turn the table against your enemies and make them die in
your place” (Olukoya 2013b: n.p.).
MFMM has become surprisingly successful in the space of the past decade,
spreading across Africa, Europe and Asia, a success I attribute principally to this
aggressive style of prayer warfare. Although deliverance ministries and deliverance
practices are important in Nigerian Pentecostalism, MFMM’s obsessive focus on
evil spiritual forces, spiritual war, death and destruction, distinguishes it from
the most successful Nigerian ministries, most of whom have a more positive,
prosperity-oriented message. The omnipresence of evil also works to undermine
some of the central claims of both classic Pentecostalism with its focus on holiness
(concerted self-abnegation, control of bodily desires, sexuality, humility) as a
means of accessing grace, as well as the so-called “neo-Pentecostal” prosperity or
faith doctrine, with its promise of worldly healing and prosperity through inspired
faith. For Olukoya, divine gifts such as healing or prosperity, are constantly at risk
of being lost not only because of a lack in the believer (a faith that is too weak, a refusal
to fully renounce sin) but principally because of the activities of satanic “conspirators”
and “enemies” who seek the ruin and destruction of the believer at every turn. How
can a Christian know if they need deliverance? (non-Christians don’t need to ask). If
you have any “blockage” or frustration in your life that prevents you from realizing
your “full potentials” – health, wealth, children, a successful professional and family
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 97
life – then you need it, which thus potentially includes around ninety per cent of
the country’s population.
However extreme and even paranoid Olukoya’s deliverance ministry may seem,
even to many Nigerian Pentecostals, nonetheless, many of the basic assumptions
about the nature of the spiritual warfare, the reality of demonic forces, and the
power of a Holy Spirit inspired prayer to defeat them are shared by charismatics
throughout the world. In Nigeria, Pastor Tony Rapu, an urbane medical doctor
who was once RCCG leader Adeboye’s “favoured son”, confirms the reality of the
struggle in the spiritual realm, even as he denounces Olukoya and others’ resort
to imprecatory prayer. Speaking as he does to an upper-middle class, educated
Nigerian audience who appear to require convincing that secular and scientific
paradigms are a veil preventing the believer from seeing the Real of the spiritual
world, and with the exception of references to Nigerian institutions, his words
could easily have been lifted straight from a book by one of the American pro-
ponents of “strategic level spiritual warfare” such Peter Wagner, Cindy Jacobs or
Chuck Pierce:
Often times, our secular framework of thought prevents us from receiving truth as
clearly revealed in scripture. Many naïve and uninformed Christians may dismiss the
phenomena of angels and other spiritual entities as imaginary because they may not
fit well into secular and scientific paradigms . . . It is thus important to understand
that the geopolitical and cultural systems of a nation consist of more than the people,
the structures and institutions. There is an attempt by these princes or ruling spir-
its over nations to exert a negative influence over schools, churches, companies and
organizations. We are presently caught in a conflict of forces. The failure to recognize
this territorial dimension of the spiritual realm is making many Christians ineffec-
tive in fulfilling their purpose. Every sub structure of human society has a spiritual
dimension seeking to control and influence the individuals, its economic institutions
and the political order. Behind the systems of this country, behind NPA, NEPA, the
Nigerian Police Force and the institutions of politics is a raging war! (Rapu 2002)
The specific references to “territorial spirits” in preaching and writing by Rapu,
Olukoya, and many other prominent Nigerian pastors in the early 1990s, along
with specific claims about the means of perceiving and dealing with them reveal
if not a direct reliance on, at least a familiarity with, a new “doctrine” of spiritual
warfare emerging principally within a small group of American evangelicals in
the 1980s. The complex processes of globalization at work in the elaboration and
circulation of this fairly heterodox interpretation of apostolic spiritual warfare
provides a fascinating insight into the dynamic and almost haphazard way in
which charismatic Christianity grows and spreads. Rather than a specific doctrine
or doctrines, one finds a bricolage, a living, moving corpus of ideas, scriptural
interpretations, images, discourses and techniques developed and circulating
across a range of personal, institutional and virtual networks and engendering an
elastic, undisciplined and pragmatic processes of inspired creations, borrowings,
combinations and adaptations.
98 R. MARShALL
Spiritual warfare as global mission
Intimately associated with the project of global evangelism, developed using the
“anthropological” methods of the evangelical Church Growth movement of the
1950s, spiritual warfare as a distinct doctrinal paradigm and evangelical technique
was articulated as the basis of a new missiology from the late 1970s by American
evangelicals reflecting on their mission experiences amongst peoples of the global
south. Popularized by Frank Perretti’s This Present Darkness in 1989 (3.5 million
copies sold), its central premises and arguments were elaborated between the late
1980s and the turn of the millennium. First developed by evangelicals C. Peter
Wagner and John Wimber (founder of the charismatic Vineyard Movement),
who tested their ideas in popular (and controversial) course taught on “Signs and
Wonders” at Fuller’s School of Missions between 1982–1985 (Wagner 1987), their
ideas were elaborated and applied over the following twenty years by a core group
including George Otis, Charles Kraft, Ted Haggard, the Argentinian evangelicals
Eduardo Silvoso, Luis Bush, and evangelical initiatives such as Youth With A
Mission, and the AD2000 movement. These were some of the central movers
behind the charismatic “third wave” that crossed the denomination boundaries
and bitter divisions between Pentecostalism and mainstream evangelicalism
(Holvast 2009; Wagner 1988; Wimber 1984).
