Episode 36: Jonathan Cahn, MAGA Church, and the Trump Bible Prophecies

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In the latest installment of their None Dare Call it News series, Dylan, Brent, and Forrest discuss the New York Times article "#MAGA Church: The Doomsday Prophet Who Says the Bible Predicted Trump" by Sam Kestenbaum. We learn that Trump is Jehu, the Clintons are Ahab and Jezebel, and it's perfectly ok to not tell people your works fiction are totally not prophecies.

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Jonathan Cahn: The Man and His “Message”

Who is Jonathan Cahn? According to his own website,

Jonathan Cahn is President of Hope of the World ministries, Senior Pastor and Messianic Rabbi of the Jerusalem Center/ Beth Israel in Wayne, New Jersey. He is also the author of the best selling book 'The Harbinger'. His teachings are broadcast daily over hundreds of radio stations throughout the United States and the world and on television. He ministers, as did the first Jewish messengers of the Gospel, sharing the message of Messiah to Jew and Gentile, Israel, and the nations. He has ministered before mass gatherings in India, Nigeria, Cuba, Mizoram, Honduras, Haiti, & throughout the world. His teachings are widely known for revealing the deep mysteries of God's word and for the restoring of the new covenant message to its original biblically Jewish richness and power.

Wait... a pastor and a rabbi? How can that be? The enemy of the people failing New York Times explains,

The son of a Holocaust refugee, Mr. Cahn was raised in a nominally Jewish family in the New York suburbs. But from an early age, he was drawn to the more esoteric corners of belief. He devoured the writings of Nostradamus, the Virginia psychic Edgar Cayce and far-out conspiracy theories about ancient astronauts. Mr. Cahn soon stumbled on “The Late Great Planet Earth,” the 1970s best-seller that argued doomsday prophecies of the Bible were playing out with events like the Cold War and Israel’s Six-Day War. Mr. Cahn bought the book thinking it was about UFOs; instead he was given a crash-course in Christian eschatology “I was just floored,” Mr. Cahn said. On his 20th birthday, after a near-death experience — and to the dismay of his Jewish father — he became a Christian.

“What did this near death experience consist in”, you might ask. Conspiracy nutjob actual fake news website World Net Daily fills us in. Speaking of a certain 1970s era lineup of Ford Pintos that had fuel tank engineering flaws so bad that they made it onto Popular Mechanics top engineering failures list,

They exploded in even low-speed crashes with other cars… “The Harbinger Man,” messianic rabbi Jonathan Cahn, whose life story is told in a new movie by that name, was in one of those Pintos. He wasn’t hit by a car. He was hit by a train. And he emerged without a scratch.

By the way, try as I might, I couldn’t find anything more about the details of this story outside of what Cahn himself has said, cult propaganda sites, and conspiracy nut sites. I know Brent is tired of my tyranny of citations, but I just had to say it. According to the New York Times, Cahn’s whole shtick is to compare the modern United States to ancient Israel, which “lost its way.” Does Cahn think that the United States lost its way because we elected to the highest office of the land a reality show sociopath that has told over 10,000 falsehoods in just over two years? No. The real culprit? The New York Times says, “...abortion, gay rights and the perceived retreat of religion in the public square.”

The enemy of the people continues,

Mr. Cahn began seeing patterns everywhere. As the Israelites turned away from their God, they were attacked by Assyrians; America, in modern times, was also attacked by a foreign army from the East, Al Qaeda terrorists. After the ancient siege, the Israelites vowed to replant a destroyed sycamore grove with new trees; near ground zero, a huge sycamore tree was also destroyed, as the towers fell.

What are we to make of this who ordeal of “seeing patterns everywhere”? One opinion on the topic comes from Michael Shermer. Writing for Scientific American, Shermer says,

A type I error, or a false positive, is believing something is real when it is not (finding a nonexistent pattern). A type II error, or a false negative, is not believing something is real when it is... Sometimes A really is connected to B; sometimes it is not. When it is, we have learned something valuable about the environment from which we can make predictions that aid in survival and reproduction. We are the ancestors of those most successful at finding patterns. This process is called association learning, and it is fundamental to all animal behavior… Unfortunately, we did not evolve a Baloney Detection Network in the brain to distinguish between true and false patterns. We have no error-detection governor to modulate the pattern-recognition engine… But such erroneous cognition is not likely to remove us from the gene pool and would therefore not have been selected against by evolution.

Okay, so we let Shermer have his say on what’s going on here. But we want to be fair and balanced. So, what does Cahn think is going on here with this seeing-patterns-all-over-in-everything business? He calls it, “God revealed patterns. I called it the download process.” The New York Times goes on about Cahn’s meteoric rise,

Mr. Cahn eventually turned his thesis into a full-length book, “The Harbinger,” in 2012, put out by the publishing arm of the powerhouse Charisma Media, a Christian multimedia company that also runs a daily news site. The book climbed up best-seller lists and hovered there for months, alongside blockbusters like “Fifty Shades of Grey.

The New York Times speaks of the evolution from televangelism to that wonderful realm of total truth known as social media,

Among several of Mr. Cahn’s recent predecessors of this ilk would be televangelists like the Christians United for Israel founder John Hagee, whose books include “Can America Survive?” and Jim Bakker, the controversy-prone preacher who now hosts an end-times TV program and sells disaster survival products. Mr. Cahn brings the tradition fully into the social-media age: many of his fans first saw him on Facebook; hundreds of posts and reposts of his sermons are uploaded on YouTube, slipped into the corners of the web where esoteric religion and conspiracy theories overlap.

The Trump Whisperer

So, now we have a pretty good overview of Jonathan Cahn and his “message”. But what’s his relation to the leader of the free world? The New York Times explains,

Into this mix came Mr. Cahn’s latest book, “The Paradigm,” which could be his most polarizing, tying his prophetic work to the election of Donald Trump. The book, published in the months after Trump’s win, again likens America to the ancient nation of Israel — two peoples, Mr. Cahn says, who have a unique relationship with God. He then argues that all sorts of figures in contemporary politics have biblical counterparts. Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, for example, are the modern-day analogues to wicked Ahab and Jezebel. Trump is the  warrior-king Jehu, who took control of the nation and cast idols out of the capital. “Jehu also sought to drain the swamp,” Mr. Cahn said.

Who is this Jehu character in the Old Testament? Well here’s a quote from Wiki:

The author of Kings tells that Jehu secretly entered the city without resistance. He saw Jehoram's mother, Jezebel, watching him with contempt from a palace window. Jehu commanded the palace eunuchs to throw her from the window. Jezebel was killed, and Jehu drove his chariot over her body. Her servants later came to bury her, only to find that dogs had eaten all but her hands, feet, and skull.

So, why Donald “Two Corinthians” Trump? How did a billionaire coastal elite that routinely cheats on his wives become an instrument of a holy and righteous God? Cahn, with his divinely downloaded knowledge, has the answer. Comparing Trump further to Jehu, he goes on,

The unlikely and controversial warrior was destined to become the new ruler of the land. The template would ordain that Donald Trump would become the next president… Trump is offering us a window for revival, a window to return to God… What happened in the election was not about Trump but about something much higher, the purposes of God.

Given what was divinely revealed to Cahn, it’s nice to know this isn’t all just about enabling Trump’s excesses, but rather a “higher purpose”. There’s this crazy charge that Cahn is nefariously fusing religion and politics in an unsavory way. This has just got to be untrue, right? The New York Times reports,

Mr. Cahn shrugs at the charge. “I don’t tell anyone how to vote,” he said. “I say, ‘You need to consult God, and this is what God says on the issues.’ … After a beat, he added, “They can read between the lines.”

Mr. Cahn wasn’t too happy with the New York Time’s portrait of him. Addressing his cult, I mean, flock, on Facebook, Mr. Cahn said the following,

Thank you for praying for me this past week and weekend as I went down to the president’s house in Florida, Mar A Lago. It was a powerful and prophetic time – a gathering of Christian leaders and Jewish leaders, and several people very close to the president… At the same time, it was a dramatic weekend for a second reason – The New York Times ran a feature length article on me and the ministry, taking up two full pages, and most of the front page of the metro section. Of course, the New York Times is of a secular liberal bent and has a reputation for being hostile to anything having to do with faith, the Bible – So, of course, the article has the New York Times secular slant and angle, framing from it from that bent, and with inaccuracies (including the surprising note that I have ‘political aspirations’ (!) Take all that with a grain of salt…

I mean, WHY ON EARTH would The New York Times think Cahn has political aspirations? If it wasn’t already apparent, the article gives us reasons to think this,

Mr. Cahn speaks at events in Washington alongside conservative standard-bearers like Michele Bachmann and James Dobson, where his portrayal of America as a cultural battleground falls on sympathetic ears. In 2016, he even addressed a United Nations gathering. Mike Huckabee, the Fox News commentator and former governor of Arkansas, once introduced Mr. Cahn as “soul-stirring and stunning, spellbinding.”

The New York Times gives us a sense of what Cahn’s cult, er, I mean, flock, thinks about him,

Gail Greenholtz, an elder member, stood near the end of the line. “Many of us consider him a prophet of our time,” she said. “A visionary.” “Michael Cooney, 58, had driven an hour to hear the pastor teach on politics and prophecy.“It’s all relevant for this moment,” he said. “He shows us that Trump was actually in the Bible.” “Roxanne Mangal, a middle-aged woman in a flowery blouse, joined the table. She said the pastor had healed her of a terrible illness. Joining Beth Israel also brought wealth. “My income tripled,” she said. “It quadrupled.” After President Trump had moved the United States Embassy to Jerusalem — the subject of great excitement at the church — she believed she saw the New York skyline light up in heavenly sparks. “God did that,” she said.

The Prophecies of Cahn

The Harbinger is a nominally fictional book. This allows Cahn to have it both ways. Quoting The New York Times,

At times, Mr. Cahn appears to be a star in a show that has grown out of his control. Fans may take his project more seriously than he does himself. His debut book was originally billed as a work of fiction, for example, a nuance lost on most readers.