For Wagner and his co-travellers, the confessed primary object was a more
effective evangelical strategy, which took seriously the knowledge and insights
of the “cosmologies” of the local peoples. Their approach was developed from
the Church Growth movement, and its anthropologically inspired concept of
“unreached people’s groups” which recommended missionaries acquire a deep
cultural knowledge of such “peoples” and their “cosmologies” so as to better “sow
the Word” and “reap the harvest”. No doubt these missionary evangelicals were
also influenced by the growing success of Pentecostal Christianity, with its tongues,
signs and wonders and practices of deliverance from evil spirits in Latin America,
Africa and Asia – witnessed directly by Wagner, for example, during his time as
a missionary in Bolivia during the 1970s (Wagner 1986). While the ontological
and epistemological premises of spiritual warfare and deliverance appeared rela-
tively novel for mainstream American Evangelicals, they had been central to the
Pentecostal tradition from its inception, and had found various expressions not
only in early twentieth century American Pentecostalism, Pentecostal missions
to Africa and elsewhere, but also in a range of indigenous Christian prophetic
and millenarian movements in colonial Africa in the first three decades of the
twentieth century. Olukoya has often called Joseph Babalola, the founder of the
indigenous Nigerian Aladura (“the ones who pray” in Yoruba) movement that
started in the late 1910s the most powerful spiritual warrior that Nigeria has ever
had (see Peel 1969; 2000; Fields 1985; Butticci 2013).
While explicitly refusing to be identified as Pentecostals, nonetheless, Wagner,
Silvoso, Wimber and others borrowed freely from the tradition in developing
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 99
their demonology and their focus on conversion as a “power encounter” with the
Holy Spirit. Unconcerned with academic theological debates, or any systematic
justification of their scriptural hermeneutics, cobbling scripture together with
insights and methods from the social sciences, “testing” new ideas and meth-
ods and evaluating them principally in terms of their “results”, they claimed that
spiritual warfare and warfare prayer was not so much a theological doctrine as an
evolving, popular, pragmatic “experiential theology” in which warfare prayer was
a kind of techne, a means conceived and adapted in ongoing ways to their new
“revelations” concerning the nature of the evangelical struggle in the “end-times”
(Holvast 2009; Kraft 1989; 1994; Wagner, 1991; 2009[1992]; 1996; Otis 1993).
The appeal to taking local knowledge seriously, referring in their accounts to
shamanic knowledge, Native American spiritual lore, and African testimonies of
witchcraft, was not merely a form of pragmatic missionary parochialism. Rather,
it can be seen as a re-articulation of the longstanding anti-modernism of pre-
millennial fundamentalists of the 1920s and 1930s (Sutton 2014), with a new
global twist. Both Pentecostalism and “savage philosophy” (Bracken 2007) were
seen as retaining what America and Europe had supposedly sacrificed on the
altar of a decadent Enlightenment philosophy and disenchanted liberal human-
ism: the reality of the spiritual realm and the absolutely nefarious designs of the
demonic spirits inhabiting it, against which no reason or science could hope to
prevail. Wagner and others insisted that Western Christendom in general, and
mainstream American evangelicals in particular, had been misled by the blinders
of Enlightenment reason and scientific naturalism, and hence failed to see the
reality of the spiritual realm and its constant interaction with the material world,
insisting that a radical “cosmological” shift was required in order for Western
Christians to see and engage with the spiritual Real, an engagement upon which
not only their salvation, but that of all creation, depended.
The doctrines and techniques systematically developed by Wagner and his
partners were disseminated from multiple sites in a diffused fashion through the
movements of individuals and networks from the late 1980s on. Spiritual warfare
was an important theme in the second global congress of the powerful, ecumen-
ical global organization on evangelical missions inaugurated by Billy Graham in
1974, The Lausanne Movement, in Manila in 1989, and was explicitly included
in its Manila Manifesto, which stated: “All evangelism involves spiritual warfare
with the principalities and powers of evil, in which only spiritual weapons can
prevail, especially the Word and the Spirit, with prayer” (Lausanne 1989). In 1993,
the movement published an official “Statement on Spiritual Warfare” based on
discussions and consultations by an official working group they had convened on
the question, the aim of which appeared to a warning against the possible misuses
or negative consequences of a focus on demonic spirits. Yet their account of the
discussions reiterates the civilizational logic of missionary work, while subverting
the civilizing mission’s debt to European modernism and Enlightenment. It also
100 R. MARShALL
crucially underscores a new, albeit ambivalent role and influence for evangelicals
from the global south.
Besides their almost obsessive focus on demonic spiritual entities and the need
to “take the war to Satan”, the most controversial ideas were expressed in spiritual
warriors’ demonology, which identified three levels, scales and hierarchies of
demonic activity and control which thus called for different levels and techniques
of warfare prayer. The lowest level of spiritual warfare was “ground level”, directed
against forms of personal sin or affliction (the “evil spirit” of sickness, poverty,
masturbation, disobedience, greed etc.). The next was “occult level”, whose targets
included New Age spirituality, Wicca, or any historical or contemporary practices,
people, even landmarks or symbols associated with “paganism” or “idolatry”, and
other “false” spiritual or religious traditions. Finally, the most important, “cosmic
level”, or as it later came to be known, “strategic level” spiritual warfare, whose
purpose was to “to bind and bring down spiritual principalities and powers that
rule over governments” (Wagner 1996: 21–21; see also 1993; 2012; Otis 1993;
Jacobs 2009 [1993]).
For many American evangelicals and even Pentecostals, the spiritual warri-
ors had gone too far: accused of being theologically heterodox and scripturally
ungrounded, the doctrine was seen as leading to an unhealthy and paranoid obses-
sion with demonic enemies, absolving the individual of personal responsibility
for sin, and most egregiously, elevating believers to an almost God-like stature
not only by according them the power to take the war to the demons, but in their
claims that Christian prayers (or their lack) would have a determinate role in the
outcome of the end-times cosmological battle between God and Satan (see Holvast
2009: 231–38). Even as it was increasingly questioned, the evangelical necessity
and efficacy of warfare prayer was reinforced by voices from the global south, lead-
ing the Lausanne Movement, despite its misgivings, to reluctantly endorse their
most controversial technique, spiritual mapping, in a statement in 2004: “Spiritual
mapping . . . involves . . . superimposing our understanding of forces and events
in the spiritual domain onto places and circumstances in the material world . . .
[It] is a means by which we can see what is beneath the surface of the material
world; but it is not magic” (Lausanne 2004). The hierarchical territorialization
of demonic spirits is best exemplified in the technique of spiritual mapping, and
called for an epistemological shift in the ways believers should understand the
ethico-political and spiritual valence of any physical entity, collectivity or space;
from individual persons or objects, landmarks, neighourhoods, towns and cities,
to entire cultural areas, nations and geo-political regions. It also led to the develop-
ment of specific “techniques” for tackling the new reality, which included archival
work and anthropological interviews as forms of “research” into local histories and
cosmologies, in order to identify the demonic spirits holding sway over the area;
walking the city with teams of “prayer warriors” able to deploy the charismatic
“gift of discernment” (a sort of spiritual “inner eye” that can detect demonic pres-
ences); identifying and gridding “demonic landmarks” and “lay lines”; researching
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 101
and identifying the proper names of demonic spirits in order to more effectively
bind them, deploying juridical tropes of “legal” or “illegal” “rights of occupancy”.
More importantly, it marked a shift in the conception of the ends of evange-
lism; no longer solely a matter of individual redemption, conversion came to be
seen as the principal means for the ethical, social, and political transformation of
entire societies. It was no longer enough to simply plant churches and fill them
with converted and “rapture ready” souls: evangelism had to effect measurable
societal transformation and realize the Kingdom now. The Manila Manifesto of
1989 not only recognized spiritual warfare, it also emphatically insisted on the
need for a social gospel, dedicating an entire section to the “The Gospel and
Social Responsibility” and a call to action against structural inequality, poverty,
corruption and human rights abuses (Lausanne 1989). These dual emphases found
their expression in the concept of the 10/40 window, coined in 1990 by Argentinian
Luis Bush (a partner of Wagner and International Director of the AD2000 move-
ment), which claimed to be based on the “observation” that the greatest number
of “unreached people’s groups” correlated with the “greatest degree of human
suffering”, in a rectangular window between the tenth and fortieth latitudes, com-
prising Sahelian and North Africa, the Middle East and Asia: All territories under
the sway of “demonic powers” (“paganisms” and “animisms” past and present)
and satanic “false religions” (Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism). In order to evangelize
these areas, “strategic level” warfare prayer was required to bind the satanic forces
and strongholds in order to free these spaces for the penetration and reception of
the gospel (see Bush and Pegues 1999; Otis and Brockman 1995).