“At first, people started to call me a prophet, and I would stop them and say, ‘No, no,’” he said. “But it always made for an awkward moment.” Instead, he stopped correcting them. It was just easier. “So, sometimes, I don’t say anything,” Mr. Cahn said. “I let it be.”

 Core to Cahn’s The Harbinger is the concept of the “Shemitah”. As originally conceived, the Shemitah was this event every seven years when everyone in ancient Israel stopped working on any and all agricultural activities for a year, and also the debts of nation of Israel (besides those debts held by dumbass foreigners) were wiped clean. As commanded in Exodus 23:10 to 23:11,

You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals. This also applies to your vineyard and your olive grove.

And as commanded in Deuteronomy 15:1 to 15:6,

At the end of every seven years, you shall celebrate the remission year. The idea of the remission year is that every creditor shall remit any debt owed by his neighbor and brother when God's remission year comes around. You may collect from the alien, but if you have any claim against your brother for a debt, you must relinquish it.

Cahn’s take, though, is that the Shemitah is basically a reward and punishment system based on Israel’s adherence to the whims of the celestial dictator (trademark, Christopher Hitchens). In an interview with Daystar, Cahn says, quote, “The Shemitah was a blessing for Israel when they followed God, but a judgment when they did not.”

Anyway, at this point you might be asking, “What does this Shemitah business have to do with what’s happening today in America?” Well, to understand that, first we need to understand that Cahn thinks the United States was truly founded as a Christian nation.

In an Interview with Lamb and Lion Ministries, Cahn informs us, quote,

It was George Washington's inauguration he places his hands on the Bible and gives a prophetic warning in that first speech which says basically paraphrased, it's in The Harbinger but paraphrased if America ever turns away from God, the blessings will be removed. And then he and the entire first government go to a place to consecrate America to God. And so if we can find out where that is, that is the consecration ground on the first day dedicated to God.

Founding Father John Adams has a slightly different take than Cahn,

The Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.

Now that the United States has apparently turned away from God, we are in the midst of his wrath. In the same interview, Cahn explains,

So, with America we have had, we have experienced the harbinger begins with that first strike that happens when America's hedge of protection is removed.When 9/11 comes it is a shaking of America, it is a wakeup call to America. And I think most believers even felt that. What happens is people flocked to churches and it looked as though there was going to be a revival if you remember. People were flocking, everything was God for three weeks, and then after that it just ended because there was not repentance. Without repentance there can be no revival. So instead of growing better we got worse.

And so since three weeks of praise for God wasn’t good enough, what happened 7 years after 9/11? The big financial meltdown of course! Seeing the pattern here? Is not everything clear to you now? Has God finished downloading the required knowledge into your brain yet? And so, of course, part three of the wrath of the Almighty should have happened in 2015, right? The New York Times writes,

But months passed, and the doomsday date came and went. He was dismissed as a grifter… Mr. Cahn actually grows embarrassed discussing the doomsday fiasco. He insists he has always included disclaimers on his work and never set exact dates. Rather, Mr. Cahn wanted to warn that a cataclysm could happen, not that it would. “I always say: You can’t put God in a box.”

Cahn also wrote this book The Mystery of the Shemitah, NOT billed as fiction. What’s this book about? The good folks at the Christian Broadcast Network give us their summary,

The book you can't afford NOT to read. It is already affecting your life... And it WILL affect your future. Is it possible that there exists a three-thousand-year-old mystery that…Has been determining the course of your life without your knowing it?  Foretells current events before they happen? Revealed the dates and the hours of the greatest crashes in Wall Street history before they happened? Determined the timing of 9/11? Lies behind the rise of America to global superpower... and its fall? Has forecast the rising and falling of the world's stock market throughout modern times? Lies behind world wars and the collapse of nations, world powers, and empires? Holds key to what lies ahead for the world and for your life?

What are we to make of all this? How can we have a serious discussion about the claims made in the Bible? Is Cahn’s interpretation mostly fiction or nonfiction? Or is it all just, in the words of filmmaker Werner Herzog, “ecstatic truth”? One erudite commentator named Glenn Beck has this to say about The Harbinger, quote:  “My first impression is it's absolutely right. But I haven't, I haven't done my homework on it.”

Glenn tells us that, in these politically correct and atheistic times, writing in a novel format is the only way to have a serious conversation about this subject,

We don't have any way in our society to have a rational conversation about God stuff. And that's why... I think that's why this author puts it in a story line. Because you don't have any way to have a serious conversation. Because we've so relegated that to crazy talk. You have to. You have to have that conversation. Have to find a way to.

Coda

I’d like to end this post with this bit from The New York Times, which I think speaks for itself,

On a Friday evening this winter, deep into the  government shutdown over the border wall, Beth Israel was packed, even though a snowstorm had been forecast. One man plucked a plaintive tune on a guitar as Mr. Cahn wound up the service, inviting the crowd to bow their heads. He guided them in a soothing prayer.“ Close your eyes,” he said. “If you haven’t been born again, today is your day.” There were murmurs through the room. Mr. Cahn concluded and then gently reminded the crowd about the booths in the back. Congregants could buy shawls, jewelry and apocalypse-themed calendars.  Books were for sale, he said. New members could even get a gift copy, signed free of charge.