Dominionism, restorationism and the reverse mission
The indictment of American evangelicals’ failure to “see” and engage with the
spiritual real enabled the spiritual warriors to tie this ignorance to the current
state of American cultural decadence, political weakness and moral perdition, thus
tapping into a powerful, 150 year-old tradition of apocalypticism and militarism
in popular American piety. For the new spiritual warriors, urgent repentance
and militant spiritual revival through the power of the Holy Spirit offered the
only salvation for an America facing imminent moral, economic and political
catastrophe (Sutton 2014; Frykholm 2004). The technique of warfare prayer thus
became a central means of urgently redeeming a fallen nation and especially reviv-
ing a failing American Manifest Destiny and imperial force, through a muscular
engagement with the nation’s “enemies”. This implicit, or indeed explicit, imperi-
alist rhetoric had paradoxical effects. In some ways, Wagner and his co-travellers
were amongst the first “reverse missionaries”, providing, perhaps unwittingly,
additional resources for a southern Christianity impatient to reject its subaltern
global position as a mission field rather than a leader of missions (Escobar 2003;
Benson and Heltzel 2008). In the growing paradigm of “reverse mission”, subal-
tern southerners, from a position of spiritual strength deriving from their strong
102 R. MARShALL
revivalist faith and advanced knowledge of the demonic, would reintroduce a
reinvigorated “good news” to a fallen West.
Many Nigerians were quick to develop the theme of such “spiritual election”.
In his booklet, Satanic Diversion of the Black Race, Olukoya (1998) responds to a
question he claims was posed to him following his conversion in the mid-1970s –
“why are you so interested in something the white man brought and he is no
longer interested in, that is, Christianity?” – by defining Christianity not as an
imperial imposition, but as an originally African religion subsequently abandoned
for idolatry, a universal sin as old as the world and the Prince who dominates it.
The “strange stories” told about the black man – a long list of statistics and facts
about the current poverty, corruption, violence and abjection of Africans – are
countered by a tendentious Afro-centric reading of prophetic scriptures in the Old
Testament, and references to the great North African figures of early Christianity.
Africa’s prophetic and central role in the history of Christianity thus explains the
“Satanic rage” against the black man: “the enemy does not oppose anything that
does not pose a challenge to his Kingdom. You do not waste your buckets on a
corpse”. This “rage” not only accounts for past and current African abjection, but
also Africa’s divinely appointed role in the “end-time harvest of souls” and the
consummation of a “cycle of the spread of Christianity” which originates in Asia
and Africa, then spreads to Europe, America and the rest of the world, coming
full-circle in these “last days” when “Africans and Asians will take the gospel to
Europe”. Africa represents “the spiritual eyes of the nations”, whom “the Almighty
has always relied on in times of crisis”, such that “wherever God wants to start a
new move, a black man has come along” (Olukoya 1998: n.p.). For Olukoya then,
it is “no wonder there is a wicked satanic rage to stop the black man from fulfilling
his divine purpose and destiny”. Nigerian pastors have consistently exploited the
spirit behind this sort of claim for their own national and continental version of
Manifest Destiny (not to mention the increased visibility and fortunes of their
specific ministries), redeeming a history of abjection and exclusion through a
historically unprecedented mission as the vanguard of a redeemed humanity.
Turn Africa on its side and “Africa is like a gun that God will use to deal with
His enemies, and Nigeria is located in the position of the trigger” (Kalu 2010: 12;
Wariboko 2015). Reversing a common trope of a divine generational curse as the
source of African abjection (the famous Hamitic thesis expounded by missionar-
ies, and still repeated by many Pentecostals today), Olukoya nonetheless situates
the means by which this “satanic rage” has created its effects of abjection, violence
and destruction in the continent: “idolatry” and “sin”, “demon worship”, “sacrifices
to dark powers”, “the spirit of polygamy”, “sexual perversion”, “dead churches”,
“polluted land” (territorial or ancestral curses) and “foundational demonic pos-
session” transmitted in the womb or during traditional naming ceremonies. After
expounding on these various demonic strongholds that “satanically divert” the
black man from his divine destiny, Olukoya asks “what do we do now?” His
answer is simple: “You are going to pray”.
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 103
The new “American nightmare”
Nearly a decade ago, the political theorist Wendy Brown wrote about the
contemporary constellation of neo-liberalism, neo-conservatism, and right-wing
religious radicalism that constitute the “American Nightmare” of a dangerous
de-democratization (Brown 2006) Christian “fundamentalists”, often typified by
Tim LaHaye’s Left Behind series, have been indexed for their political dangers by
other political theorists, such as Connolly (2008), Zizek (2010) and Habermas
(2008). Patent in these engagements by prominent political theorists is a singu-
lar lack of understanding of, or even interest in, the ongoing evolution and diversity
of views and practices that are glossed as “fundamentalist” or evangelical. While it’s
worth considering how these various analyses founder on this lack of understand-
ing or attention, here I will simply note that this attention in the past decade or so
responds to the clear sense that militant evangelical Christianity has become, after
playing a founding and decisive role in the construction of American democracy
from the Puritan founders, to the abolitionist movement and the struggle for civil
rights, a clear and present danger to its future (Hedges 2007). Brown’s analysis
retains my interest insofar as she locates the de-democratizing force of evangelical
Christianity principally in its declarative model of truth and a “combination of
belief, submission, and fealty” to this truth (Brown 2006: 708).
As recent studies underscore, American evangelicalism has always been the-
ologically, sociologically and politically diverse (Worthen 2014; Miller 2014);
a complex discursive community that “flourishes on difference, engagement,
tension, conflict and threat” (Smith 1998: 121; 2000). Far from the caricature
of anti-modernist irrationality, evangelicals are revealed in Worthen’s compel-
ling study as “apostles of reason”. Nonetheless, a dominant intellectual trend in
response to the political problem of religious radicalism takes the form of calls for
an “Enlightenment reloaded” (Toscano 2010: xviii) that would “restore sanity to
our politics” (Heath 2014). These calls for a return to “reason” refer not so much
to the power of an intransigent, militant, right-wing Biblical moralism; indeed,
on key issues such as marriage equality, the culture warriors appear to be losing.
Nor does the demand “for sanity” focus on the ways in which the Christian Right
has been incredibly successful in organizing and mobilizing, developing powerful
networks and an overwhelming media presence, and shaping policies across a
huge range of mainstream institutions from school boards to state legislatures to
Walmart (Worthen 2014: 260). Rather, this concern focuses on their ontological
assumptions, epistemologies and cognitive modes, insofar as they not only appear
utterly impervious to reason or science, but destroy the democratic foundations of
reasoned deliberation (Brown 2006). This psychopathologization of charismatic or
inspired religious speech has a long pedigree, and finds its corollary in the cultur-
alization of “fanaticism” as a form of infantile, pre-modern or barbaric unreason.
Worthen shows how the crisis of evangelical authority has divided the evan-
gelical landscape, yet does not discuss the connections between some of the most
104 R. MARShALL
strident twenty-first century evangelical voices on the Republican Tea-Party
far-right and the charismatic turn centered on the new formulation of spiritual
warfare and associated with new forms of restorationism and dominionism as
expressed in Wagner’s New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) (see Wagner 2002;
2007). Whatever their relationship to the specific doctrines and techniques pro-
posed by Wagner and the “third wave”, the idiom of spiritual warfare dominates
the public declarations of a whole range of religious, but also political leaders.
A brief visit to Right Wing Watch provides numerous examples of a vitriolic,
homophobic, Islamophobic, racist and paranoid religious right in apocalyptic
rhetorical overdrive. For many on this extremely vocal and activist fringe, Obama
is “a foreigner”, “a Muslim”, a “Nazi”, “an enemy”, “less than human”, even “the
anti-Christ”, and their extensive media networks are saturated with a constant
flood of paranoid fantasies: a Muslim Brotherhood take-over, a fascist homosexual
plot to destroy marriage and the family, a concerted persecution of a beleagured
Christian minority through the war on Christmas, Obamacare, and secret plots to
detain Christians in FEMA camps with a view to their extermination. There has
also been an increasingly publicized use of imprecatory prayers against Obama
by range of religious leaders and elected officials, prayers whose political force is
not entirely captured by analyses of hate-speech that do not fully account for the
politically performative force of language: words can kill.
When saying becomes a doing and a making
In her evaluation of the anti-democratic effects of a “fundamentalist Christianity”
on an American public discourse, where truth based on “facts” has given way to
what Steven Colbert wittily calls right-wing “truthiness”, Brown (2006) flags its
“declarative and revelatory model of truth” whose rhetorical force inheres not
in reasoned argumentation, but the performative power of speech. “God said,
let there be light” is exemplary of an “original recognition that a saying can be
a doing and a making, that an utterance can bring its truth into being and thus
literally make and re-make reality. Brown claims that evangelical truth as expe-
rienced in “the personal moment of conversion” corresponds with a dominant
neo-conservative modality, “truth from the gut”; both forms of inner conviction
and certainty that share “a common indifference and imperviousness to interro-
gation, deliberation, and facts” (2006: 707–8). Her discussion of the politically
problematic character of evangelical modes of truth, and the power of perform-
ative speech could be seen as especially pertinent to charismatic spirituality, and
practices of spiritual warfare and warfare prayer in particular, as inspired speech
used to “destroy arguments” and “capture thoughts”.
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war in the flesh, for the weapons of our
warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy
arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought
captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience
is complete. (2 Cor. 10: 3–6)
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 105
Paul’s war is evangelical, spreading the good news in the face of persecution and
unbelief, destroying the “strongholds” of the devil, presented as “arguments”
(logismous, or reasonings), affects (“proud obstacles”) and thoughts, in short,
the hubristic claim to the authority or self-sufficiency of human reason or any
knowledge that would not be “of God”. This is what Nigerian pastor Adeboye
calls the “traditions of men” or Wagner and Olukoya identify as false gods and
satanic idols. Spiritual warfare is thus waged through language, through the
performative and rhetorical force of speech (which are not identical, but which
both refer to an order of truth beyond the order of the predicative or constative).
This is particularly significant when we consider the dominant mode through
which the Holy Spirit empowers the believer and charges her prayers with their
life-
transforming, world-changing force: the model of Pentecost. The story is well
known: the descent of the Holy Spirit signaled by “cloven tongues as of fire” above
each apostle in-filled by the Spirit and thereby giving utterance in “other tongues”,
the bewilderment and marvel of the crowd “out of every nation under heaven”.
This scene can be interpreted as a supersessionist inflection of the Old Testament
figure of sovereignty: the relation between logos and divine power is no longer
that of the sovereign command that descends in a single strike, but rather that of
the immanent division and dissemination of a spectral divinity through language
and diaspora: a tongue of fire on every head, prophecies in the mouths of every
man and woman, free and slave (Acts 2: 4–8; Norton 2011; Marshall 2010).
Nimi Wariboko, a brilliant Nigerian theologian, philosopher and Pentecostal
pastor, presents Nigerian Pentecostal political theology as a “grace-filled warfare”:
a praxis of radical individual and societal transformation enacted “through a spe-
cial mode and mood of prayers, fasting, speaking in tongues, confession of sin,
spiritual mapping, deliverance, and prophetic utterances calculated to initiate the
new, usher in freedom and promote human flourishing” (Wariboko 2015: 158). He
contextualizes warfare prayer in Nigeria, as does Olukoya, albeit in very different
terms, as a response to the struggle for life under a postcolonial necropolitics, a
battle to emerge from under the crushing weight of poverty and blackness, which
thus leads to an “[u]nusually intense quest for power via conversion and salvation
in which the stakes are so high that they are approached with the dedication of
war; hence, the constant language and practices of spiritual warfare” (2015: 35).
I’m particularly compelled by his argument that the Acts 2 event inaugurates
spirituality as an act, a practical intervention into the order of being, in the ways
it connects being and language; God revealing himself to the world, and language
struggling to order this appearance of unsayable presence (2015: 49).
As I have argued elsewhere, the charismatic model of truth as performative and
veridictive, coupled with a democratic access to the grace that reveals it, constantly
deconstructs from within any attempt to institutionalize any given version of it,
any fixed or dogmatic sense, and undoes the idea that any saint can monopolize
saintliness or anointing (Marshall 2009; 2014b). My study of charismatic polit-
ical theology suggests Brown gets the problem wrong on at least two counts:
106 R. MARShALL
The first is the implication that one can draw a clear line between a declarative,
rhetorical, performative model of truth, and a fact-based, or at least verifiable
model of reasoned truth. Both Derrida and Arendt show how such a distinction
is especially untenable for the political realm (Derrida 2003; Arendt 2002 [1967]).
Public speech in general, even the most reasonable and reasoned, always performs
in a rhetorical register. Secondly, for Brown, religious “truth” does away not only
with deliberative autonomy, but deliberation itself, insofar as religious belonging
valorizes submission to religious truth and “to the authority that speaks or wields
it”, a relationship of submission to God and community she tellingly calls “fealty”
(Brown 2006: 708). With the choice of fealty, rather than fidelity, the polemical,
rhetorical, partisan thrust of her own position comes to the fore: evangelicals
don’t constitute a church, and there is no Evangelical or charismatic Pope! It
is rather the evangelical inability to impose a single truth, or to command full
obedience and submission that is the problem: the post-foundational uncertainty
at the heart of its political theology that saves charismatic spirituality from the
theocratic risk is also what makes it so dangerous. Nothing can ever guarantee
that one has correctly “discerned the spirits”: as one Nigerian believer told me,
“people think they are speaking to God in the air, but they are really speaking to
another power”. The believer must constantly struggle with doubt and uncertainty
that no institutional authority or scriptural hermeneutics can resolve. Wariboko
recognizes that this instability in identity means “there is always the difficulty of
distinguishing enemies from friends” (Wariboko 2015: 120). The exigencies of
a Christian idea of retributive justice anchored in the body give discernment its
urgent, overdetermined character. The bodily suffering involved in deliverance
as observed in MFMM follows a logic in which “the punishment of the visible
cleanses the invisible, settles the debts that enabled Satan to enter the body. In all
this it is not always clear whether the minister is enjoying . . . freely venting his
power over another subjugated body (often female) or whether the devil is getting
his pound of flesh”. No wonder then, that the “believer endeavors to acquire as
much power as possible to prevent her falling into the rank of debtors”. Wariboko
argues that this “accountant’s view of cosmic justice explains the friend/enemy
dichotomy of Nigerian Pentecostals’ idea of the political” and the need for constant
vigilance in order to discern enemies, “who are conspiring to push believers into
violation or demanding payments for previous (ancestral) offences” (2015: 121).
Putting feet to the prayer: Dominion over everything?
This omni-present uncertainty gives the question of the enemy an extraordinary
political valence, and the free gift of God’s anointing acquires a huge premium,
such that the search for divine power gives rise to an economy of distinction and
election. We can illustrate the dangerous ways in which the question of anointing
and authority can be conscripted into a new understanding of “apostolic elec-
tion” at the heart of the dominionist “reformation” based on “kingdom theology”
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 107
that seeks to realize the Kingdom on earth. This is articulated clearly by Wagner
in a 2012 article in Charisma magazine, which exhorts taking “dominion over
everything”.
Now I take the Great Commission more literally when it tells us not to make as many
individual disciples as we can but to disciple whole social groups – such as entire
nations. This is kingdom theology .  .  . It still includes healing the sick, casting out
demons, saving souls, multiplying churches and feeding the hungry, but it goes far
beyond these activities. It is putting feet to the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray: “Your
kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” . . . The battle will be
ferocious, and we will suffer some casualties along the way. However, we will continue
to push Satan back and disciple whole nations. (Rev. 11: 15)
Wagner may have forgotten Jesus’ claim that “my kingdom is not of this world”,
but he has no doubt about who the “we” is: an elite group of apostles who are
training disciples around the world to take on a new strategy that dominionist
Lance Wallnau explains in his book The 7 Mountain Mandate. The “7 mountain
mandate” is a concerted and coordinated campaign of dedicated, extensively
networked (and increasingly well-connected) apostolic individuals striving for
excellence and ascendency in the seven key areas of social life: business, govern-
ment, media, arts and entertainment, education, the family and religion” (Wallnau
2009: see also Enlow 2009; Wallnau and Johnson 2013). This loose group of new
dominionist/reconstructionist leaders has developed loose associations and relays
within right-wing Tea Party populism and Christian activism. “The Response” –
a massive prayer rally to launch the presidential campaigns of Governors Rick
Perry in 2012, and now Bobby Jindal in January 2015, is organized and funded by
many of the leaders and activists of the charismatic wing: Alice Patterson, Doug
Stringer, and Jim Garlow, who headed the campaign for the anti-marriage equal-
ity Proposition Eight in California, Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic
Christian Leadership Conference as well as Wagner and other apostles or proph-
ets. This year’s Response featured prophetess Cindy Jacobs, one of the front-line
figures of territorial spiritual and strategic level warfare prayer. Jindal himself, a
Rhodes’ scholar and a Catholic, published in 1994 in the New Oxford Review an
account of a friend’s deliverance entitled “Beating a Demon: Physical Dimensions
of Spiritual Warfare” (Jindal 1994). “The Awakening” is a similar movement to the
Response, and at this year’s conference speakers included many GOP hopefuls,
and the themes focused on “spiritual warfare” against the demonic manifestations
of “militant Islam”, “militant homofascism” and progressives who would establish
a “secular humanist caliphate”. (Blue, 2015). A series of other figures and groups
indexed for hate-speech by the Southern Poverty Legal Centre also embrace the
tenets of the spiritual warfare paradigm. Many of these individuals, along with
think-tanks and groups like Tony Perkin’s Family Research Council which organ-
izes the “Value Voters Summit” in D.C. every year – a nightmarish who’s who of
right-wing religious bigotry, paranoid hatred and Tea Party extremism – appear
to have joined forces with many of the old-guard of the evangelical right as well as
108 R. MARShALL
the oligarchs, such as the Koch brothers, and a crowd of other free-marketeering
libertarians, mobilizing simply astonishing amounts of capital (see Tabachnick,
Wilson, and Clarkson 2010): an alliance several degrees unholier than the night-
mare vision Brown referred to less than a decade ago.
And yet, there are other apostles and powerful evangelical leaders in Africa and
Latin America who are reading the social manifesto of Lausanne and spiritual war-
fare in a different light. Activist charismatics especially in Latin America, such as
Samuel Escobar, are elaborating a new charismatic “theology of liberation” taking
up the cause of migrants’ rights, denouncing a new American imperialism, and
generally mixing up all the coordinates of the divides we take for granted between
leftist activism, neo-liberal capitalism and conservative Biblical moralism and
evangelicalism. The afterword of a new book taking up this Southern perspective,
Evangelicals and Empire, was written by no less than Michael Hardt and Antonio
Negri. (Benson & Heltzel 2008) In Nigeria, the confirmed “apostle”, Pastor Tunde
Bakare ran in the April 2011 federal election as the Vice Presidential candidate
with the (now newly-elected) Muslim strongman Muhammadu Buhari. He was
also the Convener of the “Save Nigeria Group”, a broad-based civil coalition of
pro-democracy groups set up to encourage popular political mobilization prior
to the 2011 elections, and he spearheaded the Occupy Nigeria Movement in early
January 2012, which organized successful demonstrations against the removal of
the oil subsidy. Bakare took the tribune with a collection of left-wing labor leaders
and leading intellectuals such as Nobelist Wole Soyinka and Niyi Osundare (see
Osundare 2012). His use of the pulpit to rail against the corruption of Goodluck’s
government earned him a visit from the State Security Services, who warned him
to “tone it down” (“SSS” 2012). He has nonetheless repeated the offence regularly
over the past three years, whilst being a violent critic of the current Nigerian
Pentecostal “Church”, its miracle mania, prosperity focus, empire-building and
pastoral personality cults (Marshall 2014b).
Spiritual warfare is theologically ambivalent. On the one hand, as Wariboko
argues, spiritual warfare means “cutting the chains of captivity” of given social
existence, “returning the light of Being” to the poor on the edge of nonexistence,
and sustaining an alternative world of freedom (2011: 159). There is no doubt that
a militant charismatic faith has a great power of mobilization and transformation,
and even when it fails to materialize the dreamed-of miracles (as it so often does),
living in hope is better than living in despair. But, and for me this is the decisive
issue, prayer as “the weapon of our warfare” also means the vicious imprecations
of prayer warriors “hauling fire bombs to targets”; a prayer language that “drip with
blood and violence” (Wariboko 2015: 121) Even the most reflective, responsible
and deeply ethical voices within Pentecostal or charismatic Christianity today –
such as Wariboko, or Amos Yong (Yong 2003), another brilliant theologian whose
theology of the Holy Spirit seeks an active embrace of and respect for all faiths
and a clear refusal of the Manichean distinction between friend and enemy so
JOURNAL OF RELIgIOUS AND POLITICAL PRACTICE 109
patent in spiritual warfare talk – ultimately come up against a limit. Charismatic
truth is only truth because of its performative, engaged, committed and partisan
position, as a decision for Christ. Without this, it has no radically transformative
power at all.
While it is conceivable that “taking sides” does not have to lead to declaring
“dominion over everything”, I am not encouraged by the direction taken by today’s
most militant charismatic spiritual warriors, to say the least. Derrida cites Alexandre
Koyré’s warning from 1943 on the nature of totalitarian truth:
Pushing to their limits the biological, pragmatist, activist theories of truth, the official
philosophies of the totalitarian regimes deny the inherent value of thought. For them
thought is not a light but a weapon: its function, they say, is not to discover reality as it
is, but to change and transform it with the purpose of leading us towards what is not.
Such being the case, myth is better than science and rhetoric that works on the passions
preferable to proof that appeals to the intellect. (Koyré 1943, in Derrida 2003: 59–60)
I fully concur with Derrida’s emphatic insistence on “an unfailing vigilance” in
guarding against the totalitarian dangers denounced by Koyré, while also endors-
ing Derrida’s crucial qualification that the denunciation of all “pragmatist” and
“activist” interpretations of the truth is too all-encompassing: “This suspicion can
touch on everything that exceeds, in more than one direction, the determination of
truth as objectivity, as the theme of a constative utterance, or even as adequation;
at the limit, it touches on any consideration of performative utterances . . . even
testimony” (Derrida 2003: 60) As Derrida argues, performatives, in their power
to institute a new reality, are neither legal nor illegal, and they are always a form
of violence. When performatives succeed, especially in the domain of politics, the
power of their truth can sometimes impose itself forever. However, if we want to
maintain any idea of a justice beyond the law, the possibility of a revolutionary,
or even transformative politics, then we cannot do without them. “For better
and for worse, this performative dimension makes the truth, as Augustine says”
(Derrida 2003: 51).
There can be no a priori guarantee or reliable safeguard against the worst,
against the very real dangers inherent in any militant partisanship, any attempt to
suture Truth to Being. Yet to deny any place or power to activist theories of truth,
in which a saying would be a doing or a making, would seem to run the risk of
disqualifying any radically transformative or emancipatory project in advance.
As we reject quasi-hysterical intellectual apocalypticism, we still need to pur-
sue further, and with increasing vigilance, the question of whether we can safely
allegorize today’s charismatic or evangelical prayer warriors, in particular those
proposing “Dominion over everything” through the global dissemination of a
missionary paradigm explicitly modeled and operationalized as a militant spiritual
warfare against every power, belief, custom, practice or value that does not count
as “Christian”, fueled by the demonization and denunciation of enemies. I find it
increasingly difficult to see how such iterations of Christian faith have anything
110 R. MARShALL
whatsoever to do any longer with New Testament ethics or liberal values that are
still worth fighting for.
Notes
1. He points out on back cover of each of his over 300 books (all available from Amazon.
com) that he “holds a first class Honours degree in Microbiology from the University
of Lagos, Nigeria and a PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of Reading,
United Kingdom” as well as “over 70 scientific publications to his credit”.
2. MFMM is located not too far from the international headquarters of Nigeria’s (and
Africa’s) largest Pentecostal church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God. The
RCCG’s annual Holy Ghost convention has been known to host over 6 million
believers, and its Holy Ghost arena, over 1 km long and half a km wide, can welcome
over 800,000 worshippers.
3. “And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the LORD went out, and smote in the
camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand: and when they arose
early in the morning, behold, they were all dead corpses”.
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